Editor’s note: A recent report issued by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Vermont listed 40 members of the clergy who had been accused of sex abuse and also served in parishes around Vermont during the past 50 or so years. Our ongoing coverage of the fallout of that long-awaited report and the years of abuse across the state, will include occasional stories of victims.
Dan Gilman said he was already at one of the lowest points in his life when he was molested by his now-defrocked priest, Edward Paquette.
“I had broken my neck in July 1972,” said Gilman, now 62. “I dove into an above-ground swimming pool ... broke my neck at the C4 level and was instantly paralyzed from the shoulders down. I was 15 at the time.”
Gilman said everyone at Rutland Regional Medical Center told him he wouldn’t get out anytime soon, and he overheard a doctor saying his life expectancy was only nine years.
“I just shut down mentally,” he said. “Then, all of a sudden, Father Paquette waltzes into my life a week or so later.”
The priest gave Gilman communion, Gilman said, and told him that God could heal his injuries.
“The abuse started at the hospital while I was in traction — in bed with with weights attached to my skull,” he said. “He took credit for each little improvement and lack of pain that happened with the little rituals he did. ... I fell for it hook, line and sinker.”
Gilman said Paquette molested him from August 1972 to October 1974, continuing to visit him when he moved home from the hospital. Then, one day, Paquette stopped coming. Gilman said nobody told him why.
On a day Paquette was supposed to come, Gilman said he was visited by a different priest, who proclaimed that he would heal Gilman by squeezing his neck near where his neck was broken and told the teen that he had not gotten better because he lacked faith. Gilman said that priest scared him so much his mother called the rectory and told them not to send any more.
Years later, Gilman said he learned that hospital staff had walked in on Paquette molesting two other patients. If the hospital made any effort to find other victims, Gilman said, nobody spoke to him. Offered a chance to comment, present-day hospital spokeswoman Peg Bolgioni issued a statement reading, “We feel compassion for all victims of sexual abuse and have no further information to offer on this incident other than what was reported in the Rutland Herald on April 23, 2006.”
Gilman said the abuse was a secret he would keep for decades. Gilman said he was worried the abuse had made him a homosexual, and that the stigma about homosexuality drove him to keep it quiet. He said he feared his friends would scorn him.
“They did anyway,” he said. “Being in a wheelchair, paralyzed — what are you going to say to a person without making them uncomfortable?”
In 2002, Gilman met his fiancé, Meredith Kelley, in an online chatroom. “He was sweet,” she said. “He was funny.”
So sweet and funny, she said, that after a month and a half of chatting, she moved from North Carolina to Vermont to be with him. She noticed how Paquette would send Gilman cards and letters on holidays, and she noticed how it would enrage Gilman.
One day, around 2007, Gilman got out the journal he had kept during his teenage years, in which he had written about the abuse.
“I had Meredith read it,” he said. “Everything that happened was in it. I couldn’t tell her. I had to have her read it.”
A couple of years later, Gilman said his anger issues were triggered by an incident with a coworker, and he started seeing a counselor. This led to a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder and a referral to a specialist.
“I went to a mental health specialist at Rutland Regional Medical Center,” he said. “My past history — I dreaded being there to begin with. Even today, someone says you have to go to Rutland Regional, I get a tightness in my chest.”
That didn’t work out — Gilman said there were issues aside from the location — but he went on to see a different counselor with whom he has had good results.
“Having a trusting counselor is what opened the floodgates,” he said.
Some issues persist.
Gilman said he was working for a state program that helped people with disabilities, and that he became upset when he found out they might take on pedophiles as clients. His refusal to work with a hypothetical disabled pedophile, he said, ultimately led to him being placed on disability for his PTSD.
“Even to this day, I get into a hyper-vigilance mode,” he said. “If I’m in an area with children, I’m looking at the people looking at the children. ... I can’t go to big events without being on the lookout.”
The year he went on disability, Gilman said he discovered zentango, with which he makes pictures by drawing line after line after line with an extremely fine-nibbed pen.
“It’s a form of meditation,” he said. “I started doing it and doing it, and doing it. When I’m doing artwork, I’m not thinking about other stuff. ... Now, I’m doing objects, I’m painting gourds, dried gourds, and creating a village of dried gourds.”
Gilman said he knows he is not the only survivor in Rutland, because he witnessed one other episode of abuse firsthand. Years before Paquette came to him in the hospital, Gilman said he served as an altar boy for William Gallagher.
Gilman said he remembered Gallagher creeped him out, and the feeling was vindicated when he walked in on Gallagher abusing one of the other altar boys. Gilman said he ran away, and that he still has dreams about running away from the incident.
“How many people are out there like me with anger, drugs, suicide, whatever, who just couldn’t deal with it anymore?” he asked. “How many people are in jail?”
Gilman said he wants that victim — and all the other victims — to know that it’s OK to come forward.
“I started telling people about it openly in 2012 and not one negative ‘Why are you doing this to church’ comment has ever come out,” he said. “Right up to this day, nobody has come up to me and said ‘You shouldn’t have done this.’ It’s the total opposite.”
Paquette, described in the diocese report as still alive at the age of 90, could not be easily located for comment.
As part of its report, the diocese provided a list of resources victims can contact:
Vermont State Police can be reached toll-free at 888-984-8626 or https://vsp.vermont.gov. The Department for Children and Families toll-free at 800-649-5285 or dcf.vermont.gov/prevention/stepup/resources. The Vermont attorney general’s office at 828-3171 or ago.vermont.gov. The Office of Save Environment Programs at the Diocese of Burlington at 658-6110, ext. 1219. Call the Victim Assistance Coordinator at the diocese at 855-3016 or www.vermontcatholic.org
CASTLETON — There’s money to be made in the cannabis industry, but the disconnect between state and federal law needs fixing, according to speakers at Castleton University’s cannabis studies conference, held Friday.
About 100 people gathered in Hoff Hall to hear from Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman and half a dozen others with influence in the state’s cannabis scene at the conference. Dubbed “Cannabis: The Vermont Way,” the conference was hosted by the school’s new Cannabis Studies Certificate Program.
“It’s not a panacea, it’s not going to save the world to change our laws, but it is remarkable how many different aspects of our lives, our culture, of our society, that this plant has the opportunity to adjust,” Zuckerman said after thanking the school for taking the lead in this area.
Zuckerman was the event’s keynote speaker. He spoke about the benefits of a regulated cannabis market and suggested people be a source of good information for their local legislators.
“The big elephant in the room is the federal stumbling blocks regarding the scheduling and banking,” said audience member, Nancy Kaplan, owner of Poultney Meadows Farm in Poultney. “We have concerns about how it’s legal in Vermont, but in other states you heard about the feds saying ‘OK, we don’t care about the state laws, we’re gonna get ya.’”
She said her farm is exploring hemp and related products, and there are numerous questions about how to proceed.
“I think an important distinction to make, when we’re looking to add banking, specifically, to this industry, is hemp versus adult use,” said Tim Fair, of Vermont Cannabis Solutions, a Vermont law firm dedicated to cannabis-related issues. Fair was on the conference’s first panel addressing the financial side of cannabis and social justice.
He said hemp, defined as “the cannabis sativa plant containing less than 0.3 percent THC delta-9,” was made legal by the federal Farm Bill, which passed in January. He said it allows banks to work with funds made from hemp and hemp-derived CBD products.
“We’re starting to see banks like the Vermont State Employees Credit Union, which is kind of our No. 1 go-to, Brattleboro Savings and Loan, there are several banks who are now realizing that and taking advantage of it,” Fair said.
“Adult use” products are a more complicated matter, he said.
“We do still have a lot of those challenges,” Fair said. “We are still looking at federal illegality, we are still looking at classification as a controlled substance, a Schedule I controlled substance, and while there are routes by which banks can legally supply services to the adult-use industry, and the Department of the Treasury has put forth guidance, which allows banks to work with the adult-use industry, it’s so incredibly onerous and so incredibly expensive that it really is not very feasible as it stands right now.”
He said there’s some movement on this at the federal level with the proposed Fair Banking Act. “I think that will be a huge catalyst for the industry and will also alleviate a lot of the fears people who get into this industry have,” Fair said.
Most hemp being growing in Vermont right now is destined to be processed for the CBD market, said Andrew Subin, also of Vermont Cannabis Solutions. He said it’s legal in Vermont to extract CBD from hemp and add it to various products, but this isn’t the case in every state.
“This is a state-to-state thing, and so we would say if you’re getting into a business where you’re going to be doing business with another state, check on the laws in that state or call your attorney and have him check on the laws in that other state,” Subin said. “Thankfully our state, Vermont, and this gets to the Vermont way, we have one of the most supportive governments for doing CBD right now.”
He said Vermont makes it legal to send CBD products to other places. Whether its legal for whomever placed the order to receive it is another matter.
“We’re seeing a lot of companies now doing big CBD deals with California, doing CBD deals with Florida, doing international CBD tincture deals with South Africa, so it’s happening,” said Subin, “and these others states who are taking a let’s wait and see approach, they’re missing out on what’s happening here in Vermont right now.”
While he wasn’t a panel speaker, Gregory Huysman, director of business lending and services at VSECU, said the credit union has been banking the medical marijuana industry for a few years now, but growing with the cannabis industry has been stunted by the law.
“As was pointed out before, the friction between state law and federal law is really crimping our ability to continue to grow with the economy of the industry, because there’s no set rules on the federal side, there’s no straight guidance from the department of federal regs, and as a federally insured credit union it puts us in a tough position,” he said.
Besides banking and taxes, the business panel touched on tourism, politics, marketing, and state regulation. Other panels focused on cooking with cannabis, and cultivation.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont is calling a decision from the Vermont Supreme Court released on Friday, which says the Burlington Police Department can’t force someone to pay money in order to watch an officer’s body camera footage, a victory for access to public records and transparency for state government.
The close decision, in which two of the justices dissented, concludes that “state agencies may not charge for staff time spent responding to requests to inspect public records pursuant to the (Public Records Act).”
“The PRA explicitly directs courts to ‘liberally construe’ the (PRA) to ‘provide for free and open examination of records.’ ... ‘(The PRA) represents a strong policy favoring access to public documents and records.’ This policy is based on the Legislature’s acknowledgment that ‘open access to governmental records is a fundamental precept of our society’ and ‘it is in the public interest to enable any person to review and criticize decisions (of officers of government,)’ who are ‘trustees and servants of the people.’ … Given this legislative policy, we should ‘resolve any doubt in favor of disclosure,’” the decision reads.
The ACLU represented Vermonter Reed Doyle in the case.
According to the decision, Doyle saw officers with the Burlington Police Department interacting with young people near Roosevelt Park in Burlington in June 2017. Doyle said he saw what he believed was inappropriate use of force against a youth of color.
After filing a complaint with the Burlington Police Department and receiving no response, Doyle contacted the department and asked to see body camera footage from the incident.
Doyle’s request was denied until the ACLU file an appeal in 2017.
“In his response to the appeal, Chief (Brandon) del Pozo characterized (Doyle’s) request as ‘seeking to inspect’ records. He stated that, pursuant to statute, the BPD could only produce a heavily redacted form of the requested records, and the staff time to review and redact the records would cost (Doyle) several hundred dollars. Chief del Pozo also informed plaintiff that he must pay a deposit before the BPD would begin reviewing and redacting the requested records,” the decision said.
Doyle’s request for access to public records without paying an expensive fee was supported by Vermont media.
A brief in support of the ACLU of Vermont’s appeal was filed on behalf of the Vermont Journalism Trust, the New England First Amendment Coalition and the Vermont Press Association.
An unsigned statement was released by the Vermont Press Association on Friday that praised the Vermont Supreme Court’s ruling.
“Transparency is what this country was founded on. The U.S. and Vermont Constitutions both require it. It is sad some government officials get into office and don’t like having their bosses — the general public — looking over their shoulders while doing the people’s work,” the statement said.
James Lyall, executive director of the ACLU of Vermont, said the government was “essentially hiding public records or concealing them behind a paywall” if access to them was contingent on paying a fee.
“That flies in the face of the Public Records Act and basic notions of government transparency and accountability that are behind the Public Records Act,” Lyall said.
If the fees required by the Burlington police had been allowed to serve, they would serve as a “major deterrent for people seeking public records that they’re legitimately entitled to and, in some cases, may reveal government of official misconduct,” Lyall added.
Lyall said Jay Diaz, the staff attorney for the ACLU who argued the case in April, was out of the office on Friday and not available.
A call to the Burlington City attorney’s office on Friday seeking comment on the decision was not returned on Friday.
The decision released on Friday sends Doyle’s request to view the body camera footage back to the lower court.
The dissenting opinion, written by Justice Harold Eaton, and joined by Justice Karen Carroll, said the majority opinion “bars public agencies from obtaining reimbursement for significant staff time in response to onerous requests to inspect records requiring redactions.”
“Without question, the laudatory policy underlying the PRA is ‘to provide for free and open examination of records consistent with . . . the Vermont Constitution.’ But at the same time the Legislature recognized that record requests ‘entail expending public resources to fulfill requests’ and thus established in the PRA ‘a process for public agencies to charge requesters for the actual costs of copying public records and for staff time associated with fulfilling requests,’” the dissent said.
The two Daves believe there will be opportunties to collaborate and benefit all Rutland residents.
David Wolk, who started a term as interim superintendent of Rutland City Schools on Wednesday, met with Mayor David Allaire on Friday at his City Hall office.
“I don’t know what they are yet, but there are going to be tremendous opportunities for us to work together and expand opportunities for residents, students and save money at the same time,” Wolk said after speaking with Allaire for about 45 minutes.
Wolk said he was still in the initial stages of re-engaging with the Rutland City School system.
Allaire said he believed he had already had a “great relationship” with the city’s schools both in his time as mayor and as a member of the board of aldermen.
“What Dave and I talked about was, ‘Well, how can we expand on those (relationships)? Are there opportunities for more collaboration?’ Like anything else, there always are opportunities. Some of the things that we already do well together are recreational programs. I think there’s a lot of synergy there and we can build on that,” Allaire said.
He added that Wolk suggested there might be opportunities for the city and schools to purchase as a unit and possibly save money through economies of scale.
Wolk said the importance of finding ways to reduce costs for both municipal and school needs was that the funding source is “really just two pockets in the same pair of trousers essentially.”
Finding ways to collaborate through the city’s Department of Recreation and Parks helps keep the schools and the city from “living in silos,” Wolk said. He added that Allaire had raised that point during Friday’s discussion.
Allaire agreed the city and schools had benefited from relatively stable leadership in administrative positions and on their respective boards.
“We’re a small community. We all know each other. Some of us are related, for good or bad,” he said with a laugh. “I think that really does help.”
The two leaders have some time to find savings by working together. On Friday, both said they hadn’t yet begun in earnest to put together the budget they would expect, with their respective board’s approvals, to put before voters in March.
Allaire said he expected the budgeting process to start at the beginning of October and Wolk said the school district would start a “little bit later.”
“Still, it’ll be this fall. We have a new lens to look through, which is, how can we do things better together, more efficiently, more cost-effectively,” Wolk said.
Wolk said he thought there was a unique opportunity for cooperation between the city government and the city schools because he and Allaire have a lengthy history.
“We’ve been friends forever. We’re both Rutland natives,” he said.
In fact, Wolk added, both men’s parents are also Rutland natives.
“We want the best for the city so have sort of a common mutuality of trying to do right by the city,” he said.
The Rutland City Board of Alderman will meet Monday. Allaire said he hadn’t formally invited Wolk to speak at that morning and re-introduce himself to the aldermen, but said he hoped Wolk would visit the meetings anytime he wanted.
Wolk, who said being in City Hall on Friday reminded him of his own stint as a member of the Board of Aldermen, said he hoped to see Allaire at School Board meetings as well.
While Wolk’s acceptance of the position of interim superintendent has reminded people of his previous long-term time as leader of the city schools, he has also had prominent positions as president of Castleton University, principal of Rutland High School, state senator and commissioner of education for the state of Vermont.
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