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Altermatt claims anonymous email silenced smoking ban proponents

Did mean-spirited, anonymous emails stifle the discussion on a proposed smoking ban in Powell?

Sharon Altermatt, the team leader of Prevention Management of Park County, proposed the ban to the Powell City Council in June. But during a lengthy public discussion on the issue on Aug. 19, Altermatt stood silently in the back of council chambers and did not come to the podium to speak.

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.”

Then, after the issue of business rights came to the fore, the emails were sent to city officials and the Tribune. The sender identified him or herself as “Air Handler” and used the email address This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“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.”

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14 comments

  • posted by Salty Dawg

    September 03, 2013 8:21 am

    The drama...man,the drama....Payton Place all over.

  • posted by chris

    August 31, 2013 8:27 am

    Given Ms. Altermatt's previous alienating comments, keeping silent was probably the best thing she could have done.
    So someone got hold of some very juicy dirt on Altermatt (and possibly other anti-smoking crusaders?) and they all lack the courage of their convictions to show up and speak? Especially when such an obvious dirty trick might very well win them sympathy? Aren't they supposed to be fearless in the face of intimidation, especially the kind of cowardly anonymous attack described? It sounds kind of implausible to me.

  • posted by Kevin

    August 31, 2013 7:47 am

    Smoking bans are by definition mean spirited. silencing has to be a first, with their unfettered control of the media such as is is.

  • posted by Kevin

    August 31, 2013 3:03 am

    Regardless of this promotion of high drama the larger insult to us all is suspiciously absent from the discussion. When one understands the venue is a for profit venture, largely dependent on advertising revenues. One has to wonder how valuable those revenues have become. Would they be accepted no matter what the cost?


    Isn't it wonderful how entire communities are pitching in. To protect people and make sure no trace of happiness or comfort is allowed to exist and corrupt their environments. Being judge "mental" miserable and condescending is a natural and normal state of being. At least for those who found their way there and feel satisfied with themselves.

    Full disclosure is the balance in all wise decisions and fundamental in maintaining the validity of any contract and by extension any law.

    If the non smoking public were ever advised, that by supporting what the Government is selling, in exchange for smoking bans, the Government would take their rights of autonomy. Protection is the act of taking control. With full disclosure as an obligation of governments, is it credible that the majority in any city, State or country would have allowed this deal to continue?

    It is not reasonable to assume that anyone so informed, would have sacrificed something so huge and valuable, just to avoid the smell of drifting tobacco smoke? Anyone who fails to agree, would have to be insane, or profiting in support of this large scale payola corruption. If we follow the money we find without question, those who are promoting these bans misinformation and scaremongering, are indeed all profiting in the extreme as "Stakeholder Partners" Professionals, Charities and Health agencies who rely on public trust and it's confidence, have sacrificed that trust for just money?


    People have been taken, and they should be rallying to take back, what millions before us died to preserve.

  • posted by Josh Shorb City Councilman

    August 30, 2013 7:05 pm

    This is Josh Shorb, Powell City Councilman. The email in question had absolutely no factor in our decision. None. I shared the email with Sharon because of the very personal nature of it. I spoke with the other Councilman and none of them gave the email any credence and all were appalled. I am disappointed in those that believe the Council would actually bow to an anonymous email, especially of the tone. And no one was concerned of any perceived threat. If anyone has any questions please call my cell at 202-0133 or at home at 754-1581 (call after 6). Those offended have my number. The smoking ban was considered entirely on the issue at hand, and not because of any personal information.

    Josh Shorb

  • posted by Michelle

    August 30, 2013 1:59 pm

    What if the anonymous message merely pointed out the fact that anti-smoking campaigners should not be using federal funds to lobby politicians for changes in the law?

    Its kind of like the government lobbying itself and pretending to represent grass roots community people. And it is illegal and it is fraud!

    What if Altermatt told people she was into anti-smoking because her loved one died of cancer caused by second hand smoke but that particular loved one was actually hit by a car? It would prove that Altermatt is a liar and would be information that politicians should know, don't you think?

  • posted by Rob Moffat

    August 30, 2013 4:54 am

    "Intimidation"??? it's these corrupt RWJF RATZ (radical anti tobacco zealots)using intimidation under the guise of "publc health" who are using intimidation to force smokers to quit. They admittedly use "social engineering" (eugenics)in "denormalization" (segregation and hate for profit) to promote their ideological agendas. Follow the illegal lobbying money right up to RWJF's front door. You'll soon find out smoker bans have nothing to do with anyone's "health" and it's all about the MONEY. Second Hand Smoke is harmless.

  • posted by Air Handler

    August 30, 2013 4:48 am

    @American Citizen & Powell Wyoming residents... You want people to pedal their biased agendas in Powell; they had better come armed with a clean bill of health.

    I guess when one man, and the facts, can make a difference in a debate; America is still the great nation its forefathers intended it to be.

    Powell citizens, you should take a more active role in whom you elect to represent you. If it weren't for the facts I presented the Mayor, every city councilmen, & Mr. Tom Lawrence of the Powell Tribune they (your city leadership) would have extinguished your cigarettes, and more of your rights.

    The Altermatts make their living off of grant dollars; i.e. your federal tax dollars pay their rent, medical, food and other living expenses. In my opinion, this is no different than professional food stamp and welfare recipients, continually scamming the system. They have (had) quite the racket. That racket was no match for Powell, and its goal line defense. Maybe that is why we are two time defending state champions in high school football.

    When you see the Altermatts, please ask them what that “hurtful personal information” detailed. See if you do not become a supporter of why I had to put our town's leadership on call, and Captain that defense for the goal line stand for your (our) rights.

  • posted by Audrey Silk

    August 30, 2013 12:38 am

    While I don't condone lying or personal low blows, the anti-smokers do it all the time. Speak up against a ban? You're called "a shill for the tobacco industry." They'll defame you at every turn. And the entire secondhand smoke argument is the fraud of the century. Every word they say at hearings about it or in correspondence to lawmakers and the public are riddled with lies, half truths and complete distortions. So cry me a river. It's called karma.

  • posted by Vince

    August 29, 2013 1:30 pm

    I'd tend to agree,American Citizen.However Sharon essentially was smeared because she was trying to smear others.

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