Who is running the city of Vergennes?

Published: Aug. 3, 2020 at 6:57 PM EDT
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VERGENNES, Vt. (WCAX) - Who is running the city of Vergennes? We're asking because more than half of the political leaders in that small city have stepped down. Our Ike Bendavid has been digging into what happened.

Right now, there are only three people sitting on the Vergennes City Council. Normally, Vergennes is governed by seven elected officials- a mayor, a deputy mayor and five councilors.

But right now that's not the case and the city's government is in disarray.

Here is what we know:

-According to the city, on July 16, the City Council went to vote to accept Mayor Jeff Fritz's resignation. But Fritz left the meeting without officially submitting his resignation, so he remained mayor.

-On July 19, Alderman Bill Benton resigned.

-Then on July 27, two more councilors stepped down-- Mark Koeing and Tara Brooks resigned. They were officially joined by Mayor Fritz who then officially resigned, leaving only three board members and a quorum couldn’t be formed.

We still don’t know what exactly led to each person stepping down, but according to the city, the July 16 meeting was called because the mayor allegedly used a text message to complain to the city manager about people feeling intimidated by the police. But according to the city, there were no specifics and the complaint was not properly filed. Once the texts went public, the mayor resigned.

I asked some local residents what they thought of the current state of the local government and this was their reaction.

"I feel I'm a group of a lot of people who are quite upset with what happened on the 16th at the meeting and are looking to see accountability have its day in the sun. That's really critical for us to move forward as a community," said Nial Rele of Vergennes.

"Yeah, I mean it's surprising but I still like living here and I hope that we can get some good people and the people that are left are decent people because it seems like it was really divided," said Aloyson Saunders of Vergennes.

A special election is scheduled for September because three councilors aren't enough for a quorum and they can only fulfill certain financial obligations on behalf of the city.

I also asked the city manager what this means in the meantime and I was told that the day to day operations should be fine and strong until the council is filled again.

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