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June 13, 2013

Vermont State Employees Association Fires Executive Director

MarkMitchellThe head of Vermont's second largest labor union was fired Wednesday afternoon, according to several people close to the matter.

By a vote of 10-6, the Vermont State Employees Association's board of trustees terminated the employment of executive director Mark Mitchell, who has ruffled feathers at the organization since joining it in December 2011. The vote came at the end of a day-long meeting Wednesday, much of which was conducted in executive session.

Union spokesman Doug Gibson said he would not comment on a "confidential personnel matter," but said, "I can confirm he's no longer employed at the VSEA."

Board of trustees president John Reese was more forthcoming, saying, "There was a board vote to terminate the employment of Mr. Mitchell."

An ally of Mitchell's, Reese said he opposed the move.

"The board one minute learned some allegations and the next minute voted to get rid of the guy. There was no investigation outside of the allegations," he said. "Based on the allegations that were made, it's crazy, frankly. I think it's entirely unfair and, at the end of the day, Mark will be vindicated."

Reese declined to describe the allegations. Mitchell did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

As Seven Days reported last October, six of the union's 19 staff members departed during a five-week period last fall. Four of those employees told Seven Days their departures were prompted at least in part by disagreements with Mitchell, who they said was causing irreparable harm to the organization.

The 5200-member union, which represents two-thirds of the state's workforce, has since replenished its employee ranks. 

According to Reese, no interim leader has been formally appointed by the board, which plans to meet again next Monday. However, VSEA general counsel Michael Casey has been informally tapped to head up day-to-day operations until the board takes further action.

Read more: Ousted Union Leader Defends Himself as Charges Fly

The original version of this story incorrectly reported the VSEA board of trustees vote total as 9-6. It was 10-6. Apologies for the error.

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