Newport community members rally behind recently resigned mayor

Newport Mayor Beth Barnes resigned on Monday, claiming she was bullied and threatened by city councilor members.
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 11:23 PM EDT
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NEWPORT, Vt. (WCAX) - Newport Mayor Beth Barnes resigned on Monday, claiming she was bullied and threatened by city councilor members. Some community members are calling her departure shocking and saddening. On Wednesday, dozens of them rallied demanding accountability for their local leaders.

Jay Walsh was one of nearly 50 people rallying to support Barnes. In her letter to the council and community, Barnes says she was berated, intimidated, bullied, and threatened by council members. Walsh is her neighbor and says their behavior had been occurring since she was elected in March.

“It’s really unconscionable anyone coming into a position of mayor or council member has been addressed the way she has,” Walsh said.

A number of people living in Newport and neighboring Derby say they aren’t surprised. They pointed to slow progress when it comes to community development and a lack of turnover among key leadership. “I’ve lived here for 40 years and nothing has changed and they’re proud of that,” said Esme West of Derby. “When Beth was elected I thought [it was] a chance. And after 75 days of bullying, intimidation, and threats, she’s gone.”

“To basically disenfranchise the voters of Newport by making life miserable for her -- that’s wrong,” said George Tertertian of Derby. “That can’t stand.”

Barnes was at the rally on Thursday but did not go into the specifics of what happened with council members behind closed doors. “I don’t intend to stop doing things that benefit the city,” Barnes said. “Even though I’m not mayor in title, I still have that mayor spirit. I’ll still be out in the community with my enthusiasm.”

Longtime Newport Mayor Paul Monette said in an email to WCAX Thursday that the situation is unfortunate. He says he didn’t share the same experience with the council as Barnes, just a few disagreements here and there. Monette also pointed out the poor timing of Barnes’ departure. City Manager Laura Dolgin’s last day is June 2nd, and no replacement has been found for her, though it’s expected she’ll stay as a consultant until one is. That means in less than one week, the city will be without an official manager or mayor. Dolgin says there are no fireworks behind her departure but that it’s a planned retirement.

No announcements have been made about a special election to fill Barnes’ position. Barnes says if there is, she will not be running again.

Channel 3 reached out to Dolgin and every member of the city council to ask about the allegations being made and what comes next. Dolgin says she’s unable to comment on the issue. No council members responded to the request for comment.

The next meeting of the Newport City Council is on June 5th.

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