Letter: Small-Town Politics

I was surprised to learn from her letter to the editor in the March 31 issue that one member of the two-person crew who attended and recorded some Village Board meetings since the beginning of March, and who was present at all of the electoral events of the last few weeks, was mayoral candidate Alison Anthoine’s daughter (Filmmaker says thanks).

Before the start of the March 7 board meeting, the mayor and I and the other board members were approached by two women. One carried a video camera, and the other introduced herself as Elizabeth Dermont. She said they were professional media people in the city and wanted to make a short film about small-town elections.

Elizabeth Wolff (with phone), the daughter of mayoral candidate Alison Anthoine, and videographer Emilie Jackson flanked at the March 28 absentee ballot vote in Carmel by Putnam County election commissioners Anthony Scannapieco Jr. and Catherine Croft. (File photo by Michael Turton)

She suggested that they had, by luck, stumbled upon our quaint village’s election season, and asked us if they could film the meeting. She did not mention that her mother lived in Cold Spring and was running for mayor. Her mother was at the meeting and sat no more than 6 feet from her daughter and never once indicated through conversation or body language that they had ever met. Not suspecting we were being lied to, we held our meeting, and the mayor gave them a one-on-one interview afterward.

Now to learn this woman is Elizabeth Wolff, daughter of Anthoine, I am dumbfounded. What type of “journalist filmmaker” shows up to record her own mother’s “determined” campaign, an event that should have her boasting with pride and proclaiming her hopes for her mom’s ambition to make a difference in the world, but then gives the board a false name and pretends she and her mom don’t know each other?

I can only wonder what advantage they hoped to gain by duping the village into thinking they were just budding filmmakers trying to capture small-town America exercising its democratic duties. What was her motivation to lie in such a way?

To read Wolff’s letter, one would think she had been upfront about her connection to one of the candidates from the moment she arrived. The truth about her time spent in Cold Spring is not as she or Anthoine, in her campaign for mayor, would like to spin it. I feel her actions after the fact to paint a fairy-tale picture about the work she did here stands as a clear example of gaslighting.

If The Current was aware of this story and not reporting on it, I’m concerned about your concept of what qualifies as newsworthy.

Steve Voloto, Cold Spring

Editor’s note: We were not aware that Wolff, who is married to Andrew Dermont, was Anthoine’s daughter until she revealed it during an off-the-record conversation on Election Day.

6 thoughts on “Letter: Small-Town Politics

  1. The village board didn’t know it was being deceived, but mother and daughter knew they were being deceitful.

  2. This is disturbing on so many levels. The deception is troubling, of course, but more so for me is the outside influence on our local elections. We all know too well how this works on the national/global stage. It certainly isn’t that, but it is disturbing nonetheless.

    The Editor’s Note is deeply troubling. It affirms knowledge of this deception more than a week prior to their publishing of Ms. Wolff’s April 1 recast letter thanking all for their participation. No disclosure of using a different (false?) name and back story to gain access. But that’s just more of the same and I, for one, hold this paper to a higher standard than I do Ms. Wolff.

    My question is this: why was there no Editor’s Note attached to her letter of April 1? And if the conflict of an “off-the-record” conversation with the editor calls the content of this letter into question for the editor, then why publish it as written? I see a pattern here of this paper cleaning up its messes only when it is made to do so. Please prove me wrong, we need you in our community.

  3. This story recounts behavior that is odd, yes, weird, yes, somewhat suspicious, yes. However, if there is any harm or ill intent, or evidence of this, I am unaware of it. I don’t see that the behavior of young adults necessarily is reflective of their parents.

    In the great scheme of things, frankly, there are more important topical issues, at least at the national and the international level. (Yes, I realize this is a local paper but please note national concerns are increasingly the subject of local discussion, and far more so than, say, two years ago.)

    Certainly it was a hard-fought race for this village’s mayoralty, and an unexpectedly close electoral result.

    By the way, I could use a clear definition of “gaslighting,” which I believe is a newly coined term whose interpretation may not be well nailed down or solidified.

  4. I really don’t understand all the outrage about this. Ms. Wolff was under no obligation to reveal who she was to anyone. She wasn’t running for office, her mom was. She is obviously a professional journalist and what better topic, one that she knew from a real insider’s perspective, than her mom’s election campaign?

    This was not intended to be a family home movie; as was stated, she was making a film about small-town elections. And what could be smaller than the Village of Cold Spring? My guess is that Ms. Wolff was trying to keep an outsider’s perspective. Nothing wrong with that. If she had approached the project from the perspective of the candidate’s daughter, the result would have been much different. She’s entitled to some artistic license.

  5. Trustee Voloto is not coining a phrase. To “gaslight” is to manipulate someone into questioning their own understanding of events/reality. I think it is a phrase aptly applied to this situation.

    The gaslighting in this series of events is that neither the documentarian nor Candidate Anthoine revealed their relationship — to the voting public, at least — during the campaign. Then Ms. Wolff “thanked” the residents and businesses of this Village for “welcoming” her, as if we knew her identity and motivations all along. I wonder if folks would have consented to being filmed and interviewed if they’d known they were participating in a campaign-produced documentary? Kind of ironic for a candidate who ran on transparency.

    I agree with Matt Francisco’s question: If The Current knew about Ms. Wolff’s true identity when it printed her letter, why did the Editor not reveal that knowledge in a postscript similar to that published after Trustee Voloto’s letter? The editorial choices of The Current of late — what is revealed and, more importantly, what is not, and not only related to this story — leave me deeply questioning motivations.

    • I really wish people would stop bashing the Highlands Current. We are very lucky to have a FREE print and online newspaper that allows and encourages participation by its readers 24/7/365. Not only that, but the editors are more than fair when it comes to the opinions and what they publish.

      I have been able to write numerous posts that I’m sure the publisher vehemently disagreed with, yet he gave me the opportunity to post them in this forum.

      Do you really believe there was something sinister in the way this non-story has been reported? Instead of getting all worked up about whether they knew it was Ms. Anthoine’s daughter, I can think of a good half dozen issues in Cold Spring that need to be discussed and dealt with. Time to move on.