Fear and Loathing in the Vermont Senate

It’s December 10, and even though Norm McAllister was arrested for sexual predation at the Statehouse way back in April, he is still free to represent himself as the senior senator for Franklin County, effectively victimizing all of us, his constituents.

Shame on you, Norm McAllister; and shame on those senators who won’t lift a finger to revoke your Senate privileges.

According to Seven Days a significant number of Vermont senators now appear either to be unwilling to expel Norm McAllister based on the public record of his conduct, or say they need “more information.”

Many in that number still seem to be unaware of the difference between Mr. McAllister’s right to a fair trial and his privilege to represent the people of Franklin County within the guidelines of his oath of office. He as much as admitted to being in violation of that oath, which promises to protect his constituents, when he was recorded saying to one of his sexual assault victims,

“I knew I was forcing you to do something you didn’t want to do … I knew that you didn’t really want to do that.”

What additional information could one possibly need in order to conclude that he is in clear violation of his oath?

Now, even some senators who initially said they would vote for his expulsion, including Franklin County’s only other senator, Dustin Degree, are backpedalling:

Sen. Dustin Degree (R-Franklin) was among those who told Gram last summer that he’d vote to expel McAllister, with whom he shares a two-member district. But now that he’s learned how “murky” such a process might be, the St. Albans Republican says his position has “evolved” to undecided.

‘Sounds like weasel words to me. There is nothing ‘evolved’ about failing to protect the vulnerable.

The idea of a “suspension,” pending the outcome of the trial, has been suggested; but even that gets surprisingly little Senate support, according to Seven Days.

Suspension might have more appropriately been applied some eight months ago, immediately following the shocking revelation in the Messenger that States Attorney Jim Hughes had recorded the above statement and worse in telephone conversations between McAllister and two of his victims.

We are no longer talking about grey areas of “he said/she said.” That ship has sailed, and one can only wonder why there is still so much hesitancy  in the Senate about doing anything to defend the interests of the people of Franklin County in general. As things now stand, his constituents are only being dis-served by McAllister; especially the vulnerable female constituents whom McAllister victimized.

Now, a new layer of intrigue has been added to the controversy. Discussions are apparently already underway concerning what to do about McAllister, but the press and public have not been privy to those proceedings.

Seven Days made a standing request last spring to be notified directly of all Rules Committee meetings after the panel met secretly to discuss the creation of an ethics committee.

Once again, no allowance was made for  Mr. McAllisters’ long-suffering constituents who might have appreciated the opportunity to listen in.  Even the press has been rebuffed.

The Senate Rules Committee, which is vetting the various proposals, met last month in the Senate cloakroom to try to find consensus. Leadership notified all 30 senators about the meeting, but not the public nor the press, and did not list it on the legislature’s website.

Secretary of State Jim Condos (D) disagrees with Senate Pro-Tem John Campbell’s (D)defense: that the Senate and House are exempt from Vermont’s open meeting laws.

I’ve heard a lot of concern expressed by senate members about the precedent an expulsion would set, but precious little about how waffling on such an outrageous abuse of elected power, (and of women in particular) betrays the progressive values for which Vermont is known.

No one…absolutely no one, has asked the people of Franklin County whether they are comfortable with a confessed sexual predator claiming to represent them. We have a right to be asked, we have a right to be heard; and we have a right to hear deliberations on this matter of local representation, that currently are being conducted behind closed doors, 64 miles away.  Senate members may have weakened in their resolve to see him gone, but I, and I would guess, the majority of my Franklin County neighbors have not.

All of the secrecy just adds to a suspicion I’ve heard rumored around here, that others at the Statehouse were aware at least of the inappropriate “relationship” between McAllister and his teenaged “intern” and themselves fear exposure in the course of an expulsion process.

Surely Mr. Degree, having teamed closely with McAllister for several years now, should have all the information he could possibly need to say the man has to go.

Scandal feeds on secrecy. There is a sense that Mr. McAllister’s dirty little secrets may belong to a larger culture of questionable ethics at play in Montpelier, and the senators’ reluctance to discipline McAllister or see meaningful consequences attached to electoral misbehavior may come from a place of squalid self-interest.

It’s time to open the windows and let the sun shine in.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

5 thoughts on “Fear and Loathing in the Vermont Senate

    1. Even more fortunately, anyone following this sordid tale knows full well that “presumption of innocence” is a pretext as well as straw man since even the most clueless recognize that one does not have to be convicted of a crime to be fired from employment nor must one admit to, to be fired, which McAllister has done making himself unfit to serve tthe public in any capacity.

      Sullying the name of employer or standards upheld by company is cause for dismissal. Government jobs and service typically require oaths, so there is simply no excuse.

      All professions and their societies: teachers, lawyers, doctors etc have standards, violations of which routinely result in board actions or the equivilent.

      And despite feigning such, all senators are well aware of what is taking place here. If they are not they are not fit to serve.

      Soo, there is no reason to recognize comments such as your example, in light of these facts can or should be taken seriously.

      Anyone who needs to be told this or aforementioned explained is quite frankly a fool. Period.

  1. You may presume his innocence, but I regard his own words as a confession that he has violated his oath of office.

    It is not unheard of for a guilty man to avoid conviction in a court of law.

    I do not, however, believe that the criminal legal system holds jurisdiction over violations of contract. He may choose to maintain his “innocence” in the criminal case against him, but that denial has no merit with regard to his privilege to serve in elected office.

    In any case, there is provision in the rules of the senate for expulsion of a member.
    Surely admitted assault against vulnerable constituents is reason enough to expel the man.

    I can’t imagine any greater violations of constituents’ rights than those to which Mr. McAllister has admitted in his own words.

    1. After reading your story I am no longer convinced the legislation proposed by Senator Flory is on behalf of senate buddy Good Ol Norm, but fellow Senator Mullen who roomed with another senator, McAllister and his ‘assistant’. Any action could involve testimony. He’s been conspicuously absent from comment or discussion.

      Sobering stuff and hopefully a heads up to all as to how conduct can be viewed. Not to be moralizers but to avoid appearance of impropriety. If it were me I would not room with someone whose conduct appears, or is, criminal.

      Anyone with children should certainly have increased awareness.

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