Local Government and Politics, Opinion

A questionable question in Swampscott

Swampscott Board of Selectmen candidate Dina Maietta asked fellow candidate and Selectman Donald Hause a question during the April 11 Daily Item/itemlive.com candidates forum. Her question raised more than a few eyebrows, and more than a few questions about her.

This is what Maietta asked Hause: “Would you elect someone for a seat for the Board of Selectmen if you knew they would miss their fair share of meetings and they were not financially stable but were going to make financial decisions for the town?

Hause’s response: It sounds like you have a specific question about an individual.

Maietta: No, it’s just what I said.

Hause: Um, that’s a difficult question to answer in a vacuum. I wouldn’t reelect someone who had demonstrated over and over again a noncommitment, um, to town government. I can’t speak to someone being financially unstable. I’m not sure. You certainly don’t want someone who is a convicted criminal, but it’s — many of us will occasionally miss meetings. But the reason there are a number of us to back each other up and we are liaisons to different committees is to prevent that.

It’s a volunteer, you know, position and it’s time consuming and it requires a lot of work and, and it’s not — actually, what I find interesting about being a selectman, it’s not just the meetings; it’s the work you do between meetings. That’s what’s important. And I certainly would not, if I was a resident, vote, you know, for someone who is a nefarious character or something of that nature.”

The reason for the stunned reaction to Maietta’s question is Hause was diagnosed with colon cancer in August 2014. Anyone who knows him, or knows about him, knows he has cancer.

Hause, 59 and a father of three, has spoken publicly about living with cancer. In 2017, Hause was told the cancer had spread to a lung. Surgery removed a tumor but a secondary diagnosis launched him on another course of treatment.

He has been open about his medical history. It was in his announcement seeking office, he spoke of it at a selectmen’s meeting on Dec. 18, and has made no attempt to hide his diagnosis from the public, nor has he used cancer as a play for sympathy.

With so many offended by Maietta’s question, the editor of this page asked her if she knew before the forum that Hause had cancer.

“I heard that; I didn’t know,” she said. “I had no idea about cancer treatment.”

She later added, “I never heard he announced officially he had cancer.”

That seems to be a distinction without a difference. Maietta knew he had cancer.

Still stunned after the forum, Hause confronted Maietta.

“He wondered if I was referring to him. I said, ‘Absolutely not,'” said Maietta.

That’s her answer and she’s sticking with it, but to our ears, Maietta’s question called out Hause on his personal finances and meeting attendance directly attributable to his having cancer. This is unacceptable.

Hause in an April 15 Item interview estimated he missed 12 selectmen’s meetings out of more than 100 held during the course of his cancer treatment.

“Every meeting I missed was a direct result of treatment,” he said. “In every instance, I would call the (board) chairman and get a debrief and check with Sean (Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald).”

We asked Maietta, if not Hause, to whom was she referring?

She said she was referring to “any of the Board of Selectmen.”

One point is clear: Hause certainly concluded Maietta’s question was directed at him. As did we. It was rather obvious.

“My record stands for itself,” Hause said. “During a 3½-year battle with cancer, I did my best not to miss meetings. I’m not a hero . . .  any major disease is a nuclear bomb financially.”

President Barack Obama in 2018 delivered a speech assessing the American political landscape. He found it wanting.

“Why are we deliberately trying to be cruel to each other, to misunderstand each other?” he asked.

Good question.

People running for office are often criticized for stooping low to launch personal attacks in order to get elected. If a candidate seeks to score political points off another’s illness, then we think that is about as low as one can go.  

Only Maietta can know for sure the true intent of her question. We hope voters speak in less ambiguous terms on April 30.

Given Swampscott’s financial success during his term, we believe Hause deserves your vote. Maietta does not.

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