Marlboro Board of Ed VP, under political attack, suspects that a second alleged facebook post is a fabrication
Marlboro Board of Education Vice President Victoria Dean last night apologized for racially charged posts made on her facebook page on February 8, during public workshop meeting of the board in the Marlboro Middle School Auditorium.
The offensive post came to light over the weekend when Monmouth County Democratic Chairman Vin Gopal’s Jersey Shore Insider blog posted a story accusing Monmouth GOP Leaders of displaying racist posts on social media. The story accused Union Beach Mayor Paul Smith of posting a “rant” calling President Obama “A Communist, a Muslim and an Illegal Immigrant,” and Dean of displaying and liking a post on her facebook page that stating that “America isn’t America anymore! It’s run by foreigners including THIS RAG HEAD PRESIDENT!”
The Asbury Park Press picked up the story on Monday, attributing Gopal’s blog as the source without citing it as a partisan website as is their custom when they cite this website or other conservative websites.
Smith shared a meme on his facebook page that included a photo of Obama holding a pint of dark beer in one hand and while is other hand was raised with his thumb up. The meme caption was ” A Communist, a Muslim and an Illegal Alien walk into a bar……The Bartender says ‘Hello Mr. President…”
On her facebook page, Dean posted a link to a story about a Waterbury, Connecticut school district honoring the Muslim holidays Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha by not scheduling tests, field trips or major school events on those occasions. Dean added the caption “Pandora’s box opened” and tagged fellow board member Craig Marshall. Mark Garza, a Texas resident who Dean says is a childhood friend, posted the offensive rag head comment which Dean then liked.
At last night’s meeting in Marlboro, Board President Michael Lilonsky addressed the crowd of approximately 125 residents with prepared remarks wherein he stated that Dean’s post does not represent the views of the board. He condemned the content of the post and said that in his 5 years of serving with Dean, he had never before witnessed racially insensitive or intolerant behavior on her part.
Dean then read prepared remarks wherein she defended the post as “an inadvertent acknowledgement of a friend’s comment” and not her comment. She said that Garza’s comment does not reflect her sentiments or feelings and she apologized for offending the community. She said she is not a racist or a bigot, that she is a minority herself and that she understands the impact of racism.
Dean, who appeared to be fighting back tears several times during the evening told MMM that she was struggling to express her contrition to members of the community while at the same time defending herself from an orchestrated political attack upon her, her husband, Christopher Dean, the Chairman of the Marlboro Republican Committee, and Craig Marshall, a personal friend, fellow School Board Member and a past Republican candidate for both Mayor and Council in Marlboro.
Mrs. Dean’s apology did not appear to resonate with many of the residents assembled. A public comment period went on for two hours with emotional outcries from members of Marlboro’s Muslim, Asian and Jewish communities, several of whom referred to themselves as ragheads, demanding Dean’s resignation from the Board. Several of the speakers who identified themselves of Muslims told Dean that she was forgiven, but still needed to be held accountable. An Asian woman said forgiveness was not sufficient. “What do we need police for,” the Asian woman asked, “if forgiveness is sufficient. If I shoot you and then say I’m sorry, is that it? No! There has to be consequences.”
Five female speakers who identified themselves as friends and neighbors of Dean’s defended her as a good person who gives selflessly to the community and who is tolerant of all people. Her friend’s comments moved Dean to tears.
But that wasn’t enough for the majority of the crowd who questioned Dean’s contrition. A women wearing a headscarf who identified herself as a raghead told Dean she wanted to hear her be defended by a Muslim friend.
“I wish I had a Muslim friend,” Dean said later when responding to the public comments, “come be my friend.” To which a woman wearing a scarf over her head scoffed, “I’ve lived here twenty five years.”
In addition to the ‘raghead’ comment that Dean liked, several residents expressed their outrage at Dean’s own ‘Pandora’s box opened” caption to the
article she linked to which caused the fury. Board member BonnieSue Rosenwald noted that in Greek mythology Pandora’s box contained “all the evils of the world” and suggested that Dean’s post about schools observing Muslim holidays was an indication that Dean believed such holidays and the people who celebrate them are evil.
The school holiday issue was relevant because at the time the initial post was made the Marlboro Board of Ed was considering whether to observe the Chinese Lunar New Year by closing schools. Dean successfully argued against closing the schools for the Chinese New Year, stating that if the board observed one cultural holiday they would have to observe all, thereby opening the ‘Pandora’s box.” Dean said she used the term to mean “opening a can of worms,” not to mean “all the evils of the world.”
While the majority of the crowd present to protest Dean’s behavior and demand her resignation were ordinary citizens, including high school students who spoke eloquently in demanding better from their adult leaders who they said should be held to the same “zero tolerance” policy that they are as students in a “bully free zone,” there was an element of politics, and political payback against Dean for the alleged actions of her husband, Christopher Dean, the Chairman of the Marlboro Republican Committee, and Marshall who was twice a Republican candidate for municipal office.
Ira Levin, a member of the Marlboro Zoning Board, was the first speaker during the public comment period. In his prepared remarks Levin said that both Deans and Marshall had frequently asked, at the Zoning Board and at other boards, that members resign or be forced to resign because of similar transgressions on social media and elsewhere. Based upon her own call for other’s resignations, Levin said that Mrs. Dean knows that she should resign. He asked Marshall if he would call on her to resign.
Levin went further, accusing Christopher Dean of using the term Rag Head and freely using the N-word to describe African American is a conversation with him and another person.
Josh Pollak, a former Marlboro Planning Board member, was the second to speak, also with prepared remarks. Pollak was caught up in his own social media controversy in 2013, when during a Planning Board meeting he posted inappropriate comments about an objector to an application who had accused him of being in a developer’s pocket. Pollak told MMM that he quickly deleted the post, but that it had already been captured by a Patch reporter who forwarded it to the Deans who in turn used it to berate him for many months before he finally resigned in February of 2014.
Pollak was clearly relishing his opportunity for payback against the Deans and Marshall. He compared Mrs. Dean to “Lucifer from Paradise Lost, Viktor from Frankenstein, Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus and even my favorite Gordon Gekko.” “Hopefully we add the name Victoria Elizabeth Dean to those who have had hubris be their downfall,” Pollak said. Pollak went on to criticize Mrs. Dean for the ‘Pandora’s box’ comment, the rag head comment and other “discriminatory and unethical behavior.” Pollak sarcastically said that he knew that Marshall and Mr. Dean would join with members of the public in calling for Mrs. Dean’s resignation “…with elaborate speeches and displays of anguish and hurt. Perhaps they will substitute your name (Victoria Dean) for those on the many of complaints and speeches they have made against others who have only volunteered service to Marlboro’s Boards.”
Following the public comments, the members of the Board weighed in on the controversy. Rosenwald, a political adversary of the Deans, said she didn’t believe Mrs. Dean’s actions were inadvertent and made a motion that the Board request her immediate resignation. The motion failed for lack of a second, prompting Rosenwald to implore the public to “remember where these people stand at election time.”
Board member John Dwyer said that he has known Victoria Dean for many years, pre-dating their service on the Board and that he has never witnessed any previous discriminatory behavior on her part. Dwyer said that if he believed Mrs. Dean was a racist or a bigot that he would demand her resignation. Dwyer said that Mrs. Dean needs to deal with the community’s reaction to the post and that if she can’t make it right with the community, she should question her effectiveness as a Board Member.
During his remarks, Marshall acknowledged his close personal and political relationship with the Deans as had been raised by Levin and Pollak during the public comments. He said he was able to hold friends accountable, that had ended other personal relationships over matters of character and that he accepted Mrs. Dean’s apology at face value. Like Dwyer, Marshall said that Mrs. Dean needed to deal with the community’s reaction to her facebook post, but he did not question her future effectiveness on the Board. Marshall then attempted to muddy the waters by bringing up a public altercation that he had with Rosenwald’s husband several months ago. The attempt prompted emotional outbursts from the audience demanding that the discussion remain on topic.
In her remarks following the first public comment period, Mrs. Dean reiterated her mistake and poor judgment in liking her friend’s offensive comment. She said she was open friendships with all people, “I wish I had a Muslim friend. Come, be my friend.”
During an adjournment of the meeting, Mayor Jon Hornik told MMM that the February 8 facebook post was about was not the first such transgression by Mrs. Dean. Hornik had photo of President Obama altered to show the president wearing a turban with a scruffy beard and decaying front tooth that showed Mrs. Dean’s picture and ‘like’ underneath it. Hornik said he did not know the origin of the photo and that someone had sent it to him.
MMM later learned that the Obama post was being distributed by Marlboro resident Sami Elmansoury, a real estate developer and Huffington Post blogger, according to his facebook profile.
Elmansoury told MMM that the photo was from July of 2014 and that he captured a screenshot of the Obama photo “a couple of days ago” from Mrs. Dean’s facebook timeline. He later amended his statement, saying that he captured it from a news feed.
Mrs. Dean told MMM that she has not seen the photo, that she has no recollection of liking such a photo and that her facebook posts and likes are only viewable by her “friends.” She said that there is no way that Elmansoury could have accessed her facebook timeline or news feed “a couple of days ago,” and that she suspects the Obama photo with her ‘like’ is a fabrication.
On follow up, Elmansoury told MMM that he did not know that source of the Obama picture or who’s post Mrs. Dean supposedly ‘liked.” He said he would track that down and get back to MMM. We’re waiting.
Mrs. Dean said she was moved by the Muslim students who spoke during the meeting. At the end of the meeting she spoke with a Marlboro High School junior, first name Marriem, who said she forgave Dean and would be her Muslim friend.