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City Officials Considering Investigation Into Misconduct Allegations Against City Councilor

East District Progressive Burlington Councilor Jack Hanson
Jack Hanson for East District City Council/Facebook
East District Progressive Burlington Councilor Jack Hanson

A Burlington City Councilor accused of sexual misconduct is denying wrongdoing and says he welcomes an investigation. The anonymous allegations relate to an encounter with a coworker in 2017 before he was elected to represent the city’s East District.

During the city council meeting’s public comments Monday, a woman named Jada, who did not provide her full name, and a man named Will Keaton called on East District Progressive Jack Hanson to be held accountable for a 2017 incident when he was working for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. 

“We’re here because we want to hold a city councilor in particular accountable for his actions," Jada said. "When you do harm it comes at your doorstep or it comes to City Hall. You have the name so do something about it.”

“We’re really done with the political games to protect the reputations of politicians," Keaton added. 

“Stand with survivors and call out your colleagues and who knows y’all could be next," said Jada.

The allegations are based on an Instagram posting by Zanevia Wilcox, an activist with The Black Perspective, on behalf of an anonymous woman describing an intimate, but not sexual, encounter with Hanson after a VPIRG staff party.  

Reached by WAMC, Hanson was willing to talk on the record but declined to be recorded. He said he knew some people planned to attend the council meeting and prior to its start he posted his account of the encounter on Facebook.

The description mostly matches the accuser’s. Hanson says every allegation of sexual assault must be taken seriously and is encouraging an investigation. He acknowledged a consensual encounter and admits there was a power imbalance because he was a VPIRG director.

City Council President Progressive Max Tracy says he learned there might be allegations made shortly before the council meeting. 

“I think it’s a deeply concerning situation and one that we absolutely have to take seriously," Tracy said. "I take very seriously you know any accusations of sexual assault and I think that they need to be fully investigated.”

Tracy is in discussions with Democratic Mayor Miro Weinberger about how an investigation might be conducted and if it is appropriate for the city to undertake it.

South District Democrat Joan Shannon questions whether a city-led investigation is needed or if one is wanted by the victim. 

“You would need have the cooperation of the victim and I am not aware that anybody has that to date," Shannon said. "The victim has remained anonymous. But the account of both the victim and Councilor Hanson are the same. He doesn’t deny any of this other than she calls it sexual assault. He doesn’t call it sexual assault. But the facts of the case seem to be agreed on. It’s unclear to me what any investigation would yield and unless the victim wants an investigation there shouldn’t be an investigation.”

Shannon said an email sent to councilors from the activists on Wednesday indicated they would protest during the next council meeting on August 9. It also called on Councilor Hanson to resign and said there was no need for an investigation.   

Hanson told WAMC that he stands by his decision to not quit. He says there are broader implications and impacts and he wants to work through them to the truth.

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