To The Daily Sun,
We all make mistakes. That's a fact no one would disagree with. Especially the Gilmanton Board of Selectman and town administrator. On April 4, they in fact made a serious mistake. It was not so much (at first anyway) a mistake made as an error in judgment, but an error that began in simply not paying attention to an on-and-off button. As a result, a stream of private and disturbingly-revealing minutes were recorded. Then, under their watch, they irresponsibly allowed those minutes to be released to the public. In so doing, a very important question was raised: What is the difference between incompetence and negligence?
I won't belabor the answer. The difference between incompetence and negligence is: was anyone harmed? Was any damage done to an individual's reputation, character, standing or privacy as a citizen or employee of Gilmanton? The answer in this case is, yes. Yes, to all of the above. In fact, the legal definition of negligence is: "conduct that falls below the standard established by law for the protection of unreasonable risk of harm." The board and administrator's actions fell
well below this standard.
Mistakes made, as a result of an error or incompetence, can usually be repaired. No harm done. Just make a small change here or delete a small thing there and the error is corrected. Simple. But when you allow slanderous and invasive minutes to linger and germinate while you bluster about in arrogant and evasive denial, as the Gilmanton selectman and town administrator have done — that is negligence.
Incompetence, then, can be forgiven. Sometimes, even overlooked. Negligence cannot. Incompetence is an error. Negligence is an offense. Gilmanton's town government has a legal duty to guard against what they allowed to happen and a responsibility to correct the damages that they have carelessly caused. They have demonstrated the inclination, experience or desire to do neither.
That is negligence ... and there is simply no excuse for it.