Anti-Semitic email, website targets Greenfield Town Councilor Karen Renaud


Recorder Staff
Published: 8/3/2016 11:04:18 PM

GREENFIELD — Town Council Treasurer Karen “Rudy” Renaud’s proposed ordinance that would establish local hate crime legislation got more personal Wednesday after she received a threatening email from an unknown person, and a post about her proposal appeared on an anti-Semitic website.

The email, with the subject line “You Belong in Prison,” referenced her being put in a concentration camp if Trump is elected president. The sender wrote, “maybe they will cure you of your perversions too.” Renaud is a gay woman.

During a public hearing to discuss the ordinance Wednesday evening, it was also revealed that a post about Renaud’s proposal appeared on an anti-Semitic website. The article used an offensive epithet to describe Renaud and stated she’s trying to use “slave labor” as punishment for local hate crimes. Her proposed ordinance includes community service hours for those found guilty through the legal system for committing such crimes.

Renaud said she originally decided to draft the ordinance after a series of racist and anti-Semitic incidents occurred in town.

In recent months, racist, digitally altered photos of At-Large Town Councilor Penny Ricketts were emailed to town department heads and local businesses. The owners of Pierce Brothers Coffee Roasters also came forward to say their business has been the target of frequent harassment — including an anti-Semitic remark — by a neighbor who objects to the smell created by its roasting process.

The article that appeared on the anti-Semitic website also included one of the altered pictures of Ricketts, as well as a digitally altered photo showing concentration camp prisoners drinking Pierce Brothers coffee.

Ricketts said the police chief and the Town Council president were both informed of the website Wednesday.

During the public hearing, held at an Appointments and Ordinance Committee meeting Wednesday evening, Ricketts pointed out that the altered pictures of her were sent around just as she was proposing that Town Council adopt a Resolution of Respect. Now, she said Renaud has become the victim of a similar attack just as she’s proposing a hate crime ordinance.

“Because of what’s been going on in our town, it seemed like a good thing to send a message to people who think this is an OK place to try to spew hate and harass people — that this isn’t OK,” Renaud said of the ordinance.

The ordinance

Several town councilors met with the mayor and the police chief earlier this week to discuss the proposed ordinance, and a number of members of the public had comments and suggestions for how to improve the draft during the hearing Wednesday.

The proposed ordinance establishes a civil rights officer position within the Police Department, who would immediately confer with the town’s Human Rights Commission after a hate crime is committed and appear at a public meeting within 48 hours to answer questions and provide a status update concerning the investigation.

The officer would continue to attend commission meetings and keep the public updated until the issue has been resolved.

The proposed ordinance states that anyone found guilty by the court system of committing a hate crime in Greenfield would be required to perform 100 hours of community service within a year from the time they were found guilty.

The victim and the Human Rights Commission would pick the community service to be performed, if the victim feels comfortable doing so. It also calls for guidelines for documenting hate crimes in town.

A number of people at the hearing requested that the ordinance provide a clearer and more comprehensive definition of what constitutes a hate crime.

Greenfield resident Becca King said she would like to see “economic status,” “mental or physical disability” and “occupation” added to the definition in the ordinance, which uses the Massachusetts General Law definition of a hate crime.

“That would also include the police as subjects of hate crimes, so a way of extending this to them, as well,” she said.

Others cautioned against the 48-hour time limit for holding a public meeting after a hate crime is committed, as it could violate the state’s Open Meeting Law.

The importance of public education was also brought up during the hearing, as not everybody knows what a hate crime is.

King said she thinks it would be beneficial for that education to begin with town councilors, who could then serve as a model for the rest of the community.

There was also some discussion about who would fill the civil rights officer position, and how that person would be selected. Resident Sarah Ahern said she’s concerned about the civil rights officer position being filled by a member of the Greenfield Police Department, which she said is not very diverse.

Town Council Vice President Isaac Mass said it makes sense for a police officer to take on that role, as it has to be someone in law enforcement who’s investigating the underlying crime. He suggested the ordinance could be improved by making the appointment of the civil rights officer position subject to approval by a public authority, such as the Public Safety Commission.

Concern was also voiced during the hearing about how the community service hours would be enforced. Mass, who is a criminal defense attorney, said that sort of restorative justice is already a part of probation following hate crime convictions, and the ordinance might be trying to “reinvent the wheel” in that regard.

“I think what makes sense is to coordinate with the probation department, the District Attorney’s Office, and make sure that they pull in a member of the Human Rights Commission to restorative justice panels when a hate crime has been committed, so someone from the Human Rights Commission sits on that,” he said.

Mass also suggested the ordinance include a section banning those who have been convicted of hate crimes from doing business with the town — such as receiving municipal contracts — so they never get money from Greenfield.

Renaud said the Appointments and Ordinance Committee will take all the public input into consideration and write a new draft of the ordinance over the next month. It will then be brought to the full Town Council.


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