By MADELINE HUGHES
A Shelburne Selectboard member has shared 119 pages of his emails to satisfy a public records request made just over two weeks ago by Charlotte lawyer Brady Toensing.
On Sept. 19, documents reviewed by the town’s attorney were released containing hundreds of Dr. Josh Dein’s emails, an affidavit and a list cataloging them.
Toensing, who serves as Vermont Republican Party Vice Chair, requested to see Dein’s email conversations that pertained to the Vermont Railway salt shed legal case that’s working its way through federal court.
When asked why he was interested in Dein’s emails Toensing said, “Railways have always been of interest to me,” and would not comment further.
The request came as town officials awaited word on the appeal in the case. A date was set this week for lawyers on both sides to appeal in federal appeals court in New York City on Nov. 8.
The Shelburne News also requested the emails that Dein produced for Toensing.
The affidavit explains that Dein searched his two email accounts and his cell phone for communications with Vermont Railways Inc., the company’s President David Wulfson, and officials at Bartlett Trucking Company.
The 119 pages of emails cover meeting agendas, requests to add things to meeting agendas, news releases, emails with constituents and more. A few of the emails were partially redacted.
The privilege log provides details as to why 20 emails could not be released. One reason some were withheld is the ongoing litigation.
When contacted Monday, Toensing said he was still reviewing the emails, and did not comment further.
The railroad and the town have been in a prolonged legal battle since January 2016 when the railroad decided to build a large storage and distribution center for road salt in Shelburne west of U.S. Route 7 and north of Shelburne village. The railroad did not seek local permitting review citing its federal privilege to be exempt from such scrutiny and the town in turn filed suit in federal court.
The legal battle continues with an appeal before the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals filed in January by the town after U.S. District Court in Burlington found in favor of the railroad in December. The appeal will move ahead with the Nov. 8 hearing announced this week. Toensing’s request was aimed at the one member of the Shelburne Selectboard who has been sidelined from participating in the case.
In February 2017, members of the Selectboard took Dein to Vermont District Court with accusations of divulging confidential information from the town’s legal strategy to the railroad and seeking Dein’s removal from the board. Out of that dispute came an agreement where Dein remained on the board but would not take part in any discussions or decision-making in the case involving the railroad.
The collection of documents released in response to Toensing’s request bear that out.
Most of the emails obtained through the request were dated between March 2016 and February 2017, when Dein was removed from the board in all matters regarding litigation with the railroad. Since then,only four of the five Selectboard members have been involved with matters pertaining to the $488,688 lawsuit.
Many of the emails obtained were part of a thread that began March 6, 2016. Dein had recently been elected to the board on Town Meeting Day, March 3. By email, Dein asked then-Town Manager Joe Colangelo to add an item to the agenda explaining the railroad case to the new members – himself and Jerry Storey, who is now the board chair.
Dein, who copied Storey in the emails, asked for the new members to be brought up to speed on the case with Vermont Railways. He asked about the chronology, the cost to date, and the predicted outcome of the case.
Looking back at the messages now, Dein recalled when the issue was still relatively new as he was just joining the board where he would be expected to understand the topic. The messages reminded him of some of the reaction his inquiries received.
“It seemed like asking questions was seen as a lack of loyalty to the Selectboard and the town,” Dein said in an interview Monday.
All of the materials provided to Toensing and the Shelburne News are online and can be found at bit.ly/deinemails.