Senate closes ranks around Good Ol’ Norm

Like the frog in the hot water, I guess you can get used to anything if it happens slowly enough.

This week’s “Fair Game” column from Seven Days’ Paul Heintz is a substantial piece of work. He managed to contact almost every state senator and get them on the record regarding their disgraced/disgraceful colleague, Norm McAllister. Highly recommended reading, although it might make you shoot coffee out your nose.

And surprise, surprise: over the last several months, the air has gone out of the “Get Rid of Norm” balloon. Indeed, the person who seems to have suffered the most from this affair is Senate Minority Leader Joe Benning, who’s been leading the charge to expel McAllister. Many of his fellows blame him for being too aggressive, and Heintz reports that the issue has fractured the Republican Senate caucus.

Which just reinforces my view of the State Senate: it’s a clubby, tradition-bound institution whose members have an excessively high regard for themselves and not nearly enough concern for, oh, serving the people and stuff like that.

According to Heintz, the conversation has moved away from expulsion and toward the possibility of suspending McAllister pending the outcome of his criminal trial. Which, c’mon, is a weaksauce idea intended to diffuse the pressure and provide a pretext for barring McAllister from the Statehouse. Because when push comes to shove, the thing they’re most worried about is the media circus of McAllister showing up for work, and reporters badgering Senators with uncomfortable questions. Here’s a good one:

“Senator Mullin, you shared a house with Senator McAllister. You saw him take his teenaged “assistant” to bed every night. She has said that McAllister raped her ‘every time I went down there… just about.’ You’re an intelligent man; how could you possibly be unaware of what was happening under your own roof?”

(Mullin, by the way, was one of the few Senators who failed to response to Seven Days’ inquiry. Brave man.)

But even the inadequate idea of suspension is too much for many Senators. They argue that suspending McAllister would leave the good people of Franklin County under-represented in the Senate.

Their concern is touching. Too bad they’re not equally concerned about the damage to Franklin County voters from being represented by a self-confessed sex criminal. No, the vast majority of Senators seem far more concerned with the rights of a disgraced (and disgraceful) colleague than with the people they are supposed to be serving.

Think I’m being unfair by characterizing Good Ol’ Norm as “a self-confessed sex criminal? Well, I’ll remind you of something I wrote on October 23:

McAllister has acknowledged having sexual relationships with multiple women who were financially dependent on him. He had a relationship with a teenager who he says is a troubled young woman, and even brought her to Montpelier to be his “assistant” and overnight companion.

In conversations recorded by police, he acknowledged trading free rent for sex with a tenant, and admitted that repeated sexual acts were not consensual. He apologized to one woman for a sex act that caused her physical and emotional pain.

Senator Peg Flory holds out hope that her buddy, Good Ol’ Norm, will be exonerated of all charges — that he might be the victim of vengeful women.

Sorry, Senator, that horse is already out of the barn. We already know that Norm McAllister is a sleazebag, a bully, and a rapist. The only thing left to be determined is the magnitude of his crimes.

In fairness, I understand that an institution has to follow proper procedure and be wary of unfortunate precedents. But here’s the thing: if an institution really wants to do something, it will find a way.

Truth be told, the vast majority of Senators don’t want to do anything. They’re desperately hoping that McAllister will “solve” the problem himself by resigning. Which would set exactly the same kind of precedent they’re worried about: that a Senator might be prematurely forced from office due to public pressure. But if he resigned, the blood would be on his own hands, not on theirs.

By the way, extra bonus points to the Democratic caucus, which will discuss the McAllister case at its annual organizing meeting this weekend. Which is, coincidentally I am sure, not being held in the usual Montpelier location, but in President Pro Tem John Campbell’s home*. Trying desperately to avoid the spotlight, guys?

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. The handling of Norm McAllister by the State Senate is a frickin’ disgrace, a Profile in Cowardice. And the more time passes, the longer and wider the yellow streak becomes.

*Where, I am sure, they will once again reward apostate Democrat Dick Mazza with the third seat on the powerful Committee on Committees. Which will create an effective Republican majority on that panel, even though there are only nine Republicans in the 30-member Senate. But who needs to win elections when you have friends in high places?

6 thoughts on “Senate closes ranks around Good Ol’ Norm

  1. K. Lovett

    “Which just reinforces my view of the State Senate: it’s a clubby, tradition-bound institution whose members have an excessively high regard for themselves and not nearly enough concern for, oh, serving the people and stuff like that.”

    Bingo! You have to wonder how Dick Sears remains in power (or office) given the hits that Bennington keeps taking. Employers pulling up stakes left and right and now the New York Times has a feature story on “quaint” Bennington’s serious heroin problem.

    And then there’s Mazza and Campbell. Oi!

  2. walter moses

    And who is the senate pro tem? Ah, good old Mr. Campbell from Windsor County. Holds a meeting at his house. We all know how much we can expect from him. Zero.

  3. John A. Burgess, Sr.

    Despite the political vigilantism, the presumption of innocence still prevails.The Senate is to be commended for letting the Court process deal with this.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      THe presumption of innocence doesn’t prevent an employer from deciding to cut ties with an employee. That’s two different things. Besides, as I made clear, there’s plenty of evidence on the record already to warrant removal from the Senate without imperiling a criminal trial.

  4. newzjunqie

    “Presumption of innocence” is a pretext designed solely to provide cover for our cowardly “leaders”.

    “Fair trial” another convenient crock. The issue is not and never has been about the alleged charges but about what this waste of skin has been recorded by LE (VSP) and admitted to. And, he has also sexually harrassed a fellow female lawmaker, so none of this is new and very likely has received cover from fellow lawmakers for some time.

    Whether found innocent or guilty not the oint here. Any human being should be willing to act in defense of another fellow human who is being abused or mistreated in whatever capacity that would be expected. It is not even what I call compassion but merely doing what is right. Do we really need to be told this?

    Any reasonable person or group should be able to determine if the dignity of their work allows the type of behavior exhibited by the likes of Good ol Norm esp while statehouse is in session. If not he should be expelled.

    Blind eye and deaf ear lead me to conclude there is no conscience or they don’t care. That Senator Benning is rumored to be out of favor for possibly leaking his documentation to the press another well deserved black eye for his fellow “leaders” if true. Looks like the majority of senate has been there far too long and hopefully will not be returned by constituents. Arrogant elitism rather nauseating.

    This is all about covering for someone who has no problem exploiting the weakest and most vulnerable among us – a child for crying out loud as well as women who were relying upon the good senator for their very survival – livelihood including food and shelter.

    Suspended looks like it’s as good as it’s going to get and there are still those who don’t even want that.

    My my, what a good sport and what a lovely thing to do for a pal:
    … Sen. Peg Flory (R-Rutland), a close friend of McAllister’s who previously served as his attorney … Flory is drafting a competing resolution that would “establish ground rules” for an expulsion procedure but would bar the Senate from ousting McAllister “until the case has been resolved in the courts.” At least seven senators say they support her idea, while another eight say they’re undecided or need more information.
    A disgrace
    Senate Democrats Debate Plan to Suspend Norm McAllister
    Posted By Terri Hallenbeck on Sat, Dec 12, 2015 at 8:23 PM

    Comment from Heintz’ Seven Days story:
    “Since the senator has admitted to the press that he had sex with a 16-year-old minor (possibly 15 years old), he should be summarily expelled from the Senate without a committee process. Fact-finding in this case is not necessary; the child rapist has supplied the facts himself. Beyond the explusion, I would also like to see a state law suspending, without pay, any member of the legislature who is even under indictiment for a felony crime.

    All the rubbish about the representation of Franklin County voters and the democratic process means nothing compared to the fact that criminals are not fitting representatives of the public. The utter lack of backbone among our senators and their ginger treatment of this issue makes me wonder what skeletons some of them have in the closet.” –GreenMan48

    Ya think?

  5. newzjunqie

    For the record after a close reading of Sue Prent’s version,
    I no longer believe the legislation undertaken by Senator Flory is necessarily to protect good buddy McAllister but co-senator Mullen.
    — “Flory is drafting a competing resolution that would “establish ground rules” for an expulsion procedure but would bar the Senate from ousting McAllister “until the case has been resolved in the courts.” —
    It occurred to me that there is the possibility of requesting testimony from Mullen as he was one of the “roomates”, Flory’s action has appearance of running ihterference and would harm or handicap any future action if necessary which I find completely reprehensible as it protects senate hides while potentially exposing anyone else who would be similarly unfortunate as to find themselves victimized by a lawmaker who is an admitted predatory thug such as McAllister.

    Priorities of those serving the business of the people are…???


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