Bonfanti 'Outraged' at ‘Deceptive’ Campaign Material by Bettencourt
Mayor Michael Bonfanti cries foul over a quote of his Ted Bettencourt included in campaign literature. Bonfanti says it leads voters to think he's one of Bettencourt's supporters, which he's not.
Just shy of a week before the city election and voters choose their new chief executive, outgoing Mayor Michael Bonfanti issued a sharp rebuke of mayoral candidate Ted Bettencourt Wednesday.
“I am outraged with the use of my name on a piece of campaign literature recently distributed by Ted Bettencourt,” said Bonfanti in a press statement. “The literature prominently features three of Bettencourt’s public endorsers and was presented in a way to mislead voters into believing that I was among them. One could draw no other conclusion than to view this act as a deliberate attempt to deceive voters. This is a dishonest campaign tactic and I am compelled to set the record straight.”
Bonfanti, who has publicly endorsed Sean Fitzgerald in the race, further said the literature was an “underhanded attempt” to disguise his true support of a candidate – Fitzgerald.
Bettencourt responded, saying that was far from his intent – he was merely trying to refute criticism from Fitzgerald who said Bettencourt was greatly exaggerating the role he had in improving the city’s bond rating. That was an attempt to deceive voters by Fitzgerald, Bettencourt said.
“I have nothing but respect for Mayor Bonfanti. He declared his support early on and it’s not a mystery to anyone,” Bettencourt said. “That is not the issue here. The issue here is the false information supplied by my opponent.”
Bonfanti, in his statement, once again took the opportunity to praise Fitzgerald, his former chief of staff, as having “great depth of experience” and no need to “embellish his strong record of accomplishment and leadership.”
The literature in question made reference to an article published in the Peabody Weekly News from 2006. Bettencourt had previously used a quote from that news story to rebut Fitzgerald’s original criticism that he [Bettencourt] played any influential role on the city’s bond rating or reserve policy.
Bettencourt also included the quote in the literature in question, alongside quotes from state Sen. Fred Berry and School Committee member Beverley Dunne, who both support Bettencourt (Berry publicly endorsed him as well).
“We felt the need the need to set the record straight and refute the false charge from my opponent. And what better way to do than by having a quote from Mayor Bonfanti, who at the time, praised the work of the committee,” said Bettencourt.
The quote in question appears as follows on Bettencourt's website:
Bonfanti gave credit to the City Council for its role in crafting of a reserve fund policy....Councilors Ted Bettencourt, Michael Zellen and Fred Murtagh headed up a committee that worked on the reserve fund policy.... ”Under Ted's leadership, they worked to come up with a plan that recognized the need to boost reserves and to strengthen the bond rating,” Bonfanti said.... “The ability to borrow and to borrow at a better rate enhances us in the marketplace and it helps taxpayers,” Bonfanti said.
Bonfanti says the quote was incomplete and taken out of context – it merely was effort on his part to share some credit with the City Council at the time for working on a city reserves policy. He said he mentioned Bettencourt by name because he was chairing the subcommittee involved.
“At the time, Bettencourt was a novice city councilor and, quite frankly, in my opinion, he did not know the difference between a triple A bond rating and a triple A baseball team,” Bonfanti said Wednesday.
“Bettencourt’s claim to have played an important role in the city’s recent bond rating increase is a complete fabrication,” he said.
Bonfanti concluded his statement, saying the council committee Bettencourt chaired met twice in 2005 and made a recommendation to the full council, but no action was ever taken by the council and the subcommittee has not met since then.
The city never formally adopted a reserve policy, says Bonfanti, and neither has Moody’s Investors ever singled out the City Council for having an affect on the city’s bond rating.
Fitzgerald made this same argument last month, citing the same references.
Bettencourt says he never tried to take sole credit for the bond rating; he was a part of a team that contributed to the effort. He felt the newspaper quote reflected that.
He said the council never acted on the recommendation because that wasn’t the intent; he and his colleagues were asked to submit their report to the city’s finance director, which they did.
Asked whether he was taken aback by the mayor’s statement, Bettencourt said: “I have nothing but respect for Mayor Bonfanti, things happen in a campaign.”