Advertisement. Advertise with us

Gaslighting Hartwick

Editorial: April 14, 2022

The saddest truth, in the end, is a person died several weeks after a horrible in-home accident, and to the family of Flora Polulech, The Freeman’s Journal/Hometown Oneonta sends our sympathy.

Late in the afternoon on Friday, April 8, New York State Police issued a press release finally admitting they found a January 2, 2022 incident to be a sad and tragic accident. It’s called a “Friday news dump” — late on a Friday afternoon is the perfect time to send out a press release that the issuer would rather see lost in a weekend news cycle, the timing exceptionally matched here to a heavy load of state budget news out of Albany. It’s like a newspaper using the Legal Notices page to bury a correction to a howling error on a front-page story.

Remember this: the State Police issued a guns-a-blazin’ press release on January 3, 2022 “looking for person(s) who burglarized then injured an elderly homeowner in Hartwick.” Police asserted with provocative certainty that “the suspect(s) unlawfully entered a residence on Poplar Avenue and caused physical injury to an elderly victim.” Frightening stuff indeed.

That gaslighting bulletin put local residents on edge and kicked off rampaging speculation as to who did what to whom and the extent to which the victim was harmed. One month later, on February 2, we asked State Police to comment on a report we had received from a source tied closely to the case telling us investigators already determined the matter to be accidental.

NYSP declined comment beyond a statement certain the incident was isolated, “based on the evidence gathered and the lack of similar incidents reported before or after this incident in the immediate area.”

But beyond saying the matter “remain(ed) an ongoing criminal investigation,” NYSP refused to respond to further questions over the next several weeks. Not long before its April 8 statement, we asked NYSP if it would be upgrading any pending charges given the news of Mrs. Polulech’s death. They refused to respond.

Among our other questions NYSP refused to answer:
■ In a village with a population of just a little more than 600, what’s taking so long to bring charges against a person or persons in this case?
■ Does NYSP have a person or persons of interest? If so, or if not, why won’t NYSP at least allow that much to help put the village better at ease?
■ To what extent does NYSP feel responsible for issuing such a provocative statement without first determining the situation to be an “isolated incident”?

Instead, NYSP’s resolute refusal to comment for three months left the door wide open on the local rumor mill, fanning flames for people affirming they know exactly what happened in that house and believing anyone who says anything to the contrary is covering for someone or somehow denigrating the family now sadly suffering.

If what people claim to know as fact differs from what NYSP now says it has determined, they must come out from behind their keyboards to set the record straight.

The State Police issued a hasty and irresponsible press release that grabbed ample local and regional media coverage on a slow news day in January, then abrogated its responsibility to the public by walking away until sneaking out a press release late in the afternoon of a busy news day three months later. That’s disrespectful to the citizens they vow to serve and to whom they now owe an apology and a vow to do better next time.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Articles

In Memoriam Stephen L. Sheldon, 67 July 1, 1955 – May 17, 2023

In Memoriam Stephen L. Sheldon, 67 July 1, 1955 – May 17, 2023 HARTWICK—Stephen Lee Sheldon, a lifelong area resident, passed away Wednesday, May 17, 2023, at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown. He was 67. Born July 1, 1955 in Cooperstown, Steve was one of four sons of William Lee and Grace Patricia (Davidson) Sheldon. He attended Cooperstown Central School and graduated with the Class of 1973. On November 10, 1979, he was joined in marriage to Jane Marie Morris in a ceremony at St. Mary’s “Our Lady of the Lake” Roman Catholic Church in Cooperstown. They moved to Hemlock…

News from the Noteworthy: Tide Turning for Animal Cruelty Offenders

We all know that the punishment for animal cruelty is weak, and it is discouraging to those of us fighting for the cause, but I can report firsthand that when there is a case of suspected animal cruelty, we often have multitudes of people reaching out because they care about animals.…

Putting the Community Back Into the Newspaper

Now through July 31st, new or lapsed annual subscribers to the hard copy “Freeman’s Journal” (which also includes unlimited access to, or electronically to, can also give back to one of their favorite Otsego County charitable organizations.

$5.00 of your subscription will be donated to the nonprofit of your choice:

Cooperstown Farmers’ Market, Cooperstown Food Pantry, Greater Oneonta Historical Society or Super Heroes Humane Society.