Bias seen in invites and e-mail

Anger and confusion abound over a school board candidates’ forum and the matter of who’s endorsing whom in Oysterponds.

Set for tonight at East Marion Fire Department, the forum has drawn fire because of scheduling issues and the impression some people have that the two sponsoring organizations are backing three of the four candidates.

Did the East Marion Community Association and the Orient Association deliberately not invite incumbent Carl Demarest? Anne Hopkins of the Orient Association answered, “Nobody has gotten any more notice than Carl has.”

Mr. Demarest said that’s “absolutely untrue” and that he was never invited.

He didn’t know about the forum until someone called to ask if would be OK with him if the date were changed, he said. His reply, he added, was that he would have appreciated being notified of the original date, but would do his best to appear.

Ms. Hopkins said that when the two organizations agreed to sponsor the forum as a community service, a round of telephone calls went out to all four candidates — Mr. Demarest, Deborah Dumont, Dorothy-Dean Thomas and Thom Gray — to find a mutually convenient date. As it worked out, Ms. Thomas couldn’t make Thursday night’s forum, but was invited to provide a statement about why she is running.

Then there’s the issue of the seeming endorsement by the two organizations of all candidates except Mr. Demarest. Residents of East Marion and Orient received e-mail about the candidates’ forum that encouraged them to attend and to vote for Ms. Dumont, Ms. Thomas and Mr. Gray on Tuesday.

The e-mail received by The Suffolk Times appeared as though the two community organizations were backing the three candidates because the top of the e-mail listed the two organizations — even though neither had anything to do with the mailing.

“We don’t endorse; we are upset,” Ms. Hopkins said. She and EMCA president Ruth Ann Bramson learned of the e-mail campaign when they received notices about the forum that ended with advice to vote on Tuesday, May 18, and “support a new team with fresh ideas, a spirit of cooperation, a focus on education and fiscal responsibility. Please vote Deborah Dumont, Dorothy-Dean Thomas and Thom Gray,” it said.

Dick Leslie, a supporter of the three newcomers, acknowledged that the two sponsoring organizations had nothing to do with the endorsements. At the bottom of the e-mail in small print are the words, “paid for by Friends of Thom Gray, Dorothy-Dean Thomas and Deborah Dumont.”

Board member Linda Goldsmith took to the podium at Monday night’s budget and board meeting, saying she was speaking as a community resident, not a board member, to complain about what she said appeared to be political action by the two community groups. She said the e-mail and letters circulating in the community are filled with misinformation. And she pointed to the absence of the three candidates from both Monday night’s meeting and previous meetings and budget hearings.

“I find this offensive,” Ms. Goldsmith said. If they plan to serve on the school board, they better get used to the many hours that school board service requires beyond once-a-month public meetings, she said.

“We never intended it to appear as an endorsement by the East Marion or Orient Association,” Mr. Leslie said. “Some people see conspiracy and plots no matter where they look.”

Tonight’s forum at the East Marion firehouse is from 7 to 9 p.m.

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