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 …
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.
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 email@example.com.
“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.
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.