Local reaction continues regarding recent allegations of sexual misconduct, preferential treatment by superiors, and alcohol abuse among male Vermont National Guard members highlighted in articles reported by VTDigger.
In opening remarks at the Dec. 17 city council meeting, Councilor Meaghan Emery said that in light of the allegations revealed in the seven-part series, she would like the council to act.
“I’ve talked with individual constituents as well as individual councilors,” Emery said, “and I would like us to consider putting on a future agenda some kind of message or letter we could write to the Legislature and possibly the Governor with regard to the governance and what we’ve all been learning from the Digger articles about the Vermont National Guard.”
The Vermont National Guard is based at the Burlington International Airport located in South Burlington.
The series, titled “The Flying Fraternity,” was published by VTDigger.com from Nov. 25- Dec. 3 and was the product of interviews with 24 guard members – both current and former – as well as hundreds of documents that call into question how leadership has handled sexism and holding its members accountable for poor behavior – especially senior officials.
During the public comment period of the Dec. 17 city council meeting, resident James Leas addressed the council with his concerns regarding the issues raised in the VTDigger series. Leas was a member of the Save Our Skies citizen group that formed in opposition to the basing of the F-35 fighter jet program at the Vermont National Guard base. The group has been a vocal opponent to the F-35 program, particularly on the basis of increased noise and quality of life issues.
“What struck me was that it was all commanders,” Leas said of the officers facing allegations. “It’s a matter of honesty. We have a serious problem with commanders and their leadership.”
Leas then asked the council to request an investigation by the Legislature and the Attorney General.
“This thing must be investigated,” he said. “And those responsible should be held accountable.”
He said the council should hold a public hearing and invite legislators, Guard officials, residents, city officials and residents to weigh in.
“I think a huge opportunity has opened up with this series,” Leas said.
Martin LaLonde, Vermont State House Representative for South Burlington, Chittenden District 7-1, said Thursday that while he is not assigned to the House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs, which would take up any Legislative hearings on the Guard, he supports further scrutiny into the allegations.
“I generally support the idea of some sort of hearing and some oversight,” he said. “Digger certainly raised concerns and certainly the Legislature should be looking into those.”