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Hampton Board of Selectmen vote no-confidence in Selectman Regina Barnes

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Hampton Selectman Regina Barnes was the subject of a no-confidence vote on Dec. 7, after making social media posts that some saw as inappropriate and offensive.

Hampton’s Board of Selectmen officially stated a lack of confidence in one of their own members, after a no-confidence vote against Selectman Regina Barnes passed 3-2 on Dec. 7. Barnes faced public scrutiny for weeks after multiple posts on her personal Facebook accounts were seen as offensive.

The initial post that elicited criticism was a Facebook posting on Sept. 11, where Barnes posted a meme that read, “If you can pretend Bruce Jenner is a woman & Kamala Harris is black, then you can definitely pretend I am wearing a mask." Barnes was also criticised for posts comparing mask mandates to “gas chambers” and calling the Black Lives Matter movement “burn, loot, and murder.”

A petition calling for her to step down garnered over 600 signatures from community members. Selectboard Chairman Jim Waddell said that he saw the petition signed by people he knew and respected.

“I think if somebody’s got 480 signatures [as of Nov. 30] against them on a petition because of inappropriate and disgusting remarks, and there’s no other way to put it, that were made on Facebook, I don’t think that’s following the code of ethics one little bit,” Waddell said. “[her comments] are below the standard of decency that’s expected of this board.”

Barnes, however, pointed out that the code of ethics is nonbinding and called for it to be removed from the Selectmen's handbook, claiming it violated her First Amendment rights.

“We don’t have to follow it, now, do we?” Barnes said.

At the Dec. 7 meeting, Waddell then made the motion for a no-confidence vote, which passed 3-2. Selectmen Rusty Bridle and Chuck Rage joined Waddell in voting yes.

“[Hampton] is not bigoted, it is not homophobic, it’s none of those things,” Waddell said. “I’m going to make a motion that this board take a vote of no-confidence in Selectman Barnes’ ability to serve.

Selectmen Barnes and Mary-Louise Woolsey voted against the no-confidence declaration.

“In what fashion does this have anything to do with our jobs sitting here?” Mary-Louise Woolsey replied as she voted no. “That’s why we have elections, Mr. Chairman.”

This isn’t the first time in the past few years Hampton residents have called for a vote of no-confidence through a petition. Last year, a petition was presented to the SAU 90 school board calling for former Superintendent Kathleen Murphy’s resignation after her handling of a hostile work environment claim involving the Hampton Academy principal. Although a vote was never held, Murphy decided to resign her position the following year.

Unlike the superintendent, however, a selectman is an elected official and cannot be removed from office via a no-confidence vote. Many Winnacunnet students signed the petition, including senior Juliana Soucy.

“I signed the petition because it’s important for people to make changes like this in our town, as it can be a small step to stopping homophobia, transphobia, and racism,” Soucy said. “I was disappointed that someone who is supposed to be a professional went out of their way to make hateful, racist, and transphobic remarks.”

Winnacunnet alumni also were very prevalent on the petition, including last year’s Student Body President, Jack Taylor.

“Fascists and bigots have no place in our local government,” Taylor commented with his signature on the petition.

Since the no-confidence vote, Barnes continued to post similar content on her social media, including about the 2020 election.

“Patriots are praying tonight that President Trump will impose martial law in disputed states,” Barnes reposted on Instagram. “Our country must learn TRUTH of 20/20 [sic] election.”

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In a recent Instagram posting, Hampton Selectman Regina Barnes called for President Trump to impose "martial law" in key swing states where election results were disputed.

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