Vermont lawmaker apologizes for pouring water into colleague’s bag

A Republican member of the Vermont House of Representatives apologized Monday for quietly pouring water into a Democratic colleague’s bag for five months — behavior she described as “the most unbecoming” of her position.

Rep. Mary Morrissey, serving her 13th term in the Vermont Legislature, apologized from the House floor for her “disrespectful conduct” toward Rep. Jim Carroll. Both represent Bennington, a town of about 15,000 people.

For months, Carroll said he didn’t understand how the bag he brought to the State House ended up soaked until Morrissey was filmed a few weeks ago pouring water. water from a transparent cup in his tote. Morrissey said Monday that she was “really ashamed,” adding that she apologized directly to Carroll. Carroll said during the House session that he could “hear the sincerity” of his district colleague’s apology, but he remained upset that his work bag was repeatedly soaked for five months and struggled to understand why Morrissey did not “choose to drop it” or confront him.

“It was torment,” Carroll said.

Morrissey did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s requests for comment Tuesday evening.

She is no longer eligible to be appointed to conference committees, House Speaker Jill Krowinski (D) said in a June 11 statement from her office, adding that Carroll should file an ethics complaint. A spokesperson for Krowinski confirmed to the Post on Tuesday that Carroll had filed a complaint and that an investigation was underway.

“This is a truly disturbing situation that is inconsistent with our legislative practices,” Krowinski said.

Two to three times a week, starting in January, Carroll would find his tote soaked, he told the Post. When his footage appeared to show Morrissey pouring water, he said he felt “deeply sad”, especially thinking about the fallout.

“It was going to be humiliating, it was going to be horrible,” Carroll said. “And it was, and it was.”

Carroll and Morrissey won their House seats in January 2023, representing the Bennington-5 district, one of Vermont’s 46 dual-member districts. They have known each other since they were young, Carroll told the Post. Their families attended the same church and knew each other, he said, even though they were in different social circles.

While they interacted over the years at political events, their relationship had always been cordial.

But, he says, things began to take a different turn after his election, in part because the two parties were divided on key issues, including abortion.

In January, he began noticing that his bag was soaked when he removed it from the coat rack outside the rooms where his House committee meetings were held. At first, he thought it might be from the snow that fell on him while he was walking to the State House or from an accidental spill. But as the incidents continued, he concluded they must have been deliberate.

“I just remember thinking, ‘Someone doesn’t like me, and who could it be, and why?'” he told the Post.

Neither representative addressed possible motivations behind the water spill incidents in their remarks Monday.

Carroll first spoke to Krowinski about the “potentially harassing behavior” a few weeks later, according to the speaker’s June 11 statement. A few weeks later, he told her he had video evidence.

According to Seven Days, a Vermont-based alternative weekly that first reported the news, Carroll set up a camera in front of the rack where he hung his tote bag. In a video obtained by Seven Days, Carroll checks his bag before a person whose face cannot be seen walks up to the bag seconds later and pours a cup of clear liquid into it.

After Carroll told Krowinski about that clip and other video evidence, she held a meeting with him and Morrissey “to address the documented harassment,” according to her statement.

Krowinski then told Morrissey that she was not authorized to serve on conference committees and recommended that Carroll file an ethics complaint, according to Krowinski’s statement.

“The integrity and decorum of our legislative procedures and legislators are of paramount importance, and any actions or behaviors that compromise these values ​​will be thoroughly investigated and addressed,” Krowinski said. “I want to assure everyone that this matter is being taken seriously.”

In her apology Monday, Morrissey said she would work toward “resolution and restoration through our legislative process.”

“I hope that Jim, my legislative colleagues, all State House staff and those who work in this building, and the citizens of Vermont can forgive me for my poor judgment and actions, and allow me to take the necessary action to fix what I did,” she said.

In his remarks, Carroll said the first time he and Morrissey came together again to work together would be “awkward.”

“But we have to start somewhere,” he said. “So thanks.”

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