Lawmakers set for censure vote on rep’s Facebook posts
STAMFORD - Members of the Board of Representatives are set to vote Tuesday night on whether to censure one of their members for posting anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant messages on Facebook.
They will discuss whether to rebuke Rep. Marion McGarry, who has represented District 12 for 12 years, for “conduct detrimental to the public’s trust and confidence in the” board.
Among the images McGarry posted are a photograph of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks alongside one of Muslims being sworn into the U.S. House of Representatives with the words, “How quick we forget.” Another post shows a judge shouting at an illegal immigrant to “leave and take your lawnmower with you.”
McGarry declined to comment Monday.
Beyond the slurs, lambasted by the Interfaith Council of Southwestern Connecticut and the state chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the incident likely will have political implications for the Board of Representatives, the city’s 40-member lawmaking body.
McGarry is a member of a faction of the Democratic Party called Reform Stamford, which won six board seats in 2017 on a platform of questioning the entrenched political system and responding to residents’ concerns about protecting neighborhoods from overdevelopment.
Democratic City Committee Chairman Josh Fedeli said when the incident first was reported that “Reform Stamford are barely Democrats at all.”
Fedeli reiterated the statement Monday.
“I do not believe that the sum total of their ideaology is consistent with the Democratic Party,” he said. “I think they don’t believe in the party process but use the Democratic Party line to get elected.”
Members of Reform Stamford have led efforts to cut Democratic Mayor David Martin’s budget, reject the reappointment of one of his cabinet members, and back residents who opposed developers’ plans for projects in their neighborhoods.
During the 2017 election, when Reform Stamford candidates challenged incumbent Democrats in primaries, Fedeli commended them as “people who are willing to work hard and have a voice and take part in the political process.”
The new candidates were an asset to Democrats because “when you have a large party in power, primaries are a way to have that democratic process play out,” Fedeli said at the time.
Things have changed, he said Monday.
“Now they have a record and we see what they do,” he said. “They want to take seats of power from people they perceive as having been in power too long. That’s not a value of the Democratic Party. We see problems and put government to work for the betterment of the people.”
Reform Stamford representatives operate on “this premise that somehow Stamford needs reform, and I would tell you the majority of the people in the city don’t agree with it,” Fedeli said. “They are anti-administration. That’s all they are.”
Beyond the Islamophobic and anti-immigrant posts, McGarry put up messages disparaging her own party, saying Democrats are traitors to the country, referring to them as “Dem-o-rats” and touting Republican President Donald Trump’s border wall.
“We’ve known she has not been a Democrat for years.” Fedeli said. “We were pushing back on Marion McGarry before Reform Stamford was a glint in anyone’s eye.”
Most important, he said, “censuring Marion McGarry is a Board of Representatives process and it’s bipartisan … the focus has to be on that and not get lost on party politics.”
A Reform Stamford leader, Rep. Nina Sherwood, D-8, has spoken for the group, saying members condemn “the sentiments contained in those awful posts” and the prejudices “have no place in our public discourse.”
Monday she questioned the authority of the Democratic City Committee chairman to define party members.
“Who says that Josh Fedeli gets to decide who’s a Democrat and who’s not?” Sherwood said. “He’s chair of the party, so people think he’s talking for all of us. But did the DCC agree to his comments about the Democrats who were elected to the board? Did they weigh in, or is he speaking unilaterally?”
Reform Stamford has asked why the rightful outrage against McGarry’s actions didn’t also apply after Martin’s former Director of the Office of Operations, Ernie Orgera, shared racist, anti-immigrant and sexist emails with fellow city employees several years ago.
Despite the incidents, Martin named Orgera to the post during his first term as mayor and tried to re-name him for this second term. Members of Reform Stamford and other Democrats blocked Orgera’s reappointment in 2018.
Asked about it Monday, Martin, through a spokesman, did not answer the question directly.
“Rep. McGarry’s current use of social media to influence our city’s community with hateful rhetoric is not in line with the higher moral standard residents expect of their elected representatives,” Martin said in an email. “And while the circumstances were very different, it is the same issue that led to … Orgera losing his position.”
Rep. Jonathan Jacobson, D-12, learned of McGarry’s posts after friending her on Facebook and is leading the censure effort. Despite Orgera’s similar history, Jacobson last year voted to keep Orgera in his post.
“I am not going to comment on that at this time,” Jacobson said Monday. “I will speak to it at a later date. The question before me is whether the conduct of an elected official warrants censure.”
Tuesday’s meeting is set for 7 p.m. in the board’s Legislative Chambers on the fourth floor of the Stamford Government Center, 888 Washington Blvd.