The Kiss Administration defended its use of $17 million in taxpayer money to prop up Burlington Telecom before the city council Tuesday night. The administration insists it did nothing wrong but some councilors say that it at least looks like top officials did.
Chief administrative Officer Jonathan Leopold said Burlington Telecom had to borrow city money because the cost to install the telecommunications network was more than expected. He said BT hoped to get financing to cover those costs but when the markets collapsed that became impossible.
Leopold told city councilors he was not aware Burlington Telecom violated its Certificate of Public Good - by borrowing from the city and not paying it back within 60 days - until the fall of 2008 and would have told councilors sooner if a conflict of interest on the Board of Finance had not postponed Burlington Telecom discussions until after the March election.
"This was not done in secret and if this council didn't fully understand what the briefings were that we give I apologize," he said.
Leopold faced harsh criticism from councilors who say he and Mayor Bob Kiss violated public trust by using city money for a venture they promised would be funded fully by investors.
"And you've put yourself in the position where you've created the appearance that you've deliberately hid information," Democratic Mary Kehoe, Ward 1, told Leopold.
The toughest criticism came from Democrat Ed Adrian, who sent a letter to Mayor Kiss, Tuesday, asking that Leopold be put on unpaid administrative leave.
"The situation has gotten to the point where I think there's been enough said publicly and enough admitted to publicly that we take a closer look at this and Mr. Leopold needs to take some time off while we look at this," said Adrian.
It is a request the mayor says he will not entertain.
"there is no evidence of wrongdoing on Jonathan's part and he definitely fulfilled the role of oversight of Burlington Telecom in his capacity as CAO for the city and I think he's done a good job," Kiss said.
The city says Burlington Telecom is still a viable business. Leopold is confident it can now get financing and once it gets financed it will be able to pay the city back. Leopold says if the city decides to shut down Burlington Telecom its assets are enough that it could pay the city back after liquidation.
Friday, December 6 2013 11:05 AM EST2013-12-06 16:05:53 GMT
Vermont police have charged a Vernon man for a car crash back in June that killed his passenger.Police say Edward Class, 20, crossed the center line on Route 142 in Vernon and collided with an oncomingMore >>
Vermont police have charged a Vernon man for a car crash back in June that killed his passenger.More >>
Friday, December 6 2013 10:21 AM EST2013-12-06 15:21:30 GMT
Dozens of Vermont nurses are headed to the Philippines to help victims of a deadly storm. Last month, a typhoon tore across the eastern Philippines, killing thousands and displacing hundreds of thousands. TheMore >>
Dozens of Vermont nurses are headed to the Philippines to help victims of a deadly storm.More >>
Friday, December 6 2013 10:12 AM EST2013-12-06 15:12:36 GMT
A plea deal may be in the works for the man who police say torched a Burlington bell tower. The College Street Congregational Church was badly damaged back in October by a fire investigators say was arson.More >>
A plea deal may be in the works for the man who police say torched a Burlington bell tower.More >>
Friday, December 6 2013 10:11 AM EST2013-12-06 15:11:41 GMT
A Vermont family is homeless after fire destroyed their Concord home. Officials say the fire broke out Thursday afternoon on Ladd Road just before 4 p.m. By the time fire crews arrived on the scene theMore >>
A Vermont family is homeless after fire destroyed their Concord home.More >>
Friday, December 6 2013 10:06 AM EST2013-12-06 15:06:19 GMT
Police are looking for a Burlington man who may be behind a robbery back in November. Police say three armed men targeted the home on Summit Street the night of November 18 and took property out by force.More >>
Police are looking for a Burlington man who may be behind a robbery back in November.More >>
Friday, December 6 2013 10:03 AM EST2013-12-06 15:03:04 GMT
A welfare check turned into a dangerous situation in Brattleboro. Officers were called to Valley Street Thursday to check on a 39-year-old woman. While on the scene, police say the woman grabbed a largeMore >>
A welfare check turned into a dangerous situation in Brattleboro.More >>