By: Joe Strupp
A Vermont newspaper claims that a local fire chief “snatched” financial documents related to the fire department from one of its reporters and threatened to retaliate if the paper reported any of the documents’ information.
In a story published today in the Brattleboro Reformer, the paper reported that Fire Chief Tom Fox of the Vernon Fire Department and treasurer Sheldon Shippee took the documents from a reporter’s hands outside of the town offices on Monday.
The paper stated that the confrontation occurred shortly after “fire officials seized documents from the town office hours after they voluntarily turned them over to town auditors.” The paper added that “upon learning that the Reformer had been given access to some of the records … Fox and company treasurer Sheldon Shippee arrived … and snatched the documents from a reporter’s hands.”
“Several minutes later, the two officials confronted the reporter outside of the town offices,” the paper stated, adding that Fox told the reporter, “If you print any of it, I will assure you there will be some retaliation.” The paper said Fox later clarified that he meant he would “take recourse,” not “retaliate.”
Auditor Phyllis Newton told the paper that Shippee turned over a “very incomplete set of financial records that morning and asked Newton to sign a confidentiality statement barring her from releasing the documents to the public.” The paper said she “resisted releasing the documents to the Reformer, citing the confidentiality agreement and saying that doing so would make her job more difficult in the future.”
But the paper reported that it was allowed to view a three-page handwritten ledger of financial information. “Moments after the ledger was turned over, Fox and Shippee arrived and protested the partial disclosure,” the paper reported.
Soon after, “the fire officials grabbed the three-page ledger and a photocopy of the confidentiality agreement from the reporter,” the Reformer reported. “They also took a folder containing the other documents and the original version of the confidentiality agreement from Newton.”