Manchester Matters: Into the Light, Sort Of


A local resident has claimed responsibility and apologized for an anonymous look-alike municipal mailer that confused voters and angered the Town, and was sent two weeks ago to more than 2,500 homes and businesses to lobby voters ahead of Manchester’s upcoming Special Town Meeting.

Sheila Pidgeon Hill sent a two-paragraph letter late Friday to Select Board Chair Becky Jaques.  In it, Pidgeon Hill acknowledging that she is the head of “Manchester Matters,” the group that sent a glossy, two-sided postcard that was a near replica (and featuring the official Town seal) of a Town mailer sent to residents just one week before about a series of Planning Board Town Meeting articles up for voter consideration on November 14.  

Using the Manchester town seal without permission was, Pidgeon Hill wrote, “an ignorant oversight, used more as a space filler, with no intent to confuse or mislead residents.”  

She said the flyer was actually meant to share a website that would more properly introduce Manchester Matters and its mission.  

But, she wrote, the website had technical difficulties before the postcard’s release, and because of that, the “regrettable outcome” of the mailer was it made Manchester Matters appear to be anonymous.

Pidgeon Hill, who is not on Facebook, asked that Jeff Delaney post her letter to Facebook’s “Manchester, the What When Where How” group page, which Delaney administers.

Kathy Filias-Burroughs, who grew up in Manchester, responded, “It’s a start and should be sent out to everyone who got the original mailer. I have friends who were confused by it.”

“They lost me with ‘Matters’,” wrote Kevin Patey, who also grew up in Manchester and who, like many residents, noted the name is an apparent co-opting of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, which was created to focus attention on systemic racism and race-based violence.  

The fake mailer featured the official Manchester municipal seal, the same graphical layout, colors and fonts, and it urged voters to block the Planning Board’s articles.  It contained misleading and incorrect information and featured a link to a private Facebook group administered by what appears to be a fake account.  

The postcard is what the US Postal Service calls a “government look-alike mailer,” which, under the federal agency’s regulations, is not allowed and, under some circumstances, is illegal.  

Further, the unauthorized use of any official municipal town seal is illegal under Massachusetts state law (ch. 268 sec. 35). 

In the days after the look-alike mailer landed on doorsteps, the Town of Manchester denounced the mailer and tried to assure confused voters.  The Manchester Post Office said they would investigate.  

Then, early last week, the Facebook group linked to the postcard was removed.

For many, Ms. Pidgeon Hill’s letter prompts significant unanswered questions.  Will the group send out a correction to the same 2,500+ residents and businesses who received the original Manchester Matters mailer?  When will its technically challenged website go live, and will it answer questions about the group’s mission, focus and slate of leadership?  What inspired the group’s name?  Why did the group choose an apparent alias account to administer its Facebook group?  What is the group’s plans for Town Meeting?  

Ron Mastrogiacomo, chairman of the Manchester Planning Board whose articles were the focus of the fake mailer, said he was discouraged that the group chose not to show up at one of the more than 30 public meetings on recodification this year and, instead, chose to

add to the confusion rather than dialog openly with others.

“We would have welcomed a fair discussion,” he said.

us postal service, kevin patey, becky jaques, planning board, jeff delaney, ron mastrogiacomo, kathy filias-burroughs, sheila pidgeon hill, manchester post office, manchester planning board, state law, special town meeting, voters