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Peabody mayoral candidates continue to exchange barbs

Posted by Justin Rice  October 13, 2011 10:48 AM

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If the race for mayor of Peabody was only considered chippy before, it is now escalating toward a mud fight.

A few weeks after Peabody mayoral candidate Ted Bettencourt charged his opponent, Sean Fitzgerald, with plagiarism, Bettencourt is now saying Fitzgerald distributed “misinformation” about him — including claiming that Bettencourt is “not really a business owner in downtown Peabody.”

Bettencourt said he was a partner in the law firm, Smerczynski  & Conn., P.C. from 2003 to 2010 and formed a separate practice within the same firm when he decided to run for mayor in 2010.

“Sean continues his campaign strategy to misinform and mislead voters,” Bettencourt, a fourth-term city councilor, said in a statement. “It’s sad to see. Either he doesn’t do his homework and doesn’t make the effort to find the truth, or he knows the facts and chooses to distort them to deceive voters. Either way, the voters deserve more respect from someone running for mayor.

“My opponent may not understand what constitutes owning a private business as he has made a whole career out of jumping from one public payroll to another.”

Bettencourt also responded to Fitzgerald’s claim that Bettencourt did not play a key role in saving the city’s bond rating as a city councilor by pointing to a 2006 newspaper story in which current Mayor Michael J. Bonfanti praised Bettencourt for his work on the bond rating.  

A spokesman for Fitzgerald’s campaign, Speros Venios, said they stand by their claims.

“The Bettencourt release is just another example of Ted trying to exaggerate his role,” Venios said in an email. “One has to simply look at the minutes of the City Council and the Finance Subcommittee to see that during Ted's tenure, he has been a bystander and not a leader.

“I believe that Ted is insulting the hard work of other city councilors by attributing his lack of effectiveness on the council to Peabody's strong mayor system of government. Our campaign has great trust that the intelligent voters of Peabody will look at the facts, compare records and experience and make a well informed decision on Nov 8.”

Earlier this month, Bettencourt, sent out a press release calling on Fitzgerald to remove plagiarized material from his campaign website.  

Fitzgerald, who is Bonfanti’s former chief of staff, responded by saying he had inadvertently failed to cite the documents. His campaign updated the website.

The candidates will debate for the final time at 7 p.m. on Oct. 20 at City Hall.

Justin A. Rice can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com.

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