Government official uses false name in disc golf speech

Ethan Latour, left, and a few disc golfers on the Center Chains course at Waterbury Center. Photos courtesy of The Stowe Reporter

This article by Tommy Gardner first appeared on April 29 in the Stowe Reporter.

A man who wrote a recent letter complaining about people trespassing on a Waterbury Center disc golf course is a government official who filed his complaint under a false name.

Ethan Latour, deputy commissioner for the Vermont Department of Finance and Management, wrote the April 16 letter under the pseudonym “Walter Blind.”

In the letter to Waterbury town officials, Latour accuses the “malcontents” who live next to the Center Chains disc golf course in Hope Davey Park of “complaining with thinly veiled elitism” about the players using the course. public free.

Latour was revealed as the author when he sent a copy of the letter to the Stowe Reporter, and included his personal cell phone number and email address. This is the same phone number Latour occasionally included in his government electronic signature when he worked in communications for Governor Phil Scott.

Latour was promoted to deputy commissioner of the finance department in January.

“You got me,” Latour said on Friday when reached at this number, sighing in dismay when asked for his opinion on the disc golf problem under a pseudonym.

“It’s a little difficult, you know. Sometimes you have an opinion that you would like to express, but because you are a public official you cannot do it, ”he said. “I made a mistake here.”

Latour boss Adam Greshin, commissioner of the Ministry of Finance and Management, did not respond to numerous phone calls asking for comment, but said in a short email over the weekend that Latour had him talked about the letter.

“Ethan may have made an unfortunate personal decision on an issue close to his heart. This appears to be an unusual error in judgment, ”Greshin wrote.

Greshin did not answer further questions about whether he felt government officials should feel free to weigh in on issues or whether Latour would be disciplined.

Latour said he had read articles on the Center Chains Facebook page recounting the growls of neighboring owners, some of whom had made a habit of sitting on the course and jotting down their sightings in notebooks.

“It kind of rubbed me the wrong way,” he said.

In his letter, Latour said that if Waterbury officials formally respond to the complainants, “it will prove that the few have power and influence over the many.” And if you have the time, privilege, and energy to scream and scream loud enough, you will be successful, regardless of the guarantee.

He said he wrote his letter primarily by catharsis and regretted hitting the send button.

“I apologize if I hurt their feelings,” he said.

He said he particularly regretted using a false name – Walter is the name of a college friend; he randomly chose Blind – when he could have simply signed his own name for an issue close to his heart.

“This is the first time I’ve done this, and it will be the last,” he said. “Outside of work, I have few passions, but disc golf is one of them. And I like being able to use the Waterbury Center course, and I think a lot of people feel that way. “

He said he routinely traveled over 5 miles playing 36 holes on the course.

Friction on frolfing

Center Chains – a free course where players throw Frisbee-type discs into chain link baskets over 18 “holes” – is a burning issue in Waterbury.

The disc golf course marks its 20th anniversary this year and has become one of Vermont’s most popular courses. In 2018, UDisc, a popular disc golf smartphone app, had Center Chains topped its list of most played courses in Vermont, above pro-level paid courses such as Smugglers’ Notch Resort.

With popularity comes growing pains. In 2010, neighboring owners complained about players letting their dogs run wild as well as finicky discs and pitchers entering private property.

Friction has increased since 2016, after the 40-acre Moulton Farm property was subdivided into a 10-lot subdivision.

According to Waterbury City Manager, Bill Shepeluk, in recent years, after many years without complaint, some residents who live near the course have started to complain about “untoward activities” of golfers pruning and chopping down trees. urinate and defecate on their properties.

He said the city’s recreation department had been tasked with dealing with the issues and coming up with stricter rules and regulations. He said some of them, like the alcohol ban, can be difficult to enforce, although the drunk and unruly ones are likely in the minority and easy to catch, especially if players are watching their own. actions.

“This is no excuse for really rude behavior,” he said.

Shepeluk was on vacation last week and was unaware of Latour’s letter. He said he disagreed with administration official Scott’s assertion that “a few have power and influence over many”, though a few – in this case, landowners – are negatively affected by the large number.

Latour, for his part, worries that he has done more harm than good because of Center Chains’ reputation for polishing.

“I don’t think I did much to help this,” he said. “Probably the opposite.”

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