City Council Decides To Delay Vote On Burlington Telecom Buyer

Oct 31, 2017

After a four and a half hour meeting, the Burlington City Council decided to postpone selecting a buyer for Burlington Telecom.

The council had planned to pick between two bids: Tucows, a Canadian Internet and telecom business and Keep BT Local, a cooperative formed to buy Burlington Telecom.

But before the start of the regular meeting and in advance of an executive session, Councilor Karen Paul, a Democratic representing Ward 6, announced that she would recuse herself from the vote to select the buyer of Burlington Telecom. 

During the regular city council meeting, before the council began discussion on the vote, Paul offered few details about her decision to recuse herself. She said her recusal was because of a professional conflict of interest and that it had nothing to do with the two potential buyers of Burlington Telecom.

Paul said the conflict of interest only recently came to light and that she had been working to address the situation until about 4 p.m on Monday, the day of the City Council was set to vote for a buyer for BT.

Councilor Dave Hartnett, a Democratic representing the North District, said that given the information the council learned that night, he wanted to postpone the vote.

“At the eleventh hour, we have a city councilor who steps up and says ‘I can no longer participate because I have a conflict of interest but all along have case votes to get us to this situation.’ I don’t feel good about that,” Hartnett said.

Hartnett said that given the concerns about the viability of the Keep BT Local bid and Citibank’s threat of a lawsuit, it would be best for the council hold off on picking a buyer for BT. He also said if the council did decide to go forward on picking a buyer, he would abstain from the vote.

Harnett made a motion to delay the vote, which initially failed after only getting three votes. However, later in the meeting, Councilor Kurt Wright, a Republican representing Ward 4, made a motion to reconsider Hartnett’s proposal.

At that point, it was getting close to 11 p.m. and Councilor Chip Mason, a Democratic representing Ward 5, called for a brief recess. After the recess, the council voted to reconsider Harnett’s motion to delay the vote until next Monday – and ultimately decided in an eight to three vote, to hold off on the vote until Monday.

Councilors Max Tracy, a Progressive representing Ward 2, Sharon Bushor, an Independent representing Ward 1 and Sara Moore, a Progressive representing Ward 3 voted against postponing the vote.

The meeting next will continue the same order of business as this week’s meeting, meaning that it will essential be a continuation of the meeting held Monday night. It also means that next week’s meeting will not have a public comment period.

City Council President Jane Knodell said postponing the vote was a wise move for the City Council.

“The council has done a lot of listening, but hasn’t had the opportunity to do very much talking with each other and to really kind of debate and weigh out the two options before us,” she said.  “I think there are aspects to of this decision that have not been fully explored and fleshed out and I look forward to having the opportunity to do that on Monday.”