Elodie Reed, St. Albans Messenger
ALBURGH — Bernard Savage elected not to resign from his selectboard position Tuesday.
Savage, 57, made that decision during a meeting last night that was held without incident until the end, when a shouting match erupted. The anger was mostly directed toward the selectboard for asking Savage to resign, and some of it was also directed at the media.
At the beginning of the meeting, prior to any other business, the four other selectboard members made a unanimous motion asking Savage to resign in light of the federal charge he received last week for distributing cocaine.
Savage’s home and business, B.P. Autoworks, was raided by federal and state agents on July 1, when 103 guns and other items were taken. Nearly two weeks ago, Savage was arrested after receiving a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his hand.
His arrest was due to the fact that on July 1, he had told Vermont State Police he used and sold small amounts of cocaine. Under a lesser-known federal law, anyone who uses illicit substances or misuses controlled substances is not allowed to possess a firearm.
Savage appeared in U.S. District Court in Burlington for probable cause and detention hearings last week. Due to evidence presented by a Drug Enforcement Agent in an affidavit and documents from a July 15 gun sale at M & R Ammo & Guns in Highgate, Magistrate Judge John M. Conroy decided to charge Savage. He was released with a number of conditions, including no possession of firearms and drug counseling and screening.
In light of all this, Alburgh Selectboard Chair Steve Aubin made an adjustment to last night’s agenda – it was the first meeting since Savage’s arrest.
“Due to the events of the past couple of weeks, I feel like it has become a distraction to the town,” said Aubin. “I would, at this point, like to [ask] this board to make a motion to ask Mr. Savage to resign.”
The motion passed 4-0, with Savage abstaining. “Mr. Savage, I will ask you at this time,” said Aubin. “Would you like to resign?”
Savage, his arm still in a sling from the gunshot incident, his hand bandaged and a hospital bracelet on his wrist, looked out at the 30 or so attendees sitting in the cafeteria hall of the Alburgh Municipal Offices. “I’ve had a lot of people come and talk to me, and there are a lot of people here tonight,” he said. “They’ve asked me to stay on.”
He added, “I wish not to resign at this time due to the townspeople.”
Throughout most of the meeting, business proceeded as usual. The atmosphere was positive between the selectboard and the audience.
Savage remained quiet throughout the meeting, though he did second two motions, including one to apply for a municipal planning grant through the Northwest Regional Planning Commission for creating a new Town Plan, as well as another to accept a contract for windows to be installed in the town’s library.
The meeting remained uneventful until the end of the “Visitor Input” portion of the meeting. Joseph Deyo, 47, then spoke up.
“I’ve known you all your life,” he said to the selectboard. “Why would any of you want him to be done?”
He added that there are plenty of people hired by the town who have run into trouble with the law. “It’s been personal,” Deyo said. “Why badger Bernard?”
Aubin asked how the selectboard had badgered Savage, and an unidentified woman in the back of the room shouted, “To ask him to resign?”
Leann Porto, 56, pointed out that didn’t constitute badgering. “It was asked and it was stopped, correct?” she said. “Now it’s one – they’re all going to go back to making this town the best it can be.”
The unidentified woman continued speaking about what she felt was an inappropriate motion for the selectboard to make. “That’s his own business,” she said. She also made comments about the media covering Savage’s arrest and court appearances.
A woman, later identified as Sandra Sturgeon, told the Messenger, “This wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for you.”
Porto asked, “You guys asked to do something – is this going to be an ongoing thing?”
Aubin replied, “We cannot force Bernard to resign.”
A huge round of applause broke out following that statement.
The argument continued however – Sturgeon stood up to leave. “It’s done with – why keep hashing it?” she yelled. She and the unidentified woman began yelling and swearing at each other, and a number of other people began to leave. The yelling continued for a few moments inside and outside the room.
Once everyone quieted down, Aubin said, “Well that subject is closed for the night.”
Following the signing of warrants, the selectboard went into executive session.
While Savage remains on the selectboard, he is also going through the continuing court process for the federal charge. In addition to abiding by his conditions of release, Savage also has to undergo the pre-trial services process.