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Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Vermont-Based Feds Pursue Fraud Claims Against Health Records Company

Posted By on Tue, Mar 29, 2022 at 9:54 PM

U.S. Attorney for Vermont Nikolas Kerest - U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
  • U.S. Department of Justice
  • U.S. Attorney for Vermont Nikolas Kerest
Federal prosecutors in Vermont are pursuing yet another electronic health records company for false claims related to its medical records software.

Newly unsealed court records show that a former executive of Modernizing Medicine filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the Boca Raton, Fla., company and its cofounders, Daniel Cane and Dr. Michael Sherling, in 2017. Earlier this month, the U.S. Attorney’s Office informed the court that it would take up the whistleblower’s case.

The complaint alleged that ModMed’s patient records software didn’t work as purported, the company cheated federal certification tests and created incentives for doctors in ways that violated federal anti-kickback laws.

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Newport Prison Superintendent Removed From Post

Posted By on Tue, Mar 29, 2022 at 8:35 PM

Northern State Correctional Facility - DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS
  • Department of Corrections
  • Northern State Correctional Facility
The superintendent of Vermont's largest prison, Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport, was removed from his role this week over concerns about his management, the Department of Corrections said.

The state placed superintendent Scott Martin on paid leave Monday, a status that's typical during human resources investigations. But, in a press release Tuesday, the department said  that Martin "will not be returning to his position."

The release cited "concerns" that were "raised and reviewed regarding the management and direction of NSCF."

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Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Excessive Force Claims Against Burlington Police Clear Key Hurdle

Posted By on Tue, Feb 15, 2022 at 6:35 PM

Burlington police at the scene of the incident involving the Meli brothers - BODYCAM FOOTAGE
  • Bodycam Footage
  • Burlington police at the scene of the incident involving the Meli brothers
A pair of civil rights lawsuits brought by two Black men against Burlington police officers can proceed, a federal judge ruled this week.

The City of Burlington had asked Judge William Sessions to rule in its favor by providing something known as summary judgment in both cases. But Sessions denied the motion and will allow Jérémie Meli and Mabior Jok to pursue their excessive force claims related to separate downtown incidents in 2018.

The U.S. District Court judge did toss several other parts of the lawsuits, including claims brought by two of Meli's brothers, who were with him the night of the incident.

Meli was injured in September 2018 when sergeant Jason Bellavance shoved him while responding to a call outside of a bar. Meli’s head slammed into a wall, knocking him unconscious. Police arrested him on charges that were later dropped.
The previous night, on the same block of Burlington’s Main Street, Jok was standing in the center of a group of people when Officer Joseph Corrow approached and took Jok to the ground. Corrow believed that Jok was engaged in a fight, he said. The officer was not disciplined following an internal investigation.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Burlington Council Votes Down Murad's Appointment as Police Chief

Posted By on Tue, Feb 1, 2022 at 2:17 AM

Acting Police Chief Jon Murad - FILE: LUKE AWTRY
  • File: Luke Awtry
  • Acting Police Chief Jon Murad
By a 6-6 vote on Monday, the Burlington City Council rejected Mayor Miro Weinberger's pick for the city's next police chief.

One of two finalists in the city’s monthslong search, acting Chief Jon Murad was unable to win over any of the six council Progressives, who painted him as unwilling to lead the city’s police reform efforts. The councilors also expressed concern about Murad’s reportedly strained relationships with some police commissioners.

“The willingness for engaging in meaningful police reform is what I have wanted to see,” Councilor Jane Stromberg (P-Ward 8) said. “Character comes before credentials, no matter how many a person has.”

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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Burlington Councilors Poised to Block Murad's Appointment as Police Chief

Posted By on Thu, Jan 27, 2022 at 5:42 PM

Acting Police Chief Jon Murad - FILE: LUKE AWTRY
  • File: Luke Awtry
  • Acting Police Chief Jon Murad
Updated at 8:52 p.m.

Burlington city councilors are poised to block Mayor Miro Weinberger’s nomination of acting Chief Jon Murad as the Queen City’s next top cop.

Just hours after Weinberger announced Murad’s appointment on Thursday afternoon, the council's six-member Progressive caucus issued a statement saying they'll vote against Murad at Monday’s meeting.

“We want to make it very clear that Mayor Weinberger does not have the votes in the City Council to confirm Acting Chief Murad as Burlington’s permanent Chief of Police," the Progs' statement says, calling the appointment divisive and controversial.

"Burlington needs a permanent Chief of Police who demonstrates a commitment to transforming public safety in Burlington," the statement continues. "Right now, Jon Murad is not that candidate."

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Weinberger to Name Jon Murad as Burlington's Next Police Chief

Posted By on Thu, Jan 27, 2022 at 10:52 AM

Mayor Miro Weinberger and acting Chief Jon Murad - FILE: LUKE AWTRY
  • File: Luke Awtry
  • Mayor Miro Weinberger and acting Chief Jon Murad
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger is expected to appoint acting police Chief Jon Murad as the Queen City's next top cop.

Four people with knowledge of the mayor's decision, but who were not authorized to speak about it, confirmed the news to Seven Days. The mayor has scheduled a press conference to announce his decision on Thursday afternoon.

Murad has been the city's acting chief since June 2020. He was one of two finalists in Burlington's search for a new chief — a position that's been filled on a temporary basis since December 2019, when former chief Brandon del Pozo resigned amid a social media scandal.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Vermont State Police Trooper Sues Human Rights Commission, Seven Days

Posted By on Wed, Jan 19, 2022 at 7:50 PM

Clemmons Family Farm in 2017 - CALEB KENNA
  • Caleb Kenna
  • Clemmons Family Farm in 2017
A state trooper says his career was unjustly ruined by the Vermont Human Rights Commission over its finding that the Vermont State Police likely racially discriminated against Lydia Clemmons, the Black director of the historic Clemmons Family Farm in Charlotte.

In a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday, Cpl. Andrew Leise also claims that Seven Days defamed him in a June 23, 2021 news story about the commission's investigation. He's suing the newspaper, the Human Rights Commission, its executive director Bor Yang and commission chair Rep. Kevin "Coach" Christie (D-Hartford) for six counts of defamation and due process violations.

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Friday, January 14, 2022

Vermont Supreme Court Upholds Order to Close Slate Ridge Gun Range

Posted By on Fri, Jan 14, 2022 at 5:15 PM

  • Sonnenbergshots | Dreamstime
  • A gun range
The Vermont Supreme Court affirmed a lower court's order that Daniel Banyai must shut down his unpermitted firearms training compound in West Pawlet, where he has been accused of intimidating neighbors.

Justices also upheld a $46,600 civil fine that the lower court had imposed on Banyai in March 2021.

Banyai has operated a tactical firearms "school," which he dubbed Slate Ridge, on his wooded property for several years. During that time, he's published anti-government statements, aligned himself with the far-right militia movement, and sent threatening messages to neighbors and local officials, a investigation in 2020 revealed. He built and advertised the compound even as he faced felony firearms charges in New York State, which prevented him from legally possessing guns in that state.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Weinberger Says He'll Appoint a Police Chief, Despite Council Vote to Hire Search Firm

Posted By on Tue, Dec 21, 2021 at 6:34 PM

Mayor Miro Weinberger and acting Chief Jon Murad - FILE: LUKE AWTRY
  • File: Luke Awtry
  • Mayor Miro Weinberger and acting Chief Jon Murad
About 12 hours after Burlington city councilors agreed to hire a search firm to help find a new police chief, Mayor Miro Weinberger announced he would ignore the council's vote and pursue his own plan to select the next top cop.

In a press release Tuesday afternoon, Weinberger said council Progressives had made consensus on the search process "impossible" by refusing to take steps the mayor thinks would attract a broader pool of applicants. A monthslong search has yielded just two viable hires, the mayor has said: acting Chief Jon Murad and another unnamed candidate.

Weinberger, a Democrat, said Tuesday that he'll move forward with the two applicants, and bring a finalist to the council for a vote early next year.

"It remains within the Mayor’s authority under City Charter to select and make department head appointments, and I believe it is my duty to do so urgently," Weinberger said in the statement. "The community and our police department need a permanent chief now."

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Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Vermont Bill Would End Doctrine That Shields Cops From Lawsuits

Posted By on Wed, Dec 15, 2021 at 3:13 PM

  • File: Colin Flanders ©️ Seven Days
  • Sen. Dick Sears
The Vermont Senate will debate a bill next year to eliminate a widely used legal defense that shields police from civil lawsuits over their misconduct.

Senate Judiciary Committee chair Dick Sears (D-Bennington) announced the push to end so-called “qualified immunity” for law enforcement officers during a press conference Wednesday. He was joined by a coalition of supporters from the ACLU of Vermont; local NAACP chapters; the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank; Ben & Jerry’s cofounders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield; and the Law Enforcement Action Partnership.

The bill, modeled after one Colorado passed in 2020, would allow victims of police misconduct to sue in state court and eliminate a key barrier that often prevents the victims from recovering damages.

“I believe firmly that good law enforcement depends on community trust,” Sears said. “And this reform is an important step towards building that trust in our community.”

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