Seven Days Countersues Burlington School District in Records Case | Off Message

Seven Days Countersues Burlington School District in Records Case


The Burlington Technical Center is located at Burlington High School. - FILE: OLIVER PARINI
  • File: Oliver Parini
  • The Burlington Technical Center is located at Burlington High School.
Seven Days has filed a countersuit against the Burlington School District seeking attorney fees and other costs accrued during a public records dispute.

The newspaper originally filed a public records request in June for the district’s resignation agreement with Adam Provost, the former Burlington Technical Center interim director. Provost resigned in January, citing medical reasons, after he spent months on administrative leave, WCAX-TV reported at the time.

When members of the media or citizens request public documents, government entities typically either release the documents or explain why, under the law, they will not.

In this instance, the school district notified Provost of Seven Days’ records request. Through an attorney, the former school administrator consented only to the release of a redacted version of the agreement, the district said in documents filed in Vermont Superior Court in Burlington. The district, which took the position that the full record should be released, then took Provost to court — and also named Seven Days as a defendant. The district wants a judge to review the records and determine whether the agreement should be released in full.

Filing a lawsuit against a news outlet seeking records is highly unusual, as is asking a judge to decide, at that stage, which information is public.

Provost’s attorney, Craig Weatherly, has urged the court to dismiss the suit and force the district to pay his client's fees and costs.

“BSD has, by its conduct with and response to Seven Days, breached its contractual obligation to Mr. Provost, has unclean hands as a result, and should be denied the relief it seeks,” Weatherly wrote in court documents dated July 9.

During a July 31 case status conference, Judge Robert Mello gave Provost until September 28 to file his opposition to the disclosure of the agreement and ordered Seven Days and the school district to reply to Provost’s opposition by October 18.

In its counterclaim, dated August 9, Seven Days requested attorney fees and other costs, as well as the resignation agreement.

“In violation of the Vermont Public Records Act, [the school district] declined to grant the request in its entirety, effectively denying it,” Seven Days’ attorney Tom Little wrote in the court filing.

Weatherly did not respond to a request for comment, nor did an attorney for the Burlington School District.

Read the entire counterclaim and answers below:

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