Thursday’s delayed Brattleboro Selectboard meeting almost seemed like a last-minute confessional. In the movie version it would have gone like this:
Board: “Forgive us, voting public, for we have committed the sin of omission. When we said it was about the one letter from Rescue, it wasn’t the full story…” (Cue ominous music)
I’m not sure if it was the late hour, or a lack of air conditioning on a hot evening, or an impending sense of guilt, but moments before the the meeting was to wrap up, (with the next steps being a public information session then a board vote on EMS services,) board members revealed that they had other, important information that they have been keeping from the public.
Very late into a long meeting, former Chair Liz McLoughlin said that she could no longer allow Rescue to “control the narrative” and that it was time for the Town to tell the full story.
Daniel Quipp agreed that everyone should have the same information, as did Peter Case. Both of them said they would be uncomfortable voting without the public knowing the full story of what they know.
Franz Reichsman liked the idea in general but felt it didn’t fit into the timeline to be voting at their next meeting. He ultimately voted against sharing the information the board knows with the public.
Chair Ian Goodnow was clearly upset that the official “it was the letter” story was starting to fall apart, and reminded the board multiple times that they all knew that the Town Attorney has advised them not to share this information with the public. He joined Franz in voting against being fully open with everyone.
This leaves me with many thoughts:
– If Liz hadn’t cracked, Daniel and Peter may not have said anything. The entire board seemed ready and willing to go vote on town EMS services based on secret information kept from public knowledge. Amazing.
– Ian’s comments make it appear that the Town Attorney has been advising the board to use the story about the letter from Drew as the reason for the breakdown, rather than to tell the public the full reasons why they were ending the Rescue contract.
– The Reformer, VT Digger, The Commons, iBrattleboro, radio stations, members of the public and others have all been asking for the full story since day one. Everyone was told that the letter was the reason and cause. We just learned that wasn’t fully true.
– Again, the board had intended to keep this secret. They were nearing a vote without ever saying anything about these other issues they have with Rescue.
– One might guess that the Fire Department attendance at Executive Sessions may have involved sharing stories with the board that aren’t shared with the public.
– Board members have been pretending, until now, to be fully open with the public. They had backroom criteria they were using that the public wasn’t told about until now.
– A member of the public offered professional mediation services and the board appeared to ignore this offer.
– This is a very weird way to handle an RFP process.
– It is hard to imagine the Town Attorney agreeing to this new desire of board members to air differences in public. He might allow a carefully crafted written statement to be released. We may still not really learn the truth.
– It seems as if the Town is about to spend a majority of the ARPA funds on EMS because the FD has issues with Rescue and the board can’t resolve those issues. That would be an expensive way to solve an interoperability issue, given the free mediation offer above.
– Admitting that secret information is influencing decision-making is useful for the public to know.
As much as the board would like to wrap this up, they have dropped an important bombshell at the last minute. We may just be getting started here. Finally.