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Burlington Telecommentary

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A plan aimed at making Burlington Telecom more accountable to taxpayers was put on hold last night amid fears it would jeopardize company trade secrets.

The Burlington City Council voted 7-7 not to make the city-owned cable and telephone company an official city department, effectively killing the measure for now. The council's seven Democrats voted for the change. The three Progressives, two Independents and two Republicans voted against it.

Backers of the measure, including Council President Bill Keogh, D-Ward 5, argued the current system of oversight — with two advisory panels, city department heads, city councilors and other boards all playing roles — is "dysfunctional" and needs serious overhaul.

Keogh praised Burlington Telecom ("Quality is so good on the screen, I feel I'm right at the Red Sox game") before proposing a resolution that would lay the groundwork for making it answerable to a new seven-member commission, and more transparent as a result.

Chief Administrative Officer Jonathan Leopold warned the change would put Burlington Telecom at grave risk of having trade secrets exposed — and then being buried by the competition, namely Comcast and FairPoint. Both the City Council and city commissioners have leaked confidential information in recent years, Leopold said, costing the city money and headaches. Leaking telecom information could be devastating, he said.

"I don't want to be the skunk at the tea party here, but this is very serious," Leopold said.

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