CHESHIRE — The chairwoman of the School Modernization Committee is calling for the ouster of a fellow committee member after an open microphone reportedly caught him making disparaging comments about female members of the panel.
In a letter sent to the Town Council on June 9, School Modernization Committee Chairwoman AnneMarie Kemp claims 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. Kemp also calls for Bowman to be removed from the committee.
“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.”
Attempts to reach Bowman were unsuccessful.
Kemp appears to have been made aware of Bowman’s reported comments by Board of Education member Anne Harrigan, also a member of the School Modernization Committee. Harrigan sent a letter to the Democratic Town Committee about the incident. In the letter, she says she heard Bowman engaged in a conversation after the meeting, apparently unaware his microphone was on. Bowman, according to Harrigan, could be heard saying that all the women on the committee are “(expletive) idiots” and then continued to make disparaging remarks about female members of the group.
“If this happened in a normal workplace 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 she was alerted by Harrigan, Kemp conducted an inquiry.
“My immediate response was to take it to the chair, who contacted every member of the (School Modernization Committee) who had heard the comment,” said 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 says the comments were “divisive” and “have created a hostility that will hinder collaboration moving forward.”
The council has the ability to remove Bowman from the panel, which was formed last year to provide a roadmap for school building improvements. Harrigan stated in the letter that she believes the issue could be addressed at the July 14 Town Council meeting, likely during an executive session.
When reached, Town Council Chairman Rob Oris declined to discuss the matter, saying 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 recent appointment of Sandra Pavano.
According to statistics provided by the Democratic Town Committee, there are currently 59 women in elected or appointed positions in town. There are 119 men in elected or appointed positions.
Paul Bowman, Matt’s brother, resigned from the Town Council in February, citing harassment of his family. The resignation came on the heels of a public hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission in February regarding a proposal to subdivide land along Cornwall Avenue Extension into seven lots. Paul Bowman and his son, Phil Bowman, were the developers behind the proposal.