South Burlington Councilor Decries 'A Mockery of Democracy'

Posted by Kevin J. Kelley on Wed, Feb 19, 2014 at 9:05 AM

Roseann Greco takes a parting shot at fellow South Burlington city councilors. - KEVIN J. KELLEY
  • Kevin J. Kelley
  • Roseann Greco takes a parting shot at fellow South Burlington city councilors.
Rosanne Greco, a retired Air Force colonel who has fought to prevent local basing of the F-35 jet, capped three turbulent years on the South Burlington city council with a verbal thrashing of most of her colleagues on Tuesday night.

Greco, who is not seeking re-election, accused three councilors of orchestrating “a mockery of democracy.” Chairwoman Pam Mackenzie and council members Pat Nowak and Chris Shaw constituted a “bloc of three” that ignored the views of many South Burlington residents and appointed political supporters to city positions, Greco charged.

“I am very concerned that this city will go back to the old way of doing business in which residents' wants were overshadowed by what big developers wanted to do in our city,” the former council chairwoman added in a prepared statement.

Greco's barbed farewell remarks demonstrated the passion and polarization that have come to characterize politics in South Burlington. The bitter battle over the F-35 was representative of a wider fissure in a changing community where aggressive liberals have challenged the suburban-style conservatism that has long prevailed.
The three councilors, who supported bringing the F-35 to the Burlington airport, wore stony expressions throughout Greco's 10-minute tongue-lashing at the start of the meeting held at the South Burlington police station. Each of the three then spoke graciously about the woman who had just said she was “profoundly disappointed” in their behavior.

Noting that in her council tenure she has met some “strong, independent women,” Mackenzie turned to Greco and added, “You certainly are that.”

Nowak offered “kudos to Rosanne,” telling her, “I do appreciate your enthusiasm, all the dedication you've given.”

Shaw thanked Greco for her service, while noting his disagreement with her stands against the F-35 and in support of an interim zoning initiative that has limited development in South Burlington. “She certainly lacerated me when we were not on the same page with those things,” Shaw said.

Greco's complaints were based on specific instances she cited in which “the bloc of three” had allegedly failed to listen to residents' opinions.
Some residents react with supportive applause, other with silence, as Roseann Greco blasts fellow councilors. - KEVIN J. KELLEY
  • Kevin J. Kelley
  • Some residents react with supportive applause, other with silence, as Roseann Greco blasts fellow councilors.

She recalled that after Nowak's and Shaw's election victories last year, a council majority “immediately agreed” to a request by one of their supporters to reconsider the body's stated opposition to the F-35. But a few weeks later, Greco added, the three councilors rejected requests that the scheduled session on the F-35 be postponed for two days to allow a panel of experts to present information on the effects of aircraft noise on children.

“How can members of a legislative body choose to remain uninformed?” Greco asked. “Educating oneself before making a decision should be an obligation.”

Shaw had said the four women requesting the delay were troublemakers and “an embarrassment,” Greco continued. “I was ashamed to be part of a council whose chair tolerates this level of disrespect to its residents.”

Mackenzie, upon taking over as council chair last year, immediately “usurped her authority,” Greco added, by replacing the heads of interim-zoning committees with her political allies.

The set of councilors who will conduct city business following the March 4 local elections should “put their personal and business interests aside for the needs of the residents,” Greco advised. “Listen to the people and do what the people want. Stop disregarding the democratic process and stop ignoring the residents.”

Left and right will again collide at the polls in South Burlington on March 4. Tracey Harrington is running, with Greco's support, against Mackenzie for a three-year council seat that is also being sought by former councilor Paul Engels, an F-35 opponent. Meaghan Emery, another former councilor who has also fought the F-35, will meanwhile face Mike Simoneau, an ally of the “bloc of three,” in a race for a two-year seat.

Harrington offered a preview on Tuesday of the confrontations that could ensue if she wins a council seat. In a public comment session, she accused Mackenize, Nowak and Shaw of violating the state's open meeting law. The three councilors had earlier recounted their attendance at a meeting last Saturday at which South Burlington's candidacy for a Georgetown University energy prize was discussed. The presence of the three constituted a “council quorum,” Harrington said, adding that the public should have been notified in advance of such a gathering.

The councilors said they had not been aware of that requirement.

Comments (5)

Showing 1-5 of 5

The "aggressive liberals" on the Board want to conserve agricultural land which, looking at the major drought in the west, is probably very wise. They also wanted to conserve housing for residents as well as their hearing and health. We really need some new terms here Kevin. Today's "conservatives" are generally climate stupid and aggressive supporters of anything military even when it is a malfunctioning grossly over budget flying Titanic that many pilots do not want to fly. They want to use up land in idiotic development schemes that continually leave us with empty malls and mini malls one chain replacing another rather than conserve our land and water resources.

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Posted by artemix on 02/20/2014 at 11:10 AM

City Council candidate Tracey Harrington has already begun publicly making accusatory statements about current Council members. Why would I vote for a candidate who begins her campaign with threatening, accusatory comments about her potential future teammates? No vote from me.

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Posted by Local Fan on 02/20/2014 at 9:46 AM

There are no coincidences..... Mackenzie's FIRST day as Council Chair 3/11 ( to watch) she appoints friend Lisa Ventriss who serves on VPT Board with Mackenzie) as Chair of a Mackenzie created Blue Ribbon Committee, no discussion at any City Council Meetings about any other options! Shaw & Nowak undaunted this move by a Dictator, no objections or comments?Had the Block of 3 met outside of City Council meetings to agree on changing chairs of committees, and firing the old chairs publicly, appointing Ventriss as Chair of the Blue Ribbon? Seems odd doesn't it, that a Chair would dictate several items at the FIRST meeting she Chaired without discussing with ANYONE? How and why would the Chair believe that ALL 4 of the other Councilors would permit such decisions with NO discussion? She was bold and confidant. Why because the decisions probably HAD been discussed in violation of open meeting law within the "Block of 3".
The public attending, did notice and commented about lack of transparency, the importance of open discussion and considering all options. The comments were ignored, even taking a vote with a woman who did comment that, THIS looks like a "political decision". The "Block of 3" have the mistaken impression that winning the vote last year means they have a voter mandate to make decisions outside of public view and in violation of open meeting law. That's simply wrong.

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Posted by Roz Slater on 02/19/2014 at 6:56 PM

It's more of a coincidence that there are managers in government and nonprofits who shouldn't be there, and most councilors and board members turn their heads and do nothing in order to avoid just this type of controversy and aggravation. It's a real pleasure to see there are board chairs and city councilors who are willing to stick their necks out and hold managers accountable in spite of a great deal of institutional pressure to say and do nothing. I think John King of VPT should have resigned, Sandy Miller was of the same ilk and should have been fired much sooner. There are plenty of good, decent people who are available to manage business and personnel in a professional and productive manner. We all need to stop tolerating misbehavior and the unseemly shenanigans that go on because these managers feel nobody will do anything about it.

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Posted by Penelope on 02/19/2014 at 2:51 PM

Hmmm, SB City Council and VPT Board share a member and are having similar problems. Coincidence?

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Posted by bingodolly on 02/19/2014 at 10:58 AM
Showing 1-5 of 5

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