E-mails concern mayor
February 23, 2001
A man who sent "aggressive" e-mails to city and community officials about his opposition to Opportunities For Otsego's proposed homeless shelter was questioned by city of Oneonta police during this week's Common Council meeting.
Mayor Kim Muller said she had requested the presence of several officers outside Common Council Chambers on the second floor of City Hall on Tuesday because she, another alderman and a non-city official had received what she called "increasingly aggressive e-mails" from town of Oneonta resident Bill Walshe.
Muller didn't specify what the e-mails said but said that she made a request for police to stand by as a precautionary measure.
"The bottom line is we don't mess around," Muller said. "If I get a communication that I feel presents a level of aggression, I'll do what I feel is necessary to protect the staff and the public."
At the meeting, Muller said, she and others became uneasy when a man, who turned out to be Walshe, walked into the chambers about 15 minutes into the session and stood staring around the room for about 20 seconds.
Seventh Ward Alderman Sean Farrell, who had just been told why the police were out in the hall, alerted officers to the man's presence when he noticed the mayor looking nervous.
"When the guy walked in, the mayor turned a whiter shade of pale," said Farrell, "so I put two and two together."
Police Chief John J. Donadio said the man was asked to step out into the hall and show his identification.
He then returned to the meeting.
"It was explained to him why he was called out of the meeting," Donadio said.
Muller and Donadio said they did not recognize the man as Walshe but suspected it might be.
Walshe, who told The Daily Star he didn't like the way he was treated by police, has written a letter of complaint to Donadio.
Walshe said he was asked to step outside by police, who then asked him to take his hands out of his pockets. He said that when he asked police why he needed to remove his hands, he was asked to back up and produce some identification. After being questioned, he said, he went back into the meeting.
After the meeting Tuesday, Walshe, a resident of Southside Drive, said he doesn't have anything against homeless people. He has concerns about having his children walking up Main Street near the shelter.
Walshe said Thursday he has retained a lawyer since filing his complaint with police and has declined further comment.
Donadio said he is going to write a letter to Walshe responding to each of his complaints.
He said the officers who were at City Hall on Tuesday did the right thing in questioning Walshe.
"When perceived threats are made toward an elected official, the police department is going to be right there," Donadio said. "We did nothing outside standard police parameters."
Muller said she has not filed any type of complaint about the e-mails Walshe sent.
City Attorney David Merzig, who was forwarded two of Walshe's e-mails and responded to some of his questions, said he viewed the communications to the mayor as being both "inflammatory and emotional."
OFO Executive Director Cheri Albrecht said she received several e-mails from Walshe and has requested that he not e-mail her anymore.
"I will respond to legitimate questions that have to do with the project but I'm not going to be harassed," said Albrecht, who declined to expound on the details of Walshe's communications.
John Nader, president of OFO's board of directors, said he saw the e-mails that were sent to Albrecht and said they "had a personal tone that gave us reason for concern."
Jill Fahy, emailtoday.com