Berne GOP leadership has a history of filing false complaints to harass me

To the Editor:

Enterprise reporter Noah Zweifel contacted me regarding the latest politically motivated investigation threat at the October Berne Town Board meeting. I explained to him that this latest threat to investigate me is as absurd as all the others.

As far as I’m concerned, it is just more unfounded, fantasy-based harassment by the GOP leadership (like the deputy supervisor’s absurd sexual harassment charge against me for writing to the supervisor, “I would like to nail down some information regarding the erection of the inordinately large [election] signs and how they were apparently erected without permits.”)

These investigations are not based on facts, truth, or logic. Their only function is harassment and intimidation. This latest episode continues to exploit veterans’ issues for some anticipated political gain and that is reprehensible.

The Berne GOP leadership has a history of filing false complaints to harass me. They filed complaints against me at my work place at both the state and federal levels in 2017 simply because I was running for office. The allegations of my misconduct were not true, but the highway superintendent knew the mandated investigations could wreak havoc for me at work.

After months of investigation, and an interrogation, I was simply informed that the allegations were all “without merit.” They have continued this harassment at the state and town level. The law firm Roemer, Wallens, Gold and Mineaux is now conducting numerous expensive investigations for the town.

As far as the October complaint accusing me of work-place discrimination, Berne residents should know that I am not in a position to discriminate with regard to “employment” of an elected official.

Also, I did not share any confidential information with The Enterprise in August until after I was informed that the Berne GOP shared those emails with a right-wing talk-radio host who deliberately distorted them [“Veterans rally for Berne councilman after Dems skip meeting over safety,” The Altamont Enterprise, Aug. 29, 2019].

I shared them after selected out-of-context passages were read publicly at our town hall and after a video of that misleading, public “reading” was published Aug. 28 and linked to The Enterprise.

I did not publicize confidential information; I asked it not be publicized. It’s no coincidence that The Enterprise, out of respect for my request, did not publish any of the confidential information. None of that information is actually personally disparaging when context is considered anyway.

I did speak with the Enterprise reporter on Aug. 13. I answered phone questions about the cancellation of the Aug. 14 meeting truthfully. We discussed information already in the public domain. I told her we had requested enhanced security due to a series of threats and that was probably the reason for the supervisor’s cancellation.

Unknown to me was the fact that Supervisor [Sean] Lyons had instead told her the security was necessary because of an “incident” that occurred at the town hall on the 13th that he would not talk about.  She found there was no police report about any “incident.”

The reporter then called me, seeking the truth. I told her the truth. I didn’t know what she had been told and we did not discuss any confidential information.

I also told her that what she had portrayed as an argument in the coverage of the July meeting was actually not an argument. If one listens to the recording (attached), the supervisor and deputy supervisor did not  allow me to speak at all, and that “discussion” included a very angry threat that very specifically targeted me, in a future meeting, at the town hall and if I continued to write letters to the editor.

That is followed by very angry and childish taunts. This July threat, and the child-like taunts are documented on her recording and the official town recording. In fairness, the attached recording should be made available for review at the Enterprise website.

My emails were marked confidential to protect the deputy supervisor. His unpredictable behavior including threats, name-calling, taunts, harassment, and very unusual abhorrent and aggressive behavior is unacceptable. We cannot tolerate his conduct and effectively function as a town board. The only recourse is to ask the supervisor to address this as a workplace issue, and I did.

The confidential emails to the supervisor made it very clear that I feel this behavior could perhaps be tied to military service. Considering that, I wanted to address this very aggressive and inappropriate behavior without making speculation of the potential cause public. The confidential emails do not disparage or attack a veteran; they express concern and respect for that military service while making it clear the aggressive behavior could be service-related but needs to stop.

The supervisor did not address this workplace issue and did not respect the confidentiality. Instead, he made things worse. The emails were very deliberately publicized and totally misrepresented. Veterans’ issues were exploited and politicized and the town hall was mobbed with angry people who had been deliberately misinformed.

The nature and content of the July threat have been very deliberately misrepresented. In the attached audio clip, the angry threat at the July meeting is to be carried out on me, in the future, at the town hall and if I continue to write letters to the Enterprise editor.

Following is my print transcription of that recorded, documented threat:

The Deputy Supervisor: “First of all, for you to keep going to the freakin’ paper and writing letters to the editor about our highway superintendent and about our supervisor, me, and you don’t know crap about me. You know nothing about me, Joel! You keep talking crap about me, dude, I’ve got something for you!”

At this point I ask:  “Where is this going to happen?”

The Deputy Supervisor responds: “It’s going to happen right here!”

This is followed by disturbing, angry, childish taunts.

He will not say what is going to happen “right here” and given the opportunity to explain what he’s “got” for me, he has no answer.  He finished his October threat (for yet another investigation) saying: “More to come.”

In the recording the deputy supervisor says: “You don’t know crap about me. You know nothing about me, Joel!” He makes it clear that I don’t know him or what he is capable of.

As a new resident, he told me I need to move away! I have roots here back to the 1700s and I was a Berne Republican when honesty, truth, and civility meant something to that party leadership. 

Joel Willsey

Berne Town Board

Editor’s note: See related story.

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