Sexual harassment investigation was biased
This letter to the editor is a note of concern about how the town (Essex) handled the investigation into concerns about sexual harassment (as reported in the June 7 issue front page).
Unfortunately but understandably, no details of the complaint are provided, so that leaves a lot of questions unanswered. This particular lack of transparency is partially acceptable, but some of it is likely to be the usual CYA stuff.
However, the failure to provide the complainant with a transcript of her own testimony to the investigator (who is reported to have questioned “at least one town employee” before issuing his report – seriously, how complete and unbiased is an investigation in which “at least one employee” is questioned?) is not acceptable. There is no transparency in that, yet this was the basis for the ultimate decision. Ms. Wrenner deserves to know how her testimony was documented; to avoid giving her this data is a message that there is something in it that they would rather she didn’t see.
My greatest concern about all this is based on my seven decades of life as a female. All my life I have experienced second-class treatment when sitting at a discussion table dominated by men. Men of my generation readily discount what women have to say, often talk over women while they are speaking, and generally condescendingly dismiss concerns expressed by women at the table. While this behavior has gradually become somewhat diminished over the decades, I have seen it in many white males younger than I by a decade or two as well.
It is entirely conceivable that Ms. Wrenner was subjected to sexist treatment, which could easily have included sexual innuendoes which are expected to be accepted as normal by male-dominated work groups. #MeToo obviously doesn’t make sense to everyone, which is another problem for another letter.
Moreover, it is shocking that the person overseeing the investigation “has a lengthy history of working and socializing with the accused.” This man should have transferred that responsibility to someone who could be objective.
This was a situation in which one woman was hemmed in by men with more power than she had. They even refused to accord her the courtesy of having a female investigator. This smacks of being a good ole boys’ power play which has once again succeeded in maintaining the desired masculine status quo.
I have a teeny hope that the whole process will be root-cause analyzed by an impartial committee. Ms. Wrenner and the other women who experienced the misery of sexist treatment on the job were not given the credibility that was their due.
Shame on the town
Selectwoman Irene Wenner should have backed away from this “investigation” when the town denied her request for a female investigator. How insensitive. The denial of this reasonable request is tantamount to insisting that the fox is qualified to investigate the hen house.
At the very least, the town should have offered a two-person panel (man and woman; do I really need to say it?) to do the investigation, or, again, in fairness to Ms. Wrenner (and again, at the very least), required that the Burgess report be submitted to an independent and qualified senior female official for review and comment prior to finalization and release.
Shame on the town; it has some considerable “face” to save, in my opinion.
Painting project a spot of brightness
I just finished listening, once again, to the song “We Are the World”. There is a line that goes, “We are the world, we are the children, we are the ones who make a brighter day, so let’s start giving”.
And I witnessed that on Saturday, June 2, when volunteers from Rebuilding Together of Greater Burlington and VFW Post 6689 showed up to repair the front porch and scrap and paint my father’s home. About an hour into the project, we were surprised to see Gov. Phil Scott approach. In a very low key manner he spoke to my father and then asked who was in charge and said he was ready to lend a hand wherever he was needed. So for the next three hours he was up on a ladder scraping and painting! A neighbor on McGregor Street, Carol Conley, drove by, stopped to see what was going on and was so impressed that she returned later with donuts for everyone. My 13-year-old grandson was also there working. I am so glad he witnessed and was part of neighbor helping neighbor. In this time of so much hate and bitterness, we all need to make the world a better place by giving – a smile, a hug, a helping hand. Thanks to all who brightened not only my dad’s day but also his home.
For the family of Harold Bergeron, Essex Jct.