She had been the subject of an anonymous email sent to Mayor Don Hillman and at least one member of the council, Josh Shorb, as well as to the Tribune. The email contained hurtful personal information about her and a relative and had an extremely harsh tone.
Her husband, Jerry Altermatt, called the Tribune on Aug. 20 and said the email and other online attacks on his wife helped reduce support for the proposed ban.
“I believe so,” Jerry Altermatt said. “There was an intimidation factor.”
Sharon Altermatt said she tried to make an issues-oriented case, but she feels the anonymous emails got in the way.
“I had provided the council with the information they needed to refute all the business rights arguments,” she said in a statement to the Tribune. “I had emphasized many times that you pass these ordinances not just to protect people from second-hand smoke, but because it’s one of two things that make people quit and keeps youth from starting. I felt they ignored this and went directly to the business rights issue every time, so I was wasting my time.”
“Air Handler” declined to identify himself, for now anyway, but said in an email response to the Tribune that he felt since Altermatt was paid via federal grant dollars, her private life was open for discussion. He said all councilmen received the email.
Jerry Altermatt said the couple was stunned when Shorb shared the email with them. Sharon Altermatt said when others who were to speak at the council meeting learned of the attacks, they were reluctant to speak publicly.
Four anti-smoking speakers were on the agenda, but only one showed up. Hillman said he doesn’t know if the emails silenced one side or prevented some pro-smoking ban speakers from coming forward.
“It doesn’t matter if the accusations were true or not, who wants to be exposed to downright nastiness? No one in their right mind,” Sharon Altermatt said. “I had people who wanted to speak but then lost their courage, and I’m not going to fault them. Even the councilmen that were for this initially — and there were some — flip-flopped, especially after the mayor spoke.”
She said she is not sure whether she should have brought the issue to the council, and she wonders if she should have continued a public education campaign instead.
“In all honesty, I think we’ve lost our window of opportunity in Wyoming and I seriously doubt if another one of these ordinances will be passed, and the state has spoken loud and clear that they won’t take it on,” Altermatt said.
She said the federal government may step in at some point and mandate no smoking in public places, as it did with seat belts and the drinking age. But she said despite how it ended, she is glad she did it.
“Am I sorry I brought this forward? No, it was my job; it is prevention at its core,” Altermatt said. “Could I have done a better job? Certainly.”