The School Modernization Committee finds itself embroiled in controversy after an open mic allegedly caught one of its members making disparaging comments about his fellow female Committee members—comments that may get him removed from the group.
In a letter sent to the Cheshire Town Council on June 9, SMC Chair AnneMarie Kemp claims that Committee member Matt Bowman could be heard making “derogatory comments about the women who serve on the Committee” at the end of an executive session virtual meeting on June 1. In the letter, Kemp calls for Bowman to be removed.
“These comments,” the letter states, “were overheard by several people and brought to my attention as Chair. Mr. Bowman’s comments were offensive and inappropriate and, I believe, cause for his removal from the Committee.”
Kemp appears to have first been made aware of Bowman’s alleged comments by Anne Harrigan, a member of the SMC as well as the Board of Education, who also sent a letter to the Democratic Town Committee about the matter. In the letter, Harrigan claims to have heard Bowman engaged in a conversation after the meeting, apparently unaware that his microphone had been left on. Bowman, according to Harrigan, could be heard saying that all the women on the Committee are “f***ing idiots” and then continued to make disparaging remarks about other female members of the group.
“If this happened in a normal work place setting, the appropriate response would be to have him removed from his position,” said Harrigan. “But because this is politics, things like this get ignored sometimes.”
After Harrigan alerted Kemp, she immediately conducted her own inquiry into the incident.
“My immediate response was to take it to the Chair, who contacted every member of the SMC who had heard the comment,” explained Harrigan. “It seemed to me that there was unanimous support for Matt’s removal from the rest of the SMC.”
In Kemp’s letter, she insists that the comments were not only “divisive” but “have created a hostility that will hinder collaboration moving forward.”
The Council has the ability to remove Bowman from the Committee, which was formed last year to provide a roadmap for school building infrastructure improvements in the District. Harrigan stated that she believes the issue could be addressed at the July 14 Council meeting, likely during an executive session.
When reached for comment, Town Council Chair Rob Oris declined to discuss the matter, stating that it was a “personnel issue.”
Harrigan’s letter also addressed the overall culture of Cheshire politics, which she believes is unfair to women in general.
“There is a problem when you have a nine person Council and only one, well now two, of those are women,” she said, referring to the new appointment of Sandra Pavano to replace Paul Bowman.
According to statistics provided The Herald by the Democratic Town Committee, there are currently 59 women in elected or appointed positions in Cheshire at the moment, in comparison to 119 men in elected or appointed positions.
Attempts to reach Matt Bowman were unsuccessful.