By Mary E. Arata
AYER - Selectman Frank Maxant publicly tore up a letter of appreciation from Ayer-Shirley American Legion Post 139 on Tuesday night in protest of what he said is mistreatment of a veteran who is a registered sex offender.
Maxant said the post denied his friend and former neighbor, [name withheld], club membership. [name withheld] a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, is a Level 3 sex offender who used to live aside Maxant in the 14 Williams St. boarding house owned by Hugh Ernisee.
"Approximately four years ago, a veteran, comrade in arms honorably discharged from our United States Marine Corps moved to Ayer and nearly immediately came under attack by vicious lies and false rumors about his past," said Maxant, a U.S. Navy veteran. "When he approached his fellow veterans of Post 139, instead of talking with [name withheld] to learn the truth of his life, our United States military veterans surrendered to public opinion and increased Mr. [name withheld]'s misery and isolation by refusing to allow him to join their post."
Maxant concluded his speech by saying, "I appreciate the gesture but I will not accept any recognition from an organization which has displayed such social cowardice and turned their backs on a veteran in need."
The certificates were signed by Post Commander Betty Ann Matozel and Memorial Day Parade Chairman Tom Brown, and sent in appreciation of board members marching in the town's Memorial Day Parade on May 26.
Maxant ripped the certificate into fourths and let them fall to the floor, to the gasps of the audience. The torn certificate remained on the floor for the entire 2 1/2-hour meeting.
Selectmen Chairman James Fay paraphrased from the famous biography called the "Friends of Voltaire" which reads "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
Whether Maxant's charges were accurate or not were not clear. No officers of the American Legion Post 139 present at the meeting to answer Maxant's claims.
After the meeting, Maxant threw the pieces of the certificate into the recycling bin in the selectmen's office. He said he'd spoken with [name withheld] earlier in the day and that [name withheld] was now living in an artist colony in the South.
[name withheld] is no longer registered on the state's online registry maintained by the Sex Offender Registry Board.