Res­i­dents de­cry let­ter sent to field ad­vo­cate

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - LOCAL NEWS - By Ben Lam­bert

NORTH HAVEN — Town of­fi­cials and res­i­dents voiced their sup­port for Danielle Morfi and her fam­ily at Thurs­day’s meet­ing of the Board of Selectmen and de­cried the ha­rass­ing let­ter she re­cently re­ceived.

First Select­man Michael Freda, Sec­ond Select­man Wil­liam Pieper and Third Select­man Sally Buemi all con­demned the let­ter Thurs­day, which threat­ened to “ex­pose” Morfi in un­spec­i­fied fash­ion, noted her history of ad­vo­cacy against in­stalling an ar­ti­fi­cial turf field at North Haven Mid­dle School, and said that a group had “been watch­ing you for the past months.”

Res­i­dents also spoke against the sen­ti­ments found in the let­ter and said the po­lit­i­cal cul­ture in North Haven needed to change.

A number said hos­tile, bul­ly­ing con­duct had marred town dis­course when hotly con­tested is­sues were con­sid­ered in the past.

Theresa Ran­ci­ato-Viele, a

mem­ber of the Plan­ning and Zon­ing Com­mis­sion and for­mer state rep­re­sen­ta­tive can­di­date, said the sender of the let­ter should re­flect on their con­duct. The is­sue of the turf field was set­tled, she noted.

“I was so proud of this board tonight, when the three of you spoke up against this hate speech — this unAmer­i­can ac­tiv­ity of try­ing to quash a per­son’s First Amend­ment rights. It just has no place in this town, in this state, in this coun­try,” said for­mer Select­man Alan Sturtz, who noted the is­sue of ci­vil­ity as he ran against Freda for first select­man.

“Our voices, when re­spect­ful and (not in­cit­ing) vi­o­lence, should never be si­lenced — ei­ther by elected of­fi­cials, by omis­sions in the press, or by acts of in­tim­i­da­tion,” said Nancy Bar­rett. “Anony­mous let­ters, email posts and van­dal­ism in­tended to in­flict emo­tional dis­tress and si­lence op­po­si­tion are acts of cow­ardice and re­flect a weak­ness of char­ac­ter.”

“The at­tempt to si­lence Danielle is an in­sult — and an at­tempt to si­lence all of our rights,” said Mary White. “Chil­dren are watch­ing; chil­dren are lis­ten­ing; chil­dren will copy. We have a moral obli­ga­tion to be­have and set good ex­am­ples for the next gen­er­a­tion.”

For­mer Board of Ed­u­ca­tion mem­ber Jen­nifer Cald­well said the over the group’s dis­cus­sion of the mas­cot at North Haven High School, a Na­tive Amer­i­can, was so dra­matic it did not vote.

She said such con­duct, as it had been ef­fec­tive in the past, had be­come part of the town’s cul­ture and called for ad­dress­ing it.

“This is not an iso­lated in­ci­dent,” said Jill MallerKes­sel­man, who said she was sur­prised by the ran­cor when the town dis­cussed the con­struc­tion of the Slate School. “While con­dem­na­tion, I ap­plaud ... I think that’s only part. The first step is ac­knowl­edg­ing that this is a big­ger prob­lem in our com­mu­nity than we might like to ad­mit.”

She called for res­i­dents to be vig­i­lant against bul­ly­ing and to sup­port vic­tims.

Morfi said last week that her mail­box was also dam­aged near the time the let­ter was re­ceived, which she be­lieves was an act of van­dal­ism. Freda and Buemi said they had dealt with van­dal­ism in the past, as well, as did res­i­dent Lisa Bur­ton, who said she had signs dam­aged and de­stroyed in her yard.

As the evening drew to a close, Morfi and her hus­band, Christo­pher Per­rotti, shared their thoughts.

Per­rotti called on the Board of Select­man to stand against and put a stop to th­ese sorts of threats. He said he be­lieved Freda was “build­ing a fan­tas­tic North Haven,” but, to safe­guard it, this sort of be­hav­ior needed to end. “Let us build a com­mu­nity that will be a pil­lar of safety and trust for gen­er­a­tions to come,” said Per­rotti. “Be­ing safe and com­fort­able in our town is a right, not a priv­i­lege. You are in con­trol of this.”

Morfi thanked the speak­ers for their sup­port and their com­ments. “I just hope that we work on, as Chris said, the stigma of this in­tol­er­ance in North Haven,” said Morfi. “We should all be com­mu­nity. I am hum­bled to hear the sup­port for our fam­ily about this — and I thank you all for com­ing out and speak­ing out.”

A po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the let­ter was con­cluded with­out an ar­rest, Deputy Chief Kevin Glenn said Thurs­day.

Ben Lam­bert / Hearst Connecticut Me­dia

Lisa Bur­ton speaks at a North Haven Board of Selectmen meet­ing.

Ben Lam­bert / Hearst Connecticut Me­dia /

Danielle Morfi speaks at a Board of Selectmen meet­ing Thurs­day in North Haven.

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