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Supreme Court Denies Immunity for Top Burlington Official


The Vermont Supreme Court has denied a last-ditch appeal by Burlington's Chief Administrative Officer Jonathan Leopold to be granted immunity from a citizen lawsuit seeking immediate repayment to taypayers of $17 million loaned to Burlington Telecom.

The suit was brought last year by former city councilors Fred Osier and Gene Shaver. Earlier this year, Superior Court Judge Helen Toor banned the city from dipping any further into the so-called "cash pool" to pay for Burlington Telecom's ongoing operations.

The pair wants BT to repay the entire $17 million, along with their legal fees. If BT doesn't have enough cash, they want Leopold to be held personally liable for repayment, too.

The one paragraph ruling, signed by all five members of the Supreme Court, reads:

"Defendant Jonathon Leopold's motion to appeal from the trial court's denial of his motions to dismiss and for permission to appeal is denied in that the motion was untimely filed and, in any case, fails to demonstrate that the trial court abused its discretion by denying permission to appeal."

The citizen lawsuit has been largely stalled while Leopold sought immunity, although the city and plaintiffs have been arguing recently over what documents BT should provide to the court. The city had agreed to provide regular financial updates to the court to ensure that it was complying with the edict to repay any and all city funds within 60 days, per BT's certificate of public good.

A recent outside financial review alleges BT has been in debt to taxpayers — a violation of its CPG — since September 2005.

Osier and Shaver are also seeking party status in the ongoing Vermont Service Board investigation into whether the city violated its CPG and how it can repair any fiscal damage. A hearing before the three-member PSB was held last week.

At the time, the plaintiff's attorney Norman Williams told the PSB that he had filed for party status back in July. PSB Chairman Jim Volz seemed surprised by Williams' request, and said they would double-check the files to make sure it was received.