[OPINION] Robert Harrington: Fellow GOP Member Running For Ed Board “Crosses The Line”

Robert Harrington was elected to Westport’s Board of Education 2 years ago, on the Republican ticket. Halfway through his term, he writes:

Two years ago I had a major issue with my local party’s silence stance over the anonymous “Westport Parents” WP06880.com website. In August 2021 the anonymous website was created. Signs started appearing around town stating “Wale up Westport! CRT is here!” in reference to Critical Race Theory.

Despite an uncomfortable election (when I was running), I decided to stay inside the local Republican Party and have been an active member at meetings since.

I am proud of the way my 2 Republican BOE colleagues and I have worked together and put that election behind us. The Republican minority on the BOE has tackled tough questions like redistricting. We’ve asked tough questions, and have not always sided with central office and our superintendent just because they are the administration of Westport Public School or its chief executive officer.

We haven’t always voted as a party block, and we’ve certainly participated in multiple unanimous votes on issues like our budget and school facilities.

That’s not the end of this article. I’m heading for another disagreement with my local Republican Party into the upcoming election.

Robert Harrington

I’m sure some in my party will be thinking of the words of President Ronald Reagan, “There you go again.” But this is too important for me to remain silent on.

I am highly disappointed by my party’s choice for at least one of the candidates for the Board of Education.

In late August, the Republican Town Committee nominated Camilo Riano and Jamie Fitzgerald for the Board of Education. I really cannot comment on Camilo’s running mate, as I have never met her or seen her at any BOE or Republican Party meetings.

I am not here to attack Camilo personally. He is a resident, a father of 4 kids who attend our public schools in Westport. Furthermore, he has participated in almost every BOE meeting over the past 2 years. He has turned up and been engaged.

Camilo Riano, from the livestream of a Board of Education meeting.

I don’t disagree with everything he has ever said. I personally strongly advocate for asking tough questions and involving parents in the education of our children. I may disagree with many of the comments he has made and actions he has taken, but he has every right to do that as a citizen, Westport resident and parent.

The real issue for me is that my local Republican Party has chosen to be associated with those views, and has voted to nominate him as one of our 2 candidates.

Our Republican candidate has stood up in public BOE meetings and been active on social media denouncing board members and school administrators for enabling “groomers.” He has directly called out the WPS Superintendent and accused him of “grooming” children. For instance, at a BOE meeting last October 3 he said, “Mr. Scarice, as superintendent of our public schools when are you going to stop the child grooming of our children?”

This is crossing the line.

I think we should all stop and pause for one second. Let it sink in. Those are the words of one of the official local Republican Board of Education candidates.

It’s one thing to disagree with an equity study, not support DEI, or even support a book challenge. But the words above were said directly to, and directly about, our school administrators, central office and our superintendent.

I personally have had several disagreements in public with our superintendent. I’m pretty self-aware, and I’m sure I have irritated and frustrated our administration on multiple occasions. I passionately believe it’s our role as elected representatives to support, question and challenge our leaders to make our school system better. Local residents also should challenge us as BOE members. I certainly did before I got elected, when I had the microphone for 2 minutes.

However,  I would never accuse our administration or superintendent of anything like that. My Republican and Democrat colleagues on the board never have, and I’m confident they never would.

Secondly, Camilo has filed 2 complaints against the town of Westport related to student participation on the BOE, and challenging the composition of TEAM Westport. Do we really want to be nominating Republican candidates who are trying to take legal action against the town of Westport?

Over the past few weeks I have spoken with senior members of my local party, and been upfront about my concerns. I have also reached out multiple times directly to Camilo himself and explained my views. I have asked to speak with him either on the phone or in person, and consider retracting the “grooming” comments and apologizing to our school administrators and superintendent. He politely declined, stating, “I am really busy and do not see much value in getting together to discuss Mr. Scarice’s feelings.”

I think extreme attacks and accusations need to stop, whereever they come from. It’s not just from from the right. At the end of the last school year in a public BOE meeting a member of the public, and an active local Democrat (although not a candidate) referred to my Republican BOE colleague as a “Nazi.” Accusations and references to people as “Nazis,” “groomers,” “fascists,” “racists,” “Marxists” should have no place in our local politics. I hope we can leave all this behind.

Westport Board of Education members, with Westport Public Schools administrators and Long Lots School Building Committee representatives, last week. Robert Harrington is second from left, facing the camera.

Many people reading this may simply ask, “Robert, why do you stay in your party?” I am a Republican. I’m not going anywhere. I am going to stay and fight to try and change our party from within. I may well be unsuccessful. However, I feel it would be disingenuous to suddenly switch to being a Democrat. Even our local system of elections forces us to choose a party if we want to serve on the BOE, and our town charter limits any political party to a maximum of 4 of 7 members on the BOE. Running as an independent is simply not a reality.

The Republicans have not had a majority on the BOE in Westport for over 25 years. If both these candidates were to win, it would break this trend — and I might stand to gain personally. However, I would not want the Republicans to take control like this.

I really hope my party can find another way. I just can’t support them on this.

60 responses to “[OPINION] Robert Harrington: Fellow GOP Member Running For Ed Board “Crosses The Line”

  1. As a former long-time Westporter, I am stunned by the behavior of Camilo Riano’s ignorant statements. They are inappropriate and do nothing to improve the education of students in the school system. I hope the voters “respectfully” reject this narrow-minded candidate and keep the BOE focused on education.

  2. Yikes! Thank you Robert Harrington for speaking truth to power … in this case your own party.

  3. Robert: Your post is courageous and important; thank you for it.
    However, to point out the hideousness of Camilo (and he most certainly seems a repulsive and destructive person) and yet refuse to leave the Party of Trump, appears to paint you with the very same brush.
    Every registered Republican is a Trump MAGA drum beater and your small town courage falls far short when you refuse to leave the party that will destroy Democracy.

    • Dan, You’re way too subtle. LOL

    • We need a mainstream Republican Party. Currently they are non existent.today Tooker has no voice and is part of the illness of the Republican Party. She lacks courage to speak out. Democracy needs a strong smart reasonable Republican Party. I look forward to the day when good Republican candidates are part of the Republican Party.

    • Thank you, Mr. Harrington, for having the courage to post this. I agree with everything you said, including your rationale for staying in the Republican party. As a passionate Democrat, I didn’t used to understand how any rational and compassionate person could remain a Republican these days, but I’ve come full circle to once again believe, as I did pre-Trump, that we need at least two strong, sane parties to debate the pros and cons of issues to come up with workable compromises. I also vehemently agree with Mr. Harrington that people who slander those they don’t agree with and use unsubstantiated and/or inflammatory rhetoric (for instance, what in the world does the charged term “groomer” really mean and what specific, fact-based evidence does Mr. Camilo have that someone in town is one?) should not be put forth as candidates for either local boards or national office.

  4. Unlike Tooker Robert is courageous and honest. Why should anyone be surprised on extreme statements. The outrageous extend positions is the core of the you know who party. I can’t say it due to the blog rules.

  5. Maybe Mr. Riano would feel more at home living in the 14th District in Georgia. May I suggest Rome, Georgia where the grass is really Greene.

  6. Lynda Kommel Browne

    Really great to see that our local 06880 has a page to share “opinions” respectfully. Bringing us an “op ed” column is among the many wonderful contributions to the town 06880 makes. Thank you Dan Woog, and thank you today Robert, for speaking up respectfully, and sharing your opinions. We all want to make the town as great as it can be.

  7. As a Democrat, my comments about the “grooming” comments of Camilo would fall on deaf ears. But as an elected Republican official in our town, Robert’s comments are courageous and necessary. We have a 2 party system in our country and our town. The honest, “legitimate” , non MAGA Republicans must do exactly what Robert is doing. We need to get back to a 2 party system without the extremists in either party. We need Republicans for our system to work. And Robert is the kind of Republican that I can respect as a person but continue to disagree with in policy.

    • They say they fish rots from the head on down. The organization commonly know as the Republican Party hasn’t operated as as a conventional “political party” in many years and have no interest in doing so. By conventional I mean addressing their constituents’ concerns while operating within our legal system and respecting the rule of law. All adorable concepts but they no long exist in the former GOP.

      During their 2020 party platform, they took down their party platform. They have no policies and aren’t even attempting to pretend that they do. We’re all still waiting for the most beautiful plan ever to “repeal and replace Obamacare” but somehow that never did materialized.

      What’s their agenda now? Finding ways to “win” without compelling arguments and earning votes and instead, simply claiming any elections they did not win as illegitimate. Sound familiar?

  8. Bravo, Robert! It’s tough to stand up to extremism in one’s own party. Someone has to do it or just surrender the party to the lunatic fringe. We need at least two parties to engage in meaningful debate, but not endless meaningless conspiracy nonsense. Real leadership in the GOP would stand up to the MAGA conspiracy mongers, not just run away from saying/doing anything out of expediency or just cowardice.

    Thanks for taking a stand. Let’s all agree to keep the Camilo’s out of our town government and keep a civil debate centered on the round Earth, not the “flat” one.

  9. “grooming?”

  10. Bravo, Robert.

  11. I can’t take this MAGA, Deep State garbage anymore. I remember Ike. I liked Ike. Kim Jung Un is on a train now, as I’m writing this, to meet Putin. The only one who’ll be missing from the troika is the MAGA leader who won the 2020 election by 876 million votes. Remember Trump’s words in his Deposition of what powerful men have been doing to women for a million years?

  12. I’m glad to read Janet’s response. It demonstrates the maga extremism is not just in the south but in 06880 and throughout the USA and world. It’s why it is very important to stand up and speak out to anti democratic practice. It’s why we need to call our what party extremism and autocratic politicians they originate from. Democratic values like woman’s health care are on the ballot. Racism. Voter rights. Science and covid policies are on the ballot. Education likes Janet’s views are in the ballot. How about gun violence in schools Why dies t the Republican Party want to eliminate the AR 15 and have background checks?? Stop the silence. Do you like extreme temperature. And flooding ?

  13. Why would you enroll all four of your kids in a school system run by groomers?

  14. Mackenzie Winner Berman

    Deeply appreciative of this OpEd. Many of us (myself included) do not follow town politics as closely as we should. Thank you, Robert, for shedding light on the extremism of this candidate.

  15. It is extremely disturbing to me that Mr. Riano has used the term “grooming” in describing Mr. Scarice. Does he understand the meaning of this term? I am becoming immune to the political discord of our country, but this accusation toward Scarice has really rattled me. I am glad that Mr. Harrington has the guts to stand up and call out Riano for this slanderous comment. There is NO reason this person should be supported for a position on the BOE.

  16. Maybe Scarice should sue him personally?

  17. Robert Harrington is a rare breed politician, standing up for principal and not toeing the party line. We need that on both sides of the political spectrum. And we do need a two-party system to keep debate robust, to keep us from going too far in one direction. Categorizing anyone in the opposing party with broad brushed slurs just stirs up more hostility, making common ground solutions less likely. There are fringes on either side and no one should be carelessly and lazily thrown into those extremes because they are not in your preferred party. Keep going there Robert!

  18. This is a headline you can find if you google “Camilo Riano Westport CT”: “Reclaiming the Republic – Interview With Westport, CT Parent Camilo Riano On Sexual Grooming In Westport, CT Schools.”


    The interview can be watched here: https://creativedestructionmedia.com/video/2022/06/21/reclaiming-the-republic-interview-with-westport-ct-parent-camilo-riano-on-sexual-grooming-in-westport-ct-schools/

    Or you can read a letter he wrote to the Board of Ed here: https://creativedestructionmedia.com/investigations/2022/06/20/westport-ct-parent-shocked-at-child-grooming-happening-in-westport-schools/

    In this letter, the dancers that he is referring to were part of the PTA’s Cultural Arts program that has been in our schools for years. If you read your school news or talk to you children you would likely know about this program. They also send permission slips home for it at the beginning of the year. The objectionable movie clip shown to children was from the movie “The Greatest Showman.”

    This ugly tenor of national politics has come to our town. Please educate yourself on this candidate who wants to sit on the school board and make decisions for your children while calling our superintendent a “groomer,” a man I personally know (as a two-time past PTA President) to be of great integrity.

    • Wow.

      What was Mr. Riano thinking when he appropriated a Saugatuck Elementary School morning video to support his own rhetoric?

      If I were an SES parent and my child’s video image was unknowingly replayed on that particular website, I’d be none too pleased.

      Not very responsible of someone asking to be trusted with the educational direction of our children if you ask me!

      • Yes, I wonder if he checked with all THOSE parents and checked for THEIR consent in having THEIR child’s image taken and repurposed to support his views. I mean, he could have even cut that part out.

  19. I have known Robert Harrington for many years. We have disagreed and agreed, we have even shared apologies. Robert did the Town a wonderful service in writing about one of the two Republican candidates for the BoE. Very few, if any, issues for our Town turn on party positions since locally there are vey few Democratic or Republican issues. Robert has highlighted a concern with one of the candidates for the BoE. That concern appears valid and, for most of us, will probably result in a decision not to vote for Camilio Riano. I suppose Robert Harrington could be considered courageous. I would classify his action as reflective of a person of integrity and expect it of all of our elected officials.. Thank you Robert Harrington.

  20. Thank you Mr Harrington for speaking out!
    Your fellow Westport citizens appreciate your candor.

    I do not agree with Mr Riano’s views and it is important to me to hear what a Republican thinks about Mr Riano’s suitability for the Board of Education.

    And thank you to Ms Dillon for supplying links to Mr Riano’s interview and letter! Hearing and reading the candidates own words, without reinterpretation or spin, is fundamental to democracy!

    I will use my vote wisely and accordingly!

  21. I suppose these types of fringe candidates admire 19th century British life where children should be “seen but not heard” creating generations of emotionally repressed people, living their lives in misery.

    I have three daughters I am unimaginably proud of who all went through K-12 in Westport public schools. A big part of the kind, thoughtful and polite young women they are today was because of the values our local schools taught them, the dedicated work of their teachers and administrators and they strong bond they all had with my wife and myself as their parents.

    I feel sorry for our Schools Superintendent for having to put up with this nonsense and slanderous accusation. It seems that if there is any attempt at grooming our children it will be from those who want to prepare them for their future as characters in a non-fiction version of “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

    The answer will be at the ballot box and we must speak loudly – educate your neighbors and friends if they are unaware and let these people know that Westporters will not stand idly by in the face of these extreme views.

    Kudos once again to you Robert Harrington for educating the public – It seems you are perfect for the BOE!


    • I feel sorry for the Superintendent and the teachers in town! Hang in there. MAGA won’t be around forever. And to think I lived on South Ocean Blvd, on the same street, as this whacko.

      • We know Jack, you mention South Ocean Blvd constantly.

        • I have mentioned the address, but I’m not sure it’s “ constantly.” But I’m glad you pay attention to my comments!

      • Ahhh, Jack, ever the optomist. MAGA, I fear, will be around “forever” as Trump wins in ’24 (or some other Nazi Republican) because President Biden has a do nothing VP, presents so poorly and defends his rather decent record with the energy of a long term congregate care patient.

  23. All the residents who object to gender books and books on sex vote for the grab a P orange spectacle The quadruple indicted twice impeached sexual rapist has a wife who posed nude for money many times. Where are the call outs from the church going residents who live him?? From the temple supporters. ?

  24. Richard, He only grabs females in the crotch!! That was made clear in the 5 million dollars awarded E. Jean Carroll. Important men have been doing that for a million years!

  25. A comment by “Jeremy P.” referring to “grooming” and “strap-on sucking” was deleted, for an inability to provide a full, real name.

  26. I also deleted a comment from a “Janet Ferren,” accusing Robert Harrington of seeking publicity. That too was a fake name.

    Earlier, I deleted as well a comment accusing the fake “Janet Ferren” of being a “moron.” Let’s please stick to the topic at hand, and refrain from personal attack.s

    And again, all commenters must use full, real name. Please have the courage and courtesy to stand behind what you say. Thank you.

    • Dan, Thank you for deleting those phony comments! To get back to the subject at hand, I totally support Westport’s Superintendent and the hard-working teachers in Westport! Thanks to Mr. Harrington for your comments!

  27. Dan your blog is a fantastic benefit to 06880. It’s very hard to do what you accomplished. I disagree with you at times but I find you r blog helpful Thank you. I suggest we thank Dan and his hard work. He has to survive too.

  28. Groomer? Grooming for what? Make him answer. That is a horrible label, and I hope Westporters make this man back up that charge with facts. People are throwing insults at each other like it’s nothing. That is a serious charge and he needs to bring some facts. Not name calling. Sick of today’s political climate. So unreasonable.

  29. Two things:
    – I disagreed with Robert many times and didn’t support all his comments and actions. But Robert stands up for what is right for this town, with zero personal benefit. He has always done that. It takes a lot of courage to speak up. Even in a case like this, which seems so apparent to call out, it is easier to remain silent. Robert has a track report of concrete improvements for the town because of his courage. Leadership is a big word in our town; here is an example. Go, Robert!
    – As others have said, please support Dan Woog. I added Dan to my utility bills. 06680 blog is needed for me, like electricity, gas, or water. Please consider adding a few dollars to Dan and the other local media heroes.

  30. Potential lawsuit??? Was there harm done to the Superintendent ?? Any Attorney want to weigh in?

  31. Stephanie Frankel

    I am so proud of you Robert! Thank you for standing up for our community, our schools, our teachers, our superintendent and our students! You have put education and humanity over politics and party and that says a lot. Moms for Liberty and their ilk of bigoted hate groups have no home here in Westport. Hate has no home here in Westport! We can not be infected with disease that is going on in Florida.

  32. Stephanie Frankel

    Do Dorie and Liz actually support and endorse Camilo? If they do, it says a LOT about them!

  33. Stephanie Frankel

    Camilo has done a lot more than try to ban LGBTQ books and movies. He has accused our superintendent of being a groomer. He has made vile remarks about Westport being the seat of communism and Marxism. He contributes to conspiracy theory publications. He has filed lawsuits that cost all of us taxpayers, He is parroting extremist and hate groups. That is not defending HIS kids; that is attacking others.

  34. Thank you Robert. I don’t believe Mr Riano represents the Republican Party and I’m deeply dismayed and concerned that our RTC actually selected him to do so. He is the epitome of the extremist candidate. I also find it interesting that the other candidate is someone seemingly disengaged in our school governance. Thank you for standing up for what is right. Party aside. I’d also really like to understand who selected this slate and who supported it.

  35. The RTC selected two candidates. Mr Riano has a track record that was commented on by a sitting respected Republican Board of Ed member and Mr Riano’s own words, spoken and written, have been posted.

    I am curious about the second candidate! Jamie Fitzgerald. A sitting Republican Board of Education member stated- “I really cannot comment on Camilo’s running mate, as I have never met her or seen her at any BOE or Republican Party meetings.” So basic questions are- who is she? What are the candidates credentials? What experience related to our schools does she have? Has she been a member of a PTA? Does she have children in the school system? How could the RTC nominate a candidate that a sitting Republican Board of Ed member does even know enough about to comment on?

    Please RTC explain what your process is to pick candidates and what qualifications are you looking for in your candidates.
    Why are these your best candidates to serve our children?

    • Hi, Steve. According to their welcome email, Jamie has four kids and her youngest is now at Sacred Heart. I was a PTA President at KHS and at CMS, so I have been very involved in the schools (and actually going INTO the schools to volunteer) since my now 7th grader (my youngest) was in Kindergarten. During that time, Jamie was never a PTA President and I don’t recall seeing her at a Board meeting but that’s not to say she didn’t attend. I am curious to know her views. If she’s willing to put her name next to Camilo’s…

  36. Stephanie Frankel

    I asked Dorie and Liz directly in emails if they support and endorse Camilo Raino. I sent this email on 9/11.
    As of 6:47 am 9/12, I have still not received a response from either of them.
    I think the Westport community deserves transparency. We need to know if these other Republican school board members endorse what Camilo has said and done. If anyone on out board supports his rhetoric, we have a problem.

  37. That “grooming” word gets thrown around a lot mostly by people with no real experience with sexual violence. There are people trying to make better law regarding sexual violence and most of those efforts have been completely drown out by people loosely throwing around trigger words. Odds are somewhere in Westport some kid is struggling with the real life horrors and it seems unlikely that the path for rescuing this kid runs through the Board of Education. But just incase the path to change starts with the BoE then here’s a partial list of what they should be working on.

    1. Changing the compliance regulations surrounding SOR
    2. Plea bargaining reform.
    3. Unresolved disclosure tracking.
    4. Sentencing and statute of limitations reform.

  38. Stephanie Frankel

    If you would like to read what Camilo said about our Superintendent, you can also go to the conspiracy theory / Q Anon/ site that his beloved fans from WBP go to called : The Last Day Ministry! Beware of the rabbit hole. This site
    site is just one of his fans!

What do you think? Please comment! Remember: All commenters must use full, real names!