Residents cram into second floor auditorium to show their support for Board of Selectmen Chair Cogliano
The agenda for Tuesday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting was three pages long, and the meeting lasted for more than two hours. But most of the people who nearly filled up the second floor auditorium of Saugus Town Hall were there to show their support for a matter that wasn’t even on the agenda – to show their support for the board’s embattled Chair, Anthony Cogliano.
At the outset of the meeting, Cogliano read an email received by the Board of Selectmen last week which alleged he had made “homophobic comments on social media,” calling for a public apology and demanding that he be removed from his leadership position.
But after reading the letter, a visibly angered Chair went on the offensive. Cogliano said that people have been “harassing” him personally on social media, even saying disparaging things about family and personal life. “And I’m not going to take it from anybody,” Cogliano told the crowd.
“I’m chairman of the Board of Selectmen, I respect that position, I go way out of my way for everyone in this town – always have, always will,” he said.
“But there’s a line. You’re not going to cross it with me. And once that line’s crossed, I snapped. I let them have it. I wouldn’t take one thing back. Not one thing I said I would take back. I’ve been criticized by members,” he said as the crowd erupted into loud applause.
Cogliano said he appreciated the crowd’s support, but he said he didn’t want the applause while he conducted a meeting. After the show of support, he mentioned being criticized by his colleagues on the Board of Selectmen.
“Those people who made comments against me never had the decency to call me and ask me what was going on – just sputtered off in the newspaper. And that’s the second time. That’s the second time,” he said.
“If somebody was criticizing this board, I would not allow it to happen. But because it’s me, it’s okay. There’s people who want my seat that have sat here before and would do anything to get it back. I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of the nonsense from the idiots on Facebook. I’ve had enough of not standing up for the chairman of the board. So, I want to air that out tonight.”
Cogliano accused an unnamed Town Meeting member urging people to come and protest against him and call for the Chair’s resignation. “I see he’s not here,” Cogliano said. “A former Town Meeting member from Precinct 4 has plenty to say. I would never apologize to that individual. Never.”
“I look at it like this: If you’re a jerk, you’re a jerk. Whether you are gay or straight, it doesn’t matter. A jerk is a jerk, and he’s [former Precinct 4 Town Meeting member] a jerk,” Cogliano said.
At that point, Cogliano invited anyone who wanted to ask for his resignation to appear at the lectern. “Seems as though a Mr. Evan Smith, who’s done quite a bit of damage to me personally – I’d like him to come up if he’s here, or Ross Demore from Cambridge, who wrote the email, or Loretta from Revere or – you name it. Everyone who is against me is not from Saugus. You know what, I don’t care. I don’t represent them. They can think whatever they want. I represent you people … If there’s nobody here who wants to speak against me, then I will open it up for the board members for comment.”
None of Cogliano’s colleagues called for him to step down.
“It’s too bad it happened, and it’s not good for the community,” Selectman Michael Serino said.
“I hope we can move on from here,” he said.
Serino had said last week he hoped Cogliano would apologize to Smith.
Board of Selectmen Vice Chair Debra Panetta said she hopes the board could move on, but noted, “We have to be mindful of social media.” She said she never supported Cogliano’s removal as Chair and wanted to work with him.
Selectmen Jeffrey Cicolini said he had been in a similar situation. “I know what it’s like. I’m not one to judge,” he said.
“Saugus doesn’t need the bad publicity,” he said.
“As far as I’m concerned, you’re the chairman of the board. I stand by you,” Cicolini told Cogliano.
Selectman Corinne Riley, a strong ally of Cogliano, called what happens on social media sometimes “downright disgusting.”
“Facebook and social media should be civil,” she said.
After about 12 minutes on the social media controversy, Cogliano called for a 10-minute recess. He was mobbed by supporters. They hugged him, kissed him and shook his hands as they circled around him. Some wore Cogliano campaign sweatshirts.
Smith, a Lynn resident, emailed the following response to The Saugus Advocate:
“I never attacked Cogliano’s family. You can go back and look at the Facebook threads which were about how he allegedly falsified declarations in a lawsuit and seemingly lied under oath about his time in law school, prompting his veiled threats and homophobic comments. It’s no surprise that he would rather make it about something else which would gain him more sympathy. He did, however, scare my family by threatening to come to my house. In any case, I did not attack his family, and to my recollection, I don’t remember anyone else doing so either.”
The letter from Ross Demore
Here’s the entire letter that selectmen received via email last week:
Dear Members of the Saugus Board of Selectmen et al.,
I was disturbed to read that Chairman Anthony Cogliano allegedly falsified documents under penalty of perjury in an ongoing lawsuit against WIN Waste Saugus. Subsequently several people have criticized him publicly on social media for his unlawful behavior. In response to his critics, he has denied that they are real people, and has made homophobic comments towards them on social media, as you can see in the attached screenshots.
Cogliano’s homophobic comments do not align with the policies and values of the Town of Saugus. The Town’s Use and Email policy prohibits “Comments that offensively address someone’s age, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, national origin or disability.” Furthermore, the town’s Sexual Harassment Policy specifically prohibits “gossip regarding one’s sex life” and “…sexual messages or images posted on social media, including but not limited to instant messages, Facebook posts, Tweets, Snapchat, Instagram, or blog entries.”
Cogliano should publicly apologize to members of the LGBTQ+ community that he has offended. Furthermore, in accordance with the policies of the town, he must immediately be removed as chairman and publicly reprimanded for his hate speech.