Burlington School District Billed Nearly $3,000 for Racial Bias Investigation | Off Message

Burlington School District Billed Nearly $3,000 for Racial Bias Investigation


  • File: Molly Walsh
  • Yaw Obeng
The investigation into a case of alleged racial bias involving the Burlington School Board cost $2,826 — and the findings are not yet public.

Private investigator Daniel Troidl worked 33.25 hours on the inquiry and charged the district $85 an hour, according to a bill that Seven Days obtained Monday through a public records request. City taxpayers must pay the tab. But so far, Troidl's report is not being made public.

Troidl investigated former board member Mark Porter's claim that board member Jeff Wick made racially biased statements during a private conversation. Wick denies that.

On Monday, superintendent of schools Yaw Obeng put off a decision on whether to release the report in response to a Seven Days public records request. Normally, a response is required within three days.

Obeng cited an extension clause under Vermont public records law that allows a delay when additional consultation “among two or more components” of an agency is needed.

"We do not anticipate needing the entire 10 days allowed by the statute and expect to substantively respond to you in advance of such a deadline, which would now be April 18th," Obeng wrote.

Troidl is a former Vermont State Police investigator who now works as a private detective, looking into allegations of fraud, employee misconduct, theft and other matters. His firm, DT Investigators, is based in South Hero.

His bill to Burlington referred to an investigation into "discrimination based on protected characteristics."

Originally, school board members suggested the investigation was necessary because Obeng had filed a formal complaint of discrimination connected to the Porter allegation. Last week Obeng clarified that he raised concerns but did not file a formal complaint.

Wick released a statement Friday that said, in part:

"I’d also like to reaffirm my commitment to the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion in our school district and to express my support of our school district’s efforts to focus on closing the achievement gap that exists among students."

He added: "One of the biggest challenges we face both nationally and locally is the issue of racial justice. I believe we, myself included, have to face this challenge with great humility and constant vigilance and I fully support the outgoing school board’s recommendation that the new school board receive implicit bias training."

Attorney Joe McNeil has also done related work for the district and has not sent his bill yet, according to Obeng.