In reference to your front page article on March 8, 2012, titled "H'town settles sex harassment complaint," I would like to take this opportunity to share with your readers what I know of yet another falsely accused community member.
I have known Larry Miller for roughly 35 years. Over this time, the things I have learned and witnessed from Mr. Miller's behavior is that he is first and foremost a responsible and loyal husband and father. He has been a committed member of the community, as his service from being town councilman and town supervisor would indicate. Mr. Miller worked for 30-plus years at Niagara Mohawk with my father. Throughout his career there, he was well liked, respected and trusted among his co-workers and supervisors.
Mr. Miller is just the latest member of our small community to be falsely accused of improper behavior. I won't offer the names of the other men who have had their reputations attacked and soiled by accusations which could not be proven. Although criminal charges were not proven, these men must now face a judgmental public with prejudices based on fraudulent charges.
I would also like to take umbrage with the manner in which this incident has been handled. Under federal law, the accused is innocent until proven guilty. However, it appears to me that the right to a fair trial has a monetary cost which seems to be more important than amendments VI and VII in our Bill of Rights. According to your article, "Although the document says nothing more about what (the claimant's) accusations were, three different people with direct knowledge of the matter told the Enterprise that (the claimant) accused Miller of workplace sexual harassment." Now, unless I am thoroughly confused, these three people would be spewing only "hearsay," which is inadmissible in court as it cannot be considered reliable evidence. I believe that statement is extremely irresponsible in that many readers will consider that those three must have been in the same room or somehow were an involved party to this sexual harassment. Yet those three didn't find it morally or professionally obscene enough to report these transgressions. (Editor's note: To clarify, the three anonymous sources the Enterprise cited had seen the filed complaint and knew that sexual harassment was what was alleged; however, they did not witness any such harassment.) Your article indicates that the then-serving town board members Ron Keough, Barry DeFuria, Jim Murnane and Bob Bevilacqua were "blindsided' by these accusations.
I applaud the town board members that wished to fight these charges. Bevilacqua went on to say, "We thought we had a good strong case, but we have a 'no consent' clause with our insurance company and the insurance company decided to settle rather than fight it because it would cost so much more to fight it." It appears to me that big business takes priority over basic human rights. This practice appears throughout our country in many forms. I am disgusted at this trend, and it should disgust you as well.
The settlement as described in your article is a "mutually agreeable resolution that avoids the burden, uncertainty, delay, expenses, distraction and consumption of resources." It goes on to say that there is a clause included that there was no wrongdoing by Mr. Miller or the town, therefore no admission of guilt. Guilty or not, reputations have been tarnished, if not ruined. Years of service to the community will be all but dismissed, and innocent people will shoulder the shame of nothing more than unproven accusations. Mr. Keough was quoted in your paper as saying he supported the settlement because it "closed out" the matter. I'd like to call out Ron on that statement. Are you telling me, Mr. Keough, as a respected community member, successful businessman and family man, that had these charges been focused on you, a greed-driven insurance company settlement would be good enough for you and your family? Would you be content living with the public feeling that you are morally corrupt?
In an effort to right a wrong, I would encourage everyone who knows Mr. Miller to speak out on his behalf. Show him and his family your support, discourage further unjust settlements, and demand due process, to which we are all entitled.
Daniel Trim lives in Saranac Lake.