Terry Donahue, the synthetic turf field proponent who uttered a vulgar obscenity aimed at an opponent during Thursday’s Oak Bluffs planning board meeting, has issued a public apology.
In a letter sent to The Times on Sunday, Donahue asked for forgiveness from Susan Desmarais, whom he interrupted during a Zoom session, with a comment that referenced a slang term for a woman’s genitals.
“I would like to publicly apologize to Susan Desmarais for the offense and hurt caused by my remarks during her statement at the March 31, 2022, Oak Bluffs planning board meeting,” Donahue wrote. “While I was unaware the mic was on, it does not take away from the egregious and demeaning nature of the remark. The responsibility for that statement is mine and mine alone, and one I have had to live with in the past days with the women in my life. I apologize and ask for both Ms. Desmarais’ forgiveness, and that of the entire community.”
Donahue had been under fire from members of the school community after making the statement toward the end of public comments made by Desmarais.
In her comments to The Times Friday, Desmarais called on Donahue to publicly apologize. “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.”
In a comment on The Times website, Desmarais accepted Donahue’s apology: “I appreciate and accept your apology.”
Meanwhile, school officials sent a letter of their own on Friday, attempting to distance themselves from Donahue. In that letter, signed by Superintendent Matt D’Andrea, Assistant Superintendent Richie Smith, MVRHS Principal Sara Dingledy, and school board chair Amy Houghton, they denounce the comment without naming Donahue: “The MVRHS School Committee and school administration denounce the comment, and want to express our apologies to the community member who was sharing her views. While the person who expressed the abhorrent language is not affiliated with, a spokesperson for, a consultant to, or otherwise engaged with the school system, he has been a vocal proponent of the project.”
While Donahue’s role in the project may not be official, he has been a constant presence in the synthetic turf debate for the past eight years.
Donahue told The Times in December that he was responsible for hiring and paying Laura Green, Ph.D., a consultant who has downplayed the possible pitfalls of installing the synthetic turf as it pertains to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS.
Meanwhile, public records released show Donahue is a constant presence in email chains that also involve Green, D’Andrea, Houghton, and field design consultant Chris Huntress.
The field project was approved by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission in a split vote. The planning board is looking at the potential impact of the field on the town’s water overlay district as part of a special permit process that includes public hearings like the one held Thursday, March 31.