Burlington City Council postpones telecom vote

Published: Oct. 31, 2017 at 2:16 AM EDT
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Burlington City Council has postponed its decision on what to do with Burlington Telecom. After hours of discussion Monday night, the council said it would not to vote on the future of the cable and internet provider.

Councilors said they need more time and will pick up the topic Nov. 6.

It comes after Councilor Karen Paul recused herself from the vote, saying she has a conflict of interest. Paul opted for Ting in the council's last vote, and wouldn't go into detail about what the conflict is.

Councilor David Hartnett said he wanted more information about the recusal, and about the threat of a lawsuit from Citibank. Sunday, an attorney emailed the city saying the bank would sue if it chose Keep Burlington Telecom Local.

“I feel very uncomfortable tonight after what we've heard, where we're at, casting a vote,” said Hartnett. “I'm going to make a motion that we postpone action…get legal advice.”

The Keep Burlington Telecom Local cooperative is offering $12 million, but would leave Burlington a partial interest in the company.

Ting, which is a publicly-traded company based out of Toronto, is offering the Queen City $30.5 million and a full build out of the fiber system in Burlington.

The city has to sell Burlington Telecom as part of a settlement with Citibank and local investor Trey Pecor. It all goes back to a financial scandal during former mayor Bob Kiss's administration, when $17 million dollars of taxpayer money was put toward the company to keep it running.

City Hall was packed for the meeting. The public comment session lasted two hours. Community members voiced support for both offers.

“If Keep Burlington Telecom Local is my new management company, I'm done,” said Ted Adler, a Burlington resident. “It doesn't have the backbone. It doesn't have the experience.”

“Don’t sell our franchise, stay with democracy and don't let Citibank dictate what we do in Burlington Vermont,” said Joe Patalano, who also lives in Burlington.