Police are investigating harassment claims of a Warwick resident with a long history of criticizing the city administration.
Rob Cote claims to have received 15 vulgar, explicit, and disturbing letters over the course of two years. He said the letters, which come in envelopes that have his name and address taped on to them, arrive soon after he makes public statements at a City Council meeting or appears in the press. Sometimes, he said, the letters reference his comments. Some are postmarked from North Carolina and Florida, so Cote believes the sender must mail them while they’re on vacation or has a friend send them. Last Tuesday, he sent an email to Mayor Scott Avedisian about the matter with a copy of the letter.
“You’re just a loudmouth piece of s*** complainer who likes to hear himself talk. The only problem with that is that nobody gives a flying f*** what you have to say,” reads one line of the letter.
City Council members, the police and fire chiefs and media were copied on the email with the letter. Police Colonel McCartney responded, telling Cote to contact the department as soon as possible to open a complaint investigation. He also offered to help facilitate contact with State Police, which Cote said he’s already done for other matters, but not the letters.
School Committee Vice Chair Gene Nadeau also chimed in.
“Seldom have I ever read such a disgusting, outrageous, and upsetting letter… Whether one disagrees with you or not, [you] should never be subjected to this Warwick disgrace. No one in this city or any other city should be allowed to tolerate this hate mail for another day,” Nadeau wrote.
Cote claims the letters are coming from someone in the fire department. He said one of the letters came on a photocopied piece of Warwick Fire Department letterhead, but did not provide that letter to the Beacon as he said he no longer has it. Other letters provided are headed with a clip art-like image (not official WFD logos) of a firefighter’s helmet and axes.
WFD Chief James McLaughlin said none of this means any of the letters have come from a firefighter.
“[Cote] can think that all he wants, but there is no proof,” he said. Mayor Avedisian reiterated McLaughlin’s point, saying there is nothing to substantiate Cote’s claim that the letters are being sent by a city employee.
“We have no reason to believe it is a city employee. Colonel McCartney and Deputy Chief Babula have stressed numerous times that Mr. Cote should not open such mail and should allow the police department to retrieve such letters and allow them to be dusted for fingerprints,” the Mayor said in a statement.
Cote persists in his claim that a city worker is sending the letters.
“I continue to find it entertaining to read them because it suggests the level of mentality that we have as city workers,” he said.
The investigation is ongoing, so Col. McCartney could offer no further comment.