published "The Key to Sustainable Cities: Meeting Human Needs, Transforming Community Systems" in September 2003.
She was serving as executive director of Global Community Initiatives, a small 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, when she went to work for the City of Montpelier as the Director of Planning and Community Development.
hiring letter of October 11, 2006, makes specific allowance for her
activity with Global Community Initiatives, which she
founded, and other organizations, as well as her
attendance at related conferences at city expense.
In this context, the city's hiring of Gwendolyn Hallsmith
made complete philosophical sense.
The day after the meeting, Planning Director Hallsmith had filed a complaint form with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), seeking their help in defending her First Amendment rights.
The city manager had by then showed her
the mayor's "anti-capitalist" email, with its clear intent to coerce the city manager into quieting Hallsmith
summed up her
situation this way to the ACLU
did not claim that city officials were creating a hostile workplace by their actions, but she
describes workplace conditions that would support such an allegation.
Nor did she
complain that she
was under pressure, in effect, to violate the law as expressed by the city's duly-adopted Master Plan, which some city officials wanted to ignore, although that, too, appears to be the case.
"I am hoping that it can be resolved without a huge public scandal," Hallsmith
wrote the ACLU
"I am not looking to make headlines - but I feel my rights are being compromised and my job is in jeopardy.
I work hard for the city, and I do not like being treated this way."
request of the ACLU
was simple and moderate: "I think it would probably be sufficient to send a letter to the city manager advising him of the questionable legality of his
In a letter to Hallsmith
almost six weeks later, the ACLU
declined to meet with her
or offer her
any help whatsoever.
The mayor was on notice in April of potential city illegalities
Responding to the mayor's apology the same day, Hallsmith thanked Mayor Hollar for his "belated regrets" while criticizing his failure to maintain order and civility by reining in obstreperous city officials who were making unfounded personal attacks.
The slow kabuki of Gwen Hallsmith's kangaroo court proceeded
On April 15, according to Hallsmith, an angry city manager, accompanied by his assistant, berated Hallsmith for writing to the mayor directly, even though it was in response to an email directly from the mayor and the city manager was on the copy list of the exchange.
Hallsmith reports that the city manager ordered her
"not to speak or write about New Economy issues," which includes public banking, and warned her
that the mayor was still "angry about the December 7 conference" at which he
Through the summer and into the fall, Hallsmith
continued to speak and write about the issues she
cared about, without immediate consequence.
In July, Vermonters for a New Economy, one of Hallsmith's
projects, initiated a "State Bank Town Meeting Campaign," designed get Vermonters at a town meeting on March 4, 2014, to support this resolution:
"I would like to know 1) how Gwen
manages to run her
non-profit and pursue this initiative while maintaining her
obligation to the City; and 2) how this campaign is consistent with the City
's economic development policies and her
Why in the world would the city want to take a position in support of consolidating the agencies below (and antagonizing some of the 'most senior economic development officials in the state')?
More importantly, this is something the council has never discussed.
Gwen obviously can pursue interests on her own time, but as the City's chief economic development officer, her position on these issue can't be distinguished from her official position with the City.
In early October, Planning Director Hallsmith went on vacation, much of which she spent organizing Vermonters for a New Economy events.
also had what she
described as "an off-the-record conversation with people at the Times Argus [a Montpelier newspaper] about Mayor Hollar's
email of September 20th, which impugned my integrity and my personal reputation.
The city manager got wind of this meeting and started sending Hallsmith
somewhat frantic emails that did little to clear the air, as he
of being the problem: "You have created the difficulty by disclosing confidential matters to the press."
The first news story ran October 23 in the Times Argus
, and other stories followed in Vermont media.
According to the Times Argus
, the city manager said Hallsmith
was "in no danger of losing her
job over this."
In the VTDigger story, "Public Banking Campaign Sparks Controversy at Montpelier City Hall," both the mayor and the city manager continued to misrepresent the town meeting resolution Hallsmith was actually promoting.
On October 24, in the wake of the first news stories, Hallsmith
attended a contentious Planning Commission meeting at which she
was a target.
Despite what the city manager had written, the Planning Commission
did not hold a vote or otherwise collectively express confidence in Hallsmith
On the contrary, attorney Kim Cheney (who has his own zoning conflict of interest and chairs the commission) wrote Hallsmith a conciliatory email after the meeting, saying in part: "We need your expertise to write a new law with new concepts."
The statement did not go on to mention that silencing Hallsmith
would be a service to Mayor Hollar's big bank clients.
Maintaining a collective fiction may require heads to roll
On November 6, the city manager removed the planning director from her
job, putting Hallsmith
on paid administrative leave.
The next day he published a slick, self-serving, and dishonest version of events that included the falsehood: "The allegations against Mayor John Hollar are simply not true.
Mayor Hollar's role is complicated and devious, to be sure, but it's hard to believe that without his
conniving, Gwen Hallsmith
wouldn't still have her
In any event, the mayor's "detached disinterest" is the new reality that city officials are repeating ad nauseum.
Anything else, like an email all but demanding change, would appear to be a violation of Title X, Section 9 (Non-interference by the City Council) of the Montpelier City Charter.
On November 25, the city manager and the city attorney met with Hallsmith
attorney, who objected at length to the City's procedures on the grounds that they were unfair and violated state law.
The next day the city manager fired Hallsmith
The city manager had provided a rambling memo alleging Hallsmith's
supposed misdeeds, but there was no serious effort to analyze essentially trivial complaints to show how they rose to the level of a firing offense under the City's
That policy allows Hallsmith
to seek a grievance hearing, which she
would be allowed to be represented by counsel, but counsel wouldn't be allowed to question the City's witness.
chose to save money and not question the witness herself.
The rules of evidence would not apply and the hearing officer could rely on hearsay at her
In the event that the assistant city manager decides the grievance hearing in favor of the city manager, Hallsmith
has indicated that he
will take her
case to the Vermont Superior Court.