The Burlington police union has accused City Council President Max Tracy (P-Ward 2) of silencing opposing viewpoints and “cherry picking what narrative he would like to push forward” during public forums at council meetings — allegations that Tracy, a mayoral candidate, strenuously denies.
Cpl. Tyler Badeau, president of the Burlington Police Officers’ Association, said he signed up to speak during Monday night’s council meeting, before councilors failed to overturn a mayoral veto of a proposal to bolster citizen oversight of police.
He had intended to read a statement from the union in support of Mayor Miro Weinberger’s veto of the Progressive-backed plan, which sought to create a new “community control board” to investigate and discipline cops for misconduct. Despite signing up five hours before the meeting started, Badeau said that Tracy never called on him.
"If [Progressive councilors] were truly interested in governing correctly, they would allow equal time during the public forum for all voices, and they're not," Badeau said. "Max isn’t interested in governing. He’s interested in his agenda."
People sign up for public forum using a form on the city website. The names are funneled into a master spreadsheet, which Tracy rearranges to put people who self-identify as Black, Indigenous and other people of color at the top. Tracy also calls on Burlington residents before people who live out of town.
Badeau, who is white and lives outside of Burlington, said Tracy’s practice effectively suppresses other viewpoints.
"Max ... has prioritized BIPOC voices, so anyone with a dissenting opinion that's contrary to his own will likely be pushed down to the bottom," Badeau said.
"I'm not a person of color,” he continued. “Therefore, according to Max Tracy, my opinion is not equally as valid.”
Tracy said he was appalled by Badeau’s comments, which insinuated that “all people of color coming to public forum are going to represent the same viewpoint, which is obviously racist.” He noted that a Black resident spoke against the control board plan on Monday.
Only about 50 people who signed up were able to speak given the meeting’s time constraints. Each speaker had two minutes — though many ran over their time — and the public forum lasted two hours, which is common practice unless councilors agree to extend it. The body has done that several times during discussions of hot-button issues.
Badeau’s name appeared 81st out of 140 names on Monday's spreadsheet.
Tracy said he would have called on Badeau if he’d recognized the officer’s name. Further, Badeau didn’t note his affiliation with the police union, and used his personal email address to sign up. He also left blank the section of the form that asks which topic he wanted to discuss, and indicated he doesn't live in Burlington, the spreadsheet shows.
Tracy said there’s “no merit” to Badeau’s claims.
“I did not intentionally make it such that he could not participate,” Tracy said. “He signed up too late, and we weren’t able to accommodate all the speakers last night.”
In a statement posted to its Facebook page on Tuesday, the union charged that Tracy arbitrarily ended Monday’s public forum to discourage other feedback.
“It is clear that Council President Tracy only encourages participation when it drives his own agenda,” the union wrote. “This contradiction of Council President Tracy's spoken word versus his actions speaks volumes to the members of the BPOA and we hope it does to the residents of the City as well.”
The statement took the same tone as one the union posted to Twitter in June, during talks about cutting the police force. The union called the plan “radical and dangerous” and said councilors were more concerned with making “catchy headlines” than considering the ramifications of their decisions.
Tracy said he "absolutely" thinks the union's latest missive targets him because he's running for mayor. One of his opponents, fellow councilor Ali Dieng (I-Ward 7), joined the union in slamming Tracy — and took the opportunity to do a little campaigning of his own.
"Completely unacceptable from Max for Mayor," Dieng wrote in a comment on the post. "I am the change you seek."
The union has not endorsed a mayoral candidate, but its statement made clear its position on the Progressive party. In the one-page letter, the union accused the caucus of politicizing police discipline and refusing to collaborate with Weinberger on his proposed oversight measures.
Among the letter signers was Officer Joseph Corrow, the union vice president and one of the cops that protesters have demanded the city fire for alleged excessive force used during the 2018 arrest of a young Black man.
Council Progressives “are only concerned with the selfish pursuit of their own interests which come at the expense of public safety,” the statement reads. “This is not governance for the people by the people. This is activism with an agenda.”
Tracy said that cops "who are following the rules" should have no reason to fear additional oversight. He said his caucus is committed to collaborating with the mayor on a new proposal.
“There's a real need to create greater accountability and transparency,” he said. “What we're trying to do is to create a public safety system that works for all.”