A terse three-paragraph press release from Burlington Police Headquarters Monday stated the "internal investigation regarding alleged misconduct on the part of Sgt. Patrick Voorheis" was concluded. No criminal misconduct was discovered and the veteran sergeant has quietly resigned.
End of story?
Not quite. You see, if it wasn't for the damn Internet, Voorheis would've kept his badge. Oh, what a tangled Web we surf!
Voorheis was in charge of the cop computer system at HQ. And Seven Days has learned from police sources that Voorheis' problem was getting caught using department computers for personal business. You'll get the drift by accessing the Web site — www.alt.com.
Pretty hot little Web site. People-friendly. It's attracted millions of folks interested in "alternative lifestyles," like bondage and sadomasochism. It provides a sort of matchmaker service that connects registered members with like-minded citizens in one's local area. One may even choose among 70 titillating fetishes — everything from feathers and handcuffs to candle wax and dog collars and everything in between. Trust me, everything in between.
It's understandable that, even though Voorheis committed no crime whatsoever, Chief Alana Ennis and Police Commission Chairman Jerry O'Neill did not fancy this one going public. They just got over the one with the sergeant who crashed his private jalopy while intoxicated.
On Monday, Voorheis and the BPD negotiated a severance package. "Our contention was," said the sarge's attorney, Norm Blais, "private use of computers at BPD is a widespread practice. We petitioned the city attorney," he said, "to have an expert do an examination of the department's computers to determine if our suspicions are correct and make sure my client wasn't singled out."
Asked to respond to Blais' assertion Tuesday, Assistant City Attorney Janet Murnane told Seven Days, "The internal investigations of the Burlington Police Department are confidential. We have no comment on the Voorheis internal other than yesterday's press release."
However, Ms. Murnane pointed out Burlap's cop shop uses a computer system administered by the state Department of Public Service. "By written agreement," she said, "access to and use of that system are for law enforcement purposes only."
And in this case, that apparently means no handcuffs for off-duty enforcement. No feathers or dildos, either.
Progs Face "Tough" Opponents — In beautiful Burlington, some tails are wagging with delight over the political prospects of the anti-Progressive opposition in the March 7 city election. The anti-Progs are salivating over the opportunity of cashing in on the recent Downtown Supermarket Slugfest.
But don't count yer free-range chickens before they're hatched, folks. Because Seven Days has learned the two leading opposition candidates running for city council have a whole lot more in common than their pro-Shaw's, anti-co-op track records — they've got rap sheets!
In Ward 2, Democrat Bradi Baker is challenging Progressive incumbent Bill Stahl. Baker made quite the splash last fall with her pro-Shaw's petition drive. And Ms. Baker has credentials that are making the politically correct Progs sweat a little: She's black, low-income, articulate and female! And as she put it in a Seven Days interview this week, she's "zestful."
In fact, Ms. Baker was scheduled to appear Wednesday morning down at the district court calendar call. She faces charges of domestic assault and unlawful mischief stemming from two violent incidents that occurred at Christmastime. She's pled not guilty.
According to court records, Baker allegedly assaulted her former boyfriend and smashed windows at an Appletree Point Rd. residence. She allegedly busted the front windows on Christmas Day and returned to the scene three days later. Upon seeing her ex, she kicked in a window on the front door. She then allegedly punched and kicked the old boyfriend, a co-owner of a couple downtown night spots, before throwing firewood at him, injuring his leg.
Later, according to a statement by the alleged victim in court records, Baker telephoned "to tell me she was upset about our previous relationship. I suggested that she get some help. She suggested that I get a vest."
Somehow we don't think she was talking fleece.
The boyfriend quickly obtained a temporary relief from abuse order. Ms. Brady did, too. In her request, she claimed he was "verbally and physically abusive."
However, one week later, after hearing the evidence, Judge Linda Levitt granted his request for a permanent restraining order and denied hers.
Asked Tuesday if her criminal case might harm her electability, Baker replied, "Everybody has been at some point involved with the court system. I'm not guilty of what I've been accused of. The facts will come out."
Baker told Seven Days she "admitted" to the broken glass. "I'm not embarrassed about being involved in what happened," she added, "and having a broken heart."
Next door in Ward 3, Independent Eric Brenner is going toe-to-toe with Progressive Phil Fiermonte. A Derby native and UVM grad, Fiermonte has been a talented Sanderista lieutenant since the 1981 upset victory that put Bernie Sanders in the mayor's seat. He recently left Ol' Bernardo's congressional staff for a union organizing gig. The seat is open, since Prog Colin Campbell is stepping down.
Mr. Brenner, like Ms. Baker, was an out-front, ardent supporter of Shaw's over the Onion River Coop. The South Burlington High School grad has quite the resume for a twentysomething. He's been a male stripper, a musician and a U.S. Marine, and serves on the CCTA board. He also pled guilty to domestic assault two years ago.
According to Mr. Brenner, the incident involved a "love triangle." The other parties, he said, were his male roommate and his roommate's girlfriend. Brenner didn't go into great detail, but told Seven Days he never actually hit his roommate, "but I made him feel uncomfortable." The roommate, he said, "called the cops. I was very angry."
Candidate Brenner said he pled guilty, paid a fine and was placed on probation. It's his only brush with district court, he said. He emphasized that though the charge was "domestic assault" he has never struck a woman and condemns domestic violence.
Sounds like these two zestful city council candidates could share the same slogan on their bumper stickers — "DUCK!"
As for their chances of winning?
Well, they sure won't be running on their records, will they?
"Media Lynching?" — That's what Progressive City Councilor Tom Smith called the recent coverage of the UVM Hockey Hazing Scandal at Monday's city council meeting — "the media lynching of the president of UVM."
'Course, Mr. Smith probably thinks he was victim of a "media lynching" last year for coverage of his attempt to weasel out of his commitment to cover the bail for a domestic abuser he sprang from the slammer.
Obviously, President Judith Ramaley and Councilor Smith have one unfortunate thing in common: Each has an extraordinarily difficult time accepting responsibility when they screw up.
Brennan in the Globe! — Kudos to morning radio funny man Tom Brennan. Tommy Terrific was practically immortalized in the Boston Globe last week by distinguished sports columnist Bob Ryan. Turns out Brennan the radio jock moonlights as the coach of UVM’s men’s basketball team!
Writes Ryan: Brennan does not stand around hitchhiking alongside the road of life. He is driving the car. And he’s out to have a good time.
Ryan highlighted the classy dinners Tommy hosts for the opposition coaches down at The Rusty Scuffer with Jack and Eileen Fontaine.
Brennan’s now in his fourth school administration, and he has only one fear, “I do worry that someone will come in and expect me to win 20.”
Relax, Tom. That’s 20 wins over two seasons.
Hey, if we can’t kid each other, who can we kid?
Media Notes — The veterans are falling, but the reinforcements are a settling in. John Dillon of the Sunday Rutland Herald/Times Argus and Ross Sneyd of the Associated Press were both hobbled two weeks ago by nasty spills. Dillon went down skiing at Mad River on his first day of a season pass. Busted his leg in three places. Ouch! Went back in for more surgery this week.
Coincidentally, John's been the point journalist covering Les Otten's creatively financed ski resort empire, the American Ski Company.
Sneyd, the AP's point reporter on legislative coverage, slipped on the ice and broke his ankle while walking outside the AP bureau in Montpeculiar. He's got a cast and crutches and didn't miss a beat.
Over at Ch. 3, management appears to be counterbalancing their stable of crotchety, follicly challenged geezers (Jack LaDuke, Brian Joyce and Andy Potter), with the recent addition of three sharp young women reporters.
Caroline Allen, graduate of Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, will focus on business issues.
Beth LeClair arrived via the St. Albans Messenger and Castleton College.
And Kristin Carlson, a Worcester, Vermont, native, graduated from U-32 High School and Syracuse University.
More Wedding Bells — Lots of romance in the Statehouse air this year. We already mentioned Sen. Vince Illuzzi's upcoming nuptials. Prince Vince is far from alone.
State Sen. Peter Brownell plans his second walk down the aisle on July 8. The Chittenden County Republican and former Burlington mayor will wed Linda Anderson. Linda manages the Vermont Interactive Television site in Waterbury. The wedding will take place at Peter's parents' place in Williston. That would be off Brownell Road on Brownell Mountain, in case you get lost.
And another Fourth Estate bachelor, dairy farmer, bird-watcher and television star is giving up the single life. WCAX-TV's Anson Tebbetts has found the sweetheart of his dreams, and wouldn't you know — she's a lawyer!
Her name is Vicky Parra and she's a graduate of Mt. Holyoke and Vermont Law School. They met at First and Fitness, a Montpelier health club.
"We took spinning class together," reports Anson. "Her bike seat squeaked, edging hers closer to mine, and the rest is history."
You gotta love those squeaky seats. The wedding is planned for August on the family farm in Cabot.
Fire & Brimstone! — One thing the gay-marriage debate reminds us of is that religious fanatics here sound just like religious fanatics everywhere else — pretty fricken’ fanatic! The self-righteousness of the anti-gay rights, scripture-quoting Abomination Squad does give one the chills.
"The Holy Scriptures clearly condemn homosexual activity to eternal damnation and hellfire, or something equally unpleasant," conceded Rep. Bill Suchmann (R-Chester) in last Thursday's Point-Counterpoint debate on gay marriage. "But the same Bible," he noted, "condemns the eating of pork or even touching the skin of a pig with retribution that’s equally severe. So I guess,” said the Episcopalian grandpa, "the many millions of us who watched the Super Bowl last Sunday have condoned an abomination and are already goners."
Fanatics worldwide want their and particular God to run the government and their interpretation of God’s Law to run the courts. Scary.
Things change. As good old Thomas Jefferson noted in 1816:
Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths are discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.
Thanks, Tom, for the reality check.