Open Apology to Mr. Gugliotti

by LonSeidman

By Christopher O’Brien
Two months ago I wrote a narrative of the Wolcott budget. Included within the budget were quotations by Board of Education members. As in any good piece of writing, I used quotations to illustrate and give more credibility to the piece. After reflecting upon the use of one of the quotations in particular, I have apologized to Anthony Gugliotti over the use of his comment.

The statement I quoted from Mr. Gugliotti was that if taxpayers could not afford a mill increase, they should move out of town. Mr. Gugliotti says that he never made the statement, particularly within the context I portrayed it. Instead, the statement was used in the midst of a discussion where he was illustrating a point, and he says that it was not his position to raise taxes. Mr. Gugliotti told me that he said that if taxes were raised, taxpayers WOULD leave town, not ‘should’ as I presented. He further presented this as part of a lengthier point.

As an editor of this piece, I should have attributed his statement to the sources I heard it from or not used it at all. For a few weeks now, there has been a proper notation at the end of the original article on Facebook saying that I heard the original quote from unnamed sources who were at a meeting that I didn’t attend. The original quotation is still present with that attribution.

Mr. Gugliotti graciously accepted my apology last night, (Monday). Using the quote as a personal attack as well spreading what might be considered a rumor negated the intent of the article. That focus was supposed to be whether or not wages should be frozen to stablize the budget.

I want to be able to work with the Board of Education and Mr. Gugliotti as chairman of the Board’s finance committee. The business of the town demands that we work together and this incident has impaired that. Mr. Gugliotti is very knowledgeable to how the education department operates and I have no doubts that he knows most of the figures within the Board’s budget. Because the Town Council that I sit on needs information from the Board to rest our decisions, we need a positive working relationship in the future.

I do need to be very clear on a couple of points though before anyone starts rumors about why I have made this statement. First, it will likely be suggested that those who gave me the statement ‘set you up’. I strongly disagree. I am the only person responsible for what I write. I trusted the people who told me the statement, and still do. I have not identified those sources because they can speak for themselves if they wish. Only those present when the statement was made could judge it appropriately, and thus far no one present has found it necessary to do so. That would rest the blame for repeating the alleged statement fully on myself. Period.

As for the writing of public events and meetings, I will continue to convey information in this forum, but may elect to use other methods. I think that there is benefit to the public when more information is available. I still feel that many of the workings and decisions by town officials are not reported. There are many events that can bring the town together that are not widely known. Anyone who sticks their head out to report on public events- or even public officials themselves- can get information wrong or make mistakes. I will try to get this information right the first time, but will happily make corrections if necessary.

Finally, you may recall that the Board of Education directed its attorney to accuse me of libel and making misleading statements. I did not commit libel and no statement I made was libelous. Libel has a specific legal definition and even including Mr. Gugliotti’s statement does not meet that legal standard. Yet, because of how I used the statement and did not properly attribute it, I believe its use was poor journalism and a bad decision. The points I made did not require that quote to back them up.

Immediately after publishing the article, Mr. Gugliotti challenged the quotation. At that point a good journalist would have noted the source and could have seen if the quote was needed and could have made a reasonable correction. Indeed, the piece again was aimed at policy, and not personalities.

To Mr. Gugliotti and the townspeople of Wolcott, I apologize for this error.

Thankyou for reading.
Christopher O’Brien
3rd District Town Council

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