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Sadly, Wrong Again | Mayor Linda Joy Sullivan

4 mins read
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April 4th’s NDE forum pages feature a contribution by one gadfly lawyer resident of Newport who has a penchant for preening before the camera at City Council meetings and for offering up incendiary accusations published in this newspaper in a sad effort to get her name in the paper. But when she speaks, she just keeps getting things wrong.

This time it was about who is allowed in the room when we as a City Council seek the opinions and advice of its lawyers as to legal matters. For literally hundreds of years, the public policy of this nation has been to encourage persons who have to make decisions affecting the legal rights of others to speak to their lawyers candidly and confidentially – as a matter of policy, we want people to get their decisions right, to take actions having legal consequences that are well informed and guided by licensed legal professionals. In pursuit of that objective, and to encourage candor and full disclosure, the law extends to communications between lawyer and client what’s called a “privilege” – communications between lawyers and their clients are confidential. We want clients to open up to their attorneys without fear that they will be exposed for asking the wrong questions.

It’s the same sort of legal confidentiality protection that exists as a matter of public policy and law as to communications between spouses, between a patient and his or her physician, between an addict with a substance abuse counselor, as to a confession made to a priest, etc.

The attorney client privilege applies fully in the context of discussions between municipalities and their attorneys. The legislature in Montpelier long ago permitted municipal bodies during their meetings to recess and go into what’s called “executive session” so that candid and fulsome discussion can occur to discuss legal matters with specialized municipal lawyers or to address other things meriting confidentiality: personnel matters, contract negotiations, etc. We want our public officials to get things right, to get the guidance of our attorneys when making important decisions affecting residents and third parties. We also want not to unnecessarily embarrass City employees when speaking as to personnel issues or to reveal to bidders things that would disadvantage the City in contract negotiations. There is a specific process for initiating an “executive session,” it requires a motion and vote of the full Council, and if someone thinks that going into executive session was inappropriate, they have rights and remedies.

This writer of this most recent screed published in the Daily Express has time and time again filed “complaints” under Vermont’s Open Meeting Law challenging the process by which portions of City Council sessions are held in executive sessions. Time and time again, after

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consultations with our lawyers, the writer’s complaints have been dismissed by the Council. They have been dismissed not because we have some secret agenda – they have been dismissed because the complaints have not been well taken. If we let Ms. Bjurling “in the room” we would be waiving the privilege for all time, and that we have decided not to do because it could disadvantage and harm the City. The writer may, if she wishes, take it further and file a more formal legal challenge as to how we are doing our business. But she doesn’t appeal these City Council decisions – because she is wrong.

I am proud of the work we are doing as a Council. We are looking at all of our policies to better protect us against fraud, waste and abuse. We are correcting questionable compensation schemes and looking at issues involving potential misuse of city resources. We are addressing how it came to be that hundreds of emails were destroyed for apparent political reason and adopting measures to protect against a recurrence. We are updating our employee personnel policies to better ensure transparency, comprehension and fairness. We are not in the process taking away existing employee rights.

Ms. Bjurling has a protected right to complain about whatever she wants to complain about. She can do that to advance the personal and political agendas of her choosing. But make no mistake – she is wrong as to the law. And she is costing our taxpayers valuable resources in the process of posting, billboard style, her erroneous legal opinions and pursuing her numerous and distracting Open Meeting Law complaints.

The “Real” News

Newport City Fire Department: On April 2, the CNFD put our new Holmatro extrication tools into service and received training from our supplier, Industrial Protection Services. Special thanks to Ray’s Auto Service for supplying a car and rolling it onto its side for the training.

The new extrication tools are Lithium-Ion battery-powered hydraulic, which are far superior to the 20-year-old technology in speed, power, and ergonomics, all while being much quieter, which reduces patient anxiety. This new equipment brings us up to date to deal with modern vehicle construction.

Thank you Governor: $745,000 to Newport for infrastructure! “Governor Phil Scott, alongside the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), announced a significant environmental initiative, allocating $29.25 million in grants to address combined sewer overflows (CSOs) in 11 Vermont municipalities. This funding, sourced from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), aims to improve municipal sewer infrastructure, enhance water quality in the state’s streams and lakes, and comply with Vermont’s strict CSO regulations.

Among the beneficiaries, Newport received a notable portion of these funds, totaling $784,000, to upgrade its sewer systems. This allocation is part of a broader effort by the Governor’s office to utilize ARPA dollars for infrastructure improvement, promoting economic growth, environmental conservation, and public health.”

Meeting with the Governor: The Mayor and the City Manager look forward to meeting with the Governor and members of his ACCD cabinet to speak about Newport on Friday, April 12. Thank you, Governor, for this opportunity and your continued availability and interest in the City of Newport.

See you at the Eclipse (except for about 3 minutes when we are all wearing our shades) – our City Employees and Leaders and Volunteers have you safely covered!

Thank you for your confidence,
Linda Joy Sullivan
Mayor, City of Newport

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