Canton alderman dispels anti-veteran rumors

In an unusual move, Canton Alderman Ralph Hamlett took time at the Canton Board of Aldermen/women meeting Oct. 26 to address rumors that his recent actions suggest he does not support veterans.

“Normally when I hear rumors, I don’t dignify them with a response, especially rumors about my character. I know who I am, but more importantly, who I try to be,” Hamlett said at the start of the meeting. “But last week, I heard rumors which I think demand my response.”

The situation stems from a Sept. 28 request by The Mountaineer newspaper for the Town of Canton to purchase a special commemorative advertisement in honor of Veterans Day.

At that time, Hamlett asked how much of the $500 advertisement would go toward helping veterans, but a Mountaineer reporter at the meeting who doesn’t work in advertising didn’t have an answer.

Days later, Hamlett received an answer from The Mountaineer in the form of an email.

“We would love to be able to donate money back into the community, but unfortunately we do not have the kind of proceeds in selling ads,” the email reads, according to Hamlett. “If we could get sponsorships and donations we would certainly give back to an organization that provides veterans benefits.”

Hamlett said he’d hoped for another answer, so when the issue came up at the next board meeting Oct. 12, based on that answer, Hamlett voted against the town buying the ad. He was joined by Alderwoman Gail Mull; Alderman Zeb Smathers was not present at the meeting.

Voting for it was Alderwoman Carole Edwards, who rhetorically opined that not buying the ad sent the message that the town didn’t support veterans, despite Hamlett’s position that the ad didn’t actually support veterans, either.

“Using taxpayer money for an ad that speaks of the Town of Canton’s support for veterans when these dollars do not go directly to veterans, that troubles me,” he said.

But that line of reasoning was lost on some, who apparently began circulating the rumor that Hamlett’s vote was actually a vote against veterans.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” Hamlett said. “If you look on my father’s headstone where he is at rest, you would see that he was a veteran of World War II and the Korean Conflict, serving in both the Army and the Navy. He also retired from the National Guard.”

Further driving home his point, Hamlett produced a $500 check from his own pocket and asked the town board to authorize him to purchase the ad with his own personal funds.

That motion passed unanimously.

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