Board of Aldermen President Sharon Davis took unnamed board members to task Monday for talking to people she said they shouldn’t.
At issue were a board member meeting with a landlord who was suing the city, Davis said, and one discussing an executive session meeting regarding that lawsuit with a reporter. Davis brought it up at the end of the board’s regular meeting Monday as the aldermen prepared to go into executive session to discuss a proposed contract involving the recreation and parks department.
City resident Mark Nowakowski is suing the city in cooperation with his landlord, William Dydo, who is not a city resident but has a running dispute with the city over unpaid taxes on several rental properties. The lawsuit argues that the March election should be thrown out because the city report was published late. Dydo had texted Mayor David Allaire prior to the lawsuit being filed threatening to invalidate the election if the city didn’t cut him a deal.
A Rutland County civil court judge threw the lawsuit out following a hearing. Nowakowski appealed to the Vermont Supreme Court and granted Dydo limited power of attorney to settle the lawsuit. Allaire met with Dydo and brought a settlement proposal to the board — the terms have not been disclosed — but was unable to win the board’s support during an executive session on Sept. 3.
“An alderman chose to meet with Mr. Dydo, who we are in litigation with,” Davis said. “What I would like is for you to think about that, if you feel comfortable with that.”
Davis said she and City Attorney Matt Bloomer had spoken with the alderman, who she did not name, and expressed their concerns and objections regarding the meeting.
“If we have a big discussion about this, it should be in executive session,” she said.
Davis went on to say it was “confirmed by our local Herald reporter” that Alderman Scott Tommola had been contacted for a story on the lawsuit that ran late last month because the reporter was told Tommola was among the most vocal during the Sept. 3 executive session. Davis said she was unhappy that anyone on the board was sharing such information, saying the board cannot represent the voters and have the trust of the administration if executive session discussions are not kept secret.
“Are you going to go to alderman jail?” she said. “No. Do you get fined legally? No.”
Davis asked the board members to think on the subject. Alderman Christopher Ettori pushed back.
“After the discussion, there was a public motion made by myself, seconded by Alderman Tommola, to deny the request and, further, Alderman Tommola requested a roll call vote,” Ettori said, pointing out that any reasonable person might infer the strength of Tommola’s stance.
The vote was five in favor and two against, with one abstention and two aldermen absent. It failed for lack of six votes, but because it was a motion to deny the failure had no effect — only a successful motion to approve would have authorized the settlement.
Ettori also objected to her overall stance.
“There is not a rule or a pledge we sign that we cannot talk to anyone,” he said. “What’s more is we talked in private ... so I appreciate that.”