HomeNewsChair of HDTC Used 24 Pseudonyms to Stoke Debate

Chair of HDTC Used 24 Pseudonyms to Stoke Debate

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On May 11, 2023, as the debate over School Committee candidates raged across the pages of HopNews, “Noel Centino” entered the conversation on an op-Ed published by candidate Ashley Fogg. Centino wrote:

Ashley out Fogg, you offered private meetings not open transparency to questions asked. People wanted your voice heard, in open forum transparently not behind closed doors. You skirted direct questions being asked by concerned citizens, public officials need to be an open book and accountable to questions asked which is in no way bullying but very concerned parents. Vote for Munroe & Stephenson, they are experienced, invested in education & been attending school committee meetings in person (if you only watch on HCAM at your leisure this year, which is what Fogg said at the women’s club event, not a very vested approach) nor did she attend town meeting that both Munroe & Stephenson did, both asked questions especially with the vital budget needs for the schools being addressed. Hopkinton needs to come together and vote for Adam Munroe and Susan Stephenson.

Twelve hours later a user named “Kim M.” commented:

MadHop, you are right that Facebook pages like UnCommon & Real Housewives can be caddy (sic), yet they both offer a place to find support and information too. You take the good with the bad, it’s the facts of life. These pages are everywhere, checkout the Wicked Women of Westboro. Whether or not a teacher who is also the president of the Hopkinton Teacher’s Association lives in town, this state or Neptune doesn’t matter because she plays an integral role in teaching students and as the person chosen by the Hopkinton teachers to speak for their concerns. Whoever is elected to the school committee better have thick enough skin to undergo public questions & complaints. Fogg spent time voicing her complaints at school committee meetings against masking, she was treated respectfully and given the time to express her concerns. She is unwilling to answer direct questions, wants to do it behind closed doors and this cannot be tolerated, candidates throw their hat in to these volunteer positions are also accountable to public input. Call it crying about lack of transparency or call it a candidate who is hiding a personal agenda like wanting to ban books and is anti-pride flags that support our LBGTQ+ residents which includes marginalized student populations who need our support.

>> RELATED: Read all their comments

Several other comments followed from users “DCD”, “Michelle O.”, “WWJD”, “Scott K”, and “Karen J”, which were equally condemning of candidate Fogg and supportive of candidates Munroe and Stephens. 

Additional negative comments were posted following Fogg’s defeat in her subsequent op-Ed, and an op-Ed by Jim Mirabile, Chair of the Hopkinton Republican Town Committee.

Though they appeared to be from different people, they were in fact the same person: Darlene Hayes. Ms. Hayes is the current Chair of the Hopkinton Democratic Town Committee and also serves on the Board of Commissioners for the Hopkinton Housing Authority, the Cultural Council and the Board of Directors for the Hopkinton Chamber of Commerce. She is a full voting member of the Community Preservation Committee and is one of four moderators of the Real Housewives of Hopkinton Facebook group, whose membership numbers more than 4,100 women.

Ms. Hayes did not confine her campaign to HopNews. She also posted alternately as “Noel Centino”, “N.Centino” and “WWJD” in the Hopkinton Independent (see here, here, and here). 

In all, Ms. Hayes used 24 different aliases between May 11 and May 26. 

HopNews contacted Ms. Hayes for a comment but she did not return our message.

How this came to our attention

HopNews recently surveyed readers seeking their opinion on whether comments should remain enabled. Overwhelmingly voters indicated that they should. In the discussion that ensued one reader, Amy Groves, inquired “How do we know that all the personal attacks aren’t coming from the same one or two authors who want to create a false narrative? Fake news can be very destructive to a small town.” This feedback inspired us to take a closer look the comments section.

The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly that the right to anonymous free speech is protected by the First Amendment. A frequently cited 1995 Supreme Court ruling in McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Commission reads:

Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.

HopNews supports the Supreme Court’s position and openly welcomes comments, even from readers that employ pseudonyms instead of their real name. But there is a line between using a pseudonym for comments and Newsjacking. For the uninitiated, Newsjacking is a marketing strategy where individuals or businesses leverage trending news or current events to generate attention and promote their own products, services, or brand. 

In this case, Ms. Hayes leveraged both HopNews and the Hopkinton Independent to promote the stated goals of the Hopkinton Democratic Town Committee, and specifically two candidates at the expense of another. She repeatedly made statements about Ms. Fogg that were factually inaccurate, statements that Ms. Fogg later denied. She represented herself as a 68 year resident, a licensed social worker and a former town employee. At a minimum, these comments were in bad faith and in the worst case they affected the outcome of the election.

How we confirmed this

While Ms. Hayes was careful to change her name for most of the comments, she primarily used two email addresses; her legitimate yahoo.com address and a throwaway account through ProtonMail, a Swiss company that offers a “private and encrypted” email service. 

HopNews uses HubSpot as our back-end marketing automation system. We use this platform to deliver our weekly newsletter, host website forms and track website visits. As stated in our privacy policy, we use cookies to personalize the email and browsing experience for our readers. In simple terms, a cookie is like a small digital note that a website puts on your computer or device when you visit it. This note helps the website remember certain things about you. It can remember your preferences, like your username or language choice, so you don’t have to enter them every time you visit. Using cookies is an industry standard practice for almost every website.

When Ms. Hayes submitted her first comment as Noel Centino, HubSpot placed a cookie on her computer. It did so again when she used her mobile phone to comment and again on a third computer she used. Each of these devices had different IP addresses and her Proton email address was stored in our database. Later, Ms. Hayes received our newsletter at her legitimate yahoo.com email address. When she clicked the link to read one of the articles, HubSpot recognized the cookie and linked the two accounts.

A screenshot of Hubspot’s contact record for Hayes

Conclusion

Since publishing the article Anonymous Comments and Fake News, several readers have accused Ms. Hayes in comments submitted. Hers was the only name mentioned. We did not publish the comments, because they were purely speculative, though they were in fact correct.

As stated in the previous article on this topic, the HopNews team will remain judicious with article comments and attempt to identify bad actors early so as to limit their influence. We urge our fellow residents to remain critical and to actively participate in town government and elections. 

In this instance the Supreme Court’s opinion was inverted: Participation is the only way to ensure the true voice of the majority prevails over the tyranny of the individual.

June 5, 2023 1:20 PM: This article was updated to include Ms. Hayes’ membership on the Community Preservation Committee and the Cultural Council.

June 5, 2023 5:00 PM: Ms. Hayes has resigned from the Hopkinton Democratic Town Committee

June 6, 2023 5:00 PM: Ms. Hayes has resigned from the Hopkinton Chamber of Commerce.

39 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for your due diligence. I couldn’t be happier that the the truth about Darlene Hayes has finally come out. For YEARS she has been intimidating and bullying people in Hopkinton. She is in fact a definition of a bully! Your thoroughness of your article shows how she has truly fooled so many people, many in her own circle. There is nothing wrong with having different political viewpoints, but Darlene has made it beyond contentious in a small town venue. Over the years she has blatantly lied about others and caused unnecessary division within our great community. I look forward to watching the truth come out.

  2. Astonishingly shameful behavior from someone in her position. I hope the HDTC seeks new leadership, and that its members reflect critically on their collective failure to live up to the HDTC public statement: “The HDTC supports community engagement and fact-based open dialogue . . . We do not condone personal attacks on candidates, their families, or members of our community at large.”

  3. To an outsider, it is clear that Ms. Hayes has one option now. Resign from every single position held. Maybe avoid politics, too. This abuse of the Fourth Estate, through gross deceit, and by a town Democrat, must not be tolerated. This is abnormal behavior on any internet forum, much less in those that impact a town election. The arrogance and blatant disdain she has shown the residents and voters of the town warrants a public apology.
    Chris Swezey

  4. Moderator of Real Housewives of Hopkinton. ’nuff said. It’s funny that she had plenty to say before but now…

    • She blocked all of Ashley’s supporters from that RHOH site for being supporters and nothing else. We never violated any of the page policies

  5. Not surprised she’s had a vendetta against multiple people in this town for a long time. I don’t use my real identity to shield myself and those close to me from retaliation by the likes of her.

  6. This wasn’t the first time that Ms. Hayes has targeted Ashley Fogg either. Last year she conducted a whisper campaign regarding Ms. Fogg similar to the ones that were successful in the past. She is a manipulative toxic person who has poisoned the discourse in politics in Hopkinton. Her continued leadership of the HDTC speaks volumes about the way the HDTC values the ends justifying the means as there is no way that the others have not been made aware of her actions previously.

  7. Let’s not turn this into “This is why Ashley lost” because Ashley had her own part in that play. But the type of things Darlene says and does to people on a daily basis were evident her anonymous comments about Ashley. I am also under a pseudonym as I have had plenty of non-political dealings with Ms.Hayes and don’t want to ever deal with her again, but I can say without a doubt that it’s time for her to be stopped. She needs to resign from each and every one of her positions immediately. Her bullying and lying has gone on for far too long and have hurt far too many people. For those of you who have stuck by her side all these years, will you continue to do so now? She masquerades as helpful and genuine but is a wolf in sheeps clothing. Time to wake up.

  8. “In this case, Ms. Hayes leveraged both HopNews and the Hopkinton Independent to promote the stated goals of the Hopkinton Democratic Town Committee, and specifically two candidates at the expense of another.”

    Do you have evidence for this? While it is in bad faith that Darlene Hayes acted in this manner, it is inappropriate to assign the actions to the entire Hopkinton Democratic Town Committee.

    I do not agree with the actions, nor do I align with the HDTC, but it’s a stretch to assign the actions of an individual to the entire organization.

    • Fair point. We will know the integrity of the HDTC by how they investigate and manage this report. I am, as a registered Democrat, cheering the HDTC on and hoping they use this event to right the committee and change the nature of these contentious election cycles. Willing to give our many hardworking and dedicated public servants the chance to make this right!

  9. “Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority” – yes, if you’re publishing The Federalist Papers. This technique is typical leftist trash…anonymous gaslighting.

  10. I suspect that most of us listened to our mothers when they told us “if you can’t say something nice don’t say it at all.” For this reason, and to avoid being targeted by Ms. Hayes, I, and many of my friends and neighbors, have chosen not to engage with her on any level when our activities in the community invite her attention. The bullying and unethical tactics that she employs should be unacceptable to the Democratic Town Committee and the Hopkinton Chamber of Commerce.

  11. Thank you Hopnews. It’s about time this toxic, manipulative fraud was busted!! People like this are EVERYTHING that is wrong in our country, politically. And the admin of Real Housewives of Hopkinton to boot. Don’t know much about the group, never wanted to be a part of her idiocy. Any “housewives” should be ashamed to be part of that page. And the irony, champion of all the liberal buzz words…I always wondered how she got a pulpit to preach from here in town. She’s originally from Ashland. She’d be a GREAT asset to the Biden administration.

  12. Posting behind a pseudonym is an act of cowardice. If you can’t express yourself without revealing your identity, then you should keep your thoughts to yourself.
    And this type of cowardice is unacceptable. It will be interesting to see how the HDTC and the other organizations react to this revelation.

    • Every newspaper in the country has anonymous editorial pages. It’s not an act of cowardice if done genuinely. Her particular act was essentially acting like a bot…amplifying her opinion via stealth. She’s just a typical, leftist sociopath.

      • No, they absolutely do not.

        Unsigned editorials are the official opinion of the publication as a whole, and represent the collective judgement of the editorial board. Those individuals are all called out on the paper’s masthead, led by the Editorial Page Editor.

        For instance at the Boston Globe, it’s James Dao. You don’t have to dig for this information. It’s all right there in front of you.

        https://www.bostonglobe.com/about/staff-list/staff/james-dao/

      • Please talk like an adult. Phrases like “Typical leftist trash” and “Typical leftist sociopath” are unhelpful, juvenile, and purposefully inflammatory.

  13. I find it really distressing that one woman has bullied so many residents to the point they won’t speak publicly. I will. This is one of the most shameful acts in small town politics I have ever seen. This woman is not fit to be washing dishes, much less sitting on Boards. To all those who felt her wrath, the wicked witch is exposed. Delight in it. I don’t even know her, but reading this, I would move if I was caught doing this same thing. Multiple personalities? My REAL NAME:
    Chris Swezey

  14. I have a mental picture of her sitting there writing down her list of names from this thread for “further attention”.

  15. As a fellow Lake Maspenock resident this news saddens me. Gone are the days when you could chat at the Spoon about the goings on in town without having to worry about online political mischievousness. Should be quite the float at this years Horribles Parade

  16. I have changed my voter registration to unenrolled. Let me know if a new party forms, one only interested in good government in Hopkinton.
    A similar smear campaign has been waged against the Upper Charles Trails Committee. In response, the Select Board has prepared a survey. They ask residents to decide how the committee should function. Unfortunately, residents don’t have all the facts concerning the complexities of creating a multiuse trail to connect with Milford and Ashland.

  17. If the Hopkinton Independent conducted a similar analysis, I’d bet they would turn out similar results- there are a lot of anonymous comments that are pretty disparaging and basically echo the ones that all of Darlene’s pseudonyms made

  18. It is an unfortunate sign of the times that many people seem to think that any tactic is okay, as long as they achieve their goals. The notion of respect for those with different political or social views is under great strain in our country, and evidently Hopkinton is no exception.

    Regarding anonymity, I have never seen a letter published by the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, or Financial Times of London that does not at least identify a person’s name (in some fashion – e.g. Glen D. or G. Dawson) and approximate location, such as city and state. I have enjoyed many wonderful exchanges with many talented writers from the above publications, and I always share Glen Dawson, Hopkinton, MA, USA in all my emails. However, I also understand some people’s fear of retaliation. By the same token, to my mind, the concept of standing up for your beliefs and accepting the flak that may ensue, is part of the American spirit. “Stand up for what you believe in.” Our country was founded by people who did this. Some lost their lives as a result, or were at great risk of personal harm. Yet, they endured, and we now enjoy the freedoms earned from their sacrifice.

    Kind regards,
    Glen Dawson
    Hopkinton, MA

  19. For the past seven years I have refused to vote for anyone with an “R” after their name because to me that “R” signifies condoning and accepting the current national republican party behavior and ideals.

    I am now inclined to do the same for anyone in local elections with a “D” after their name as long as the town democratic party is associated with someone exhibiting this dishonorable behavior. Let’s hope that if Ms. Hayes does not resign, she is procedurally removed or voted out by whatever method the HDTC uses to remove their chair.

    I would be pleased to see more “U” candidates to break the dysfunction that a two-party system has brought us.

  20. “An understanding of the nature of democratic politics will be advanced by making a distinction between the political ethics of partisanship and the political ethics of constitutional means. The former commit each party to the achievement of partisan objectives by any and all means, while the latter bind the contesting parties to strive for their objectives solely by the means legitimized by the constitution.”

    Walter B Simon in the ‘Europe’ volume of ‘The Breakdown of Democratic Regimes’, edited by Linz and Stepan

    Coincidentally, I just read these rather applicable words Saturday.

  21. Although I was from a different party than Ms. Hayes and I know others had issues, we always had a respectful relationship so I am saddened to see this. Unexpected and surprised are good words. I do worry that before you were able to investigate, if any similar incidents took place on social media as it relates to other Town issues. Let’s hope not and maybe we can all learn that the goal should be to elect good solid candidates regardless of the letter after their name. I am not sure about now, but I always thought before that the party affiliation was meaningless and at least we could count on all the candidates believing in the community and being open and honest in discourse before and after elections. Again I am surprised, but I will say that the party pulls on both sides helped create the environment for this to happen. There is no excuse for this type of action but maybe the next election we could get some cross support on multiple candidates to give voters both a choice and a recognition by both parties that the candidates are worth considering.

  22. She should also resign from the Housing Authority and Chamber of Commerce. What kind of moral standard does this person have? Is it fair to the candidate who lost?

  23. Indeed these actions are abhorrent, but should be used to demonize an entire political group. Ms. Hayes’ behavior is not condoned by fellow “leftists”, as someone mentioned. If anything, this is a reminder of the dangers of growing political fragmentation and the unwillingness to work across the aisle. This is not unique to Hopkinton. Radical voices on both sides are still largely in the minority; but they are often the loudest.

  24. My quote above was written in 1959… related to events of the 30’s in Austria. This is a cyclical issue, and as HL stated, it’s growing, and it’s not confined to one particular political persuasion, even here in Hopkinton.

  25. I commented above on the parties working together and that is necessary. Although as my former colleague Ed Harrow has said it is not confined to Hopkinton. True. I am down in NC now living in an R County; nearby D counties and I will tell you people down here act differently. You can discuss differences in politics and positions on school boards without being afraid of anger or retaliation. Although I found a considerable number of people on both sides of the aisle in Hopkinton who act that way, there are way too many people who think you are with us 100% or you are against us. I am not sure where the boundary is but in NC the politics are as I remember them being in earlier years in the Northeast. Tip O’Neill told a friend of mine sitting next to him on the Shuttle that the person in DC he admired most was Reagan. Not for his political stands but doe his ability to pick up the phone, call Tip to the WH and over a beer discuss- not argue- solutions. There are still parts of the country like that but looking back at Hopkinton it was very difficult to do. Again great people who worked together at solving problems but others were just nasty. I saw both and again on both sides. Maybe if the ones who remember the past or are newer residents who know how it can be lead the way, Hopkinton can back to a place where this activity would never happen and people can agree to disagree with respect and maybe even admiration. It appears that there is truth in what has been related. Ms. Hayes and I rarely agreed but we were always cordial to each other and could discuss things rationally. I am saddened that this happened, it is totally unacceptable and I will go to say repulsive in that it is trying to manipulate community thought.I am also hoping she and all of us learn from it.

  26. Is it time to get rid of partisan elections in Hopkinton? We’re one of only a small handful of towns in the state with them. Requires a Town Meeting vote and then action from the legislature.

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