UPDATED 15:23 - ECC Mayor admits he wrote unsigned campaign letter
East Carbon City Mayor Orlando LaFontaine has admitted to being the author of an unsigned, negative campaign letter aimed at mayoral candidate Barbara Fisher and council member Darrell Valdez. LaFontaine also said 400 copies were printed on the city office printer with stationary of his own.
In the early morning hours before Tuesday's municipal elections, LaFontaine and a group of supporters blanketed the town of East Carbon with the material hitting nearly every home in the small city.
The two-sided letter stated in bold type, "Vote for the future. Vote NO for Barbra [sic] Fisher. Vote NO for Darrel [sic] Valdez. Vote YES for new faces!"
On its reverse, the letter took issue with Fisher's prior record as a council member and some of her comments during an October debate hosted by the Sun Advocate.
The letter accused Fisher of causing city debt, favoring the arrival of ECDC to get her husband a job and allowing sub-par sidewalks and roads to be installed in East Carbon.
Her son, although not named in the letter, was repeatedly attacked in print.
As for Valdez, the letter took issue with his work history, his son's position at East Carbon City and his management of a malt stand in the town.
"I wrote this letter because of their record. Their record speaks for itself," said LaFontaine. "Valdez says he is a voice for the people, what voice? I've never heard him report at a council meeting."
East Carbon write-in mayoral candidate Marcus Palacios criticized the letter through various channels, including social media and the Sun Advocate.
"I had absolutely nothing to do with this letter and am appalled by this kind of negative and slanderous tactic," he said in an interview with the newspaper Tuesday morning. "Both the Valdez and Fisher families are great members of this community and don't deserve to have their names drug through the mud over what amounts to a list of lies and half truths."
Both Valdez and Fisher were stunned by the letter which has been the only negative salvo launched during an otherwise friendly campaign atmosphere.
"I stand by everything that I said in the letter," continued LaFontaine. "At the last minute I decided to do that. We need new faces and that includes me, that's why I'm not running again."
During the Sun Advocate's public debate on Oct. 17, none of the issues mentioned in the letter where brought up as a challenge to Fisher's platform.
Upset by the last minute tactics, Valdez approached city hall to inquire about whether a large number of copies had been made there Monday night. According to city officials, more than 400 duplicates were made near 11 p.m.
"For someone to attack the work history of a pensioned 30 year coal miner is laughable to me," said Valdez. "My position has nothing to do with my family and attacking my family in a municipal election is so far out of line I don't know what to say. I've never said a negative or slanderous thing about a political opponent. I don't know what to think of this. I just want to give our residents someone they aren't afraid to talk to."
East Carbon Police Chief Sam Leonard stated earlier that the matter was under investigation. However, LaFontaine's admission that he did write and distribute the letter may change the nature of that investigation.
"Who else would write something like that?" asked LaFontaine. "I really thought that everyone would know that the letter was from me. I didn't sign the consolidation letter that went out and everyone knew it was from me. So I just thought everyone would understand that this was from me as well."