Thursday, February 23, 2017

Prosecutors to Drop 14 Cases After Burlington Cop 'Lied' About Stop

Posted By on Thu, Feb 23, 2017 at 2:29 PM

Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo and Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo and Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George
Prosecutors will drop 14 pending criminal cases investigated by a Burlington police officer who resigned Monday after allegedly lying during a drug investigation. Authorities on Thursday said they are still considering whether to charge Christopher Lopez with perjury.

Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George told reporters that Lopez — who allegedly made up a justification to search a vehicle in October — could no longer be a reliable witness.

"He lied," George said during a Thursday afternoon press conference in City Hall Park.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Burlington Cop Resigns After Perjury Allegation in Drug Case

Posted By on Wed, Feb 22, 2017 at 4:57 PM

  • Oliver parini
A Burlington police officer who allegedly committed perjury during a drug investigation has resigned, the Burlington Police Department announced Wednesday.

In a letter to the Burlington Police Department, Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah George said that patrol officer Christopher Lopez had made "patently false" statements in a sworn affidavit in October and would no longer be used as a witness by local prosecutors.

Officials said that Lopez falsely claimed that he smelled marijuana to justify a vehicle search that led to an arrest. The damning evidence came from the officer's own body camera audio, on which he can allegedly be heard conceding to another officer that he had made up the story.

Lopez, who joined the Burlington Police Department in September 2014, was placed on paid leave earlier this month. He resigned on Monday in advance of a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday, police said. Burlington Police Chief Brandon del Pozo said he planned to fire Lopez at that hearing.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Burlington Council Candidate to Sue State’s Attorney for Discrimination

Posted By on Tue, Feb 21, 2017 at 12:19 PM

Abdullah Sall - OLIVER PARINI
  • Oliver Parini
  • Abdullah Sall
Updated at 6:01 p.m.

Abdullah Sall, a former legal assistant in the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office, plans to file an employment discrimination lawsuit against his former boss, newly appointed State’s Attorney Sarah George, his lawyer told Seven Days on Tuesday. The lawyer, John Franco, alleged that Sall faced “disparate treatment” in the office because he is a Muslim immigrant from Liberia.

In an interview with Seven Days earlier this month, George confirmed that she had let Sall go, but she declined to elaborate on her reasoning. Reached again Tuesday, she said she “cannot comment on specifics” of what she called “a personnel matter.”

“I would say that any time an employer has to make a decision, it’s guided by performance, the needs of the office and the law,” she said. “And I followed those principles when making my decision.”

Sall is currently running for the South District seat on the Burlington City Council. The independent is facing off against longtime incumbent Democratic Councilor Joan Shannon and Progressive challenger Charles Simpson.

In an interview Tuesday, Sall alleged that his firing may have been motivated by a desire to “undermine [his] campaign.” He did not offer evidence supporting that assertion.

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Two Candidates Vie for Burlington School Board Seat

Posted By on Mon, Feb 20, 2017 at 6:28 PM

Helen Hossley - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Helen Hossley
Expect two new faces on the Burlington School Board — and possibly three — after the March 7 election.

Two newcomers, Jeff Wick and Ryan McLaren, are stepping up without opposition to fill seats in the South and Central districts, respectively.

Incumbents Miriam Stoll and Brian Cina previously held those seats and are not running for reelection. 

In the only race for a slot on the 12-member board, incumbent Mark Barlow faces a challenge from Helen Hossley in the North District, which encompasses the area commonly known as Burlington's New North End. Her goal is to strengthen city schools.

"Burlington's such a wonderful city and I think we deserve the absolute best schools that we can afford," Hossley said in an interview with Seven Days. "And I don't think the board has done a particularly good job at that."

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Burlington Announces 'Opioid Principles' to Help Address Crisis

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 7:49 PM

(left to right) Harry Chen, Miro Weinberger, Sarah George, Stephen Leffler, Brandon del Pozo - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • (left to right) Harry Chen, Miro Weinberger, Sarah George, Stephen Leffler, Brandon del Pozo
The city of Burlington on Thursday announced it will team up with local and state entities to improve its response to the opiate crisis.

Mayor Miro Weinberger presented 11 "opioid principles" at Burlington City Arts to describe and guide the city's approach to the ongoing crisis. The principles include basic statements that establish the danger of prescription opioids, label addiction as a public health crisis, and assert the importance of "data collection, data sharing, analysis and transparency."

To effect change, the city plans to increase collaboration with the University of Vermont Medical Center, other local police departments, the Vermont Department of Health, and the Chittenden County State's Attorney's Office.

"We are orienting ourselves as a city for a long-term struggle with this problem," Weinberger said.

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Officials Want to House Homeless in Old Burlington College Dorm

Posted By on Mon, Feb 13, 2017 at 2:18 PM

The Stone House - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • The Stone House
City officials want to use a former Burlington College dorm as housing for the homeless.

The Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity would operate the “sober house” facility for at least 13 people at the Stone House on North Avenue. The building has been empty since February 2016, when the city took ownership as Burlington College struggled to stay afloat.

The college shut down for good months later and “the building was abandoned and subject to vandalism, break-ins and trespassing during the early summer of 2016,” according to a memo on the proposal that’s been submitted to the Burlington Board of Finance and City Council.

The city would give CVOEO use of the space for free under a proposed two-year lease. The Board of Finance was scheduled to discuss the proposal Monday evening at a meeting that has since been canceled and rescheduled for February 27. The plan would also require approval from the city council and zoning permits from the Development Review Board.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Financially Struggling Winooski YMCA to Close in June

Posted By on Wed, Feb 8, 2017 at 1:13 PM

The Winooski branch of the YMCA - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • The Winooski branch of the YMCA
The Winooski branch of the YMCA is closing after 10 years of operation, the nonprofit announced Wednesday morning.

The Greater Burlington YMCA said it could no longer sustain annual losses generated by the Winooski facility, located in the O’Brien Community Center. It will close on June 30 when its lease expires.

“This is not a decision that we reached easily,” Greater Burlington YMCA president and CEO Kyle Dodson said. “Several youth and community activities introduced at the Winooski Y did not gain the intended traction. While the Winooski Y has functioned as a fitness center, the facility was never able to attract the number of members necessary to make that operation self-sustaining. Year in and year out, the Winooski Y has lost tens of
thousands of dollars.”

Winooski Y members will be allowed to use the Burlington facility.

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Monday, February 6, 2017

Smoking Ban: Burlington Clamps Down on Lighting Up in Parks

Posted By on Mon, Feb 6, 2017 at 11:57 PM

Burlington City Hall
  • Burlington City Hall
The Burlington City Council extinguished a long-smoldering debate Monday, unanimously approving an ordinance to ban smoking in city parks — with exceptions.

The compromise measure prohibits lighting up along Burlington's beaches and in neighborhood parks, but allows for designated smoking areas in larger parks, including Oakledge, Waterfront, Battery, North Beach and Leddy. The ban also encompasses City Hall Park, which had previously proved a flashpoint among councilors.

The final product required compromise from all sides, noted Councilor Dave Hartnett, an independent who sponsored the resolution. "I don't think anyone was thrilled about giving in on this one," he said.

It marked the final touch on what Republican councilor Kurt Wright dubbed "a long and winding road."

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Friday, February 3, 2017

UVM Proposes $80 Million Athletic Facility on Campus

Posted By on Fri, Feb 3, 2017 at 6:27 PM

Renderings of the proposed event center - COURTESY OF UVM
  • Courtesy of UVM
  • Renderings of the proposed event center
The University of Vermont will move forward with plans for an $80 million overhaul of campus athletic facilities — including a new basketball stadium, events center and renovated hockey arena.

At a board of trustees meeting on Friday, UVM representatives unveiled the proposed multipurpose center, which would be five times larger than the existing facilities. The plan includes a complete reconstruction of Patrick Gymnasium, as well as additions and renovations to the Gutterson Fieldhouse hockey arena. The completed 86,000-square-foot complex would include a fitness center, social space for students, academic classrooms, and practice and game facilities.

The plan comes after the university for at least a year entertained siting proposals from local municipalities. UVM considered using the Memorial Auditorium lot for an arena in downtown Burlington and also investigated the space where University Mall currently stands in South Burlington.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Residents Urge Advisory Board to Keep Burlington Telecom Local

Posted By on Tue, Jan 31, 2017 at 10:14 PM

Steve Goodkind speaks before the Burlington Telecom Advisory Board. - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Steve Goodkind speaks before the Burlington Telecom Advisory Board.
While the city plans to sell Burlington Telecom this summer, residents on Tuesday night said loud and clear that they hope to retain local control of the utility.

About 25 people gathered in the Fletcher Free Library, offering the Burlington Telecom Advisory Board words of advice on who the buyer should be and how the city should go about the selling the entity. The half a dozen people who spoke before the board depicted the local fiber-optic network as a valuable public good.

“A publicly owned company is a precious commodity and asset,” said Lauren-Glenn Davitian, executive director of CCTV Center for Media & Democracy, Burlington’s public government-access cable station. Losing community control would be “short-sighted,” she added, arguing that the city should maintain a “decision-making stake” in the utility.

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