It was a real pigpile in the Statehouse today, as every politician rushed to give their two cents’ on Sen. Norm McAllister. And while Friday’s reaction was shock and surprise and even a smidge of sympathy for Good Ol’ Norm, today it was the ultimate game of Hot Potato, starring McAllister as the spud in question.
But he was more than just a hot potato; he was more like a potato baked in the hot zone of a nuclear reactor, marinated in snake venom, glazed with a hobo-puke reduction and liberally sprinkled with powdered essence of skunk. Such was the unseemly haste with which Our Leaders sought to distance themselves from McAllister and his [alleged] crimes.
There were universal calls for his resignation, as if the presumption of innocence had withered and died under the sheer ick factor of the [alleged] offenses. And, quick as a bunny, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott announced that McAllister would resign within 24 hours.
The news of his coming resignation elicited barely-concealed sighs of relief and metaphorical mopping of brows all around. But there was one small problem: Nobody told Good Ol’ Norm.
I feel so proud.
In announcing his complete reversal on the need for a Senate ethics panel, Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell put his finger squarely on the source of the problem.
The panel would also give a lawmaker accused of wrongdoing an opportunity to refute allegations made by “journalists or bloggers.” Campbell said lawmakers need a place “where people can go to clear their name if someone makes an accusation.”
Aww, John. I didn’t know you cared.
Less than two weeks ago, Seven Days‘ Paul Heintz revealed that Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell had gotten a job with the Windsor County State’s Attorney under what can only be called questionable circumstances.
Last year, Campbell actively lobbied for the job on behalf of the SA, who happens to be a neighbor of his. After the job went through, Campbell inquired about it, and was hired without any search process.
In the story, Heintz raised the issue of creating a Senate Ethics Committee, which currently does not exist. Campbell, sounding a lot like Bill Sorrell attesting to Bill Sorrell’s innocence:
“We really haven’t talked about it,” Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell (D-Windsor) said earlier this year. “I can’t remember the last time there was something that even came close to a question of someone’s ethics.”
Well, you can file that one in the Ron Ziegler Memorial “Inoperative” File. What’s changed?
Good Ol’ Norm, that’s what.
On Sunday, I wrote a letter to Rep. David Deen, chair of the House Ethics Panel. I requested a review of Rep. Adam Greshin’s activities surrounding H.40, the RESET renewable energy bill. Greshin had proposed an amendment to freeze funding for Efficiency Vermont, and has vigorously campaigned for its adoption in both the House and Senate.
Greshin is co-owner of the Sugarbush ski resort. As I previously noted in this space:
The ski industry is a voracious consumer of electricity.
Efficiency Vermont is funded by ratepayers, with rates approved by the Public Service Board.
Do I need to connect those dots?
If the Greshin amendment is adopted, his ski resort stands to save a pretty penny on its utility bills. It’s already passed the House; it’s now pending before the Senate.
Potential conflicts abound in a citizen Legislature, and there’s a sizable gray area. The single act of voting for a bill, in my mind, is not in itself grounds for a conflict investigation.
But Greshin’s case is a whole different kettle of fish for two reasons.