By MARK SARDELLA
WAKEFIELD — Members of the Board of Selectmen responded last night to certain letters that have recently appeared in the Item Forum, particularly those that in the board’s view contained personal attacks and misinformation.
Selectman Phyllis Hull led things off and zeroed in on a March 4 Forum letter signed by Noni and Dick Manley headlined “Appalled at treatment of Town Clerk.” The Manleys wrote that they were “appalled at the way Steve Maio, Daniel Sherman and Tom Mullen and others have been treating Mary K. Galvin, our Town Clerk.”
Galvin has been out of work since she collapsed in her first floor Town Hall office last April 8 and spent the next six days in Melrose-Wakefield Hospital. Doctors initially suspected a heart attack or a stroke but ultimately Galvin was diagnosed with emotional stress brought on by certain pressures she felt as she did her job as Town Clerk.
Galvin was re-elected to another three-year term last April 22, two weeks after her hospitalization. The Selectmen appointed Rose Morgan as temporary Town Clerk once it became clear that Galvin would be out for an extended period.
On Jan. 12, Sherman wrote a letter in the Item Forum calling for Galvin to either return to work or retire.
Galvin has told the Item that she would like to return to work but has been advised by her doctors that it would not be healthy to return “under the current circumstances.”
Sherman has also recently called for the Town Clerk’s position as well as two other town offices – the Town Treasurer and Tax Collector – to be changed from elected to appointed.
Last month, Galvin herself released to the Item a memo she received from Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio shortly before her collapse. That memo related to various grievances filed against Galvin by past and present employees in her office.
Mullen was apparently targeted in the Manleys’ letter because he publicly defended Maio and refuted some of the claims made by Galvin and her supporters. On Feb. 25, Galvin announced she would be retiring as town clerk at the end of June.
Hull especially took exception to the Manley’s attack on the parents of Maio, Mullen and Sherman, noting that two of these parents are deceased. In their letter the Manleys asserted that the parents of those town officials did not raise their children in accordance with the “Golden Rule.”
“I was appalled that the Item would print such a letter that disparaged and criticized parents Dr. and Mrs. Maio, Mr. and Mrs. Mullen and Mr. and Mrs. Sherman as to the rearing of their children,” Hull said.
Hull maintained that the Manleys had “no business attacking innocent family members,” adding that Maio, Mullen and Sherman “were brought up as outstanding citizens.”
Hull also maintained that the Manley’s letter went too far in attacking The Town Administrator’s secretary, Sherri Dalton, suggesting that she is seldom at her desk. Hull said that she visits the Town Administrator’s office several times a week and “Ms. Dalton has always been there, pleasant and available to help in any way. She is one of the most helpful and efficient secretaries we have ever had.”
Hull questioned the Manleys’ suggestion that public meetings are not properly posted.
“Evidently you do not get the Item or go to Town Hall,” Hull said. “Every public meeting is published in advance in the Item and posted at Town Hall.”
Selectman Patrick Glynn also supported the way in which Maio and Mullen have handled the Town Clerk matter. Glynn said that Maio and Mullen had handled “a very difficult situation” with “professionalism of the highest degree.” He also defended Dalton, describing her as “very helpful and very professional.”
Selectman Betsy Sheeran also came to Dalton’s defense, citing her knowledge of every department in Town Hall.
“I find it very difficult when opinion as opposed to fact is written,” Sheeran said, noting that she was dismayed when she read the comments written about the parents of town officials.
Selectman Tiziano Doto also questioned the accuracy of some statements made in published letters.
“I’m all for free speech,” Doto said. “But I would hope that in the future people would use a factual basis for whatever arguments they make.”
Selectman Ann Santos said that she had faith in the people of Wakefield to understand that a letter only represents the opinion of the writer. She also said that people are skeptical when anyone claims to speak for the whole community.
Chairman Brian Falvey called the attacks on Dalton and on family members of public officials “completely unfair.” He also decried as “despicable” the “full frontal attack” in some letters upon remaining staff of the Town Clerk’s office.
He noted that those who intentionally write letters with misinformation do so without any accountability. Town officials often don’t respond for a reason, he said.
“We are held to a higher level,” Falvey observed. “It’s very hard to fight against those who want to spread lies for their own self-advancement.”
He insisted that it was time for the board to take a more proactive approach.
“It’s about time we stand up and hold people accountable,” Falvey said.