Featured, Local News

Zoom-oops sparks controversy in Bridgewater, leadership questioned

By Ethan Weinstein

Bridgewater’s Aug. 17 Select Board meeting devolved into disarray when the board entered into executive session but failed to end its Zoom meeting, allowing the public to hear the private discussion.

Town clerk and recently board-appointed treasurer Nancy Robinson proceeded to claim former treasurer Vicky Young wasted time making frequent trips to the bank and worked otherwise inefficiently during her 30 years on the job. Robinson spoke disparagingly for roughly 10 minutes before Young, still on the Zoom call, began to speak out defensively. The board resumed public meeting and voted to adjourn.

“Nancy just kind of put down everything Vicky Young has done in the last 30 years and claimed that she [Nancy] was the one who has been doing her [Vicky’s] job, and that it [the treasurer position] wasn’t a full time job,” said Bridgewater resident Julie Melendy of Robinson’s comments during executive session.

The Mountain Times was not present for the Aug. 17 Select Board meeting, and the events that took place during the executive session were not recorded in the meeting minutes.

Vermont’s open meetings laws allow private, executive sessions for only specific purposes. The Bridgewater board entered executive session ostensibly to discuss vacancies in town government; the session as it unfolded violated the rules relating to executive sessions.

In the wake of Tuesday’s Zoom-oops, information has come to light regarding Young’s resignation in July as well as the resignation in 2019 of Randy Kennedy, former Bridgewater highway foreman.

Tuesday night, Young took to the Bridgewater Locals Facebook group to issue a response to the “disastrous Select Board meeting.” She refuted Robinson’s claim regarding trips to the bank, and also disagreed with Robinson’s claim that the treasurer position is a “20 hour job.” The post has since garnered over 140 comments made mainly in support of Young and expressing frustration with Robinson.

A person who worked with Young in the Bridgewater town office seconded Young’s refutation of Robinson’s comments. That person wished to remain anonymous.

Young went on to add it was because of Robinson and Select Board Chair Lynne Bertram that she stepped down as treasurer and lister, referring to a “toxic work environment” caused by the two elected officials.

The following day, Heather Kennedy, wife of former highway foreman Randy Kennedy, took to the same Bridgewater Facebook group to air further grievances. She cited the toxic work environment created by Robinson and Bertram as the reason for her husband’s resignation. He resigned in June 2019 after Bertram accused him of stealing dirt during a town-sanctioned bridge replacement project. This accusation was later deemed false by the Select Board.

Currently, Bridgewater has only one of three highway positions filled. Randy Kennedy now works on Plymouth’s highway team.

“Right now, we’re in a tailspin,” said Select Board member George Spear in regards to Tuesday’s meeting and Bridgewater’s inability to hire the necessary road crew.

Robinson declined to comment when asked about the Aug. 17 Select Board meeting. Bertram could not be reached for comment.

Tuesday’s events made public years-long frustrations with Bridgewater town government, particularly with Robinson and Bertram.

In preparation for the Select Board meeting, Bridgewater resident Clifford Geno had put together a petition to call for a special town meeting in order to recall elected officials. Because this petition mentioned voting by Australian ballot — and Bridgewater uses floor voting — the petition was thrown out. He plans to present the board with a new petition next meeting.

Robinson will likely remain both town clerk and treasurer until Town Meeting in March. The Select Board has said they are considering re-hiring Randy Kennedy as road foreman. It remains to be seen whether Kennedy wants to resume his former post.

Mountain Times Newsletter

Sign up below to receive the weekly newsletter, which also includes top trending stories and what all the locals are talking about!