Barnstable County Commissioner Ronald R. Beaty Jr. sparked outrage on social media this week with a Tweet about LGBT politicians that has prompted members of the Assembly of Delegates and the Cape & Islands Legislative Delegation to call for his resignation.
Mr. Beaty, no stranger to stoking controversy online, posted on his Twitter and Facebook, “Generally speaking, are gay politicians too self-absorbed and self-centered to adequately represent ALL of their constituents in a fair and equitable manner?”
Mr. Beaty’s post triggered a backlash.
At the assembly’s regular meeting on Wednesday, five of the 15 assembly delegates made statements criticizing the commissioner. Four expressly called for his resignation.
Provincetown delegate Brian O’Malley read a proposed resolution to censure Mr. Beaty. However, since the measure was not on the meeting agenda ahead of time, members could not vote on whether to support it.
It is for the speaker, Suzanne McAuliffe of Yarmouth, to place the resolution on the docket for a future meeting, Mr. O’Malley said. The assembly will gather next on March 6.
“I am offended by the comments made by Commissioner Beaty, and I think they cast a very dark light on the workings of county government,” Mr. O’Malley said Wednesday.
His resolution cites the county’s non-discrimination policy and says Mr. Beaty’s language is inconsistent with standing county policy. It also notes the “current political climate and social media have encouraged the public use of language which singles out, demeans, disparages and threatens certain groups of minorities.”
Dennis delegate John Ohman also called for Mr. Beaty to resign and be censured. “Mr. Beaty is now attacking the moral compass and values that we Cape Codders hold dear,” he said.
The other delegates to speak were Lilli-Ann Green of Wellfleet, Elizabeth Harder of Harwich and Randi Potash of Chatham.
A group of community members showed up at the assembly meeting to rebuke Mr. Beaty, with about 10 people offering comments. The Cape and Islands Democratic Council had encouraged people to attend Wednesday’s meeting and press the delegates to censure Mr. Beaty.
“When you have an elected leader like that making disparaging remarks, it gives permission to the school bully, it gives permission to the employer to target their employee,” said Ross Berry of Brewster.
In an e-mail message, Democratic Council president Sandy Milano also called for the assembly to develop a mechanism for recalling elected county officials. At present, the county charter does not outline any such policy.
The development of a recall provision will likely be part of a charter review process in the assembly, according to Susan Moran, Falmouth’s representative and deputy speaker of the assembly.
Ms. Moran was one of five delegates who submitted a proposed ordinance last year to implement a recall provision in the county charter. The move came after Mr. Beaty made comments criticizing the #MeToo movement.
It is unlikely, however, that Mr. Beaty would face a recall effort before he comes up for reelection in 2020, as it is a lengthy process to amend the charter. A change in the charter would require approval at the ballot box.
Elected to the county commission in 2016, Mr. Beaty has stirred public outcry on multiple occasions. His Twitter and Facebook feeds are populated with proactive posts. Other comments made by Mr. Beaty that sparked a response include statements about Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg and calls for using baited drum lines to cull the Cape’s shark population.
Mr. Beaty did not attend the assembly of delegates’ meeting Wednesday but responded in a number of e-mails.
“In this county, we have something called the United States Constitution, which includes our First Amendment right to freedom of speech!” Mr. Beaty wrote in an email. He said others should speak their minds in an “equally candid fashion.”
Mr. Beaty wrote that he had done nothing wrong and would not resign from the county commission. A resolution censuring his conduct would be the “opinion,” of the delegates, but would carry little to no weight, he wrote.
“Mr. O’Malley, the Provincetown delegate, is entitled to his ‘opinion’ just like the other members of the assembly are, and just like I am as well,” Mr. Beaty wrote.
Bourne delegate Linda M. Zuern described efforts to remove Mr. Beaty from office as “witch hunt.” She said the Assembly had no power to oust an elected official.
“If they don’t like what he said, then don’t elect him next time,” Ms. Zuern said. Like Mr. Beaty, she championed the First Amendment adding, “For me, freedom of speech is more important that all this made up hate speech.”
The Assembly of Delegates has one representative from each Cape town, though their voting power is proportional to population. County commissioners represent all of Barnstable County and are elected for four-year terms. Ms. Milano, in her call to action message, urged Democrats to look toward 2020, when Mr. Beaty is up for re-election. She asked for donations to the council so it can recruit and support a Democrat to challenge Mr. Beaty, who has already announced that he will seek another term.
Sean Rausch, a member of the Sandwich Republican Town Committee, said he hopes to see other Republicans challenge Mr. Beaty in a primary.
“As a Republican myself, I am embarrassed to have him share the party label with me,” he said, adding, “I would definitely like to see a qualified Republican stand up to take him on.”
Referring to Mr. Beaty’s recent comments, he said the commissioner’s beliefs are out of touch with people on Cape Cod and in Massachusetts.
Other elected officials decried Mr. Beaty’s statements as well.
Ronald Bergstrom, chairman of the county commission, said Mr. Beaty’s comments were intolerant, even if written in “the guise” of a question. “I’m trying to assure people that he does not speak for Barnstable County,” he said.
State Senator Julian A. Cyr (D-Truro) said Wednesday, “I am disappointed to hear that Ron Beaty made such an uninformed statement regarding the value LGBTQ people bring to Cape Cod and our commonwealth.”
Sen. Cyr is one of two openly gay Cape legislators, the other being Sarah Peake (D-Provincetown). Both serve in leadership positions on Beacon Hill. Rep. Peake returns to her post on the House leadership team, and Sen. Cyr was appointed Assistant Majority Whip on the Senate president’s leadership team.
“It appears [Mr. Beaty] would prefer to spend his time as an elected official causing division and spreading disrespect,” said Sen. Cyr, whose district includes Mashpee. “With all of the challenges that we face on Cape Cod, my priority is to work together respectfully with everyone to make progress and improve our quality of life. I welcome Ron to join me.”
State Senator Viratio M. (Vinny) deMacedo (R-Plymouth) also said he was disappointed in Mr. Beaty’s “baseless comments.”
“I am surprised that this is even an issue,” he said, “In my over 20 years in the legislature, I have enjoyed working with my colleagues in the Cape delegation to fight for all of our constituents regardless of gender, sexuality or any other characteristic.”
Six of eight members of the Cape & Islands delegation released a statement yesterday reprimanding Mr. Beaty and defending their two LGBT colleagues.
“Recognizing that Ronald Beaty engages in this boorish behavior to elicit reactions for his own amusement, we would prefer to simply ignore this latest example of his tone-deaf rhetoric and have the press and social media do the same,” the lawmakers said. “However, our silence could be interpreted to imply indifference, and that would be a gross misrepresentation of how we feel about the situation.”
“Instead, we defend our colleagues who were attacked and encourage Mr. Beaty to stop besmirching the reputation of everyone in county government, both elected and appointed, by resigning his office immediately,” they said.
The letter is signed by Sen. deMacedo, Rep. Dylan A. Fernandes (D-Falmouth), Rep. Randy Hunt (R-Sandwich), Rep. David T. Vieira (R-East Falmouth), Rep. Timothy R. Whelan (R-Brewster) and Rep. William L. Crocker Jr. (R-Centerville).