The Connect Vermont Chute (now with more info!)

The revolving door from government to private sector has apparently been replaced with ramp or chute, for faster connections. For example:    

As chief of Governor Shumlin’s ConnectVT Karen Marshall worked with private sector companies that were to receive roughly $410 million in federal funds. Other duties to be engaged in were efforts across state government to use broadband to improve the way that public services are delivered. Marshall was ConnectVT’s sole employee and for two years had an office with the governor’s other close advisors on the fifth floor of the Pavilion building. Prior to this appointment Marshall had been Chief Operating Officer of a document shredding company, and before that had been an executive with Comcast and Clear Channel Communications.  

Now shortly after the Shumlin administration announced a $5 million grant to VTel, Marshall has taken a job with that company, according to the Valley News.

Marshall, who made $115,000 a year as chief of ConnectVT, will be the new president of VTel Data Network. […] The company, based in Springfield, Vt., received $116 million in federal stimulus grants in 2011 for broadband expansion in rural, underserved areas of the state.

VTel is owned and run by Michael Guite, a former Wall Street analyst who has been struggling to bring broadband to rural Vermont for several years. Vermont’s Upper Valley residents may remember that he made news in 2008 for trying to relocate the remains of a War of 1812 veteran and family from their plot on Guite’s property.

[New:] While at ConnectVT Marshall helped forge a partnership between (the pre-merger) GMP, CVPS, and VTel. That deal was formalized in July 2011, and according to GMP’s COO amped up VTel’s expansion 20-25 percent. Guite, who would later become Marshall’s employer, then had high praise for her efforts. The CEO of VTel said,

the Vermont project will be using cutting edge technology that is unique in the United States and is of an international caliber. “I wish I could say this was our idea,” Guite said. “The cutting edge of innovation came from the utilities and the governor’s office. I’m proud they brought us into it.”

As a member of the Vermont Telecom Authority (VTA) board Marshall was present at two meetings  – the last one Dec.7 2012, where the million dollar grant to her new employer was approved by voice vote. She (Marshall) told the Valley News on January 10th that

she did not engage in job conversations with VTel until Dec. 12, when she and Guite “had a mutual conversation on the 12th in which I shared some of the challenges I face in balancing some of my family considerations with my current role.”

An executive code of conduct enacted by Governor Shumlin reportedly prohibits any lobbying of colleagues or legislators for one year after leaving government employment.

The Governor’s spokesperson in an email to the Valley News said (frostily?) in part,

When the administration learned that [Marshall] had accepted an offer with VTel, we let her know that she would need to end her state employment immediately.


We wish Karen well in her new position.

Seems she’s doing just fine. These days some connected Vermonters climb the ladder, and others take the chute.  

8 thoughts on “The Connect Vermont Chute (now with more info!)

  1. Since this new job is not a demotion, it would not seem correct to call this a chute.  This would be an escalator, or even an elevator, since she got on at a lower floor and, not having to do the work to climb the proverbial ladder, got off at a much higher floor…

    But the name isn’t called ladders and elevators..

  2. I’m having trouble getting my panties in a bunch over this particular instance.

    Her new job, she said, would involve a data network that is largely out of state and would enable her to be closer to her son, and that “a lot of my role will take me outside the borders of (Vermont).”

    So evidently it doesn’t sound like she’ll be in a position that will, as you insinuate, be lobbying her former colleagues. She found her current job in Montpelier to be inconvenient for spending time with her son, and through networking, managed to land a job that will allow her to be closer to him. Good on her I say.

    There’s one thing for the revolving door to lead to string pulling and favoritism at the statehouse on behalf of a private company by a recently departed public servant. Quite another for someone to do good work for the State and then move back into the private sector for personal convenience. Sometimes you need to change jobs to make your personal life better. Nothing wrong with that in my mind.

  3. I had the historic version, snakes and ladders in mind but used the modern game image. The historic game is a better fit but maybe the modern game also is,simply for apparent speed involved.

    The object of the game is to navigate one’s game piece, according to die rolls, from the start (bottom square) to the finish (top square), helped or hindered by ladders and snakes, respectively. The historic version had root in morality lessons, where a player’s progression up the board represented a life journey complicated by virtues (ladders) and vices (snakes).

    The game is a simple race contest lacking a skill component, and is popular with young children.

  4. Through her unique job position with the state she voted VTel a $5 million dollar grant then a few days later she takes a job with that company. That could seem to be an appearance of a conflict of interest.  At least it must have made a positive impression with Guite her future boss.  

  5. The grant passed by a voice vote. The grant was $5 million to cover very sparsely populated low traveled areas with cell coverage. I can tell you from what I’ve seen that the number of companies applying for these grants are very few. Particularly in the cell industry, the big players (Verizon, AT&T, TMobile, etc) generally don’t apply for these sorts of grants as they are philosophically opposed to government subsidized builds. It would be interesting to hear from the VTA how many companies applied for this particular grant, but I would imagine it was very few (likely low single digits) and that VTel was probably the only one whose business plan made sense.

    I can’t fault you for your impression, but like I said earlier, in this particular instance I don’t see much to get upset about. The timing is certainly regrettable, but I doubt that there was much impropriety that lead to this hiring.

  6. may be enough to undermine confidence in the process.

    The timing and the fact that it is “regrettable” is kind of the whole point. As a result of this “regrettable” timing what should Vermonters think the next time a high level specially appointed state employee votes to give away a multi-million dollar grant to a private for profit business?  

  7. this stinks to the high heavens. Unsure why it’s being ignored but there should be clear ramifications.

    Though this is slightly differfent, Cass Gekas din’t do too much different but was very controversial. Also an invitation for other nefarious activities.

    Great job & interesting analogy BP.

  8. The Valley News reporter did some good reporting on this and editorially the paper ripped those involved.

    Marshall’s New Job; Telecom Official’s Troubling Move We can’t believe the ethical cluelessness of the major players involved. How clueless?  

    I used up my free articles and don’t a have link for behind their brand new pay-wall. But my guess is they disapprove.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *