By Neil P. Allen
BRANDON—On Monday, July 26, the Brandon Select Board unanimously voted to release a statement regarding a complaint against Brandon Town Manager David Atherton for acting unprofessionally. The issue arose when Atherton requested to see bodycam footage following a complaint that an Addison County Sheriff Department deputy had acted intimidating during a traffic stop. Sheriff Peter Newton interpreted Atherton’s request as unprofessional.
In emails between Sheriff Newton and Atherton, in which the Select Board was included, following the public records request, Newton asserted that the town manager had acted out of line. “I believe you were trying to use your position as an intimidation factor to my business manager. I believe that action is very inappropriate and very unprofessional. Please provide me with a sworn written statement as to how my deputy acted intimidating.”
As for including the Select Board in the correspondences, Newton stated in an email, “I included the Board because I feel your actions of trying to use your position as a tool is very very very wrong, as I am sure the general public would agree.”
In response, Atherton said, “I mentioned this during the conversations because we also have a Police Department in Brandon and I know that if someone called our Police Chief stating that they felt intimidated during a traffic stop, he would want to see the bodycam footage to determine what took place and to watch our officer’s behavior.
“Also, when you denied my original request for the bodycam footage I reached out to our Chief to discuss how he handles public records requests and he was a bit surprised that you would not comply. So, my second phone call was to ask again and also relay that as a municipality we are required to provide this information,” he continued.
In the end, the sheriff’s department agreed to release the footage and Atherton was able to pick it up, which he did with Select Board member Tim Guiles.
Following the collection of the footage, Newton said in an email, “Select Board Member Tim Guiles was just here at my office with David Atherton while David picked up his FOIA request which was sent to us through a town of Brandon email address. Mr. Guiles thinks it was inappropriate to include the Select Board in this, I do not. I would like an official response from the Brandon Select Board about your stance on this matter.”
Following the executive session, the select board released this statement regarding the issue:
“On July 19th, the Brandon Select Board was notified by the Addison County Sheriff Peter Newton that our town manager, David Atherton, had made a public records request to his office. It appears that Sheriff Newton was trying to intimidate David Atherton from following through with his records request. The Brandon Select Board finds this action on the part of Sheriff Newton to be inappropriate and is filing a complaint with the Vermont Criminal Justice Council with their Act 56 Professional Regulation Intake Form.”