BURLINGTON - Observant readers of this week's Seven Days calendar may notice an odd conjunction of events - namely, two conflicting meetings of the Burlington Green Party scheduled for Sunday, February 4, in different rooms of the Fletcher Free Library. No, it's not an error, but a sign of the recent schism in the party's local leadership.
Steve Eckberg, who currently chairs the Burlington Greens, scheduled the 1-3 p.m. meeting in the library's Community Room, which is listed under the cryptic heading "Black Bloc." Eckberg alleges that a rival faction of the party, led by former party chair Owen Mulligan, is running a "fraudulent website," www.burlingtonvtgreens.org. He also claims Mulligan's group is "illegally" collecting campaign contributions from the public and "illegitimately" running candidates on the Green Party ballot line for the March 6 Town Meeting Day election.
"He has no legal authority to do all this," Eckberg asserts. "Their candidates are not running on a Green Party ballot line. I'm the legal chair as recognized by the Vermont secretary of state. We have a legal treasurer, and Owen Mulligan refuses to recognize any of this."
Not so, says Mulligan, backed up by Vermont Green Party co-chair Craig Hill. According to Mulligan, he was elected executive director of the Burlington Green Party at a January 4 meeting and has scheduled the real Green Party meeting for 2-4 p.m. in the library's Pickering Room.
"I decided to hold Steve accountable for the way he was treating membership," Mulligan says. "He has a habit of sending emails to members that disagree with him." Mulligan asserts that in the last year he's received numerous complaints about Eckberg's conduct, including his use of obscenities and personal attacks on fellow party members with whom he disagrees.
Mulligan also claims that, at the January 4 meeting during which he was elected executive director, the local Green Party caucus nominated him to run for elections inspector in Ward 5 and René Kaczka-Vallière to run for the Ward 5 city council seat. Burlington Director of Elections Jo LaMarche confirmed that both Mulligan and Kaczka-Vallière will appear on the Green Party ticket.
Nonetheless, Eckberg has vowed to fight the use of the Green Party ballot line and insists he'll go to court, if necessary, to stop its use and get back any campaign funds Mulligan collected.
"The Greens here do have good, solid candidates to run on," Eckberg says. "But we're not going to endorse criminals."
Counters Mulligan: "The guy is nuts. He's making crazy accusations."
Stayed tuned for more on the Green smackdown.