After a heated exchange May 11 between Shelburne Selectboard chair Jerry Storey and board member Cate Cross, Storey decided to resign as chair.
His last meeting as chair was Tuesday, May 25.
Storey will stay on as a member of the selectboard.
In his resignation letter, Storey said during his more than four years as chair, he believed the board restored respect and goodwill among members, after several years of tumult on the board.
While the board disagreed at times, Storey said it “did not do so at a colleague’s expense.”
“Comments of a selectboard member last Tuesday night (May 11) during discussion of the equity and diversity task force directed as they were at me, repudiated this collegial spirit and practice,” Storey wrote.
The discussion Storey referred to was a debate about how members of a newly formed equity and diversity committee should be chosen. Cross referred to a suggestion by Storey as “rude” and he characterized her use of that word as “intemperate.”
At that meeting, the board unanimously agree to a proposal from the equity and diversity task force to turn the group into an official town committee.
The task force was formed after the February presentation to the selectboard of a study showing showing racial disparities statewide, which included Shelburne. The study found that Black drivers were 4.4 times more likely to be stopped.
At the May 11 meeting, Storey said two members of the committee should be members of town staff, suggesting library director Kevin Unrath and Sgt. Josh Flore of the Shelburne Police Department. Flore is already a member of the task force.
Storey also wanted to appoint Sean Moran of Shelburne, who sat in on several meetings but said he did not feel welcome.
Members of the task force objected, saying they should be in charge of selecting members to ensure its diversity.
Task force member Erika Lea said, “I’m a little alarmed that we’re in a spot right now where you are nominating people for the committee when a big chunk of the work we’re saying we want to take on is being thoughtful about outreach for this committee.”
Patricia Fontaine, a member of the task force, urged a slowdown to nominations, and said that one of the task force’s goals is to build diversity from the ground up, yet so many of the task force, including herself, are white.
Task force members want people to apply for the equity and diversity committee, Lea said.
She said the task force has developed a process for applicants to demonstrate their commitment to increasing equity and diversity in Shelburne and demonstrate their knowledge of and willingness to learn more about the issue.
‘Rude’ and ‘intemperate’
Town manager Lee Krohn said the committee’s members must be known before the town can make it official.
“I think I hear the task force saying they’re not ready for that yet because they’d like to go through a broad-based process in order to recruit members,” Krohn said.
Storey added that the committee could not receive town funding unless it was a formal town committee.
In order to recruit new and diverse members, task force member Jennie Hoenigsberg said the committee needs funds to pay for flyers or advertising.
“We’re kind of caught in the crossfire of good intentions on both sides,” Krohn said.
Krohn then asked if the equity and diversity group should remain a task force.
Storey suggested that the selectboard should revoke the motion that it had just made and change the diversity and equity committee back to a task force.
“My sense is we leave it as a task force and ask you to identify how to identify, or at least suggest to us, how you are going to identify town staff to add to it,” Storey said.
He added that he was very reluctant to give up on making Moran a member of the task force.
Cross said she thought it would make the selectboard look bad to revoke a resolution that had just passed.
She objected to asking volunteers to come back to the selectboard for it to reapprove the proposal.
“Shelburne has flubbed a couple of times and this looks bad on us to revoke this committee,” Cross said. “I think it’s rude.”
Storey said he thought Cross’ use of the term “rude” was “intemperate.”
Ultimately, the selectboard affirmed the transition of the task force to a formal town committee, appointing its current members to terms of 30 days.
Storey said he decided the next day to resign as chairman.
Resigning, he said, “just seems to me to be really a no brainer, in terms of what had occurred.”