Bennington agrees to pay $137K to Black former lawmaker, family

Published: Apr. 30, 2021 at 9:29 AM EDT
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BENNINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The town of Bennington has agreed to pay the family of a Black former state lawmaker $137,000 and issue a public apology over complaints that the Bennington Police Department didn’t adequately investigate online and other racially motivated harassment.

Morris, who was the only Black woman in the Legislature, resigned in 2018 after receiving what she said were online and other racial threats. The family later sold their home and moved out of Bennington.

In the settlement, the town will pay Morris and her family $137,500. The town also agreed to work with Vermont Legal Aid to provide some pro bono legal services, free of charge for at least five years and continue to work with the public and ACLU in providing police oversight.

During the selectboard meeting this week, Chair Jeannie Jenkins read the public apology: “No one in Bennington should feel unsafe or unprotected. We have listened to Kiah Morris, James Lawton and their family in mediation. It is clear that Kiah, James and their family felt unsafe and unprotected by the Town of Bennington. We have to do better by all persons who live in, work in or travel through the Town of Bennington irrespective of color, race, religion and other categories as protected by law...”

The selectboard and town manager did not respond to calls for comment on the settlement. Morris said she will speak more on the matter at a later date.

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