October 21st, 2009

Adrian Goes There: Surrender Leopold!

by Philip Baruth

We bring you this late breaking news: Burlington City Councilor Ed Adrian has just released a letter calling not merely for an audit of Burlington Telecom, but that CAO Jonathan Leopold be placed on administrative leave pending the audit’s findings. Coming rapidly on the heels of David O’Brien’s recent condemnation of Leopold, and the Free Press call for an audit, Adrian’s letter can’t help but crank up the tension. The entire text is below. — PB

Bob Kiss, left, and Jonathan Leopold, right

RE: Administrative Leave for CAO Jonathan Leopold

Dear Bob:

Based on his public statements about the actions he has taken since bringing the management of Burlington Telecom (BT) into the CAO’s office in November 2007, I am respectfully asking you to initiate a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the management of BT and to place CAO Jonathan Leopold on unpaid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

I do not take my responsibility in writing this letter lightly and I do so only after having consulted with many attorneys and dozens of thoughtful members of the community. I also understand that, because I am the messenger, you may see this letter as “political maneuvering.” While partisan politics is not at all my motivation in writing this letter, the process in and of itself makes this a political situation. I have consulted with Ken Schatz and asked him what it would take to initiate proceedings against a department head. Attorney Schatz has advised me that disciplinary proceedings with respect to department heads are controlled by City Charter Section 129, which essentially provides that only the City Council and/or the Mayor may initiate disciplinary proceedings against a department head. Thus, unlike “at will” or union employees, disciplinary action against department heads are “politicized” by the plain language of the City Charter which only allows elected officials to take such action.

With that being said, I wish that this letter were coming from someone other than me. I hope you understand that whatever I do and however I do it, it is because I think it is in the best interests of my constituents and the City as a whole. It is thus after weeks of careful thought and consideration that I am respectfully requesting that you place CAO Jonathan Leopold on unpaid administrative leave pending a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the handling of Burlington Telecom.

The CAO’s own public admissions in respect to BT, clearly establish the following facts: 1) he deceived the Council (the corporate board for BT) by omission; 2) for a period of at least six (6) months; 3) that he purposefully and willfully violated BT’s certificate of public good; 4) by moving millions of dollars from the City’s cash pool. Again all of this was done without approval (i.e. a vote) by the Council. Please note that when I indicate that CAO Leopold acted illegally, I am not alleging that he has engaged in any criminal wrongdoing; however, it is entirely clear that he intentionally violated the CPG, thus breaking the law and thereby acting illegally.

ed adrian and family
Ed Adrian and family

The CAO’ s own statements conclusively establish that he misappropriated millions of taxpayer dollars and mislead the Council and the public for an extended period of time about this illegal diversion of city funds. If these admissions do not by themselves demonstrate dereliction of the CAO’s official duties, meriting an imposed absence pending the outcome of an investigation, than [sic] it is difficult to imagine what does. Certainly your own precedent in suspending a City employee pending the investigation of issues involving far less money and infinitely less jeopardy to taxpayers demands this action at the very least.

Bob, we are at a crucial turning point in Burlington’s history. BT may still be a viable venture for Burlington, but it has become clear to me over the last month that it has been mismanaged and that the CAO is responsible for this mismanagement. Success can never be claimed if it is founded on illegality. For the people of Burlington, the City, and BT I would encourage you to move forward and support a leave of absence for the CAO and an independent investigation that will determine the mistakes that were made and keep BT from making similar errors in the future.

For now, I remain,

Very truly yours,

/s/ Ed Adrian
Ward 1 City Councilor

Cc: City Councilors