LONDONDERRY — A town councilor who also happens to own and publish two local newspapers took some heat at a recent Town Council meeting, after fellow councilors warned her to be more careful when writing her weekly editorials.
Town Councilor Debra Paul owns and publishes The Londonderry Times, and Nutfield News/Tri-Town Times and defended her editorial published Jan. 28.
The editorial titled "Calling All Residents to Make a Stand" was printed in both newspapers.
But town officials said the words seemed to be directed at Londonderry and with no more details or specifics, it was natural people felt that way.
Paul's editorial stated "Are you frustrated that nobody at town hall is listening to you? Do you feel that your town or school officials have an excuse for everything or justify decisions you don't agree with?"
The editorial continued, "Some residents will lose their jobs or work without raises again, struggling to stay afloat while town and school employees get annual raises and great benefits. Yet town and school budgets continue to go up every year and so do our taxes to cover their spending."
Town Manager Kevin Smith took issue with the editorial, saying it seemed to target Londonderry town employees with accusations including a quote from the editorial saying staff was "behaving like spoiled children with platinum credit cards."
Smith called out what he considered "bullying" in Paul's words saying she, as an elected official of the town, should tone down the rhetoric.
"Make no doubt, words matter," Smith said, giving much credit to the hard work town staff does on a daily basis.
Paul defended her editorial and said since it ran in both her papers, it was not directed solely at Londonderry.
"I spoke in generalizations," she said. "It's geared towards another town. I believe what I said was correct."
Paul's papers cover not only Londonderry, but Derry, Sandown, Chester and Hampstead. She added she wished Smith would have just called her to discuss the editorial.
For Councilor Jim Butler, it was just another example of Paul's conflicts of interest due to her being an elected official while also owning local newspapers.
He said Paul should have verified in the editorial specifically what town was the focus, if not Londonderry.
"I knew this was going to happen, this is definitely a conflict of interest," Butler said. "Now there are town employees that don't even want to talk to you. I think you have to be more sensitive. You created an issue for us."
Butler has had issues with Paul in the past.
Last June, Paul and Butler sparred publicly at a meeting about Paul's potential conflicts of interest while serving as a town councilor, owning local newspapers and speaking out publicly about key issues.
Councilors warned her then that she is councilor first and foremost.
Chairman John Farrell suggested Paul should have disclosed in her editorial that she is a town councilor and also that Londonderry was not the focus.
"Consider your position, maybe take a little more time before you let it go, and think about how people will react," Farrell said. "It makes sure residents of the town get a clear picture of what's going on. As we sit up here, people expect us to be held to a higher level and everyone needs to be achieving that level."