Coffee Cup Bears Message For Selectmen
By: Christopher Kazarian
When most people communicate with Falmouth selectmen, they do so either verbally in person, on the phone, or in writing through e-mail or letter.
But last week, at the selectmen’s meeting just three days before Thanksgiving, former town constable George W. Morse of Highview Drive, East Falmouth, may have chosen the most unusual way to do so.
On a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee cup he was holding during the meeting were written in pen the words “You Talk To Much.” [sic]
“I learned about it afterward. I really didn’t see it,” Chairman of the Falmouth Board of Selectmen Mary (Pat) Flynn said. “I know Melissa [Freitag] saw it, Bob [Whritenour] saw it and Heather [Harper] saw it, but I didn’t. I think it is rather childish.”
For his part Mr. Morse admitted holding the cup, but said the message was not intended for anyone on the board. “I have a coffee that I get every Monday night before the meeting,” he said, although he added that it has never had that phrase written on it.
He refused to discuss how that phrase made its way onto the cup or who wrote it, simply saying, “I’m not going to get into that.”
He also said the words on the cup were not meant to be intimidating or disruptive to the board. If it was, he said, he would have hoped someone would have mentioned it to him.
Although he said he discarded the cup in the men’s bathroom in town hall afterward, it is now in a plastic bag locked in a file cabinet in the town manager’s office.
On Wednesday, Office Manager Carole A. Kelly said she was unsure what will happen to the cup in the future. “We don’t know yet. We are just holding it,” she said, jokingly adding that “we might have to do some forensics on it. C.S.I. Falmouth.”
Mr. Morse was in a different mood yesterday, upset that town officials are making an issue of this.
“They are going to try to do whatever they want to do,” he said. “They think I’m behind this recall stuff... If something was offensive to me, I would go and ask that person if this [cup] was in reference to me... Never mind sneaking around through the media to start more fires.”
Since June Mr. Morse has been at the center of a controversy involving town officials after they allegedly viewed sealed records related to his criminal history when considering his re-appointment to be a town constable. The board ultimately decided not to reappoint him after they reached a stalemate, 2-2, during a vote at a meeting in which Ms. Freitag was not present.
Mr. Morse has filed a complaint with the state Criminal History Systems Board, alleging town employees improperly accessed his sealed records and distributed them to selectmen.
While he is still waiting on a ruling from the state concerning his complaint, Mr. Morse has been tied to a movement to recall Ms. Freitag from office.
Although he dropped off the recall papers to town hall last month, Mr. Morse has denied being behind the effort, instead claiming that Mary Ann Stacey of East Falmouth Highway is.
Mr. Morse and his wife, Sheila, both signed the recall petition.
Whether Ms. Freitag was the intended recipient of the message on the coffee cup, it is unclear.
Ms. Freitag said she saw him holding the cup and twisting it on the chair next to him, but “I didn’t realize there was writing on it... I believe he was turning it to face particular people at key moments.”
She said she did find it interesting that both Mr. Morse and Selectman Ahmed A. Mustafa, who are friends, both were holding Dunkin’ Donuts coffee cups that night. “I know they drink coffee together and in fact I’ve joined them for coffee before,” she said.
A teacher at Cape Cod Community College and someone who has previously taught middle school and high school, she laughed, “I’m not going to comment on where this ranks in the shenanigans of my teaching career. I find it highly entertaining.”
Ms. Flynn was unsure what point Mr. Morse was trying to make, but warned that “if he continues to do things like that, I would be concerned he was trying to distract the board from trying to do its business.”
As far as the message on the cup, she said, “I didn’t feel intimidated by it. George Morse does not intimidate me. He can sit in front of me and if he were to do something like that [again], I wouldn’t feel intimidated... I feel like it is a distraction. It is also something we don’t expect from citizens of our town.”
Having served as a selectmen for 12 years, she said, she has seen residents disrupt meetings before.
She recalled one time while convening in the Civil Defense Room that she was forced to call a meeting into recess when an applicant for a dock permit kept interrupting selectmen and was unruly. During the intermission, she told the resident that “you are being disruptive and you need to stop. We need to do business and we can’t do it with the way you are acting.”
Falmouth Town Counsel Frank K. Duffy Jr., who knows about last Monday’s incident concerning Mr. Morse and his coffee cup, said the chairman of each board has the right to remove a resident from a meeting at their discretion. If they refuse to leave, he said, they can call police to have them escorted out.
However, he said, it is unlikely someone could be banned indefinitely from a public meeting because they are allowed by right to be there.
As far as the coffee cup, he said, the town intends to keep it and “if there is a pattern of behavior shown, we now have some evidence to show that. It might be useful to determine whether his conduct is disruptive to a meeting at a future date.”
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