An MP was filmed pouring water into her colleague’s bag. He says it’s part of a pattern of bullying that has been going on for years.

An MP was filmed pouring water into her colleague’s bag.  He says it’s part of a pattern of bullying that has been going on for years.

A light-haired person rummages through a tote bag hanging on a wall rack containing clothing, seen from a partially obstructed angle.
A game camera installed by State Rep. Jim Carroll in a Statehouse hallway repeatedly caught fellow Bennington resident Mary Morrissey pouring water from a cup into her bag of belongings, starting in April 2024. Screenshot from a video Carroll posted to media this week.

A Vermont lawmaker who admitted and apologized for repeatedly dumping water in a colleague’s bag at the Statehouse described her behavior as “out of character,” while the targeted lawmaker said the episode followed years of verbal taunting.

State Rep. Mary Morrissey, R-Bennington, was twice filmed pouring water into the bag of her district colleague, Rep. Jim Carroll, D-Bennington, in April. Carroll said his bag got soaked almost daily at times during the recently concluded legislative session.

Carroll, who recorded the incidents on a video camera after seeking help from Capitol Police to identify the culprit, made the footage public on Tuesday after an account of the scheme was first published by Seven Days last week.

Morrissey confirmed to VTDigger on Wednesday that she is the subject of an internal investigation by the House Ethics Panel – a legislative committee that investigates allegations of poor behavior by House members within the Statehouse.

Neither Carroll nor Morrissey responded to Seven Days’ initial requests for comment, the newspaper reported. But three days after publishing his first article on the subject, Carroll sent a late-night email to several Vermont journalists announcing his “reluctant” release of the video footage.

With the story made public, Carroll then said, “I think it’s only right that I release the video to be completely transparent to my constituents and all Vermonters.”

Two surveillance-style video clips were attached to the email, one dated April 23 and the other April 26. Both videos show a person walking toward Carroll’s white and green tote bag, looking over his shoulder, then pouring water from a plastic cup into Carroll’s white and green tote bag. bag before leaving.

In the April 26 video, the culprit appears just seconds after Carroll retrieves something from the bag hanging on a coat rack at the Statehouse.

The culprit’s face is obscured in both videos, with only the back of his head visible. But the person’s hair matches Morrissey’s, and the culprit’s outfit in the April 26 video matches what Morrissey was seen wearing during a recorded committee hearing that same day. Confronted with the video evidence, Morrissey admitted to reporters and House leaders that it was her.

Youtube video

Reading aloud a prepared statement during a phone call with VTDigger on Wednesday, Morrissey said: “I just want to say how truly sorry I am for my actions in pouring water into the tote bag by Jim Carroll.”

“Quite honestly, I don’t know why I did it,” Morrissey continued. “I didn’t want to hurt him. This is something very unusual for me and I’m really ashamed.

But in a lengthy interview with VTDigger Tuesday afternoon, Carroll rejected Morrissey’s argument that the episodes were “irrelevant.”

“A time or two I would say, ‘Well, it’s just a joke,’” Carroll said. “But no, this continued unabated from January until May when she got arrested.”

Water-related incidents did not occur in a vacuum, according to Carroll. Relations between the two district comrades were strained well before this year.

Carroll and Morrissey knew each other decades before they began representing the same House district in Montpelier.

Morrissey told VTDigger that she knew Carroll’s parents “very well.” Carroll delivered the Morrisseys’ newspapers, he told VTDigger, and both families attended the same Catholic church.

“Socially, they didn’t mix,” Carroll said. “But, you know, there was no rivalry of any kind.”

Since they both began serving in Montpelier, a particular incident between the two representatives caught Carroll’s attention. He told VTDigger about his memory of a 2019 public hearing on Proposition 5, a constitutional amendment codifying the right to abortion in the Vermont Constitution. Carroll supported the measure, which ultimately passed; Morrissey didn’t.

According to Carroll, he heard Morrissey say his name from several rows behind him. When he approached him, he recalled that Morrissey said she had a letter from Carroll’s parents from two decades before, “expressing their feelings about abortion.”

“She said, ‘I just want you to know that I think your parents would be so ashamed of you if you voted to codify,’ or words to that effect,” Carroll recounted. “I was amazed, absolutely amazed, that she could raise my dead parents from the grave.”

A man in a suit sitting at a table with other people.
Rep. Jim Carroll, D-Bennington, listens as the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development considers a bill addressing anticompetitive employment contracts at the Statehouse in Montpelier on January 7, 2020. File photo by Glenn Russell/ VTDigger

Asked about Carroll’s recollection of the hearing, Morrissey said she didn’t remember.

“I, you know, 2019, you know, I, really, you know, like I said, I can’t think, I don’t think that far back,” Morrissey responded. “I’m not trying to avoid the question. I just don’t remember it.

The incidents piled up over the years, Carroll said. Morrissey was “just unhappy with me,” he said.

“Her favorite was that she would be near me – either by the elevator, or in the lunch line, or at one of the ice cream parties – and she would say, ‘What’s that smell? ?” and she would back away from me,” Carroll said. “She was saying it in front of other legislators, and it was humiliating. »

Morrissey declined to answer questions about his feelings or relationship with Carroll, nor his descriptions of their interactions. “I made my statement the other day. I’m not going to go into all that. We’re going through a process and that’s where I am,” she said, referring to the ethics committee’s investigation.

Fast forward to this legislative session. Carroll told VTDigger that he brought up a particularly concerning episode, in which he said Morrissey walked by and verbally taunted him on April 4, to House leadership and Capitol Police.

“We locked eyes, and she walked about two feet, two steps, past me, and she said, ‘Fuck you,'” Carroll said. “I kept walking and said, ‘I heard that,’ and then I just laughed.”

Morrissey denied the interaction ever took place.

“Absolutely not,” she replied when asked about the account. “We very rarely spoke to each other. When I passed by him, I would say “Jim,” you know, I would kind of nod my head. But we really didn’t have an exchange.

But it was the water dumping project that Carroll said tormented him the most. In January, Carroll began noticing his tote bag getting soaked repeatedly. At first he thought maybe some snow had fallen into his bag and melted, or maybe he had accidentally dropped it in a puddle. Or maybe someone accidentally tripped and spilled something in their bag, he thought.

“Then it started happening almost every day,” Carroll said. “I said to myself, ‘It’s not an accident.’”

For weeks, he said, he kept his suspicions to himself, fearing he would appear paranoid if he told anyone. Eventually, he confided in a handful of legislative colleagues, then to House Speaker Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington, and the Capitol Police. In April, Carroll said he began going to Capitol Police daily to find out if his bag was wet or dry.

One day, according to Carroll, he told Capitol Police Chief John Poleway that he suspected Morrissey was the culprit.

According to Carroll, Poleway said he needed “two pieces of direct evidence” implicating Morrissey, such as an eyewitness, a photo or a video. Carroll hatched a plan with his brother. They ordered a small camera online.

“I taped the camera to the collar of the coat, I had a black wool scarf, I hung my coat on the opposite wall of my committee room and pointed it at my canvas bag” , Carroll explained. “You would walk by my coat and look directly at it, and you would never have seen it.”

Armed with video evidence, Carroll presented it to Krowinski, who then held a May 3 meeting with Morrissey and House Minority Leader Pattie McCoy, R-Poultney. McCoy did not respond to VTDigger’s requests for comment this week.

Mary Morrissey
Rep. Mary Morrissey, R-Bennington, before the start of the 2017 legislative session at the Statehouse. Photo by Jim Therrien/VTDigger

In a written statement released Tuesday afternoon, Krowinski said that because of Morrissey’s behavior, she chose not to appoint Morrissey to conference committees to negotiate with the Senate during the final weeks of the legislative session.

“This is a truly disturbing situation that is inconsistent with our legislative practices,” Krowinski said in his statement. “The integrity and decorum of our legislative processes and legislators are of paramount importance, and any actions or behaviors that compromise these values ​​will be thoroughly investigated and addressed.” I want to assure everyone that this matter is being taken seriously.

To Carroll, Morrissey’s apology seemed perfunctory after months of paranoia and embarrassment.

“There were weeks where I didn’t know who it was,” Carroll said. “It was a miserable time for me, really miserable. I was paranoid and thought, “Why? For what? What could I have done to someone to deserve this? Was it inadvertent? Did I say something on the floor that upset someone or hurt them?’

“I spent hours turning it over in my head,” he added.

That wasn’t Carroll’s only challenge this legislative session. After being charged with drunken driving outside the Statehouse in February, Carroll checked himself into rehab to seek help for a substance use disorder. (Morrissey denies the prank had anything to do with Carroll’s DUI charge.)

He’s been sober ever since, he told VTDigger, but it’s been difficult, especially this legislative session.

“It didn’t make sobriety any easier,” Carroll said. “Last weekend when the Seven Days story broke, it was about 10 minutes where I was like, ‘Man, I’d really like a beer.’ But, you know, I just reoriented myself, and that’s what I’ve done all along.