In politics, “everything is local” is a popular phrase that is often articulated as fact. The current conversation on sexual misconduct by powerful male leaders transcends boundaries and has brought what’s local into national perspective, and vice versa.
Easton resident Ann Hughes shined the national spotlight on sexual harassment and abuse to the local level at the Dec. 7 Board of Selectmen meeting. She stood up and addressed First Selectman Adam Dunsby, a Republican, who is also state representative of Connecticut’s 135th Congressional District, during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Hughes asked Dunsby, as a state and local leader, how he felt about the Republican National Committee’s endorsement of Roy Moore as Alabama Senate candidate.
“As a town member, I’m interested how you reflect on a Republican member who preys on children,” she said. “I’m interested to know how you feel as town leader.”
Nine named accusers have alleged sexual misconduct by Moore, one of them when she was 14 years old. Many of the women claim abuse dating back to the 1970s, when they were teenagers and Moore was in his 30s and working in the district attorney’s office. Moore denies the charges.
The Alabama election for the Senate seat held by Jeff Sessions, prior to his appointment as attorney general of the United States by President Donald J. Trump, is Tuesday, Dec. 12.
Moore is running against Democrat Doug Jones. Trump, who has also been accused of sexual misconduct by 19 women and bragged about grabbing women in their private parts on the Access Hollywood tape, has endorsed Moore.
Dunsby responded to Hughes at the meeting that the public comment portion of the meeting was for topics relevant to town matters. He said he would be happy to respond to comments about town matters.
Although nothing further was said at the meeting, Dunsby and Selectman Robert Lessler, a Democrat, responded to questions by The Easton Courier in the days that followed about town and state policies on sexual harassment and Moore’s endorsement by the RNC. Selectman Carrie Colangelo did not attend the Dec. 7 meeting.
“Board of Selectmen meetings are to discuss and act upon local matters,” Dunsby reiterated in his follow-up comments. “Of course, there are many important issues in the world, but to effectively serve Easton residents, the Board of Selectmen’s focus must remain local.”
Dunsby also stated that “sexual harassment and abuse are not to be tolerated. Employers, including governments, typically have policies to address this.”
He said the town of Easton does not tolerate sexual harassment in the workplace, and Section 30 of the Employee Handbook presents the policy.
Dunsby also said the town has a policy of zero tolerance for workplace violence, which prohibits all conduct that is abusive, threatening, intimidating, or demeaning.
The Connecticut General Assembly has a policy of non-toleration of sexual harassment, which is presented in Section 2.2 of the Employee Handbook of the CGA, according to Dunsby.
“If Roy Moore is guilty of the accusations, he does not belong in the Senate,” Dunsby said.
Lessler weighs in
Based on the credible reports of several women, Lessler said, “Moore does not belong on the ballot of any party for the United States Senate, or, heaven forbid, in the U.S. Senate. Even Mitch McConnell says he believes the women. Where Roy Moore belongs is on a sex offender registry.”
Lessler said Moore was a controversial nominee “long before his pedophilia came to light. His misuse of his charitable organization’s funds is a disqualifier. His utterly un-American position on the rule of law is a disqualifier.
“Lots of people disagree with decisions made by courts, especially highly visible decisions of the Supreme Court. However, you don’t get to ignore those rulings, as Judge Moore did in his capacity as the chief judge of the Alabama Supreme Court. This led to him twice being removed from office: once for disobeying a federal court order to remove a 10 Commandments statue from the courthouse and then again for ordering Alabama courts not to honor the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.”
In Lessler’s opinion, “it was outrageous once. It was astonishing twice. It is beyond comprehension that in the face of that history, the good people of Alabama could possibly send this man to the U.S. Senate.”
Lessler also brought up Moore’s comments on slavery, that Moore “made a comment to the effect that America was great when there was slavery and that slaves had strong families. This is just incredible. There have certainly been scoundrels in the U.S. Senate in our history. This would be too much if people knowingly elect such a disreputable person in this day and age.”
Lessler said he hoped his faith in the people of Alabama is not misplaced, “for I truly do fear for where our country is headed if they cannot put country over party in this case.”
The Board of Selectmen is reviewing town policies, including the employee handbook, and Lessler said he will be proposing an update dealing with sexual harassment.
Moore’s accusers are among a mounting number of women who have come forward, despite the fear of shame and retribution, to tell their stories of sexual harassment and assault by prominent male leaders from both sides of the political aisle. Sexual harassment takes place everywhere, from Hollywood to the halls of Congress, the media, public radio, restaurants, farm fields, and factory floors, recent incidents have shown.
Many prominent men have been fired from their jobs or been forced to resign in recent months as charges made by multiple women reached a tipping point. The stories have made it impossible to deny the prevalence of sexual misconduct and the damage it can do to its victims.
The faces of five women, representing “The Silence Breakers,” appear on Time’s 2017 Person of the Year cover.
They include Taylor Swift, Ashley Judd, Uber engineer Susan Fowler, lobbyist Adama Iwu, and Isabel Pascual, a strawberry picker and immigrant from Mexico whose name was changed to protect her identity.
The cover also has the arm of an anonymous hospital worker and sexual harassment victim, representing all the people, primarily women, who are not yet able to come forward and reveal their identities, according to the magazine.