The Fletcher Free Library on College Street is one of the jewels in the Queen City's crown. Besides the books, magazines and programs, the staff is talented and user-friendly. So a lot of people held their breath last week when Channel 3 reporter Brian Joyce reported a story on one of the library's darker secrets: The men's room has for some time been downtown Burlington's premier gay cruising location.
"It's kind of tough for the kids and the seniors," said one veteran library volunteer, who described the current culture as that of "a literati homeless shelter — but that's to be expected with a public library these days."
The staff has been quick to expunge bathroom graffiti, and even removed the doors from the stalls, but to no avail. Being public means the public is welcome.
"Nobody expects to go to the bathroom of the library and find that going on," said Library co-director Amber Collins. Collins was understandably nervous about going on television with the story. But since Joyce's story aired, Burlington police have been cruising the Fletcher Library, too. In addition to Church Street's mustachioed gendarme, Cpl. Robert Booher, four additional cops have been assigned to walk the beat downtown for the holidays, and the Fletcher is on their itinerary.
Unfortunately, the problem isn't just what goes on in the men's room. There's been a rash of thefts, too. Purses and wallets tend to disappear quickly if left unattended even for a second. And staff members have been counted among the victims.
Just last Saturday, a friendly face from the past approached yours truly by the periodicals. "I hear it's been pretty rough down here," he said.
"What have you heard?" I asked.
"Well, that's what the dispatcher said. My wife just had her purse stolen." Lost were $30 cash, credit cards and photos. And the priceless feeling of safety.
"You've got to be street-smart in here," said Booher.
According to Corporal Stash, two gentlemen engaged in inappropriate behavior were apprehended in the bathroom last week. The case has been referred to State's Attorney Scott Kline. If Kline gives the green light, said Booher, the duo will be cited into court for lewd and lascivious conduct.
This week Kline told Inside Track that his office has received the paperwork on the incident. "We're reviewing it," he said.
Hey, maybe it's time to think of hiring some private security for the Fletcher like they have at the courthouse. Hello, Mayor Clavelle? Free Althea! — Finally, someone's spoken up for Chittenden County Assistant Judge Althea Kroger. In a letter to the editor published in last last Friday's Rutland Herald, former Democratic State Sen. Ed Granai of Burlington wrote, "Althea is respected as a woman of impeccable integrity and honesty." (The letter's been sent to several Vermont dailies, including the Burlington Free Press.
On November 18, by a vote of 27-0, the state's assistant judges found Althea lied under oath and made accusations of wrongdoing she knew to be false when she made them. The judges kicked her out of the association and called for her resignation from the bench. Granai, who served with Althea in both the House and Senate, wrote, "This is an absolutely unbelievable accusation."
Ed, himself a former Democratic gubernatorial candidate (he lost to Dick Snelling in 1980), told Inside Track things got to the point where he wanted to do something for a friend. "It's beyond my comprehension she would intentionally lie," said Granai. "I'm not saying she hasn't made a mistake," he said, but the Althea he remembers "was compulsive about honesty."
Of course, Ed hasn't seen much of Althea lately. He resigned from the State Senate in 1993 for medical reasons. That's when Althea tried to become Vermont's Gun Control Queen and instead shot herself in both feet. It was her first taste of public humiliation. Colleagues say she hasn't been the same since.
Granai said he hadn't seen any of the documents supporting the charges against his old friend. He just can't believe what he's been reading in the newspapers.
Media Notes — Wouldn't you know it? The Teetor Trial has been postponed again — this time for three months. Originally scheduled for last spring, the jury trial over the reporter's lawsuit was supposed to begin December 4 at Chittenden Superior Court. It's been two years and eight months since the Freeps fired City Hall reporter Paul Teetor. Attorney Ritchie Berger told Inside Track the delay is due to another trial that's proceeding much slower than expected. As for his client, said Berger, "It's doubly disappointing for Paul. He's just got to keep his spirits up."
Remember Alexandra Marks? Sure you do. She was the 11 o'clock anchor at Channel 3 in the late 1980s, though yours truly will always remember her as a fellow staff writer at the late, great Vanguard Press. She's currently working for the Christian Science Monitor as their media reporter. Along the way she spent a year and a half as U.S. Senator John Kerry's press secretary.
Out of the Closet! — Besides dragging their nation kicking and screaming into the 19th century by legalizing divorce, the Irish people are finally coming to terms with the Great Famine. Next Wednesday, December 6, at 7:30 p.m. at Burlington College, Dubliner Dermot McGuigan (now of Charlotte) will give a talk commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Great Famine. "Such has been the depth of the pain, shame and confusion in Ireland about the Famine," noted Dermot, "that both the 50th and 100th anniversaries passed unmarked." Food will not be served. Beverages will follow, however, at a location to be determined later.
Dr. Sanders, I Presume? — Bernie Sanders has lost the services of his chief of staff, Jane Sanders. Jane told Inside Track she's pursuing a doctorate in "education in public life." She hasn't left the scene, though. "Full-time for me was 80 hours a week," said Jane. "Part-time is 40 hours."