East Carbon Mayor Orlando LaFontaine
One of the letters becomes wind-blown litter.
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 stationery 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!"
While there is no way to determine the exact impact of LaFontaine's letter, Fisher lost her run at the city's mayoral seat and Valdez failed to keep his council position. Phillip Holt and Karla Young won the town's two open council seats and Barbara Robinett was elected East Carbon's first female mayor.
"I was very upset the whole day," said Robinett on Wednesday. "I wasn't even excited that I won because of that letter. It ruined the whole thing. It was just ugly."
On the reverse, the printed material 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 East Carbon.
"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.
"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 was the only negative salvo launched during an otherwise friendly campaign season.
"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 town officials and police to inquire about whether a large number of copies had been made at the city Monday night. It was confirmed by the city that more than 400 duplicates were made near 11 p.m. on Nov. 4.
"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 that the matter was under investigation. However, LaFontaine's admission that he did write and work to distribute the letter may change the nature of that investigation. Should a conflict of interest arise the investigation will be turned over to another agency.
"Who else would write something like that?" asked LaFontaine. "I really thought that everyone would know that the letter was from me, that's why I didn't sign it. 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."