In the immortal words of Dee Snider, "We're not going to take it anymore!"
Article published March 28, 2010 by the Telegram & Gazette
STURBRIDGE — “Shut your (expletive) mouth.” “You are such a piece of (expletive)” “You are dirty. … You’re a whore.”
No, these are not lines taken from an episode of “The Sopranos,” but heated verbal exchanges during two separate meetings of the Town Administrator Search Committee.
And now committee members Carol A. Childress and Linda N. Cocalis are taking fellow member Selectman Scott A. Garieri to task. The two women waited until the executive meeting minutes were released last week because they said they didn’t want to affect the process.
In executive session Jan. 6, there was a difference of opinion about how to re-evaluate the 65 applicants for the town administrator position. This sparked Ms. Childress to say to Mr. Garieri that if he didn’t have the time to commit to the committee, maybe he should resign. According to Ms. Childress and Ms. Cocalis, Mr. Garieri shouted back, “Shut your (expletive) mouth. Nobody cares about your opinion.”
“I was shocked. He was physically angry. He was red-faced. His eyes were bulging,” Ms. Childress recalled. “It was shocking and I think we were all shocked by it. And I didn’t have a response.”
“That’s somebody saying, you don’t matter. You don’t exist and your opinion doesn’t mean anything to anyone else,” Ms. Cocalis added. “That’s wrong, because everybody’s opinion should count and everyone should have an opportunity to speak without feeling intimidated or insulted.”
Mr. Garieri said in a telephone interview last week that he probably did say, “Shut your (expletive) mouth. Nobody cares about your opinion,” but he added that his words were taken out of context and that Ms. Childress was “mouthing off” about something else that had nothing to do with what the committee was talking about.
From that point on, Ms. Childress said she was going to the search committee meeting with trepidation about what was going to happen next.
During open session Feb. 2, Mr. Garieri chastised Ms. Childress for deviating from the approved questions during the second round of town administrator candidates’ interviews.
“The chairman, James Ehrhard, stated at the beginning of the interview process, that he wanted there to be flexibility,” Ms. Childress said. “So we all felt pretty much at ease asking our approved questions and our unapproved questions, whatever they may be.”
Furthermore, at the Jan. 6 meeting, Mr. Garieri said it was “embarrassing” and “unprofessional” that Ms. Cocalis would ask several questions then follow it with “just kidding.”
Last week, Mr. Garieri stood by these statements.
“I was shocked. And it started to make me feel that it was a handicap that I had,” Ms. Cocalis said. “I started to second-guess how I spoke to people. It made me self-conscious.”
“That was a totally involuntary thing that she did,” Ms. Childress added. “It’s innate. It’s who she is.”
In the minutes, which Ms. Childress was taking, she wrote that Mr. Garieri’s statements “not only unfairly singled out” Ms. Cocalis and herself, but that his objections are “patently false and can be considered unconstructive, bordering on personal attacks.”
“I think he called the process into question,” Ms. Childress said. “It wasn’t just me. It was calling into question the entire process and how the interview process took place. So I took exception to that. It was a personal attack.”
When the discussion became heated between the two Feb. 2, Mr. Garieri said, “Anyone want to keep this thing in order?” gesturing to Ms. Childress.
Taking offense, Ms. Childress countered, “Don’t refer to me like that. Don’t you call me a thing. Who do you think you are?”
Mr. Garieri responded, “I was being polite.”
Ms. Childress said to Mr. Garieri, “You are such a piece of (expletive). … You are. You’re such a piece of (expletive). Who do you think you are?”
Ms. Childress said, “You just make me feel dirty whenever I am around you,” in which Mr. Garieri responded, “You are dirty. …You’re a whore.”
“It was just nasty this whole thing that he did with singling us out,” Ms. Childress said. “I regret that I handled his attack that way, but I was feeling pretty attacked being called a thing,” she said.
Mr. Garieri said “this thing” was referring to “this meeting”. As for saying “You are dirty…You’re a whore,” Mr. Garieri said “I don’t recall the whore part of it, but I might have said you are dirty.”
Ms. Childress said she has certain expectations of public officials and that she doesn’t think anyone should be treated the way she was treated. But she is not looking for a reprimand or an apology, because, she said, that is a decision the town should make.
“I don’t owe her an explanation,” Mr. Garieri said. “I’m not even going to give her the benefit of commenting on her idiocies that she just goes off on. All she’s looking for is attention, and she’s not getting it from me. Whatever I said I stand behind and that’s that.”
Ms. Cocalis, however, thinks Mr. Garieri owes an apology to the search committee, the selectmen and the town of Sturbridge.
Copyright 2010 Worcester Telegram & Gazette Corp.