Mayor denies calling for political boycott of local businesses Crowd angered by old social media post from election night 2016
The Milford borough council, with Mayor Strub on the far right of the dais (Photo by Pamela Chergotis)
By Pamela Chergotis MILFORD — The packed room agreed on only one thing Monday night: calling for a boycott of any local business based on the owner's political beliefs is a seriously bad move — especially when it comes from the mayor. That's where the agreement ended. The Milford borough council's acting president, Meagan Kameen, was mistaken when she alluded to the police chief's demotion as the reason for the crowd. She waited for the borough attorney, Anthony Waldron, to arrive, then read a statement giving the borough's reasons for the demotion. But the police chief wasn't the main reason for the overflow audience. Only one person, Kim Reno, spoke on that subject, and it was mostly to question the procedure behind the decision to demote the chief. Instead, they wanted to hear about a social media post from more than a year ago, from the night Donald Trump was elected president. Mayor Sean Strub endeavored to explain the post he made in the recently unearthed thread. He characterized it as a discussion among gay activists lamenting Trump's election. Critics, shouting "Resign! Resign!," said they have a screen shot of the thread, which shows Strub calling for like-minded people to keep track of Trump-supporting businesses in the Milford area and to "shun" them. Strub denied ever making such a statement. His comments do not refer to any local business or any local boycott, he said. Councilwoman Annette Haar agreed. She said that when she first heard about the controversy, she was very concerned and asked Strub to show her the whole thread. "I found no evidence of shunning Milford businesses," she said. Strub said his social media criticisms were directed at "racist, sexist" people in the gay community. "You're always hardest on your own tribe," he said. The charge against Strub was led by Chuck Pranski of Westfall, who dominated the floor at borough hall Monday night. He said that as a business owner he was affected by what municipalities not his own do. When Pranski and others interrupted Strub as he tried to explain, some shouted, "Let him speak!" Eugene Murphy accused Strub of having "total recall of everybody's political affiliation." He said he spends money at every business in town without regard to the owner's religion, politics, or beliefs, and that the mayor should follow that example. Strub told the doubting crowd that he regularly patronizes businesses with owners who disagree with him politically. If he didn't, he said, he'd have very few places to shop. He also offered to send the thread to any resident who asks to see it. Email Strub at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Do not call borough hall for the string.) Last month Strub, a Democrat, won re-election with 56 percent of the vote in a challenge from Republican Nicholas May. The Courier has received a copy of the thread, which is mostly irrelevant to the issue and involves many different people. Strub does not mention local businesses in the post at the center of the controversy — "Someone needs to start a website to list them. We need it as a resource to know who to hold responsible, shun, avoid in business, etc" — but others responding to him do name local businesses that they said they will boycott. "I was in multiple (Facebook) conversations that evening and, quite frankly, didn't even see all of these posts until this issue came up and I searched to find what was being referenced," he said in an email. "I would sort of hop-scotch in and out of the thread at various times." His controversial post was taken out of context, said Strub. He said he "was writing about a group of gay peers with whom I and many others were disappointed." In fact, he said, a business owner with whom he disagrees politically, and whose business he often patronizes, was in the audience Monday night. He "came up to me afterward to express his support," Strub said. "He is a Trump voter and says I have been very helpful to his business." Editor's note: This story has been updated from the original.