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July 2009

July 31, 2009

YMCA Management Knew About Other Incidents Involving Flanagan

More questions have surfaced about how the YMCA handled concerns about Democrat Sen. Ed Flanagan, a Chittenden County state senator and candidate for lieutenant governor.

Last week, a Y patron filed a formal complaint alleging Flanagan was masturbating in the facility's Men's Wellness Center. Flanagan, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a 2005 car crash, has denied the accusation.

In his "Fair Game" column this week, Shay Totten wrote that the incident wasn't the first of its kind. But YMCA President and CEO Mary Burns said that, though she was aware that Flanagan had had problems during his workouts in the past, she was "unaware of the other incidents" Totten described in his column.

Burns said essentially the same thing to Tim Johnson when he re-reported the story for the Burlington Free Press.  According to the Free Press, "Burns said she was aware only that Flanagan's safety on exercise equipment had been called into question."

But Alex Nief, who worked as the Y's member services evening supervisor from March 2008 until May 2009, disputes Burns' claims in the Burlington Free Press story.

On Thursday, Nief provided Seven Days with copies of two emails he sent to Burns and other YMCA managers back in March and April. Those emails (posted below) indicate that YMCA management knew about other troubling and inappropriate behavior by Flanagan months before the formal complaint that was filed last week by YMCA member Tiki Archambeau.

In the first email, dated March 29, 2009, Nief reported a patron — other than Archambeau — had seen Flanagan "acting strangely" in the men's wellness center. Later in that same email, Nief told his bosses that this same patron, and another, had witnessed Flanagan masturbating in the men's sauna.

"To avoid making an embarrassing scene, I did not address the masturbation or ask [Flanagan] to leave," Nief wrote to his bosses in March. Instead, Nief said he monitored Flanagan's behavior to "make sure he was acting appropriately....

"Since Ed is a state senator, I wanted to handle this as carefully as possible to avoid doing any harm to his reputation," Nief added. "In my opinion, from what I and others have witnessed, Ed should have his membership terminated immediately. He will get hurt using our equipment on his own and bring harm to his and the YMCA's reputation if he is charged with any crimes related to his behavior."

In the second email, dated April 5, 2009, Nief notified Jan Riordan, VP of Membership and Programs, that an anonymous patron had reported Flanagan falling off a bench in the sauna that weekend. Later that day, according to the email, Y staffers had to break into a locker because Flanagan had lost his key. Subsequently, Flanagan's clothes were found in plain sight in another locker. Nief ended his report by saying, "This man needs help."

When reached on Thursday, Burns reiterated what she's told other members of the press this week: “It’s our practice to keep these matters with our members. We deal with them internally. So, I’m dealing with this internally.”

When pressed about the discrepancy between her statements to Totten and Nief's emails, Burns declined to clarify or elaborate: “I’ve said everything that I’m going to say at this point. I really don’t have anything to add.”

For his part, Nief said he provided the emails to Seven Days because he was angry about the way the YMCA handled this incident, and the press reports about it. As Nief told Seven Days, "My frustration is less with what's going on in Ed Flanagan's life. It's more that the Y completely ignored this issue."

In fact, Nief claims he considered suspending Flanagan's membership himself but decided against it. "When a state senator gets caught masturbating in our wellness center and keeps falling down and hurting himself, this is something that the Y management at the executive level needs to deal with... This, to me, was way beyond my pay scale." 

Continue reading "YMCA Management Knew About Other Incidents Involving Flanagan" »

Trying My Patience

100_0086 Ah...Gilbert and Sullivan. Such enchanting entertainment — perfect for a summer's evening. I was so looking forward to Wednesday night's performance of Patience, or Bunthorne's Bride, the 1881 G&S operetta served up this year as part of the Vermont Mozart Festival. Conductor William Metcalfe wields a skillful baton. Another biblical night of rain wasn't going to be a problem; unlike most VMF concerts, this one was held indoors, at the Inn in Essex. What could possibly go wrong? I spiffed up and headed out, ready to whistle catchy passages and giggle over silly lyrics on the ride home.

What? No air conditioning? With hundreds of people in tight quarters on a hot and stormy night? I haven't visited an Amazonian rain forest. But it felt like I did on Wednesday, along with many other unhappy fellow tourists who also hadn't planned on the tropical trek.

Continue reading "Trying My Patience" »

Suds Summit '09: A Bust for Local Brewers

Beer-350x296Yesterday, the POTUS, his vice prez., the Harvard prof and his arresting officer sat down to chat over some tasty brews on a patio near the White House Rose Garden. The Obama beer bash was billed as a "teachable moment" where Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the esteemed Ivy League academic, and Sgt. Joseph Crowley, the Cambridge police officer who booked Gates for disorderly conduct, could hug it out. Because the media was kept at a distance, no one knows exactly how the convo on race relations in America went. But we can assume that everyone worked out their differences over their frosty mugs of grog.

Not unsurprisingly, the backyard bro powwow has created a controversy of its own. Apparently,  the prez and his posse didn't drink the right beer — so says South Burlington's Magic Hat Brewery. Yesterday, Magic Hat sent out a press release declaring how pee-ohed they were at the prez's choice of swill — Bud Light.

Continue reading "Suds Summit '09: A Bust for Local Brewers" »

July 30, 2009

Shopping Queens and Sidewalk Scenes

When I told one of my colleagues earlier today that I planned on writing a blog post about Church Street in the summer, her response was somewhat less enthusiastic than I expected. She was wholly unimpressed with the topic. 

"Oh, I'm riveted already," she said drolly, as she watched me shove leftover party cake in my fat gob.

Well, hmmmph. What does she know about awesomeness? Church Street in the summer is quite possibly the best free entertainment going. Forget free concerts or festivals — all I need to make me happy is some bright summer sunshine and an excellent people-watching venue. Today our fair pedestrian thoroughfare provided all the essential ingredients for a kick-assy day.  

IMG_3116This was the second day of the annual three-day Church Street sidewalk sale. No, as one slightly batty Church Street character deftly noted, they were not in fact selling the sidewalk bricks. Good one, Slim. The sidewalk sale is a chance for all the downtown merchants to unload all the crap they haven't been able to sell for the  past year. Some of it's not actually crap. I really have been wanting an entire pallet of Hanukkah cards for a while now.

Sales of any kind always draw out the characters. Bargain hunters are their own special breed of crazy, the kind that will straight up run you over if you are standing in the way of that decorative wicker dog that's marked 60 percent off. I love the way they run their hands over items they couldn't possibly have a use for: pieces of wooden fruit, a paisley velour blazer, a ceramic mug with a broken handle.

Continue reading "Shopping Queens and Sidewalk Scenes" »

The First "Real" Summer Weekend?

It's kinda late for the first "real" summer weekend, but Vermont's Agency of Natural Resources thinks this will be it, according to the press release I just received. Apparently, Jason Gibbs, commissioner of the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, really wants us all to go outside this weekend.

I'm pasting the (tongue-in-cheek?) press release below. And though it's probably going to be nice out, it is supposed to rain a bit on Sunday afternoon. Sorry.

**Official Recreation Weather Alert**
For Immediate Release:
Thursday, July 30, 2009
Beautiful Weekend Ahead!
Ad Hoc Commission of Meteorologists Issues Consensus Recreation Weather Forecast for Weekend
Waterbury, Vt. – Some of Vermont’s top meteorological minds have reached an important agreement:  This weekend’s weather is going to be great for outdoor recreation. 
Assembled by the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation the provisional Blue Ribbon Consensus Recreation Weather Forecast Commission is composed of meteorologists Roger Hill from Weathering Heights and Radio Vermont; Gary Sadowski from WCAX/ Ch.3; Jim Moore from WPTZ/Ch. 5; Nick Johnson from WFFF/Fox44; and Andy Nash, Meteorologist-in-Charge at the NOAA/National Weather Service station in Burlington, Vermont.   Their charge was to agree on a Consensus Recreation Weather Forecast for this weekend (August 1-2, 2009).
According to the commission, the weekend is expected to begin with a spectacular, sunny Saturday with temperatures easily topping the 80 degree mark.  Sunday will also be warm and sunny through the afternoon, with clouds and the possibility of showers moving in from the west later in the afternoon and evening– just as beach goers are rolling up their towels and campers are heading home after the first “real” weekend of summer. 

Continue reading "The First "Real" Summer Weekend?" »

YMCA Sends Email to Reassure Members

I belong to the YMCA — I work out (infrequently!) at the Y in Winooski. Late last night, I got an email from YMCA President/CEO Mary Burns, assuring me that the Y takes complaints of inappropriate behavior "very seriously". I can only assume the message is responding to the charges leveled against Senator Ed Flanagan, which Shay Totten reported in this week's "Fair Game."

This issue is receiving a fair amount of media attention — it made the front page of the Burlington Free Press this morning. And there are two threads dissecting it over at Green Mountain Daily, here and here.

Read the full text of the YMCA email below.

Continue reading "YMCA Sends Email to Reassure Members" »

July 29, 2009

Sen. Ed Flanagan: "I'm very sorry"

State Sen. Ed Flanagan said Wednesday he was "very sorry" if he offended anyone while unclothed inside the men's wellness center at the Greater Burlington YMCA.

As related in a story first reported by "Fair Game" in today's Seven Days, last Friday a YMCA patron complained to Y officials that Flanagan was masturbating in plain view of other patrons inside the adults-only wellness center. After confirming what he had seen with a fellow patron in the center at that time, Tiki Archambeau filed his complaint.

Archambeau spoke publicly about his complaint to Seven Days and noted that he had previously observed peculiar behavior by Flanagan in the wellness center. That behavior included using the treadmill while clad in nothing but shoes, socks and a watch.

Continue reading "Sen. Ed Flanagan: "I'm very sorry"" »

Senator Flanagan Suspended From YMCA for Alleged Lewd Behavior

EdFlanagan State Senator Ed Flanagan is back in the news again today. From today's "Fair Game," by Shay Totten:

Back in May, Seven Days published a controversial cover story about Democratic Chittenden County Senator Ed Flanagan. In the article, entitled “Continuing Ed,” staff writer Ken Picard chronicled Flanagan’s peculiar behavior under the Golden Dome — from sorting candies on his committee room desk to laying prone on the floor — in the wake of a traumatic brain injury he suffered in 2005. The article raised questions about Flanagan’s ability to serve effectively as a lawmaker.

Two months later, Flanagan announced his intention to run for lieutenant governor in 2010.

It looks like Flanagan, who served for eight years as state auditor, won’t be campaigning at the local gym. This week the Greater Burlington YMCA suspended Flanagan’s membership after two patrons witnessed him masturbating in the men’s wellness center — an adults-only locker room that includes a sauna, steam room, showers, whirlpool and a limited selection of fitness equipment.

Senator Flanagan denies the allegations, calling them "totally bizarre and untrue."

Click here for the rest of Shay's column.

WPTZ did a piece on it, too, featuring an interview with Flanagan, and YMCA president and CEO Mary Burns.

Photo by Jeb Wallace-Brodeur.

July 28, 2009

Harpoon Championships of New England Barbecue

There is a day I nervously look forward to all year. It's not Christmas, my birthday or my anniversary — it's the day that I get to drive 101 miles to Windsor to eat some ribs. Not excited yet? You should be.

Summer 2009 093 Every July, Harpoon hosts all the best competitive barbecue teams in New England in a knock-down, drag-out contest. I always eagerly anticipate trying new slow-cooked substances, but this year was a banner one. I ate the best pulled pork sandwich of my life.

It was prepared by Rob Mongeon of Colchester as Green Mountain Smokeshack. A longtime foe of Big Fatty's on the 7 Nights Guide, it turns out Mongeon was not just blowing smoke. His meat is luxuriously moist without the patina of fat that sometimes coats tender butt. As any 'Q authority will tell you, it passes the most important test: No sauce required. A subtle maple flavor pervades the meat, facilitated not just by smoking with maple wood from his brother's farm, but by a coating of maple syrup Mongeon helped tap himself on Poor Farm Road in Colchester. A smattering of garlic doesn't hurt either. Green Mountain Smokeshack is currently considering a space in Winooski for a storefront, but until then, I will be ordering pig flesh from Mongeon by the pound. If I hadn't brought home extra, I would be doing so right now.

 I tried to keep my ordering fairly local, but the Pig Wings at Dr. Frank'N'Swine of Orleans, MA swayed me. The bone-in nuggets of tender pork were covered in a berry-based sauce. I also had to give a little love to The Purple Turtle Catering Company, originating from my native town-next-door, Stamford, CT. Their ribs were disappointingly dry, but had a unique soy-based marinade, not unlike spare ribs at a Chinese joint.

I fared better when I stayed closer to home.

Continue reading "Harpoon Championships of New England Barbecue" »

Howard Dean to Host MSNBC Show

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who is traveling the country to champion health-care reform, is taking to the national cable news airwaves for two nights this week.

Dean will be the guest host tonight, and tomorrow night, on the popular MSNBC show "Countdown with Keith Olbermann." The show airs at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. nightly.

Howard_Dean_Countdown Olbermann's show usually includes a "Special Comment" segment, which airs like an op-ed, and a "Worst Person in the World." Typically, Olbermann reserves his worst-person award for either FOX News blowhard Bill O'Reilly or "entertainer" Rush Limbaugh. But any goofy politician or media personality will suffice.

It's likely that the national debate about health-care reform will be a key topic for Dean, especially since he's been on tour promoting his new book: Howard Dean's Prescription for Real Healthcare Reform.

Lawmakers are debating the issue in Washington, yet they are not expected to pass any major legislation before their month-long August recess. It's expected that House and Senate leaders will hammer out a deal in September, and have something on the president's desk by month's end for him to sign into law.

So, any idea who Gov. Dean will praise and who he'll skewer?

In an email to Seven Days, Dean said his worst-person award "will be a surprise."

Oh, goody. I love surprises.

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