King denies copying part of letter to McIntyre
Portsmouth School Committee member Marilyn King was one of the authors of a letter to Town Council President Peter McIntyre last week criticizing the school committee for "misleading the public." The letter to McIntyre marked the second time in a month that King and Angela Volpicelli voted one way at a school committee meeting and subsequently expressed radically different positions to the Town Council.
After Tuesday night's school committee meeting, King denied copying portions of her document from an e-mail committee member Cynthia Perrotti said she sent to only two people: PCC, Inc. President Larry Fitzmorris and Town Councilor Karen Gleason.
The McIntyre letter includes a list of putative cost-saving measures which appears identical, character for character, to the list in Perrotti's e-mail. According to Ms. Perrotti, she sent these e-mails the morning of June 2; King's letter is dated June third. Here is the relevant section of the e-mail, which was forwarded to me (Ms. Perotti said she sent it to Larry thinking he knew my e-mail address):
Here are the contents of the actual Microsoft Word document sent to McIntyre by King and Volpicelli. I obtained this file from School Committee Chair Dick Carpender with the permission of Council President McIntyre. You can click on the image for a larger view.
The text is displayed with markup turned on to make the carriage returns visible. You can see that there is black text, and then a sudden change to blue. In the document, this is also a change in font, from 10 point Arial to 11 point Calibri. And instead of going out to the right margin (what is called in MS Word a 'soft wrap') the first three bullets, which track Perotti's memo, show the same 'hard" returns. The fourth bullet, which is not present in Perotti's memo does not have a hard return — you can clearly see a dot, rather than an arrow, after the word "job." (Note also the capitalization and misspelling of "Prinicipal [sic]," inconsistent with the other bullets.)
Admittedly, there have been changes to the text: Addition of bullet numbers, deletion of the last sentence of bullet one, and the insertion of the phrase "savings X dollars" at the end of each item. But notice that the number formatting is different: at the beginning of each sentence which matches the Perrotti memo, the number is represented "Excel-style" with a leading dollar sign and no comma, yet the additional numbers at the end use the dollar sign-comma format, an obvious inconsistency.
Asked on Tuesday night about the origin of this text, Ms. King said, "It was notes I had down also." Shown a copy of the two documents side-by-side and asked to explain the similarities, Ms. King said, "I don't know, maybe my margins are set the same." Shown the discrepancy in the formatting she said, "I just typed it. If it returned, it returned, I didn't control that. I just typed in information and when it got to the end, it returned. I mean, I didn't have control over that." Asked directly if she had gotten a copy of Perotti's e-mail, King responded, "No."
If we take Ms. King at her word, this means that she reached a point in her Word document (attached, below), decided to switch fonts, sizes, and margins, and then replicated, character for character, an e-mail which she says she did not get.
No inference of impropriety should be drawn here, even if you believe the excerpts above raise questions. Both Mr. Fitzmorris and Ms. Gleason are citizens, and any citizen is free to communicate with their elected representatives, indeed, citizens should be happy if their representatives find their words compelling enough to quote. Ms. Perrotti, as a member of the school committee, can send whatever non-confidential information she wishes to anyone, and if she wants to communicate with the PCC President and Councilor Gleason, that's perfectly okay.
However, in this particular case, a document was created by two school committee members accusing other members of "misleading the public." The document was sent directly to Peter McIntyre, with no copies to other members of the Town Council or School Committee. Not only did King and Volpicelli not express their concerns at the school committee meeting, they did not even attend the Town Council session, so there was no opportunity for meaningful dialogue.
If Ms. King is telling the truth about how she wrote her letter, the text, in my opinion, represents a remarkable coincidence. And really, if someone had copied a memo, why would they hide that?
Cynthia Perrotti's June 2 e-mail (Non-official e-mail addresses have been redacted)