Not moving Margaret Melican forward in the application process for zoning board was the right decision – but not because of her political beliefs. She should be kept off the board instead because of her troubles with the truth, and, more importantly, because she has repeatedly shown herself to be extremely unethical – at best.
Worcester city council member and Republican City Committee chair Michael Gaffney, as well as the blog he sponsors, Turtleboy Sports, have been fuming publicly that Attorney Melican was asked – for a moment – about her relationship with Turtleboy Sports by the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) during her candidacy to become a member of the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals. Further, Gaffney and the blog he champions are arguing that those who have opposed Melican are “fascists.” Gaffney has devoted much writing and, in his Cheers Worcester video, talk to the notion that it is wrong that Melican’s “political views” should have hampered her candidacy
On Gaffney: it is hard to guess what he’s going to say, mostly because he’s so self-contradictory. A week before the Melican incident, he was railing against members of the city council who voted me onto the board of the Worcester Public Library. Why? Because of my political views. Leaving aside the fact that Gaffney was seriously misrepresenting my opinions and organizational memberships, this is some serious hypocrisy. Mike (I know you’re reading), are you for banning people from boards because of their opinions or against it? You have to make up your mind – and then let us know.
For the record, I don’t think anyone should be barred from serving their city because of what they believe. This is America, and we have freedom of speech. It’s worked out for us, as the open interplay of ideas, even really grotesque ones, has helped to discredit the worst.
An individual’s behavior, honesty, integrity, and ethical maturity, however, all should be taken into account when filling city positions, especially those that carry great responsibility. These are the exact reasons it was right for Melican to have not been moved forward in her quest for ZBA membership.
The local attorney said in her interview with the CAC that her relationship with the anti-Worcester blog was limited to writing a few limericks on their Facebook page. However, she failed to mention that she also represented the blog in a lawsuit, later saying she merely forgot about that. But Melican also has a far deeper relationship with Gaffney’s blog: she’s well known to often submit photographs that she takes at rallies.
One might ask: does submitting photo to an unsavory blog really disqualify a candidate for service? Obviously not. However, lying in the interview should be an immediate deal breaker, or at the very least should raise some red flags. Watch the video: Attorney Melican was instructed that she didn’t even need to answer the question about Turtleboy Sports, but chose to anyway – and answered with a lie. But her relationship with the blog is far more perverse than just secretly taking pictures at rallies and sending them for publication.
Besides taking photos, Melican has also found people’s personal information and, in an attempt to smear their reputation, posted it for Turtleboy. Indeed, Melican posted personal information about me to the blog’s Facebook page (info that would lead readers to be able to better find and harass me – as they are wont to do) and also shared information about a bankruptcy I filed for in New York City many years ago, which Turtleboy Later published.
Thanks, Attorney Melican!
To be clear, bankruptcies are public information, and posting about them is not illegal – but it is highly unethical, especially for an attorney. By the way, Facebook found her posting of my personal information to be sleazy enough that they banned her account for seven days.
Melican did that to me, so I know about it. How many other people has she done it to? I have no idea. But clearly, Worcester should never allow someone who would make such a grotesque choice near any board, much less the zoning board. If she’ll do what she did to me because I offended her favorite blog, what might she do to, say, a business or homeowner she doesn’t like who comes before the board? We have no way of knowing.
Melican’s sleaze isn’t only in relationship to Turtleboy Sports, either. While it’s not widely known, she was censured by the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers for being a shady attorney. That’s right: the qualification that Gaffney and Turtleboy Sports keep referring to – being a highly-respected lawyer – is tarnished, because Melican isn’t highly respected. Here’s the link to the public reprimand Melican received on May 25, 2010. Read through it, decipher the legalese, and you’ll find that Melican engaged in exactly the kind of behavior that Turtleboy Sports uses on its opponents, attempting to extort a litigant to drop charges lest Melican reveal embarrassing emails.
Another point on Turtleboy Sports: no, people shouldn’t be censured for looking at or reading news sites, or even commenting on them. However, Turtleboy Sports isn’t a normal site. It doesn’t just post news, or some version of entertainment. Instead, it actively promotes the harassment and bullying of individuals, even children. I’ve written about this before, and most people know that. While reading the site is an unsavory practice, participating in the harassment of others – which is what Melican does, and the site urges others to do – should keep you out of public office. (Voters, remember Gaffney’s behind the site when election time comes around; the council will be better off without him).
In short, Margaret Melican wasn’t kept off the Zoning Board of Appeals because of her opinions. Most of the reason had nothing to do with Turtleboy Sports. Watch the video, and you’ll find that the question about the blog was cut off, and most of the conversation was about Melican’s possible conflicts of interest on the board. But it would also be right to keep her off because of her relationship to it – not because of her opinions, but because of the lies she tells about it, including in official meetings, and because she uses it to engage in highly unethical activities that show her to be unsound for work in government.
Melican is not always honest and, beyond that, she has shown herself to be happy to attempt to extort those she doesn’t like by leaking personal information and using other bullying tactics. The rules of the Citizens Advisory Council, including the questions asked, should help the CAC to weed out people who could do this sort of thing. Is Attorney Melican a terrible person? Maybe not. People at the courthouse report that she does – very quietly – a good deal of pro bono work, often representing people of color and those who cannot afford their own attorney. Like everyone, she’s complex. It would be wrong to paint her as an eternal enemy; maybe at some point she’ll realize what she’s been doing with Turtleboy is wrong. But unless and until we see that Attorney Melican has moved on from this type of behavior, we, as a city, just can’t be certain that she’ll be fair on a public board.
The only thing that should be surprising here is that this has come up as a free speech issue (or, at least, anyone who’s familiar with Gaffney’s kind of sleaze). Gaffney’s position on freedom of speech (sometimes it’s good, sometimes not) and his faux outrage that the city council didn’t take up this non-matter are the same thing as much of everything else he does: sad attempts to win support for his ailing bid to remain on the city council.