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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Two Winooski City Council Members to Run for Mayor

Posted By on Tue, Dec 18, 2018 at 6:28 PM

Eric Covey and Kristine Lott - COURTESY PHOTOS
  • Courtesy photos
  • Eric Covey and Kristine Lott
Winooski City Councilors Kristine Lott and Eric Covey both announced Tuesday they will run for mayor.

The news came one day after Mayor Seth Leonard announced he would step down before his term is up to avoid any conflicts of interest involving his new job with the Vermont Housing Finance Agency. His term would have run until 2021.

Both contenders for the part-time job are relatively new to the city council. Neither is running with a party affiliation. 

Lott was elected in March and Covey was elected in 2017.

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Police: Burlington Man Stole Packages With Kid in Tow

Posted By on Tue, Dec 18, 2018 at 2:55 PM

Jackie Walters - COURTESY BURLINGTON POLICE DEPARTMENT
  • Courtesy Burlington Police Department
  • Jackie Walters
Burlington police arrested a man who allegedly traveled around the Queen City under cover of darkness while giving packages to a child.

But unlike Santa Claus, Jackie Walters wasn't making deliveries. The 33-year-old Burlington resident was allegedly stealing packages from homes in the city's Old North End and Hill Sections. The 11-year-old child Walters brought along was an "unwitting accomplice," according to police.

“The man had been seen roaming the city overnight, allegedly removing whatever packages he could find,” Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo wrote in a press release after Walters was arrested Tuesday morning.

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Monday, December 17, 2018

Vermont Ethics Panel Conflict Leads to Director’s Resignation

Posted By on Mon, Dec 17, 2018 at 7:41 PM

The Vermont Statehouse - DREAMSTIME
  • Dreamstime
  • The Vermont Statehouse
The Vermont State Ethics Commission has parted ways with executive director Brian Leven after less than a year, commission chair Madeline Motta announced Sunday.

While both say the decision was mutual, they disagree about what precipitated it. Leven blamed a disagreement over the panel's power, accusing its members of overstepping their authority. Motta alleged that the director wasn't performing his duties adequately.

Vermont Law School professor Larry Novins has replaced Leven as executive director, according to Motta. VTDigger.org first reported the dispute Monday.

Leven, a Stowe lawyer who previously served as deputy secretary of state, said his differences with the commission date back to August, when the body issued an advisory opinion concluding that Gov. Phil Scott had violated the state ethics code by personally financing the sale of his company, DuBois Construction. The high-profile decision was spurred by the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, which had requested the opinion. Scott later slammed the five-member commission for failing to give him the opportunity to present his case.

The commission, created by a 2017 law, is charged with reviewing and referring allegations of governmental misconduct, but it has no investigative or enforcement powers.

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Burlington Sandwich Shop King's Corner Deli to Close

Posted By on Mon, Dec 17, 2018 at 6:26 PM

King's Corner - FILE: ALICE LEVITT
  • File: Alice Levitt
  • King's Corner
King's Corner Deli will close its doors this week after a four-year run as a noontime lunch spot and go-to corner store for residents in Burlington's South End.

Owner Kathleen Donahue said that her 70-hour work weeks during the slow colder months had become unsustainable.

"I kind of just made a decision for myself that I didn't want to make that sacrifice of my time any longer," she said. The decreased traffic during a "dark and stormy" October and "wintery" November sealed the deal, Donahue said. Friday will be King's last day open.

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Citing New Job, Winooski Mayor Seth Leonard to Resign

Posted By on Mon, Dec 17, 2018 at 4:21 PM

Winooski Mayor Seth Leonard, center. - COURTESY CITY OF WINOOSKI
  • Courtesy City of Winooski
  • Winooski Mayor Seth Leonard, center.
The Winooski mayor's job is up for grabs.

Seth Leonard will step down from the post January 28 and pass the baton temporarily to city councilor and deputy mayor Nicole Mace. She'll serve until a new mayor is elected on Town Meeting Day in March. Leonard's term would have lasted until March 2021.

Leonard said he is leaving early because he has accepted a new job as managing director of community development at the Vermont Housing Finance Agency, effective January 8. The statewide organization's work could present a conflict of interest with various mayoral decisions, Leonard said, including those pertaining to affordable housing .

"Even the concern of a conflict, I think it is important that we remove that,” Leonard told Seven Days Monday.

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Friday, December 14, 2018

Burlington High School Guidance Director Has His Say at Hearing

Posted By on Fri, Dec 14, 2018 at 6:58 PM

Mario Macias turns to speak with family members at Friday's hearing. His lawyer, Francisco Guzman, stands in the background. - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • Mario Macias turns to speak with family members at Friday's hearing. His lawyer, Francisco Guzman, stands in the background.
Embattled Burlington High School guidance director Mario Macias vigorously defended his conduct Friday in a bid to keep his license.

He testified that he never behaved improperly with a student teacher at the school and that he texted her after a faculty party at ArtsRiot in Burlington only to make sure she arrived safely home. There was no sexual intent, he said.

“I love my wife. We have three kids, we have been married for 14 great years and I was offended by the accusations,” Macias said, looking over at his spouse, his father and other family members who attended the hearing.

Macias gave testimony for several hours as he defended himself against allegations of misconduct during a third day of hearings at the Vermont Agency of Education offices in Barre.

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Church Street Mural Vandalism Suspect Avoids Criminal Charges

Posted By on Fri, Dec 14, 2018 at 1:18 PM

A tarp covering the mural after the Halloween vandalism - FILE: MATTHEW ROY
  • File: Matthew Roy
  • A tarp covering the mural after the Halloween vandalism
Prosecutors have decided to hold off on charges for Eric Maier, a Burlington musician who was arrested last week on suspicion of twice defacing a controversial downtown mural.

Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George told Seven Days via email Friday that Maier’s case was referred to the Burlington Community Justice Center.

"CJC referrals are pre-charge, so he’s not officially 'charged,'" George wrote, "but we didn’t decline to prosecute it either. If [Maier] completes CJC then he won’t have to appear in court. If he does not, he will be officially 'charged' and have to appear in court."

Maier, who performed with the recently disbanded psych-pop quintet Madaila, was arrested December 5, more than a month after he allegedly used a chemical solution to destroy parts of the mural depicting Caucasian people’s faces. Margaux Higgins of Burlington was arrested November 7 on suspicion of being an accessory to the crime.

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Vallee Accuses Sanders of Seeking Legal Retribution 'To Make a Point'

Posted By on Fri, Dec 14, 2018 at 12:24 AM

Skip Vallee inside the Colchester Maplefields store - FILE: JAMES BUCK
  • File: James Buck
  • Skip Vallee inside the Colchester Maplefields store
In a federal court filing Thursday, a St. Albans fuel company accused Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) of using his government office to exact legal retribution against it for political purposes.

The company, R.L. Vallee, alleged that Sanders and his Vermont spokesman, Daniel McLean, sought to gin up a state prosecution and a class-action lawsuit after the company's CEO, Rodolphe "Skip" Vallee, produced a television advertisement attacking Sanders and his family.

A week after Vallee released the ad in September 2014, according to documents and testimony obtained by the company's lawyers, Sanders and McLean met with two members of the Vermont Attorney General's Office to discuss the senator's suspicion that the company engaged in anticompetitive practices. According to handwritten notes taken at the meeting by Assistant Attorney General Ryan Kriger, either Sanders or McLean suggested that the AG should "Bring [a] case just to make a point."

McLean emailed Kriger several times in the coming weeks to ask whether Attorney General Bill Sorrell would take action. In the end, he did not.

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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Former Burlington Guidance Counselors Describe 'Toxic' Workplace Under Director

Posted By on Thu, Dec 13, 2018 at 6:29 PM

Lance Smith (center, facing camera) testifies before Mario Macias (near right) and his attorney, Francisco Guzman (left). - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Lance Smith (center, facing camera) testifies before Mario Macias (near right) and his attorney, Francisco Guzman (left).
Ex-Burlington High School guidance counselors on Thursday described a "toxic" and "emotionally unsafe" work environment under their former boss, Mario Macias.

In a bare conference room at the Agency of Education headquarters in Barre, a three-member panel, comprised of two school administrators from other districts and a member of the public, listened to a full day of testimony from BHS educators, a student and a University of Vermont employee. It was the second day of hearings involving Macias and will continue on Friday.

Following a yearlong investigation, the Agency of Education in September cited Macias, the BHS guidance director, for allegations that include: falsifying a student transcript, creating a hostile work environment, behaving inappropriately with a college student and impeding the investigation by "inappropriately engaging" a student witness about the charges against him.
Macias, who was hired in the summer of 2016, was placed on administrative leave in September 2018 pending the conclusion of the investigation. The Agency of Education, which laid out its case on Thursday, has recommended revoking Macias' license. The panel is expected to return a decision in early 2019.

Macias did not take the stand Thursday but is expected to testify in his defense on Friday, according to his attorney, Francisco Guzman.

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Senate Backs Sanders-Sponsored Resolution to End Military Aid to Saudi Arabia

Posted By on Thu, Dec 13, 2018 at 5:21 PM

Sen. Bernie Sanders - FILE: ERIC TADSEN
  • File: Eric Tadsen
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders
The U.S. Senate passed a resolution sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that calls for the end of all U.S. military involvement in Saudi Arabia's ongoing war in Yemen.

The 56-41 vote on Thursday afternoon was a rebuke of Saudi Arabia over the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was assassinated inside the country's embassy in Turkey. Because the U.S. House has blocked debate of the resolution, the Senate vote was largely symbolic.

President Donald Trump has refused to condemn the killing, which the Central Intelligence Agency determined was likely ordered by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

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