Town of Southborough v. MySouthborough.com

NOTE: The information and commentary contained in this database entry are based on court filings and other informational sources that may contain unproven allegations made by the parties. The truthfulness and accuracy of such information is likely to be in dispute. Information contained in this entry is current as of the last event mentioned in the "Description" section below; additional proceedings might have taken place in this matter since this event.

Summary

Threat Type: 

Correspondence

Date: 

09/22/2009

Status: 

Pending

Location: 

Massachusetts

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

N/A
In September and October 2009, Aldo Cipriani, Town Counsel for Southborough, MA, exchanged letters with Susan Fitzgerald, publisher of MySouthborough.com, a blog dedicated to local politics. Cipriani's letters requested that Fitzgerald turn over the identity of a commenter going by... read full description
Parties

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

MySouthborough.com; Susan Fitzgerald

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Location of Party: 

  • Massachusetts

Location of Party: 

  • Massachusetts

Legal Counsel: 

Pro Se
Description

In September and October 2009, Aldo Cipriani, Town Counsel for Southborough, MA, exchanged letters with Susan Fitzgerald, publisher of MySouthborough.com, a blog dedicated to local politics. Cipriani's letters requested that Fitzgerald turn over the identity of a commenter going by the moniker "Marty" and cautioned Fitzgerald to "more closely monitor remarks made on the communication site ensuring that when individuals speak to issues they do so accurately and without false allegations of violating state law." A letter from late October also advised her to retain records of IP addresses and other information.

According to the Boston Globe, the dispute revolves around meetings of a search committee set up to select a new police chief:

Marty’s posts questioned whether certain search committee meetings held in executive session, behind closed doors, violated the state’s open meeting laws. The posts insinuated the committee had unfair partiality toward the police force’s interim chief, Jane Moran, during the search process. The longtime department veteran was hired for the permanent position in November. (source)

According to MetroWest Daily News, Cipriani's September 22 letter asserted that "[c]ertain comments have been made about the citizen volunteer duly-appointed Police Chief Search Committee wrongly suggesting improprieties under state law," and asked "that you . . .  furnish the contact information for 'Marty' and/or his attorney so that we may raise our concerns directly." 

In a September 30 response, Fitzgerald refused to turn over Marty's identity.  She later told the Globe that she considered Marty's statements expressions of opinion, noting that “I may not agree, but I believe it is the commenter’s right to say it.’’  

The issue resurfaced in March when Selectmen Sal Giorlandino and Bonnie Phaneuf said recent comments posted under a police lieutenant story compelled them to consider legal action.  Selectman Giorlandino told the Globe: "References that say I'm not masculine enough to do my job, and another reference that involved burning Bonnie's (Phaneuf) undergarments, went over the line."

Details

Content Type: 

  • Text

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Subject Area: 

  • Third-Party Content
  • Anonymity
Court Information & Documents

Jurisdiction: 

  • Massachusetts

Source of Law: 

  • Massachusetts