Brattleboro petitions seek removal of selectboard members

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(Host) In Brattleboro, petitions are circulating that call for the removal of three of the town’s five selectboard members.

The petition drive is the latest response to a series of budgetary revelations that have angered some residents.

VPR’s Susan Keese reports:

(Man) “Where do I sign?”
(Pat DeAngelo) “You sign right there.”

(Keese) Former selectboard member Pat DeAngelo says she started the petitions out of frustration. She’s one of about a hundred citizens who called recently for Jerry Remillard, the longtime town manager, to resign.

But Remillard says he won’t step down. And the selectboard has declined to ask for his resignation. DeAngelo says the town manager is technically answerable only to them.

(DeAngelo) “And they have cause to remove him at this point. But these particular three board members are supporting him and they are the majority on the board. Therefore we have to have a recall.”

(Keese) Kevin Yager is one of the three the petitioners are singling out for recall.

He says the board hopes the newly hired town finance manager will sort out the town’s finances.

(Yager) “And I think removing the town manager at this point would not solve the situation or contribute positively necessarily to resolving the issues that we’re facing now with the budget.”

(Keese) The problems started surfacing last winter after former town finance director Barbara Vinci resigned without explanation. A budget shortfall led to the discovery that a reserve fund had been depleted without the required Town Meeting authorization.

Later the town found out it had a half million dollar deficit in the utility budget. And that means an increase in water and sewer fees.

The town also apparently overspent by at least a million dollars on its new parking garage. And there’s the issue of a missing contract for work done on that project.

The multimillion dollar garage was funded in part by a federal grant which is also supposed to help pay for renovations to the town’s rail station.

Town Manager Remillard says he hopes an independent audit will help sort that project out.

(Remillard) “I certainly understand people’s anger. And we’ve said that there’s a multitude of reasons why this happened. One of those reasons, I’ve been very upfront about, is that there could have been more oversight and you know that was my responsibility.”

(Keese) Remillard says the town has already begun correcting the situation. But he says closer scrutiny of budgets and procedures could uncover additional problems.

Officials have scheduled an informational town meeting for July 25th.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

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