To the editor:

Peabody City Councilor Rico Mello recently used the term "public lynching" to describe the actions and statements of public safety officials, including myself, at a public hearing regarding amending the flammable storage license of Wood Trucking. That license, if approved without restrictions, would allow the above-ground storage of 110,000 gallons of gasoline at the property located at 278 Farm Ave.

Webster's Dictionary defines "lynching" as "to put to death (as by hanging) by mob action without legal sanction." Lynching is what prejudiced white men in the South did to African Americans. Nearly 5,000 African Americans were lynched in the United States between 1860 and 1890.

Fire Chief Steven Pasdon, without emotion or insult, clearly laid out the nearly two-year effort on behalf of our department to mitigate this issue. He never asked that Mr. Wood's business be shut down and never insulted Mr. Wood or anyone who works with or for him. He simply, directly and dispassionately laid out the public safety concerns that the Peabody Fire Department has regarding what would be the largest amount of above-ground storage of flammable liquid ever licensed in this city, in addition to the fact that it would be in a heavily-traveled business, industrial and residential district.

The chief asked me to put together a PowerPoint presentation that would be educational and informative to show the City Council what these concerns were and why they should consider these issues before either granting or denying an amendment to the existing license.

In this presentation I included a seven-second video clip of a worst-case scenario. Before it was played, I clearly stated that this was a worst-case scenario and not something we expect to occur, but something that we must, nonetheless, plan for.

I delivered this presentation, never saying a derogatory word about Mr. Wood. It was totally factual, and any emotion was clearly left out.

A public lynching? I think not, Councilor Mello. Look at the tape. I did!

As a public safety official and member of the Fire Department, it would be absolutely wrong if I were to somehow use my position or authority to try to put Mr. Wood out of business. Neither Chief Pasdon, Inspector Chris Dowling, nor I, ever asked for that. We (the Fire Department) simply want that storage to be safe if it is going to exist in a place that could possibly impact the Route 128, Route 1 and I-95 corridor, in addition to the businesses and residences that surround it.

It would, however, be a far greater transgression and dereliction of duty (worthy of termination, I think), if there were serious public safety concerns that either of us were aware of, and we purposely ignored them or did not bring them to light or to the attention of the authority charged with making the informed decision to amend a flammable storage license — in this case, the Peabody City Council.

You called what we did a public lynching; I call it a public service!

Councilor Mello, you turned to a business owner who, without authority or proper change to any license or permit granted lawfully to him by this city, brought in 110,000 gallons of above-ground gasoline tanker storage, and you apologized to him and told him how ashamed you were of us and said that what we did was tantamount to a "public lynching."

We put on our uniforms every day and proudly wear the seal of our great city. We chose to serve the public, and we rarely want thanks for performing our jobs, for it is what we have chosen to do. But, if you really think about it Councilor Mello, maybe Mr. Wood isn't the one who should have gotten the apology that night!

Inspector Joseph DiFranco

Peabody Fire Department


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