Burlington Telecom officials avoid prosecution

first_imgOn June 29, Chittenden County State’s Attorney TJ Donovan stated that he would not be prosecuting public officials for any involvement in the slew of financial problems that Burlington Telecom, the city-owned communications company, is facing.In December of 2010, an audit known as the Larkin Report was released finding that BT had borrowed $16.9 million in city funds over a six-year period that it never repaid. It also claimed that the company knowingly withheld this information from the Department of Public Service and other officials.The report concluded that the debt BT owes to the city on top of the $33.5 million it owes to CityCapital, its commercial lender, were sufficient enough to cast serious doubt on the viability of the company. According to BT’s agreement with CitiCapital, its lender can effectively take possession of BT’s assets if it so desired, but the decision to do so hasn’t been addressed or revealed.BT’s problems didn’t end there. The company was also accused of charging certain city operators at a discounted rate, a violation of state code. Another serious retrograde occurred last year when The City of Burlington and the Burlington airport’s credit rating dropped because of the money taken from the city’s coffers and subsequent doubts about the liquidity of the city. This lowered rating raised the costs of borrowing money and can stymie development plans. The courts got involved last year when two taxpayers filed a civil lawsuit against BT, demanding that they repay the money that was taken from the city; however, this accusation, despite outrage and disgust, was put to rest by Donovan.Investigator interviewed 20 officials in association with the charges over the last six months and flipped through thousands of pages of documents. Donovan noted that despite his ruling, according to the Vermont Access to Public Records statute, the information cannot lawfully be released to the pubic and will remain confidential.Regarding the documents, Donovan said, “I understand the public has a right to know, but people who have been investigated and not charged also have rights.” The release of details such as names and those interviewed would amount to a smearing of their names in the public’s eye, he noted.Although Donovan did accuse the city officials of being both incompetent and arrogant, he stated that their actions ‘â ¦did not warrant criminal prosecutionâ ¦’ and that a trial would ‘â ¦not be in the interest of justice or the best interest of Chittenden County.’Donovan also stated that he considered filing a misdemeanor neglect of duty charge against the officials involved, although this would do more harm than good.According to Donovan the trial could potentially cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and last an extended period of time. He said that such a trial would not only hinder the ability of the city to move forward and recover, but it also wouldn’t come close to reimbursing the money lost.There has been speculation as to whether or not Donovan will run for mayor next year. His decision not to prosecute would surely be considered by voters if he decides to do so.  Mayor Bob Kiss refuted many of the conclusions of the Larkin Report and spoke in favor of the company’s preservation. Kiss also regretted the resignation of Jonathan Leopold’s, the city’s Chief Administrative Officer, who stepped down on July 1 of this year. Kiss released a statement following Donovan’s announcement expressing his thankfulness that no prosecution is in order and that the decision ‘â ¦will help BT and the City move forward.’Although Kiss made it clear that the financial and legal struggles are far from over, he expressed a clear faith in BT and their next steps: ‘Burlington Telecom provides high quality services to Burlington residents and businesses with tremendous potential for the future.’Vermont Business Magazine. Neel Tandan.last_img

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