Lawmaker’s Bag Was Repeatedly Drenched and Now a Colleague Faces a Probe
source: sevendaysvt.com

Lawmaker’s Bag Was Repeatedly Drenched and Now a Colleague Faces a Probe

A state representative from southern Vermont is under scrutiny after being allegedly caught on video repeatedly pouring water into a fellow lawmaker’s tote bag at the Statehouse. Rep. Mary Morrissey (R-Bennington) is now facing an ethics investigation to determine if she harassed Rep. Jim Carroll (D-Bennington) by soaking his belongings multiple times during the recent legislative session, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Rep. Angela Arsenault (D-Williston) confirmed she had seen a video showing Morrissey leaving her committee room, approaching a bag outside Carroll’s committee room, and deliberately pouring a cup of water into it. “It was jaw-dropping,” Arsenault said. “It was bizarre. Why? That’s what I kept saying. Why?”

Arsenault emphasized that the act was intentional, not accidental. “It wasn’t like ‘Oops, I bumped my arm, and some of it spilled on this bag,'” she added. “There was no way this was inadvertent. It was purposeful.”

If the House Ethics Panel concludes that Morrissey violated ethics rules, she could face disciplinary actions. Morrissey has already faced some consequences; Speaker Jill Krowinski (D-Burlington) has blocked her from serving on a key committee. Both Carroll and Morrissey declined to comment on the situation.

Other lawmakers expressed their disbelief over the allegations. “To have another member actually do something like that, just, it’s hard to fathom,” Rep. Mike Marcotte (R-Coventry) said. “It’s hard to understand why someone would stoop to that level.”

Initially, Carroll was puzzled about why his bag, which he hung on a hook outside his Commerce and Economic Development Committee meeting room, was repeatedly getting soaked. Marcotte, the committee chair, said Carroll mentioned that it had happened multiple times over more than a month. “At first we thought, Is it near a source of water? Could it be something dripping from the ceiling?” Marcotte recalled.

After ruling out those possibilities, Carroll suspected he was being targeted. “I think it really bothered him to think that someone would be intentionally pouring water into his bag,” Marcotte said.

Carroll met with Krowinski and Capitol Police Chief John Poleway, but without direct evidence, there wasn’t much they could do. Carroll then decided to take matters into his own hands by setting up a video camera in the hallway outside the committee room, aimed at the coatrack where he hung his bag. It’s unclear what type of camera he used.

Before setting up the camera, Carroll consulted with Statehouse officials to ensure he was within his rights. “I think he wanted to make sure he was on solid legal ground to do something to find out who the perpetrator was,” Marcotte said.

Carroll’s efforts paid off, as he successfully captured images of Morrissey in the act more than once, according to Arsenault and two other people who have seen the video. Morrissey is a member of the House Corrections and Institutions Committee, which meets across the hallway from Carroll’s Commerce and Economic Development Committee.

Carroll declined to provide copies of the video, claiming it was his personal property and exempt from disclosure under the state Public Records Act. Seven Days requested the video from police, but Poleway said he needs extra time to consider the records request because it “requires consultation between one or more agencies or components of agencies.” He declined further comment.

After Krowinski and other legislative leaders viewed the video, the speaker summoned Morrissey to her office during the first week of May. Minority Leader Rep. Patti McCoy (R-Poultney) was also present. The details of the meeting remain unclear, but soon afterward, Krowinski decided not to appoint Morrissey to a position on a six-member committee formed to reconcile the Senate and House versions of a key infrastructure bill. Despite Morrissey being the most senior Republican on her committee, Krowinski chose Rep. Conor Casey (D-Montpelier) instead.

Rep. Alice Emmons (D-Springfield), chair of the House Corrections and Institutions Committee, had recommended Morrissey for the committee. “What was said to me was, with whatever was happening between Mary and Jim, it would not be good for Mary to be on the conference committee,” Emmons said. “That’s all I know.”

Casey said he was “a little surprised” to be named and was told little about why he was asked to fill in for Morrissey beyond “It was an issue with Mary.”

Rep. Martin LaLonde (D-South Burlington), chair of the House Ethics Panel, declined to be interviewed. He wrote in an email that the panel’s deliberations are confidential unless it determines an ethical violation occurred and introduces a House resolution that makes the issue public, which is exceedingly rare.

Former Progressive representative Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, now mayor of Burlington, served on the Commerce and Economic Development Committee with Carroll but said he never shared any concerns with her. Mulvaney-Stanak resigned in late March to assume her new role but heard about the allegations from several former colleagues. “This would be something I would expect from middle school,” she said.

It’s unclear if the dousings were related to Carroll’s own legal troubles. He was arrested on February 21 in a Statehouse parking lot for suspected impaired driving. Carroll’s arrest was widely publicized, and he issued a statement expressing disappointment in himself and pledged to go to rehab. In March, a court hearing was postponed because Carroll was reported to be in a residential treatment facility.

Arsenault suspects the incidents were intended to taunt Carroll following his arrest. “He felt like he was losing his mind, and I think that was part of the purpose behind it,” she said.

Carroll was first elected in 2018 after representative Kiah Morris resigned. The longtime owner of a downtown Bennington eatery, Carroll served on the Bennington Selectboard for a dozen years but lost his seat in the March election.

Mulvaney-Stanak noted that there was a fair amount of tension in the Statehouse this session, with more examples than usual of people pushing the boundaries of decorum. However, she said nothing she witnessed approached what’s alleged here. “When you’re in House leadership, you hear a whole bunch of absurd things that people do, but it never rises to the level of harming someone else, emotionally or otherwise,” she said. “If any of this is even remotely true, oh, my God!”