Brandon files complaint against Sheriff Newton

Tit-for-tat charges fly between town and sheriff


BRANDON — On Monday, the Brandon select board unanimously voted to release a statement defending Town Manager David Atherton against a complaint by Addison County Sheriff Peter Newton alleging that Atherton had acted “unprofessionally.” Furthermore, the select board filed a complaint against Newton with the state criminal justice council, calling his actions “inappropriate.”

The sheriff the complaint against Atherton with the Brandon select board regarding a public request Atherton made to see bodycam footage of an incident in mid-July in which a Brandon resident alleged an Addison County Sheriff Department deputy had acted in an intimidating manner during a traffic stop.

Atherton said he filed a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request to see the bodycam footage to verify whether the Brandon resident had a legitimate complaint against the sheriff’s department. Newton initially rejected Atherton’s request to see the footage.

In emails between Newton and Atherton, in which the select board was included, Newton asserted that Atherton had tried “to use your position as an intimidation factor to my business manager. I believe that action is very inappropriate and very unprofessional. Please provide me with a sworn written statement as to how my deputy acted intimidating.”

As for including the select board in the correspondences, Newton stated in an email, “I included the board because I feel your (Atherton’s) actions of trying to use your position as a tool is very very very wrong, as I am sure the general public would agree.”

Atherton responded to Newton: “I mentioned this during the conversations because we also have a Police Department in Brandon and I know that if someone called our Police Chief stating that they felt intimidated during a traffic stop, he would want to see the bodycam footage to determine what took place and to watch our officer’s behavior.

“Also, when you denied my original request for the bodycam footage,” Atherton wrote in the email, “I reached out to our Chief to discuss how he handles public records requests and he was a bit surprised that you would not comply. So, my second phone call was to ask again, and also relay that as a municipality we are required to provide this information.”

In the end, the sheriff’s department agreed to release the bodycam footage and Atherton was able to pick it up, which he did with Select Board member Tim Guiles.

Following the collection of the footage, Newton said in an email, “Select Board Member Tim Guiles was just here at my office with David Atherton while David picked up his FOIA request which was sent to us through a town of Brandon email address. Mr. Guiles thinks it was inappropriate to include the Select Board in this, I do not. I would like an official response from the Brandon Select Board about your stance on this matter.”

The board went into executive session to discuss the matter and afterward issued the following statement defending Atherton’s request and professionalism: “On July 19th, the Brandon select board was notified by the Addison County Sheriff Peter Newton that our town manager, David Atherton, had made a public records request to his office. It appears that Sheriff Newton was trying to intimidate David Atherton from following through with his records request. The Brandon Select Board finds this action on the part of Sheriff Newton to be inappropriate and is filing a complaint with the Vermont Criminal Justice Council with their Act 56 Professional Regulation Intake Form.” The selectboard also unanimously agreed that Newton’s decisions to include the emails to the selectboard were inappropriate.


The town of Brandon and the police department have a new three-year contract following a unanimous vote following the executive session in which the contract was discussed.

On Tuesday morning, Select Board Chair Seth Hopkins said, “The select board returned to public session and voted to ratify a three-year contract negotiated with the New England Police Benevolent Association Local 422 during the collective bargaining process over the past few months.” Details of the contract were not immediately available.


The select board discussed 17 options presented by area residents of how to use the nearly $400,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (APRA) funds to spend by 2024.

The suggestions included everything from grants or loans for property owners to do energy efficiency projects to removing of traffic lights in the center of town.

“A lot of these projects,” Atherton said, “would be really great but many wouldn’t qualify for the funds.”

Through a process of elimination, the selectboard whittled the list down to nine options: grants or loans for energy efficiency work; increasing affordable housing; Union Street station upgrade; town Wi-Fi; electric police cruisers; solar array; replacing the highway garage; and the downtown Wi-Fi project.

“This is just the starting point,” said Hopkins.


The board, town manager and resident Neil Silins discussed the need to do an inventory of the town’s trees and create a long-term management plan. Atherton informed the board that he had been in contact with Joanne Garton, technical assistance coordinator for the Vermont Urban & Community Forestry, to talk about doing an inventory of the town’s trees, especially in light of the town recently planting nearly 200 trees.

“She has a phenomenal set up with an app with GPS that she is willing to train people how to use,” said Atherton. “I would like to pursue this.”

The tree inventory program could potentially be done in coordination with the creation of a shade tree preservation program, which would help preserve the town’s shade trees and create a plan to maintain the trees and create a healthier canopy.

Silins recommended creating a committee of stakeholders who could work on creating the plan, which he believed would take about four years to write. In the meantime, Atherton suggested moving ahead with the inventory and getting people trained to use the app.

Hopkins suggested moving forward with the inventory and coming back to the plan at a later date.


During the public comment portion of the meeting, Mei Mei Brown, president of the Rutland County Humane Society board of directors, asked how much equipment Animal Control Officer (ACO) Tim Kingston had to perform his duties.

“We have approved everything that he has requested,” said Atherton. “We don’t have any equipment from the previous ACOs, we’re starting from ground zero.”

Brown was concerned that Kingston, and the town, didn’t know what was needed for the position and that he might be injured as a result. Hopkins asked if she would be willing to sit down with Kingston to create a list. Brown said she would be happy to.

Atherton requested to be part of the meeting. “I want to find out what is needed. This is our third ACO since the sheriff’s department stopped doing it.”


Residents on Steinberg Road have requested to have the Class 4 portion of the road be discontinued and have it be gated to prevent trash from accumulating there. If the road is reclassified, or discontinued, then it would be split down the middle and added to the property of those next to it, according to Atherton.

The selectboard will meet at the beginning of the Class 4 road at 6 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 9, to perform a site visit, then will reconvene at the town hall to hold a meeting about the visit. The public is welcome to attend the site visit and meeting.

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