Crisis managers are in almost universal agreement that the first days of a crisis are the most important. The quality of response can have a sizable impact, and may even set the tone, as events move forward.
Phil Scott has been Lt Gov. for five years and spent 10 as state senator. He currently has 70% name recognition among Vermont voters and has good chance to become the next governor.
His political personality is described as notably low key and non-aggressive. And given the constitutionally small role a Vermont Lt. Gov. plays in governing, specific examples of Scott showing actual leadership or governing skills are by nature kind of slim anyway. Here’s a rundown of the Scott style from last year [he] knows the knock: that he doesn’t take strong positions, sometimes changes his mind and doesn’t have a signature issue that defines him politically.
As he starts his race for the big office, it is worth noting how Lt. Gov. Phil Scott behaved last May when confronted by the crisis brought on by the arrest at the statehouse of fellow Republican Senator Norm McAllister on charges of felony sexual misconduct.
The unprecedented crisis began with McAllister’s dramatic arrest at the statehouse on a Thursday, and he was formally charged on Friday. The next Monday for a moment it seemed Lt. Gov. Scott was getting a grip on parts of the situation in the senate.
Early Monday he announced: “I received word earlier today that Sen. McAllister will be submitting his resignation to me within 24 hours,” Scott said,adding that he had yet to speak directly with the senator. Senator Peg Flory had spoken to McAllister and passed this news on early Monday to Lt.Gov. Scott.
The situation changed, rapidly skidding away from Scott as reporters took the time to actually call McAllister at home. McAllister told them he hadn’t made up his mind what he would do …and [he had] no time line for making up his mind on whether to resign.The reporting isn’t too clear about why (or if) Sen. Flory was mistaken or misinformed when she passed on the information.
So except for some comments on the wisdom of resigning, by Wednesday Scott had basically surrendered himself to McAllister’s timeline.
Scott said he hoped that his media statements would have given the state senator the impetus he needed to make an announcement. The onus, Scott said, is on McAllister to call him.
“He has my number, and I have not heard from him since this came to light,” Scott said in an interview Wednesday.
Scott said he’s not sure that calling McAllister directly will change the outcome. Beyond waiting for the state senator to make a decision, he said, there is very little he can do. “I don’t think any amount of talk will change his mind,” Scott said. [added emphasis]
The Lt. Gov. did, in one way take an uncharacteristically firm position. “He has my number,” said Scott, refusing to even to call the disgraced Senator to urge or pressure him — for the good of the state and senate — to resign.
So very quickly back in May Phil Scott made the decision: “There is very little we can do,” and in effect he [Scott] resigned himself … to Norm McAllister hanging-on for months forcing his fellow Republicans and senators to vote to suspend him.
The issue dragged on until this week when the senate voted 20 to 10 to suspend Norm McAllister. It was reportedly an ugly decision in the state senate but it seems mostly behind them now.
“It is unfortunate the Senate was forced to take such action in this unprecedented situation, as it is my belief Senator McAllister should have resigned before now.”
It’s kind of surprising to look back at how quickly Scott slammed on his brakes and stopped urging McAllister to resign way back in May. But it’s not surprising how fast Scott sped away — his fans say he knows the knock .