By Guy Page
At Thursday night’s meeting of the Barre Diversity and Equity Committee, Chair Joelen Mulvaney did not mute pro-life member William Toborg, as she had threatened via email last month. However, she did chastise and cut him off several times.
At its last meeting August 12, three Diversity committee members including Mulvaney denounced Toborg’s pro-life views. Days later Mulvaney in an email threatened to mute Toborg if he said anything except announce his resignation.
Thursday’s online Diversity committee meeting was its first since the Tuesday night City Council meeting at which she offered two apologies as many citizens and three councilors expressed concerns about her leadership, particularly the threat to mute Toborg. The council did not act on suggestions to appoint a mediator, but instead urged the committee to try to get along.
After lengthy delay due to technological issues, Mulvaney Thursday night summarized Tuesday’s meeting with criticism of the council and Toborg:
“We know that the council refuses to help us or put any resources at our disposal to reconcile the obvious rift in our community.
We know there is an avowed anti-abortion activist who espouses white male supremacist ideology on the committee. In addition that person is a self-described vocal provocateur who used him attacking the school board as evidence.
We found out that a council member chose to inflame the situation by sharing a private email to the Press instead of contacting the chair or other members.
We also know that there are people who have absolutely no knowledge of what diversity means in the context of equity work, and neither does the council. However, the good news is that the council has faith that we’ll be able to manage this, so let’s see if we can.”
Their differences emerged when Toborg was seen reading a committee report for which Mulvaney wanted a committee vote. When Toborg said he was glancing over the report, she said, “Oh, c’mon William, you’ve had three months to read it, I’m calling the question, can we please vote, I’m calling the question, all those in favor say aye.” Toborg abstained.
Following Mulvaney’s abrupt shutdown of a citizen offering public comments, Toborg refused to vote yes on a proposed committee name change from the Diversity and Equity committee to the Justice, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Committee.
After the name change proposal was raised, Barre resident Josh Howard asked to comment. “Let’s talk about a name change that includes inclusivity and diversity and all that kind of stuff. I find it kind of hypocritical… you speak to the beginning of this meeting, when you’re openly attacking somebody else for their….”
Mulvaney interrupted: “That’s inappropriate. If you want to speak to the issue, you have to speak to these actual words.”
Toborg: I believe he was actually speaking to the appropriate word.”
Mulvaney: “You know, I really don’t want to get into a back and forth about this. So I’m just gonna ask that we speak to the motion, which is to change the name.”
Howard: “Yeah, that’s where we’re at all right. That’s exactly what I was talking about, was the name change. I said I find it hypocritical based on your speech in the meeting where you openly
excluded somebody because how they feel about a ballot item. That’s what I was talking about.”
Mulvaney: “Well I guess I don’t understand. But thank you for speaking.”
Toborg: “I actually believe that our name should reflect what we are all about. Clearly from the comments that the chair made at the beginning of the meeting, we are not about justice. We are not about equity. We are not about diversity. So I would oppose. I know that during the last meeting I said I had no problem with the change. But that was before.”
Mulvaney: “You know, I really don’t need to hash this out with you here, William.”
The committee then approved the name change. After that, they unanimously accepted a grant from the Vermont Community Foundation and agreed on a future meeting date.
Categories: Local government