Select Board chairman apologizes for comment
BENNINGTON -- The chairman of the Bennington Select Board has apologized for a comment picked up by a television microphone in which he referred to a citizen as a "son of a bitch."
"I realize I was wrong, and I apologize for that," said Joseph L. Krawczyk Jr. on Friday.
Krawczyk, who has served four terms on the board and was elected its chairman in 2011, said he was speaking to himself when he made the remark, which came amid a debate over a controversial panhandling ordinance.
The Oct. 28 meeting was filmed by Catamount Access Television, which posts much of its content to YouTube. The Select Board was taking comments from citizens for and against the panhandling measure. Among those opposed was Ron Conroy of Bennington.
Conroy had decried the amendment earlier in the meeting, and after some spoke in favor of it, he spoke again.
Below is a transcript of the portion of the CAT-TV YouTube video in question.
Conroy: I would just like to repeat that peaceful solicitation of any kind, including panhandling, is a right afforded to all citizens by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. At the beginning of this meeting we all stood up and pledged allegiance to the flag, and now we're sitting down and discussing about taking away First Amendment rights? I think it's disgusting.
Conroy gets up to go back to his seat.
Krawczyk: You think I'm disgusted after spending 28 years serving my country in the army?
Conroy stops on the way back to his seat, in front of the camera and faces Krawczyk who sits at the board table.
Conroy: I'm a disabled veteran, Desert Storm.
Krawczyk: So what are you trying to tell me?
Conroy: I'm trying to say you have no right to throw that Army thing at me.
Krawczyk: I'm telling you, don't tell me I'm doing something against the Constitution.
Conroy: I fought for my Constitution.
Krawczyk allows Bennington resident Mike Bethel to the microphone to speak. Bethel speaks in favor of the amendment and leaves. The camera is focused on an empty chair.
Krawczyk: Okay, thank you, Michael. Okay, the next item on the agenda is the net metering agreement, Barney Road site. Dan, you talking to that? A long pause. I'm going to get that son of a bitch afterward.
Krawczyk, a retired U.S. Army colonel who is also president of the Vermont Veterans' Home Board of Directors, told the Banner Friday he intended to speak to Conroy after the meeting but Conroy left before it ended.
"I apologize to him, I apologize to the voters who've elected me for four terms," Krawczyk said. "They should expect more from me."
He said he has taken many oaths, both in the military and as a public servant, to uphold the United States Constitution and he felt at the time what Conroy said was accusatory. "It struck a bad nerve with me," said. "The error is on my part."
The "son of a bitch" comment, he said, was not intended for anyone's ears but his own, and he regrets having let his emotions take control.
Attempts to reach Conroy were unsuccessful Friday.
The exchange drew criticism from people commenting on the Banner's website and Facebook page. In September, Krawczyk drew the same sort of Internet ire when he ordered a CAT-TV camera operator to stop filming an argument between Bethel and board member Jim Carroll. CAT-TV Executive Director Lisa Byer told the Banner that anyone has a right to film those meetings and operators have been directed to keep filming in the future.
Krawczyk said if a similar situation came up again he would call the meeting into recesses instead of ask the camera to be turned off.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.