Burlington city councilors give mayor authority to execute separation agreement with Sgt. Bellavance

Burlington city councilors gave Mayor Miro Weinberger the authority to undertake a separation agreement with a police officer whose continued presence on the force has prompted backlash. 

The councilors voted Monday to adopt a resolution enabling Weinberger to execute this agreement for Sgt. Jason Bellavance, whose involvement in a Sept. 2018 use-of-force incident came to light last year and led to calls for his termination. The final disciplinary decision for an officer lies in the hands of the police chief, according to the city charter, a practice Weinberger has questioned. Councilor Ali Dieng (I) was the only dissenting vote for the resolution.

Protesters raise one fist in solidarity with the nightly protests as they listen to speakers at City Hall on September 8, 2020.

Protesters have camped out in Battery Park for weeks and called for the termination of Bellavance, as well as Joseph Corrow and Cory Campbell who were also involved in use-of-force incidents. Weinberger issued a statement on the resolution, sponsored by Councilors Jack Hanson (P) and Franklin Paulino (D). In it, he declared his support for the separation agreement involving Bellavance but indicated Corrow and Campbell acted in manners consistent with policy and training at the time. 

“To pursue separation agreements under these circumstances would set an unmanageable precedent that would challenge the department for years to come by suggesting that future employment decisions will be decided not by fair, deliberative processes that are clear to employees at the time, but rather that those decisions will be subject to retroactive reopening by the passions of public opinion,” he wrote. 

Some of the proposed terms and conditions in the resolution includes Bellavance’s resignation effective Oct. 5 and separation pay of $300,000 (amounting to about three years’ salary).

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This latest action “is the direct result of the power of the people,” protesters indicated in a statement responding to Monday’s decision. The group reiterated its calls for the termination of Corrow and Campbell.

“The removal of one violent officer is an important first step, but it is not nearly enough,” the group stated. 

Contact Maleeha Syed at mzsyed@freepressmedia.com or 802-495-6595. Follow her on Twitter @MaleehaSyed89

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