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Burlington mayor presents stipulations to City Council to restart search for police chief

photo of Burlington Police logo on a podium
Photo - Pat Bradley/WAMC
photo of Burlington Police logo on a podium

On November 5th Burlington, Vermont Mayor Miro Weinberger suspended the search for a police chief based on a recommendation from the city’s search committee that the applicant pool is insufficient. He informed the city council that he would not ask the search committee to restart the process until councilors take a series of actions to improve search criteria. During this week’s City Council meeting, Weinberger formally presented the steps he wants taken to expand the pool and quality of applicants for the position.

A week after Mayor Weinberger notified the city council that he had suspended the search for a new police chief, he issued a memo outlining five actions his administration says the council must take to restart the search. Recommendations include increasing compensation and retaining an executive search firm to continue the process.

At Monday’s city council meeting, the Democrat said it is clear that significant council action is needed within the next month if the city is to successfully restart the search and attract a qualified pool of candidates.

“If the council is unwilling or does not give really the tools to the administration necessary to successfully create the pool that is desired by the committee and I think a significant part of the city of Burlington the other option is to proceed with the two qualified candidates that we do have before us." Weinberger emphasized. "And I think time is of the essence in making this decision. This cannot go on for an extended period of time.”

Some councilors felt the mayor was not offering a choice but rather an ultimatum.

Ward 8 Progressive Jane Stromberg did not agree with the strategy.

“We are collectively doing this city a disservice in my opinion in not progressing with the process of the search," Stromberg said. "I really struggle to find a real reason for the pause in this search. I just, I’m very surprised at how this process has regressed. I know that we do need to move forward in a way is full of action and not waiting. Rushing this process I just think is a bad idea.”

East District Progressive Jack Hanson asked Mayor Weinberger how much flexibility the council would have as they consider the options put before them.

“If the council puts forward a strong plan, or a plan that the council at least feels is strong, for recruitment that differs from these five exact actions would the administration be willing to support that?" Hanson asked. "Or is it literally we have to do these exact five things or the administration’s just going to move forward with the two candidates?”

“I think the actions that we’ve listed here are important and I can’t see a plan being viable without at least some of the elements that have been described here," responded Weinberger. I would welcome that conversation to seeing if we can come to a consensus plan about the way forward.”

The council took no action on Mayor Weinberger’s proposed actions. It unanimously accepted his formal communication to be placed on file. Mayor Weinberger asked the council to take action at its next meeting on December 13th.

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