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Residents Call for Councilor to Quit Over Holiday Decoration Dispute

  • Trisha Killay, of Claremont, N.H., speaks during the public comment period at the Claremont City Council meeting on Jan. 9, 2019 in Claremont. Killay said she now carries pepper spray after City Councilor Jonathan Stone's posts on social media about her. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Claremont City Councilor Jonathan Stone listens during the public comment portion of the City Council meeting on Jan. 9, 2019 in Claremont, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Sam Killay sits with his wife Trisha Killay during a public comment portion of the Claremont City Council meeting on Jan. 9, 2019 in Claremont, N.H. Killay feels the city should remove its holiday religious symbols from Broad Street Park in the city. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 1/9/2019 11:58:14 PM
Modified: 1/10/2019 10:20:54 AM

Claremont — City Councilor Jonathan Stone came in for some withering criticism during the public comment portion of Wednesday’s council meeting over his social media posts about the resident who sought to have the city’s religious displays celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah removed from Broad Street Park.

Sam Killay and his wife, Trish, as well as another resident, called for Stone to resign.

“He does not belong in that seat,” said Sam Killay, who approached the council in December requesting that a nativity scene and menorah be removed from the park as he sees them in violation of the clause in the First Amendment forbidding the establishment of religion by government.

Killay said the issue is about more than social media.

“This is about a city councilor supporting and engaging in the harassment of his own constituents,” said Killay, who called Stone a “loose cannon” and a liability for the city.

Trish Killay read a statement in which she described being fearful in her community and carrying pepper spray because of Stone’s online behavior that began with her husband’s public objection to the religious symbols in the park; an objection that she pointed out she does not agree with 100 percent.

With her husband’s Facebook page under a different name, Stone went to Trish Killay’s page. She said he shared her wedding pictures and her place of work with “malicious intent” and encouraged harassment of the Killays on his Facebook page.

“I demand that he explain why he thought it was OK to come to my (Facebook) page, take my photos and allow threats when I have not publicly shared my opinion on the nativity scene,” Killay said.

She also said Stone’s posts made fun of transgender people and saw mental illness as a joke.

“Mr. Stone is upset over someone’s opinion regarding the nativity scene,” Killay continued. “What would Jesus do? I bet he wouldn’t harass someone for their opinion, harass their family, make fun of minorities, allow threatening behavior and engage in it and just be an overall nasty person.”

“Mr. Stone has no choice but to resign. Not only can he not represent all of his constituents effectively but he is tainting the names of all councilors and elected officials that stand before me,” Killay said.

The council was scheduled to discuss the holiday display controversy but removed it from the agenda because the council’s policy committee, of which Stone is a member, is working on a city policy regarding holiday displays.

Several people did not address the harassment the Killays have alleged but did speak in support of leaving the displays in the park.

“They both build a positive image for the people. I am in support of it,” resident John Maynard said.

During a break in the meeting, Stone was asked to respond to the criticism but declined to comment.

Before anyone spoke, Mayor Charlene Lovett said she has asked the city’s legal counsel to look into the city’s code of conduct, which makes no mention of social media.

She said they need to address the question of how the council should conduct itself on social media.

Also calling for Stone to step down was resident Spencer Batchelder, who criticized Stone for “attacking the appearance, mental health, and yet again leveraging transgender as an insult against Sam Killay and his wife, an innocent party.”

“This type of conduct should be beyond the pale for anyone, especially those in the public sphere,” Batchelder said. “Nobody deserves to feel unsafe, threatened and menaced in their community. Nobody should feel that their city councilors are targeting them for harassment with their far-right-wing friend’s social media following.

“I personally believe that this councilor should step down as I feel he doesn’t represent the values of this community.”

Batchelder also asked the council to adopt policies similar to that of a large corporation, which typically has guidelines on how to conduct themselves online to avoid “tarnishing the reputation of their employer.”

No one on the council responded to any of the statements made regarding Stone, which is not unusual for comments that are made during the public forum.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.




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