Speaking up against the “Whisper Campaign”
Feb 27, 2014 | 2385 views | 0 0 comments | 549 549 recommendations | email to a friend | print
To the Editor,

Well unfortunately it seems it’s time for the Whisper Campaign again. This the third or fouth time that I have been a subject of whispered accusations of conflict of interest, and it’s time for me to speak up.

Let’s define conflict of interest – “using one’s position to influence an outcome resulting in personal gain.” There is no instance of conflict of interest during my service to the town of Wilmington unless you count more grey hair and more worry lines as “personal gain.” I have meticulously recused myself from voting any issues that came before the selectboard concerning the Town Clerk’s budget, and any issues concerning two other boards on which I serve – the MOOver and Cold Brook Fire District.

It is unbecoming and wrong for those in the community to sully my character by whispering this accusation. The accusation started when I first ran for the selectboard, “it’s a conflict of interest for her to run because she is the Town Clerk.” False. Though it may be uncommon there is no conflict of interest stated in Vermont law in this situation. Two other clerks in Windham County have also recently served simultaneously as Town Clerk and on their respective selectboards. As a matter of fact, the very write-in candidate who opposed me six years ago, due to their perception of conflict of interest, implored me to run again this year.

Now more whispers, “It’s a conflict of interest for siblings to serve on the selectboard.” False again. No such legal restriction exists. I have served because I wanted to help my hometown, plain and simple. But the whisperers turn my desire to serve into something untoward. Frankly it has been a sacrifice of time and energy – the personal gain has come when a taxpayer’s problem has been resolved, a project to serve the taxpayers has been completed, or all-around good service has been offered to the taxpayers by the municipality.

I’ll make you this promise – if anyone has a specific, egregious, provable instance of conflict of interest that I’ve engaged in, bring it to me and I will immediately resign. So when some small minded individual whispers “it’s a conflict of interest” ask them for the specific example and proof.

Should I be re-elected this time, I promise to serve with good character and passion, and to speak forthrightly. Now for the important issues - we all know that there are still economic rebuilding challenges ahead for Wilmington even though much progress has been made by many property owners’ hard work and much community volunteerism.

We need leadership that is not afraid to address issues that affect forward motion. If you read the paper, it’s obvious that we need to improve Wilmington’s image on a couple of fronts – law enforcement image and business friendly image.

This takes leaders who are not concerned about “personal gain” or “personal image” but are committed enough to deal with difficult problems and not just “go along to get along.”

Responsible voters should ask themselves whether it’s best to have a candidate who steps up and proactively gets on the ballot, or a candidate who wasn’t interested in running at all until he was recruited by the Whisper Campaign.

Susie Haughwout

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