FALMOUTH – “Demented, a banshee, idiotic and running a private club,” were just a few of the adjectives and phrases Michael Doyle, a private citizen, has directed at Falmouth Town Council Chairwoman Cathy Breen in an ongoing feud that started a few weeks ago.
Breen took the unusual step of reading Doyle’s remarks during a Monday night council meeting — with Doyle seated in the audience. Breen said the terms were used at public meetings and in e-mails Doyle sent to her.
Councilors subsequently endorsed a resolution that places restrictions on how members of the public can interact with the council.
The resolution, which makes it clear that public comment and criticism is welcome at council meetings, also says that “name calling, personal attacks, abusive bullying, and threatening language” will not be tolerated.
The resolution was introduced after Breen and Doyle had a well-publicized — it was shown on local television stations — confrontation last month during a discussion over protection of vernal pools.
Other councilors threw their support behind the resolution, which says such language does not foster the free and open exchange of ideas on which the operation of good government depends.
Breen told the audience that Doyle has described her in council meetings or in e-mails as, “snide, abusive, condescending, disgusting, ridiculous, stunningly inept, cowardly, weak and childish.”
After Breen’s letter was distributed to a packed council chamber, Councilor Bonnie Rodden read an e-mail that Doyle sent to her on May 4. It was also distributed to the audience.
In the e-mail, Doyle starts by saying, “I am only sending this to you and no one else. It is really with mixed feeling that I write this. If you should win re-election I imagine you would supply me with endless opportunities to embarrass and humiliate you as a councilor.”
Doyle goes on to say, “If you force my hand by not withdrawing from this election I will bring my considerable skill set and intellect to bear against you You may want to discuss your decision with your family because they will have to live with it as much as you will.”
“This sort of behavior can have a chilling effect on democracy. Who is going to want to run knowing this?” Rodden added.
“My initial reaction to this stuff was to ignore it,” Breen told the audience. “But it’s unacceptable behavior in these chambers. It’s shameful and I am sick of it.”
At that point, several audience members applauded.
During the council discussion, Doyle, who sat in the back row, raised his hand and called out “madame chair” at least two times.
A Falmouth police officer stood at the rear of the chambers — town officials had asked for a police presence.
Breen did not recognize Doyle because he tried to speak after public comment had ended.
In an interview outside the council chambers, Doyle said the content of the e-mail sent to Rodden and the terms quoted by the councilors were accurate.
“I accept responsibility for these words even though they were taken out of context. All these adjectives I have used, but I don’t think it’s wrong to call someone idiotic when they are,” Doyle said.
Doyle said a couple of issues — school consolidation and joining the Metro bus service — convinced him to get more involved in local politics.
“Yes, I’ve sent them e-mails that are harsh, but they are accurate,” he said.
Doyle, 62, has lived in Falmouth for 26 years and feels he has the right to make comments, even if his language might seem inappropriate. He said he plans to attend future meetings.
“I will endeavor to be more polite,” he added. “But just as harsh and even more truthful.”
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:
[email protected] A Falmouth police officer stood at the rear of the chambers — town officials had asked for a police presence.