Dewar resigns from Pownal Select Board

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POWNAL — First-time Select Board member Jenny Dewar has resigned with four months left in her term, citing growing turmoil on the board that she says arises from another member's unwarranted hostility toward her.

The board accepted Dewar's resignation and voted 3-1 to appoint Suzanne Caraman, who served on the board from May 2016 to March 2018, to fill the remainder of Dewar's term. Dewar's resignation letter had requested this appointment.

"I don't know anybody more capable at this point and up to speed on where we are," Jason Olanksy, vice chairman of the board, said of Caraman at the meeting. "I think we need to continue moving along here."

Caraman said no one had formally offered her the position when reached by the Banner early Friday afternoon.

"I would consider it," she said. "I can't accept it until they offer it to me."

Dewar's resignation letter describes a campaign of opposition against her by Robert Jarvis, who also joined the board earlier this year.

"Since joining the board, every initiative that I have proposed has been in one way or another obstructed or interfered with by Mr. Jarvis," Dewar said in her resignation letter, sent to the Banner.

"It's been exhausting," she said when reached Friday. "And it wasn't that I couldn't take it," she said of what she described as attacks by Jarvis and his friends. "I really felt like it was interfering with the town business. I just felt that the board could get more accomplished if I leave, so I'm no longer a target of the vitriol."

The board is getting "bogged down with nonsense" from Jarvis, she said.

"It was disappointing to see Ms. Dewar takes political disagreement as personal attacks," Jarvis said in an email to the Banner Friday. "I wish her the best in her future endeavors. I remain committed to improved transparency and ethical standards in our local government."

The Banner emailed Jarvis additional questions, at his request, seeking responses to Dewar's allegations. He had not responded by press time on Friday.

Dewar said that the issue is not a personality conflict. "I don't respect his way of doing things," she said of Jarvis. "He seems to forget that it's a [Select Board] of five, and he's not the mayor of our town."

The board has been affected by problems between Dewar and Jarvis, Olansky said.

"It's been a real rocky, rocky road," he said. "We've been struggling as a board with the friction between the two of them."

That friction has been present since Jarvis and Dewar first started working on the board together, he said.

Olansky said he's surprised that Dewar resigned. But it may relieve some tension on the board, he said.

"The turmoil has caused all of us to get off track of what the town should be," he said. "[And] as a board, [from] what we should be doing."

Town Administrator Michael Walker said that Dewar's resignation surprised him.

"And she'll be missed by me, personally," he said. "I think the world of her, and I hope she has the best of luck."

When asked if he had any thoughts on Dewar's allegations against Jarvis, Walker said that any difficulty between the two is none of his business.

"My thought as the town administrator is [Jarvis] has the right to vote any way he sees," he said. "I have no animosity toward anyone. I'm an administrator; I carry out the will of the board."

Dewar claims in her resignation letter that Jarvis has "hounded" Walker daily. Walker said that is not correct.

"Mr. Jarvis expressed concerns, as is his right, and I tried to address those concerns," he said. "The gentleman has every right in the world, as [a] Select Board member, to ask me how the grant was written."

That grant, a municipal planning grant, received a letter of support from Discover Pownal, a grassroots community organization that Dewar co-founded. Walker said he'd asked the organization to write the letter.

Jarvis contested the fact that Discover Pownal wrote a letter in support of the grant, Walker said.

"[He] had concerns about that," he said. "They were discussed in open meeting."

Dewar said Jarvis also violates open meeting laws through group emails to more than a quorum of the board. Walker said he is not privy to emails sent between board members, and that issue was not raised to him.

Walker said he is also not privy to any personal conflict between Dewar and Jarvis.

"I administrate the town's business," he said. "I'm not privy to any back-and-forth."

Caraman said she's "not for" the controversy taking place on the board. "[It] has divided the town," she said. "I don't want any part of it. It needs to stop. The town needs to work together, not divided. And I feel I can work with the board."

Caraman said she has worked with everyone on the board before besides Jarvis.

"Pownal's a great town," she said. "I just hope this can settle down and we can work on the important issues."

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-5767, ext. 118.


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