Norm McAllister may claim that Franklin County residents want him to stay, but I believe reality is quite to the contrary. GMD reader and occasional contributor, Paula Schramm, a Franklin County resident, sent me a reply she wrote to a letter that recently appeared in the St. Albans Messenger, and I wanted to share it with our broader Vermont public:
“Esther Fitzgerald asked if Sen.McAllister could receive a fair trial if the Vermont Senate Rules Committee suspends him from the Senate. ( Thurs.,12/17 ) The answer is yes, of course. This happens commonly enough when a teacher, police officer, or other official is suspended while an alleged crime or abuse of power is resolved. Often the person is suspended with pay, as would be the case here….which implies no prejudgement whatsoever.
I’ve already written about my feeling that Norm McAllister should absolutely be presumed innocent of the serious charges against him until he has been able to have his day in court. No question about that.
The Senate has to wrestle with the whole picture : has the behavior he already admits to made him less than able to adequately represent his constituents ? Will the time and energy consumed by being at trial do the same ? Will the effort of expelling him (so that adequate representation be given to Franklin County constituents through appointing them a new Senator for this one session ), actually be so disruptive that the legislative session itself is ruined for all Vermont citizens ? Would the questioning involved in an expulsion hearing jeopardize the fairness of the trial ? Probably, given all the alternatives, the idea of suspension with pay would be the least bad choice that anyone has with current legal options. And, yes, lawmakers : we need more options ! Change the VT Constitution and give citizens the power of recall !
It’s become clear that Sen. McAllister is determined NOT to do the right thing and step down, to give his full attention to the very serious charges that he faces, and to allow someone to be appointed who can provide good representation.
So my gloves are coming off. The victim here is not Sen.McAllister, as he wants us to feel, with his complaint of feeling “kicked in the head” by his fellow Senators over a possible suspension. We , the people of Franklin County are victims, most of us so far patiently uncomplaining, of not being able to have real representation this legislative session. If the suspension goes through, we have only one Senator instead of the two we should have.
AND, if Sen.McAllister manages to stay on, we are stuck with someone representing us who will be spending much of his attention through February and March dealing with a trial. Someone who puts his own needs ahead of his responsibility towards those who elected him and pay him. Someone who has made some shockingly poor decisions in recent years:
1) as a much older person, with considerable power and influence, in a public position with much responsibility, choosing to have sex with a sixteen-year-old employee of his, behavior which would have gotten him immediately fired had he been a teacher, and for very good reason.
2), choosing to have sex not only with an employee, but also a tenant, who were in positions of vulnerability, in which he had financial power over them.
3), choosing to bring this employee, with whom he’d had sex since she was sixteen, to the State House with him to serve as his intern, to have her room with him, and to continue to have sex with her, but as a secret, not as an open relationship.
There are so many things wrong with this picture ethically that I simply want to point out that it makes me feel nauseous enough not to want to speak with Norm McAllister about my legislative concerns or how, as his constituent, I would like him to vote on things. How can he “represent” me, if I am loathe to approach him because of behavior that he admits to, and makes no apologies for ?
I am certain that many of his constituents feel that same difficulty, including many women, and many parents of young and teenage daughters, along with grandparents of daughters. In other words, a lot of his constituents…..
And for sure I would NOT have voted for him, no matter what his political beliefs, if I had known about his behavior before the election. I’m sure that’s true for many. Norm McAllister says he has constituents that support him, and are considering bringing suit against the Senate if they vote to suspend him.
But he has not acknowledged hearing also from those who have asked him to resign. He has complained about the unfairness of being prejudged because supposedly people always side with ‘the women’. But he hasn’t taken any responsibility for the downright wrongness of actions he already has admitted to.
We, the citizens of Franklin County , shouldn’t have to depend on the Senate trying to figure out how to save their dignity while at the same time protecting our right to adequate representation. Clearly they could use an ethics committee that gives them some guidelines, and they should figure out how to do ” suspension ” and “expulsion”, so that they have a clue if there’s a next time. Meanwhile we need the power to recall a legislator we don’t feel can represent us anymore, and to have a new election…. and that needs a constitutional change.”