Photo: Jason Rearick / Jason Rearick
STAMFORD — Members of the Board of Representatives Tuesday night voted 24-1, with eight abstentions, to censure Democrat Marion McGarry for posting anti-Islamic and anti-immigrant messages on her Facebook page.
A crowd filled the board’s Legislative Chambers, with TV crews rolling, as President Matthew Quinones described the measure before them as “a motion of censure without formal disciplinary procedures.”
Seven members were absent, and those who abstained said they condemn the hate-filled posts but could not vote for censure because of how the matter was handled. They said a handful of representatives went to the media with a call for censure before all representatives had a chance to weigh in.
McGarry, 75, a former Catholic nun who has represented District 12 for 12 years, did not attend the meeting.
Rep. Rodney Pratt, D-9, the board’s majority leader, said he was investigating according to Roberts Rules of Order, a procedural guide, which states that an organization should first attempt to resolve such matters internally.
After he talked with McGarry she deleted some of the Facebook posts but needed help with the rest, Pratt said. While he was working on a resolution, some representatives went on a cable news station with the story, he said.
“It was grandstanding,” Pratt said. “The majority leader and the board clerk were handling it. How do you ignore that? I agree that the representative should be censured, but I abstained because it should have been handled according to our rules, after we all understood what had happened.”
Members then could have made the matter public as a board, Pratt said.
Other representatives said it was handled appropriately. Quinones said he is satisfied the rules were followed.
Their meeting was preceded by a press conference held by McGarry’s attorney, Kenneth Sosnoski Jr., who said the colleague who discovered McGarry’s Facebook posts cyber-stalked her and violated her right to privacy.
Sosnoski said the colleague, Rep. Jonathan Jacobson, a fellow Democrat from District 12, conspired with the head of the Democratic City Committee and Mayor David Martin to target McGarry for voting against pro-development and pro-corporation policies.
“The problem is that Marion McGarry is an honest politician and it’s hard to be an honest politician” in Stamford, Sosnoski said.
He said McGarry is a former nun who did mission work in the poorest parts of the world, including serving people with leprosy. He would not answer questions about whether McGarry in fact posted the hate messages or why she might have done so. All he would reveal is that she was upset about her party’s support of abortion. Some of McGarry’s posts attacked Democrats.
Afterward, Jacobson said, “The unsubstantiated allegations of an exposed racist is of no concern to me.”
Democratic City Committee Chairman Josh Fedeli said no such conspiracy exists.
“The only reason she was so-called ‘targeted’ was because of her hate-filled and incendiary views.” Fedeli said. “It’s interesting that in her defense there was no mention of her behavior. Instead they pushed a narrative about widespread corruption in our government … it does not hold water. She should have to answer to her behavior and she has not done that.”
One of McGarry’s posts includes a photo of newly elected Muslim Americans being sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives alongside a photo of the 9/11 terror attacks with the caption, “How quick we forget.”
Another post shows a judge ordering an illegal immigrant to leave the country “and take your lawnmower with you.”
The posts came to light after Jacobson, who was a Facebook friend with McGarry, saw the hate messages and captured screen shots of them. Jacobson lead the censure effort.
McGarry’s posts have been denounced by the Interfaith Council of Southwestern Connecticut, the state Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the Mayor’s Multicultural Council of Stamford, which released a statement Tuesday.
McGarry is a member of a faction of the city’s Democratic Party called Reform Stamford, which won six board seats in 2017. McGarry was already a member of the board when she joined Reform Stamford.
The group ran on a platform of questioning the entrenched political structure of the board and backing residents who were fighting to protect their neighborhoods from overdevelopment.
Members of the group, along with other Democrats and some Republicans on the board, have cut Democratic Mayor David Martin’s budgets, rejected the reappointment of one of his cabinet members, and blocked zoning changes that would have allowed large projects in residential areas.
Fedeli has said members of Reform Stamford are “barely Democrats at all,” and he supports McGarry’s censure. Most people in Stamford don’t think the city needs reform, Fedeli has said, and members of the group “are anti-administration. That’s all they are.”