N.H legislator 91 year old Martin Harty resigns, admits job was confusing

Paula Duffy's picture

Martin Harty, 91 resigned from his post as a freshman legislator in New Hampshire after saying the mentally ill should be shipped to Siberia.

The remarks were made on a telephone call between Harty, a Republican representative from Barrington and Sharon Omand, a program manager at Community Partners, which provides behavioral health and developmental services for Strafford County.

His comments came to light last week during testimony at a hearing on proposed cuts to the state budget. Harty opined that perhaps the way to deal with what he considers an never ending problem of mental illness, particularly among homeless is to ship them to Siberia without a return ticket.

The UK Daily Mail reported that when asked to explain how he could have thought those comments were appropriate to share with someone seriously interested in the issue of mental illness, Harty said, "I said we’ve got to do something about them, and I don’t know how to do it.’I said maybe they can rent a spot in Siberia off of Russia. She called me an Adolf Hitler and hung up on me. I never mentioned Hitler, it was her idea to use that name.’"

The Manchester Union-Leader reported that after the comments were publicly discussed the heat started to get cranked up on the freshman legislator. After receiving Harty's resignation letter on Monday, Speaker of the House William O'Brien told media, "We both agreed that this is what is best for the House to move forward and focus on critical issues, like balancing our budget without raising taxes and giving voters an opportunity to pass a school funding amendment to ensure local control."

That followed earlier support given to Harty by O'Brien due to his age and service to his country during World War II that apparently was used as a way to ameliorate the situation. "While he has earned the right to say what he thinks, needs to appreciate that, as a representative, he will be held to a higher standard."

Needless to say, the Democratic leadership in the N.H. House of Representatives had something to say about the situation. Decrying the fact that GOP Speaker O'Brien's refused to criticize Harty directly, House Minority Leader Terie Norelli told the Union-Leader: "The remarks made by Rep. Harty last week hurt thousands of New Hampshire families across the state, and Speaker Bill O'Brien has been silent on this issue. What is even more troubling is that the Speaker and Republicans in the House are putting these words into action by proposing cuts that will be damaging to the mentally ill, disabled, and children."

Harty had no explanation for having publicly aired his thought in this manner other than to complain that he was new at is job. "So far I really don't know what I'm doing . The few votes I've made so far I really didn't know what I was voting for or against. Just looked at the people around me and went along with them." It wasn't immediately clear what Harty's platform was comprised of when he ran for election this past November.

"I was just getting the hang of it some, but with all the slightly unfavorable publicity I've been getting the last few days, I'll never be an effective lawmaker. So I herby (sic.) submit my resignation form the House. Sorry my big mouth caused this furor." One has to admit his candor made for a great apology statement for those of us who are used to mealy mouthed mea culpas that never actually admit anything said was incorrect or wrong.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons, New Hampshire legislature

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