- Mark Davis/ Aaron Shrewsbury
The Northeast Kingdom may look sepia-toned to outsiders, but the burg of Victory, population 62, has been embroiled in a decades-long feud. Members of two factions in the tiny town — the Vermont equivalent of the Hatfields versus the McCoys — have taken out no-trespass orders and accused each other of tapping phones, killing pets and stealing from town coffers.
In the late 1990s, the Boston Globe twice sent a reporter to Victory to document the conflict.
"We're screwed up, basically," former town clerk and treasurer Carol Easter said.
Seven Days covered two recent skirmishes in the ongoing battle. In January, longtime combatant Pat Mitchell refused to pay town taxes on what she claims is a nonprofit humane society but which those in an opposing camp say is a personal pet collection. Mitchell turned around and sued the town, accusing the officials of carrying out a personal vendetta against her.
The 2015 town meeting was dominated by news that an independent audit of Victory's books turned up missing records, undocumented spending and evidence of possible embezzlement from the town, which has a $500,000 budget. A private accountant told the Victory residents gathered that she had found "very significant problems" dating back several years. Her findings triggered a new round of accusations aimed at Mitchell's enemies, which include selectboard chair Ferne Loomis.
The battle would end, Mitchell's husband predicted, "when we're all dead."
UPDATE: No one has surrendered in Victory.
"I would say it's just as nasty as ever," Pat Mitchell said.
Loomis, her nemesis, bragged: "We are prevailing — the good side."
Shortly after the Seven Days story ran, Mitchell ally Tracey Martel — who successfully ran for town clerk despite allegations that she had joined the "ISIS of Victory" — installed a video camera to monitor the goings-on in the town's tiny office.
Loomis installed a second camera there.
Martel resigned, paving the way for former town clerk Carol Easter, whom Martel had ousted, to reclaim the job.
It was not a graceful transition. "I had to catch up on a lot of shit. That lady didn't know what she was doing," Easter alleged.
Mitchell's tax case continues to wind through the courts. She is still refusing to pay her taxes and has increased her flock to 67 animals. "It would take more than those type of people to make me stop," Mitchell explained.
In the coming weeks, the selectboard will receive a highly anticipated audit of the town's books, which some say will include evidence of financial malfeasance.
The timing could be ideal for Comedy Central. Seven Days got a call from a "Daily Show with Trevor Noah" producer inquiring about the feud as a possible future feature.