I have read with interest several articles about the Balloon Festival Committee’s management of Festival affairs, specifically regarding Mell Hamlyn, festival treasurer. Your last report of June 13 left me with a concern about the potential for reputational harm simply as a result of volunteering one’s services.

Perhaps it is the attorney in me, but I respect the legal and constitutional concepts related to the presumption of innocence, often referred to as innocent until proven guilty. I realize this doesn’t apply to journalism, but Hamlyn deserved better.

Mell Hamlyn has volunteered her services to the Balloon Festival – and elsewhere – for years. The communities of Lewiston and Auburn have benefited greatly from her efforts.

My primary concern and reason for writing, however, is the chilling effect that “guilty until proven innocent” reporting may have on community volunteerism. Most of Maine’s 5,697 nonprofits rely on the generosity of volunteers to fulfill missions.  With one of the highest number of nonprofits per capita in the country, Maine must continue to build volunteer resources, not create barriers.

After watching this situation unfold, I can only imagine that weighing one’s options for volunteering now has a new and unfortunate dimension for consideration.

Kenneth Albert, Lewiston

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