The morning before tonight’s first mayoral debate in Peabody, Ted Bettencourt fired the first shot at his opponent, Sean Fitzgerald.
Bettencourt, an attorney who is currently serving his fourth term as a councilor-at-large, sent out a press release this morning calling on Fitzgerald to remove plagiarized material from his campaign website.
Fitzgerald and Bettencourt will debate on education topics at 7 p.m.tonight at the Higgins Middle School. This morning, Bettencourt pointed to two specific documents that he says Fitzgerald passed off as his own but are allegedly taken from government reports on education and economic development from the 1990s.
“Given that the Peabody mayor also serves as the chairman on the Peabody School Committee, I think citizens, parents and students in particular, have a right to expect a leader who would not employ plagiarism as a campaign strategy,” Bettencourt said in the press release. “It is not an acceptable role model and there is no excuse for it.”
Fitzgerald, who is Mayor Michael J. Bonfanti’s former chief of staff, responded by saying he had inadvertently failed to cite the documents but that plagiarism is not being used as a campaign strategy.
“Like any candidate for public office, I have spent countless hours doing the necessary research to familiarize myself with the topics of importance to Peabody,” Fitzgerald said in a statement released shortly after Bettencourt’s press release. “In the haste to get my positions posted, it appears that these items may not have been properly cited. I will ensure that my campaign updates the site to reflect those citations.
“I am committed to a campaign of substance, and I am eager to get a meaningful exchange of ideas started at the debates this week. I will continue to regularly update my campaign web site www.PeabodyMayor.com, post blogs and videos focused on my positions, and will not avoid discussion on the issues that matter to the voters of Peabody.”
Reached by phone around 1:45 p.m. this afternoon, Fitzgerald’s spokesman, Speros Venios, said their webmaster was minutes away from making sure the two documents would be properly cited.
The candidates will debate again on Thursday at 7:30 a.m. at Holy Ghost Society Cultural Center on Howley Street. A final debate will be held at 7 p.m. on Oct. 20 at City Hall.
Justin A. Rice can be reached at email@example.com.