Scoop of the week award goes to Neal Goswami of the Vermont Press Bureau, for snagging himself an advance copy of the independent investigator’s report on Attorney General Bill Sorrell.
The topline is that Sorrell was exonerated.
The reality is not nearly so simple.
There were six accusations against Sorrell. On two of them, investigator Tom Little found no evidence of wrongdoing. On two others, Little admonished Sorrell for coming uncomfortably close to “crossing the line.”
As for the final two, Little concluded that they were outside the scope of his investigation.
Tom Little was appointed on May 7, 2015. Today is January 22, 2016.
Eight and a half months.
Couldn’t he have told us a bit sooner that he wouldn’t be investigating two of the six counts? When exactly did he reach that conclusion?
Also, who outlined the scope of Little’s investigation? Well, we know the answer to that: he was appointed by Governor Shumlin. But was it written in a way that excluded certain areas of inquiry?
We were promised a complete investigation of Bill Sorrell’s activities — and that’s not what we got.
And I think Tom Little, whose investigation was taxpayer-funded, owes us an explanation.
The two charges left hanging are:
1. That he accepted campaign contributions and other favors from out-of-state law firms that were soliciting state contracts. At least one generous firm was hired by Sorrell to assist in a lawsuit. Little concluded that investigating this charge “would need to be done by an investigative body with appropriate jurisdiction, authority and resources.”
In other words, it hasn’t been investigated yet.
2. That Sorrell hired attorney Richard Cassidy for work on behalf of the state while Cassidy was representing “two persons under investigation by… the Attorney General’s office.” Little says that’s a matter for the State Bar.
So that hasn’t been investigated yet either.
Which doesn’t stop Sorrell from claiming victory, and decrying the Little probe as a waste of taxpayer dollars.
Will those last two charges ever be investigated? I doubt it. I think Sorrell, now in his final year in office, will slide off into retirement. (On his own slime trail, ahem.) He won’t face any charges, but he will bear the disgrace of being the first statewide officeholder to ever face an independent investigation. To put it another way, he generated enough smoke to create the very real possibility of fire.
Not exactly something to be proud of.
In truth, I didn’t really expect Sorrell to face any charges. I didn’t think there was overt criminality; just a heapin’ helpin’ of stupidity and narcissism. Also, there are substantial gray areas in our laws and how we choose to enforce them. Sorrell benefits from that.
There is evidence aplenty that Sorrell’s activities were unseemly, scuzzy, indecorous, and distasteful, especially from our most powerful law enforcement officer. You don’t want this guy traipsing through the gray zone.
Some of his emails with those out-of-state law firms are enough to make you want to bathe in Purell.
Did Sorrell actually break the law? Not so far as we know.
Do I want my Attorney General to be better than this? Oh yes.
Does Sorrell’s crowing in the aftermath of this report indicate that he still doesn’t get it?