Jonathan Leopold, Burlington's chief administrative officer — and a powerful force in City Hall since Bernie Sanders was mayor — announced today that he will resign in June.
In a letter to Mayor Bob Kiss, Leopold (pictured) cites "serious health problems" resulting from a 2007 car accident as the main reason for his departure. He also acknowledges his highly criticized role in the Burlington Telecom scandal, saying he doesn't want his presence to "polarize" Burlington any further.
"I regret the difficulties the city has faced as a result of the BT controversy and I hope the city is able to resolve these issues," he wrote.
(Full text of Leopold's resignation letter below).
In a press release, Kiss stated that he has accepted Leopold's resignation "with regret" and thanked him for his "hard work and personal commitment to the City throughout his career."
Kiss credits Leopold with management of the budget that resulted in "5 straight fiscal years of a level general services tax rate and an increase in the City’s undesignated reserve fund from $75,000 to over $5 million. Jonathan has also built a strong management team in the Clerk-Treasurer’s Office which will ensure a successful transition,” Kiss said in the statement.
Leopold came under serious pressure after revealing in 2009 that the city had loaned $17 million to prop up struggling Burlington Telecom — a violation of the utility's "certificate of public good" issued by the state.
Photo by Jordan Silverman
(Background: Click here to read Kevin Kelley's 2007 cover story "King Leopold." Click here to read Kevin Kelley's March 2010 cover story "City on Wire" about the BT fiasco. Click here to read Shay Totten's wrap-up of BT's very bad, no good 2010.)
As the fallout from that improper loan snowballed, Leopold resisted calls for his ouster and suspension by angry city councilors and a ballot initiative that would have let Burlingtonians vote on whether to fire him. More recently, Leopold was denied immunity by the Vermont Supreme Court in a citizen lawsuit that seeks to recover the $17 million loaned to Burlington Telecom.
In his resignation letter, Leopold admits he could have handled the BT issue better.
"In hindsight, I believe that that we could have made a more complete disclosure of the violation of Condition 60 when we first learned of it in November 2008," he wrote. "That resulted in an unfortunate division within the city. I believe it is time for Burlington to come together and move forward. I do not want my continued role as Chief Administrative Officer to polarize the city further or hinder progress in addressing the challenges of the future."
Here's the full text of Leopold's letter of resignation:
April 13, 2011
Dear Mayor Kiss:
After considerable thought, I have decided to resign my position as Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Burlington. Thus, I request that you not nominate me for re-appointment this June.
As you know, I have had serious health problems the past three years arising from a car accident in 2007. It has been challenging and difficult to recover and also fulfill my responsibilities as Chief Administrative Officer. We have strengthened the management of the Clerk/Treasurer’s Office this year and I feel that it is time to pass the baton to new leadership.
I have been committed to and worked for our community for nearly 30 years. I have strived to do my best to serve and protect the City's interests and am proud of the success of this administration to address the challenges the City faced in 2006. We have rebuilt the City’s financial reserves, maintained a stable tax rate, improved the status of the retirement system, repaved City streets, strengthened Burlington’s energy sufficiency and improved City services and programs. I truly love Burlington and want to assure that it continues to prosper.
Over the past several years, these successes have been overshadowed by the Burlington Telecom controversy. As you have stated many times, BT is an extraordinary asset that will serve as a foundation of a vibrant economic future for the City. The City’s efforts to overcome the financial and legal problems have been daunting but worth the effort.
I regret the difficulties the City has faced as a result of the BT controversy and I hope the City is able to resolve these issues. In hindsight, I believe that we could have made a more complete disclosure of the violation of Condition 60 when we first learned of it in November 2008. This has resulted in an unfortunate division within the city.
I believe it is time for Burlington to come together and move forward. I do not want my continued role as Chief Administrative Officer to polarize the City further or hinder progress in addressing the challenges of the future. I will work with you to develop a sound budget for FY 2012 and to provide a smooth transition
I greatly appreciate the opportunity you provided me to serve the City again. It has been an honor to work with you and the many fine City employees. Your confidence and support has been sustaining. I wish you and the City well and ask that you accept my resignation effective July 1, 2011.
Jonathan P. A. Leopold, Jr.
Chief Administrative Officer