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A longtime Pownal, Vt., official resigns and apologizes after making antisemitic comment

Ronald Bisson holding microphone

Select Board member Ronald Bisson, right, is shown during a 2020 candidate's forum in Pownal, Vt. He resigned during an emergency board meeting on Saturday after apologizing for a remark made during a prior town board meeting relating to Jews.

POWNAL, Vt. — Longtime town official Ronald Bisson resigned from the Select Board and the Planning Commission on Saturday after apologizing for an antisemitic comment that he made during a recent commission meeting.

Following an executive session during an emergency Select Board meeting, Bisson made a statement announcing his resignation.

“I want to apologize for the comment I made at the Planning Commission meeting,” he said. “I am old and not up to date on what is okay to say and not say. But I understand that what I said hurt people, and because of that, I am resigning from the Planning Commission, and resigning from the Select Board also, immediately.”

His quote during the Jan. 18 commission meeting came during a discussion of town efforts to address properties where junk items have been allowed to accumulate.

“Junk has value,” Bisson appeared to say on the meeting video. “Just ask those Jews down in North Adams. They’ll tell you.”

Bisson, 78, didn’t address his comment further during the meeting Saturday.

“I want to say that we appreciate all the effort and time that you have put in on all the boards,” Chairwoman Angie Rawling said following Bisson’s statement. “We respect you and we want to thank you.”

Megan Randall, a member of the Planning Commission, said during the public comment session of the Zoom meeting that she was sitting next to Bisson when the remark was made.

She said she “heard very clearly, and I heard the tone of voice with which he said the ‘Jews of North Adams.’ I did not appreciate it, but I did not say anything. ... I also appreciate all the time that Mr. Bisson has put in, but I do agree that it is time to move on.”

Resident Donna Lauzon said, “I just wanted to say that it’s an unfortunate situation, and I appreciate Mr. Bisson apologizing. And I think a lot of people could learn that when they say something on video, or in an email or out in public that the best practice is always to apologize, and I appreciate that.”

“I just want to say, it was a very unfortunate situation,” said former Select Board member Suzanne Caraman. “But Mr. Bisson has worked hard for the town for many, many years, and I respect him. I’ve worked hard with him. We fought over different things over the years.”

She added, “I’m sorry that this happened, Ronnie, but it happens to all of us, and we all need to do better. I learned some things myself, and I just want to say I am sorry this all happened, Ronnie.”

Jim Therrien writes for Vermont News and Media, including the Bennington Banner, Manchester Journal and Brattleboro Reformer. Email jtherrien@benningtonbanner.com

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