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Castleton denies discrimination against former cop

CASTLETON — The town officially denies allegations of sexual discrimination made against it in a lawsuit filed by a former police officer in September.

Former Castleton Police Officer Cheri McDermott, through her attorney James G. Levins, of the Rutland firm Tepper Dardeck Levins & Fitzsimons, filed a complaint in U.S. District Court against the town and its police chief, Peter Mantello.

The town and Mantello, through their attorney Kerin E. Stackpole, of the Burlington firm Paul Frank + Collins PC, responded Tuesday denying allegations that McDermott was treated unfairly because she’s a woman and that her firing was done under pretext. Stackpole also filed a motion asking the court to dismiss count one of the complaint: discrimination under the federal Civil Rights Act.

The second count in the complaint alleges the town and Mantello violated the state’s Fair Employment Practices Act.

According to McDermott’s complaint, she was hired as a police officer by the town in 2005. Mantello was hired as police chief in September 2014. She claims Mantello has said he doesn’t believe women should be police officers, that he said he had a three-year plan to get rid of McDermott, that he and the town discriminated against her because of her gender, and that McDermott was disciplined more harshly than male officers who allegedly committed infractions.

In the complaint, McDermott said she reported to Mantello that a male officer wasn’t recording his hours correctly and was being paid for time he hadn’t worked. She claims her investigation into this was used as a pretext to fire her, which the town and Mantello deny.

The town and Mantello admit that McDermott reported this, but, “... before (McDermott) made these statements Mantello received complaints from another officer indicating that (McDermott) has surreptitiously, and without authorization, accessed another officers’ employee mailboxes and viewed their timesheets. Mantello met with (McDermott) to discuss (McDermott’s) inappropriate conduct. Only after admitting that she engaged in this inappropriate conduct, did (McDermott) state that she was concerned that another employee had inaccurately reported time,” reads the response.

The response says McDermott violated the department’s policies by, “... among other actions, viewing documents in other employees’ mailboxes without authorization to do so; accessing another officer’s time sheets; taking and sending images of those time sheets using her private cellphone; stealing, misappropriating, and/or converting to her own use another officer’s personal property; engaging in the unauthorized use of information from the (Vermont Incident Based Reporting System) and disseminating such information over an unsecure network in violation of her VIBRS User Agreement; and defying an order from Mantello to cease engaging in her unauthorized ‘investigation’ into another officer.”

McDermott’s lawsuit also alleges that the town gave false information to the town of Killington, which McDermott said prevented her from being hired there. Castleton and the town deny this as well.

Stackpole’s motion to dismiss count one of the complaint centers around Mantello personally. In her motion, she argues the law in question doesn’t apply to individuals. The motion requests the count be dropped against Mantello.

Neither Stackpole nor Levins returned calls seeking comment on Tuesday.

keith.whitcomb

@rutlandherald.com


rlayman / Robert Layman / Staff Photo  

Toys under the tree

Katrina Ducharme, Vermont State Police trooper, loads a toy bulldozer while shopping with Donalee Kirk, program coordinator at BROC-Community Service in Southwestern Vermont, at the Big Lots store in Rutland. Ducharme was joined by two troopers who helped BROC pick out and transport toys to their holiday Toys Under the Tree Fund, which as of Tuesday afternoon has served 313 children with gifts.


Local
College president: GMC seeks partnerships

POULTNEY — Green Mountain College President Bob Allen said he hopes to secure a collaboration with another institution of higher learning by fall 2019, and prospects are being considered.

“We’re actively looking for partnerships, and much of those conversations are happening as we speak,” Allen said.

The East Room inside Withey Hall was packed Tuesday afternoon as staff and faculty filed into a closed meeting with Allen at 1 p.m. At 2:45, faculty finally emerged, but none would speak on the record about the meeting, saying that divulging any information could possibly harm potential collaborations.

The options for those collaborations are both within Vermont and outside the state, Allen said.

“(Institutions of higher learning) are all over the news right now,” Allen said. “We’re anticipating a really good spring ... this was just our monthly update.”

Green Mountain College’s education department is accredited by the Vermont State Department of Education, and their recreation and outdoor programs are accredited with the Council on Accreditation of the National Recreation and Park Association and the Association for Leisure and Recreation, according to their website.

Green Mountain College is a member of the Association of Vermont Independent Colleges and serves more than 700 students in their undergraduate and four master’s degree programs, employing 40 full-time faculty, of whom 93 percent have doctoral or other terminal degrees.

The college was recognized by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education for its 2018 Gold Score of 81.82 on the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System, which gauges sustainability in higher education, and proved the highest score achieved by any college, according to a statement.

In a previous interview, Provost Thomas Mauhs-Pugh said the 2018 fall semester showed steady student retention and promising numbers. When contacted by the Herald, the Department of Education and Department of Labor reported that Green Mountain College showed no inclination to close its doors.

The Northeast Organic Farmer’s Association, with whom Green Mountain College has partnered for years to plan winter conferences at the University of Vermont, reported earlier this month that GMC was already working with the farmers’ group to plan for future conferences.

katelyn.barcellos

@rutlandherald.com


Local
Rutland tobacco shop to close

Downtown Rutland’s oldest business will close at the end of the year.

Val Fothergill, who took over the family business at Gus’ Tobacco Shop from her father, Gus Louras, said she chose to get out of retail after the family sold it’s wholesale candy operation, Sam Frank Inc. (also once the name of the tobacco shop) to Capital Candy of Barre.

“I decided I didn’t want to do retail anymore,” she said. “The business is viable. I just don’t want the responsibility and the commitment. I want to do something else. You still have to do all the ordering, all the financials. After 40 years, I think I’m done.”

Fothergill said her father was 26 years old when he bought the Center Street store in 1951, but the business has existed under various names for almost a century and a half.

“Sam Frank is a man’s name who mentored my father,” Fothergill said Tuesday as she did paperwork in the back room of the shop. “He purchased a tobacco company from Lew Abraham in 1933. He used to be around the street at 9 Center — if you look you can still see Lew Abraham’s name. ... I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure he used to be on Merchants Row and moved around the corner. He used to do hand-rolled cigars, and Mr. Frank had hand-rolled cigars, hired somebody to roll them.”

Fothergill said she wasn’t sure, but she believed Abraham had been in business since the early 1870s. On the wall of the back room, she had a receipt signed by Abraham in 1883. The purchaser bought 3,000 cigarettes for $12.27.

“I just found that, cleaning out my dad’s stuff,” she said. “When I told my dad I was going to close the store, the first thing he said was, ‘What are you going to do with all my stuff?’ The grandkids are going to go through and take what they want and some cousins want some things. The rest, I’ll sell.”

Post-it notes with names on them marked various items that had already been claimed by family members.

Meanwhile, the store is selling off all its merchandise, and Fothergill said the building is on the market as well.

“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “Thank you for many, many, many, many years. It was a good run.”

gordon.dritschilo

@rutlandherald.com


Spotlight

“Oh, my God, look at that picture over there! There’s the Earth coming up. Wow, is that pretty!”

Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders, switching from monochrome film to color just before snapping the iconic photograph that became known simply as “Earthrise.” — A6

People’s choice

Wallingford Select Board votes to allow residents to choose whether the town will fund hiring of a new recreation director. A2

Double win

Mount St. Joseph boys and girls basketball teams take wins in the Green Mountain Varsity Boys & Girls Holiday Tournamen. B1

Donors sought

Rutland’s annual Gift of Life Marathon blood drive is short of sign-ups for donations. The drive continues today at Rutland Regional Medical Center. A3