Field hearing takes ugly turn

Oak Bluffs planning board public comment session capped by offensive outburst.

A virtual Oak Bluffs planning board special permit hearing on the high school athletic field project concluded with a virulent outburst by supporter Terry Donahue Thursday.

A virtual Oak Bluffs planning board special permit hearing on the high school athletic field project concluded with a virulent outburst by supporter Terry Donahue Thursday, using vulgar slang for a woman’s genitals to interrupt a woman speaker.

Thursday’s meeting dealt largely with public comment in support of the first phase of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School athletic field project, with the only element of significant contention being the synthetic turf game field included in the proposal. Following an hour and a half of public comment in support of the field project from coaches, student athletes, parents, and members of the public, board chair Ewell Hopkins opened public comment in opposition to the project. 

Susan Desmarais was the first and only opponent to the project to have her comments heard before the meeting was continued. More public comment in opposition will be heard at the next board meeting on April 21, at 5 pm. 

“In a letter from Michael Silvia, the superintendent of the O.B. water district, he suggests that PFAS contamination is a possibility,” Desmarais said. “Wells will be monitored, and three of our wells are just one law mile from the location of the proposed field. It’s also clear in correspondence that should contamination occur, Oak Bluffs is responsible financially for the mitigation.”

Desmarais continued to say that she has been battling cancer ever since being exposed to a long-chain bioaccumulative chemical (PFAS is bioaccumulative) called diethylstilbestrol. 

The chemical was prescribed to pregnant women from 1949 until 1971, but Desmarais said the pharmaceutical industry knew it caused reproductive abnormalities and cancer, and kept that information hidden.

She related this to the emerging science of PFAS, and said it wasn’t until rare forms of cancers were linked to DES by a whistleblower that the Food and Drug Administration urged doctors to stop prescribing it to their pregnant patients.

Toward the end of Desmarais’ testimony, Donahue came over the Zoom meeting and could be heard exclaiming “you f______ c___.” A recording of the Zoom clearly shows it was Donahue speaking.

Now, Desmarais is demanding a public apology from Donahue. She told The Times the outburst at the meeting illustrates the vitriolic nature of the discourse that has taken place for years. “Quite frankly, I don’t know what has happened to our community. It felt like verbal violence. That’s what it was,” she said. “If anyone thinks I’m going to be bullied, they are woefully wrong. I’m not going to back down.”

Donahue did not immediately return calls or text messages which question his use of that phrase. 

Superintendent Matt D’Andrea told The Times he had to jump off the meeting early to attend to another matter, so he did not hear the outburst when it happened. But, after receiving a complaint in his email, he was able to view a video recording of the meeting and witness the outburst. “I was able to watch toward the end of the meeting, and I was horrified. It was absolutely awful and unacceptable what happened,” D’Andrea said. He stressed that this process is an opportunity for folks to speak their mind about the project, and he has tried to advocate for members of the public and their freedom to express themselves. 

“That type of outburst is in no way shape or form ever acceptable. I have spoken with Susan. I told her what happened was wrong and horrifying. I apologized to her,” D’Andrea said. He added that he has not yet spoken with Donahue, although he said he would soon. 

“Terry has been a strong supporter of this project. He has been very outspoken in support, and that is really the extent of his relationship with the school,” D’Andrea said. 

School committee chair Amy Houghton told The Times Donahue has no official role with the school, and has not been asked to provide comments on behalf of the school. “Public meetings are not a place to blast officials, they are not a place to blast people who want to speak. I think people should be working with each other to move toward something that is for the good of students, and this project has really brought out the worst in some people,” Houghton said. 

Public records show Donahue looped into email chains about the project with school officials by Laura Green, a consultant who has downplayed PFAS as it relates to synthetic turf. In December, when Green was under fire for her comments disavowed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Donahue confirmed he and other supporters of the project paid Green’s consulting fee.

Hopkins told The Times he came out of Thursday’s meeting with the understanding that he and the rest of the board will have to figure out a way to better illustrate the process of a special permit review, and the criteria with which a project is reviewed under section 8.2 of the Oak Bluffs zoning bylaws (a water resource protection overlay district).

“This discussion was supposed to be guided by the criteria in a predetermined sensitive area. We are not soliciting public testimony on whether you want a plastic field or don’t want a plastic field, or whether or not it’s going to benefit traditionally disenfranchised individuals or reduce concussion rates,” Hopkins said. “We have gone through all that in the site plan review, and the commission has done a review.”

Although he will continue to permit public testimony that sways from the stringent criteria of the WRPOD special permit review process, Hopkins asked members of the public to consider how extraneous testimony will prolong the board’s review period. “On the one hand we are getting a lot of criticism for taking a long time, but then we sat through a meeting last night where there was little if any public testimony that spoke to the issue of introducing materials that have known PFAS on top of that fragile water source system,” Hopkins said. 

As for the adversarial nature of the conversation, Hopkins called it “disturbing,” and said the elected officials of the planning board are attempting a highly technical review which is being derailed by vitriol. 

“We are getting into this toxic, visceral argument and vilifying one another — we all lose. We are trying to hear from the public, and my biggest fear is that people will be reluctant and intimidated to articulate their feelings, because who wants to expose themselves to that kind of attack? It’s much bigger than this derogatory outburst, it’s undermining our process of civil discourse — it’s really that significant,” Hopkins said.


  1. It’s just “locker room talk”.
    I’m sure Terry will tell us that “no one has more respect for women” than he does. (with the possible exception of we all know who).
    Would we expect anything less from someone who is trying to poison our community?

  2. An absolute disgraceful behavior & immature reaction pls sign him up for an anger management class

  3. How many red flags have to accompany this effort to plasticize what nature does naturally before this artificial turf idea is voted down?

  4. Susan, I am so sorry that happened to you.

    When a person uses his computer to expose to the world exactly who he is, believe him.

  5. Oh Susan – I reviewed the video and I am appalled that this happened. This demands more than an apology because it was said in a public forum with a choice of words that degrades all women. There seems to be such a tangled web between the school, Donahue and Green. And I haven’t dug that deep but it appears that a lot of it is on the public record.
    As Ewell notes, can we stick to the specific scope of this commission and turn our attention to the question of water contamination? I have read your statement, Susan, and you did a good job of addressing the contamination concerns related to carcinogens and related remediation. That fact that you shared your cancer journey related to chemical exposure only to be called a terrible degrading names is shocking.
    Thank you for sharing, Susan, and so sorry this happened.

  6. Not this guy’s first “hot mic” moment. “Who is this bitch!?!l in a BOH zoom a couple months back. He apparently didn’t have a high opinion of a female scientist that was providing testimony.

  7. If Mr. Donahue cannot conduct himself in a civilized manner, he should be banned from attending and speaking at future public hearings. What side he is on is irrelevant — although his vulgar verbal attack reflects badly not only on him, but the cause he supports.

  8. Unbelievably infantile. Don and Jackie are right on the mark here. There was a time when MV was capable of civil discourse. This is exactly why young people will not get involved in town/county government. Susan, don’t expect an apology, a bully is beneath that, and for that I am sorry.

  9. Toxic masculinity. He could keep silent while a woman presents an opinion he doesn’t like.

  10. Civility is a thing of the past. Apparently nothing is “off limits” anymore. Then Vice President Biden used the “F” word when he thought his mic was off, Will Smith slaps another person in “defense” of his verbally mis-treated wife, young black men are murdered in the streets by those whose duty is to protect and serve. Political leaders lie and steal. Not all people are bad and not all people are good.Having said all that, Mr. Donahue rises to the top of how low can you go. His wife and children must be so proud of him.

    • Your timeline is way off. I noticed it during the 2016 Presidential campaign. Most notably, the words and actions of the eventual winner, and his supporters. He set an example that others followed and it opened the door to a no holds barred atmosphere of insults, derision, mockery, and hate speech. Mainly cloaked in a warped notion of patriotism.

        • It is impossible to detect sarcasm when the mode of communication is plain text. Adding some kind of symbol at the end of a comment will provide a clue to tone or intent.

    • Albert- Read the first line of the first comment here. I didn’t attribute that quote to anyone, but I think you know who said that, and what it was in reference to.
      But I will give you a hint– It wasn’t about president Joseph R Biden. — You know, that guy that won the 2020 election–with more popular votes than anyone in history , and with the exact same number of electoral votes as as the winner of the 2016 election— “An historical margin” by the way–
      But Albert, let me put the brakes on your revisionist timeline right here.
      The ” coarsening of America” started on June 16 th 2015, when donald j trump announced his bid for the presidency. In the first minute of his speech he called the other candidates sweating dogs, and used his classic derogatory tone of voice when he berated “ChinaH”
      That was all in the first minute– It droned on for 46 minutes, He insulted nearly everyone except his supporters. And most infamously Mexicans– “they are bringing drugs, they are bringing crime, they’re rapists…”

      And you , Albert, have the audacity to imply that Biden is responsible for the “coarsening of America” —
      You have no shame.

      In case you think I am wrong about that, I offer the full 46 minutes and 33 seconds of ugly racist drivel that shocked every American that valued decency towards and respect for others. That speech “woke” the dark underbelly of racism, misogyny and hatred in America.

      • Don, your sarcasm receptors have been destroyed.
        Biden is the third worst President in this nations history.

        • Albert- How am I to know sarcasm ?
          Trump says he won the 2020 election.
          Marjorie Taylor Green said the Parkland school massacre was a “false flag” operation to enact gun control laws, and that George Soros sets fires in Ca. with lasers based in space.
          Lauren Boebert has on numerous occasions implied that Ilhan Omar is a terrorist.
          Alex Jones said that the families of Sandy hook victims are “crisis actors”.
          Nebraska State Sen. Bruce Bostelman was appalled that his school district was offering litter boxes to children who identified as cats.
          I can go on and on, Albert.
          The point is that no right wing conspiracy theory is too far out there for some people to latch onto.
          How do sane people identify what is “sarcasm” and what someone believes to be true ?

  11. What a lovely man, and such an eloquent spokesperson for his cause. Plastic fields are definitely the new Alamo. We must rise up and publicly call out our enemies with all the vulgarities we can muster. How dare a soft spoken woman who has survived cancer oppose a synthetic surface?

  12. Public statement issued by DES Action USA. This story is going around the world, folks. There needs to be a formal public statement with an apology from Superintendent D’Andrea for allowing this to happen because he “stepped off” the meeting and didn’t monitor behavior.

    Superintendent D’Andrea,

    Susan Desmarais testified on March 31, 2022 before the Oaks Bluff planning board in opposition to plans for synthetic turf that could leach PFAS into the drinking water supply below the field, and courageously shared her personal experience with DES – and explaining the known links to cancer and reproductive abnormalities – to help people understand what is at stake when deciding about allowing PFAS.

    In response, a man in favor of using synthetic turf named Terry Donahue used ‘vulgar slang for a woman’s genitals to interrupt a woman speaker,’ as reported in the MVTimes on April 1. This man didn’t curse at just any woman, but at a person who had shared her private health history in order to help others.

    Susan Desmarais bravely came to the meeting with factual and important information. We are proud that Ms. Desmarais is a member of DES Action USA and we stand beside her in educating people about DES and endocrine disruptors – which synthetic turf with PFAS in and DES both are. To attempt to silence this woman by insulting her story and gender is disgusting.

    Terry Donahue should be banned from future participation in meetings. His actions were aggressively egregious and should not be tolerated in a public, or any other, forum. The harmful potential of exposure to PFAS has already been identified in research and should not be dismissed. And certainly not dismissed by a crude and misogynistic interruption toward a female speaker concerned about the long-term health of her community.

    The decision that the Board will make regarding natural vs synthetic turf is an important one that will affect the community for a long time. We urge the Board to carefully consider all comments, including the important testimony of Ms. Desmarais about endocrine disrupting chemicals including both PFAS and DES – to make the best decision for human and environmental health. And we especially urge the Board to do everything possible to create a forum where unwarranted and appalling attacks are not tolerated and citizens with valuable contributions are welcomed.

    We look forward to you taking leadership action.

    Suzanne B. Robotti
    Executive Director
    DES Action USA

    Drug Safety and Risk Management FDA Advisory Committee

    Founder, MedShadow Foundation

    • I am so grateful that this story is growing wings. I am a DES mother who was fully exposed to this dreadful chemical for 5 months, and whose beloved baby was fully exposed for 5 months before being born – and the effects go on for generations.
      And DES is 100% related to PFAS, which are also hormone disruptors that affect the reproductory organs, causing genetic mutations for generations to come.
      For God’s sake, you plastic proponents, do your homework and just stop pushing for acres of this toxic plastic less than 100 feet above of our drinkingwater. All it is doing is delaying what our High School students need so badly: excellent healthy playing fields, and unquestionably this can best be done with well managed natural grass.

  13. I’m usually the one defending the MV Times when people accuse it of being one sided and sensationalist.

    The comment on the “hot mic” was vulgar, reprehensible and has NOTHING to do with how 99.999% of the team that has spent nearly a DECADE supporting the turf project feel.

    The fact that the Times turned this into a public opportunity to beat up on the effort to provide a solution to the issue of our high school students needing viable playing surfaces is equally vulgar and reprehensible.

    I do not speak for the group, but I do speak for myself when I ask, “Please report the news fairly.”

    • John. what part of this story do you think is not “fair”?
      During a public meeting someone said something that was extremely offensive.
      That is news, and the Times reported it.
      Is the Times supposed to not allow comments, or only allow comments that support “your” side ? Sorry, but that vulgar comment reflects poorly on those who support the fake field.

    • John, “99.999%”? I don’t think so. This is far from the first example of bullying from plastic field proponents, from the coach who defied and shouted down the moderator at special town meeting in West Tisbury, to the reprehsible and profane Zoom bombers at the MVC hearings, to the unknown person who put shell casings in an official’s bag. It’s time to take responsibility for this appalling, uncivil and often misogynistic behavior and the example it is setting.

  14. As a DES Daughter and former Community Manager of DES Action, USA, I second both Caitlyn McCarthy and Su Robotti’s comment. Terry Donahue was rude, and completely inappropriate, and he should be banned from further meetings. DES exposed people have been through enough due to their exposure, without other insults to their integrity and caring concern for others health.

  15. John-
    “Equally Vulgar” ? You might want to check your vulgar meter and our Constitution . We Americans are guaranteed freedom of speech, public meetings and free press . However , the Supreme Court has ruled that there are limits to free speech, which includes obscenities.
    State and local government perrmitting for areas of protected watersheds is a mechanism we should all be grateful for . There is nothing worth having poisoned water for . We have a lot of environmental work to do in this area , locally and globally.
    I’m looking foward the best solution for our High School athletes.

  16. John Zarba, the article factually reported the vile comment made by Terry Donahue. How is that vile?

    Both Terry Donahue’s vile comment, and John Zarba’s attempt to minimize it by saying the reporter was “equally vulgar and reprehensible” for sharing information from a public meeting, really hurt their “cause.” It also makes me wonder how the women in their lives are treated if this sort of behavior is okay to them….

    Seems we have a case of toxic masculinity to go along with the toxic chemicals of their beloved field.

  17. Superintendent D’Andrea,

    Susan Desmarais testified on March 31, 2022 before the Oaks Bluff planning board in opposition to plans for synthetic turf that could leach PFAS into the drinking water supply below the field, and courageously shared her personal experience with being DES Exposed in Utero and the known links to cancer and reproductive abnormalities. There is an important linkage that must be understood.

    DES Info supports Susan Desmarais who was courageous in speaking at this meeting and sharing critical information as well as personal information. Knowledge is power and Susan was sharing information that many may not be aware of. DES Info is proud of her and how she bravely came to the meeting with factual and important information. In 2022, free speech without fear of vulgar repercussions is expected.

    Terry Donahue should be banned from future participation in meetings. His actions were unacceptable and should not be tolerated. We feel that it was is unacceptable for Terry Donahue to use vulgar language towards a woman speaking from her heart.

    An apology has been issued…. But is that really enough? We think not!

    Karen Fernandes, R.N., CPHQ
    DES Info

  18. Please, can you allow us to comment?
    Hello, we are a French DES group. Susan, we are sorry that happened to you. This verbal attack really shocked us. We have just published a message to inform French people.
    We would like to express our solidarity with you and with all DES victims around the world: an attack against one of us is an attack against all of us!
    Deborah Maitrejean
    D.E.S is it

  19. I’m commenting here for two reasons. First and foremost to thank each and every person who has written words of support. I will not back away from this issue and you all inspire me in this journey.

    Secondly I got a call yesterday from Matt D’Andrea stating that Terry Donahue wants my phone number to talk to me. I told Matt I don’t want to talk to him. Let me be unequivocal, Terry you wrote an apology. I accepted it. I’m done. Leave me alone.

  20. With artificial turf fields having been in existence for decades, surely someone can point to locations where PFAS contaminations has occurred?

    It must be simple to offer that actual proof.

    Where is that proof located?

    Where are all these PFAS contaminated locations. Does the the EPA have a list of sites?

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