ConnectVt is Un-Plugged

Barely two weeks after the surprise departure of telecom czar Karen Marshall, Governor Shumlin is closing his ConnectVt office. The announcement is found on the Vermont.Gov website just below Fish & Wildlife’s new baitfish rules for February.  Shumlin will transition the responsibilities and accountability to the Agency of Commerce & Community Development.

…the temporary office created to expand high-speed broadband internet access statewide by the end of 2013, will be transferred to the Agency of Commerce & Community Development, under Secretary Lawrence Miller

Marshall, ConnectVt’s sole employee, left abruptly on January 8th to take a high-level job with VTel. Until her departure she worked on the fifth floor of the Pavilion building with the governor’s closest advisors. Her duties were to work with private companies (including her new employer) to speed broadband development and facilitate the acquisition and distribution of $410 million in government grants.  

Immediately following Marshall’s  surprise departure, Vermont Telecom Authority board member Rep. Sam Young observed

“It doesn’t look good,” […] “It took a lot of work to get telecom providers to trust state government and share some of their information,” Young says. “I think that trust will be diminished for any future chiefs of Connect VT. I’m not quite sure there will be another one.”

The Glover representative certainly called that one right. With high-speed broadband expansion reportedly nearing 95% completion (according to a puzzlingly complex mapping system) the governor is quietly ending the position of telecom czar, closing ConnectVt, and strategically announcing “incredible progress” but not quite declaring broadband ‘victory.’

Good thing: there are still too many Vermonters whose ‘broadband’ service is provided over phone lines (as dsl) at relatively slow speeds (better than antiquated dial-up, but still …), or who have no broadband at all.

And we’re not even talking about (the lack of) statewide  cell phone coverage!

Great judgment on your personnel pick, there, Gov.  

3 thoughts on “ConnectVt is Un-Plugged

  1. We ought to be better than this; but, cronyism isn’t exclusively a vice of the right.  

    The governor can expect a well-deserved shellacking on this.

  2. I’m trying to connect the dots of your thinking here.

    Is your response aimed at Governor Shumlin because of what you find lacking in his “Executive Code of Ethics”?

    Ultimately, do you believe the outcome should be changed?

    Should Karen Marshall have been prevented from seeking and obtaining the position she has because of the temporary position she held in state government?

    What language would you add to the Governor’s “Executive Code of Ethics”, or what would you propose the legislature create for legislation, that would have created an outcome you prefer?

  3. glad you asked.

    I am told that at some time during the Douglas administration, this code was modified to include the following provision:

    WHEREAS, it is also essential to the proper operation of government that those best qualified not be discouraged from serving as public officers by requiring them to relinquish totally the opportunity to further their own interests, at least where such interests do not create irreconcilable conflicts with their official responsibilities; and

    I am open to challenges as to when this provision was inserted, because I am reporting hearsay when I repeat that Jim Douglas made the change.

    However, the opportunity for abuse lies in that passage, whomever the originator was.

    I don’t disagree with the higher intention of the clause, but it gives much latitude to interpretation by convenience.

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