City Councilor Jason LaForest had sent Emily Bryant a text with clapping hands and the hashtag "hottie" in 2019. Bryant, who is married, posted the message and her response (which started with "Dude, don't go there ...") to the North Adams Chat group.
LaForest in his public apology on Facebook (with a Jason LaForest for Mayor logo) wrote that Bryant was someone he was "acquainted with briefly" in 2019 and he had sent the post in response to a workout selfie she'd posted as a compliment.
"While the sole intent of this message was one of encouragement and support, it was obviously perceived otherwise, and I wish to extend my sincere apology to her," he wrote.
LaForest does not address Bryant's other complaint against him — that he, a licensed practical nurse, discussed with other people her postpartum depression after a complicated birth and making comments about her in public. This information allegedly came from someone close to him.
Bryant's post was removed (and reposted and removed) after administrators for the page said they had been threatened with a lawsuit. Bonnie Sunn, one of the administrators, posted on Feb. 26 they had been split on keeping the post up.
"Some of us decided that the public figure in a position of power should have accountability. The subject of this post decided to block the administrators instead of having a conversation. He is now threatening to sue us if we don't remove all posts and comments related to the accusation," Sunn wrote.
WAMC Public Radio on Tuesday spoke with a number of people about the allegations and posted comments that LaForest made to chat page administrator Sher Bernasconi, which included that he had dated one of Bryant's friends and "this nothing more than an opportunistic and silly way to get back at me, even thought it's not her place to do so."
The friend LaForest was referring to is Stefani Forrest, who has backed up Bryant's claims in Facebook posts. LaForest told Bernasconi it was a lie.
WAMC's Josh Landes spoke to City Councilors Jessica Sweeney and Keith Bona, with Sweeney saying she had tried to mediate between Bryant and LaForest and that he had turned down the chance to apologize. Bona told WAMC that LaForest "was seeing" different women and that weighed on the council in relation to his pitch in 2019 to be elected council president. Neither Bona nor any other councilors referenced LaForest's relationships at the time and he was elected as vice president.
After LaForest's public apology, Bryant posted on her Facebook page:
"Let me start off by saying I will give him credit for apologizing for one issue with him I've addressed," she said. "It's taken almost a full week to get him to admit to any wrongdoing, and the messages he has addressed are only one small piece to this puzzle."
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