A respected politician is making a fool of himself

One of the unfortunate traits of Vermont’s Political Media is their tendency to kinda-sorta protect officeholders and officials. Keep a discreet distance when it comes to things they have decided It Is Not Our Business To Know. There’s a certain dignity in it, but they take it too far.

Please understand, I’m not asking them to start checking the sleeping arrangements at the Capitol Plaza or devise spreadsheets of politicians’ liquor consumption. But there are times when the private does touch on public interest. You’d think this would be perfectly clear in the Norm McAllister era. But it still happens; I have heard rumors of an affair between a citizen and the state official responsible for overseeing the state-funded activities of said citizen. That would seem to be something we have a right to know, since it directly impacts public responsibilities.

This week, the media silence was broken on one such issue: State Senator Bill Doyle simply isn’t up to the job anymore.

The subject was broached by VTDigger’s Anne Galloway in a story about Doyle seeking reconsideration of the paid sick leave bill. He voted for the bill; now he wants to switch sides. Galloway’s story chronicles the Republican shenanigans that helped instigate Doyle’s maneuver; I’m here to point out the following passage:

A fixture in the Senate for decades, Doyle, 87, is in poor health, and he has had difficulty keeping up with his colleagues this session. He dozed through a debate on the electronic privacy bill and had to be awoken for the vote on the Senate floor. He has also slept through crucial committee votes.

This is not news to anyone who spends time in the Legislature. But until now, no one has ever reported it. They’ve been protecting a senior and respected (if not beloved) figure.

Has their silence been in the public interest? I don’t think so.

The story suggests that Doyle cannot perform his official duties. There is evidence that his vote in favor of the bill may have been in error; he voted against it in committee, voted in favor on the Senate floor, and then sought reconsideration less than 24 hours later. On the other hand, if he did mean to vote “Yes” and decided to take it back, then he seems awfully suggestible.

I’m a Washington County resident. Bill Doyle is one of my three senators. It seems to me that my county is almost as underrepresented as Franklin County without Norm McAllister.

If Doyle is falling asleep on the job and having “difficulty keeping up,” he should consider stepping down. At the very least, he should announce that this is his final year in the Senate and let everyone treat the rest of the 2016 session as his victory lap. He is already at risk of tainting his reputation and his legacy, and things could get a whole lot worse.

Besides, he and his fellow lawmakers are servants of the people; he has no claim on the job or its perks simply because of who he is.

Of course, he can keep on being Our Senator as long as he continues to draw breath. God knows, my fellow Washingtonians are extremely deferential to incumbency. In 2014, Doyle led the pack by a substantial margin even though he did no campaigning and spent virtually no money. And this in a county that’s quite liberal; no other Republican has gotten a sniff at winning one of our Senate seats in recent years.

Indeed, one could make a hardline political argument that a Doyle resignation would be a profound service to his party. By tradition, the Governor would appoint a replacement from Republican ranks; that’s probably the only way a Republican could hope to succeed him and keep the seat in GOP hands.

I would urge Senator Doyle to announce his resignation, perhaps after Town Meeting Day and one last hurrah for the annual Doyle Poll, which seems to have become his one and only contribution to our political discourse. He should do it for himself, his legacy, and for the voters who have faithfully supported him through the years.


10 thoughts on “A respected politician is making a fool of himself

  1. David Ellenbogen

    Kudos to you (and Anne Galloway) for stating a story that should have been reported years ago. It has been common knowledge for years in the senate (I’ve heard this first hand from one of its members) that Mr. Doyle falls asleep in the senate. Finally someone is reporting this travesty. It’s time for him to step down.

  2. Brooke Paige

    For an 87 year old fellow Bill Doyle gets around pretty good. I go to a lot of events in Central Vermont and Bill is almost always there. I know this doesn’t count for much but I think his “job” at the State House is what keeps him going. I have had numerous chats with Bill and am always surprised at how aware he is about what is going on! Time has not been his friend physically, he gets around with a walker and frequently a wheelchair – but boy does he get around. Sadly it sounds like he needs a little siesta in the afternoon to make it through the day and this probably isn’t the best situation for a legislator in these tough times.

    John, I think I agree that it would be great if he decided to make this his last hurrah and leave the stage as a Vermont legend. Knowing what a rascal Shumlin is, I wouldn’t count on him selecting an “R” to fill out Bill’s term.- hell, it wouldn’t surprise me if he called on the “new” Ms.. Shumlin to fill out the term, since their “love shack” is in Washington Co.

  3. Wallace S. Nolen

    Bill Doyle a/k/a William Doyle cannot even keep track of his own money as evidenced by the fact that the Vermont Treasurer’s website @ https://secure2.vermonttreasurer.gov/unclaimed/ownerSearch.asp
    shows multiple claims under his name which states:



    there are also two other claims under the name “William Doyle” but I am not sure that these are claims for Senator Bill Doyle:

    598137 * DOYLE WILLIAM 4521 S SHOSHONI AVE EAST CALAIS VT 05650-0000
    598271 * DOYLE WILLIAM 4521 S SHOSHONI AVE EAST CALAIS VT 05650-0000

    I should point out that Mr. Doyle was made aware of these and other claims (some of which he did file and retrieve such money) but the mere fact that not only has he allowed such money to be escheated to the State Treasurer but since 2005 I (and many other people) have tried to get his support to force changes in the way Vermont handles its abandoned/unclaimed property.

    Mr. Doyle and other state lawmakers have been remiss and eventually will cost the Vermont Taxpayers millions of dollars just as the State of California ended up paying in legal fees, penalties etc. when California was found guilty of violating the US Constitution by depriving people of their personal property (not real property) by the federal courts in California going back to 1988!

    See: Taylor v. Westly http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-9th-circuit/1009832.html

    Even more puzzling Vermont’s State Treasurers going back to 1965 have failed to comply with a US Supreme Court decision Texas v. New Jersey (1965) see:


    which requires all states to send any assets seized pursuant to the states’ abandoned/unclaimed property laws to the abandoned/unclaimed property division of the state of last known residence. If one goes to the Vermont Treasurer’s website at:


    and moves the “.” to search any down outside of Vermont (i.e. Boston, New York, Los Angeles etc.) you will tens of thousands of claims which have gone unclaimed where the Vermont State Treasurer has for more than 50 YEARS – 5 DECADES failure to comply with such decision! The purpose of sending claims (and their assets) to the home state of the claimant is pretty obvious – so that a claimant can merely check their home state to see if they are a claimant. In addition when read by many court decisions it is also a simple deduction that a claimant’s home state has more resources to locate and notify their own residents than another state.

    This may sound insignificant but in Taylor v Westley California was ORDERED by the federal court to set up an in-house department to track down and notify claimants including to utilize tax records, real property records and other paid and free data bases.

    Doyle and other lawmakers have sat on their laurels and ignored Vermont’s refusal to comply with these court decisions [1965 and 2005]. Even the Vermont Attorney General has ignored demands that Vermont comply with these two decisions!

    Not only should DOYLE be forced to not run again but he should immediately resign! Likewise William Sorrell, as Vermont’s longstanding Attorney General should join DOYLE and resign for his own inaction and non-compliance with federal law with respect to the way Vermont ignores these and other court decisions. Sorrell and his staff have an continuing obligation to insure that Vermont and its employees (elected and appointed) comply with all federal and state laws — especially the U.S. Constitution!

    In the meantime interested individuals can help me and other volunteers by tracking down and notifying claimants as I have been doing since 2005. See:




    I can be reached via email at wallace.nolen@outlook.com

    Wallace Nolen
    Rutland VT

    1. Brooke Paige

      The Respectful William Sorrell – PLEASE !

      Mr.. Nolen, Please I can hardly contain my laughter, Bill Sorrell have respect for the law and the Constitution (federal or state, your choice) – are you kidding. Having Bill Sorrell as the Attorney General is the same as a Bank putting an embezzler in charge of the bank vault and Vermont has suffered the equivalent result. Former Governor Jim Douglas once said that Bill Sorrell should be the “poster boy” for them limits (to which I would add and political arrogance and corruption).

      H. Brooke Paige
      Washington, VT

      Mr. Nolen – Thank You for pointing out the unclaimed/abandoned property issue – as I am running for Attorney General in 2016, I will give it serious attention and make a point of getting the information in the spotlight, .

  4. J. Guy Isabelle

    I appreciate your article on Senator Doyle. As a long time Washington County Democrat that is unlike many people, who have said they have never voted for Bill, I have to say that I am going to take you to task for what is becoming and has been the over the top, the worst case of discrimination that never gets talked about except when it is a perceived problem, that is the issue of age. I could sarcastically say your article should be entitled, elected senators caught sleeping, except in Bill’s case it would be an absolute insult. At least he was at his chair and not with a young lady!!!!! When will we finally embrace the fact that someone who happens to be old brings with them a life time of skills, experience knowledge and wisdom. Many of our world’s population praise age and wisdom, yet in the US we view it as a burden. Old people eat up our health care, can’t drive, don’t understand technology etc etc. Instead of portraying Bill as a has been you should praise him for the wealth of knowledge and history he has and for the work he has done for Washington County and Vermont. I have heard the many comments about Bill and events, but you know what, he is there when no one else is and he is there because he cares. Not many of us will be able to do what he does at age 87. He is a legislative icon. He knows more about Vermont in his small finger than most reporters will ever acquire. Bill should go out on his own terms, not when some political hack thinks he should. He deserves that.
    Rather than kicking his butt about sleeping how about granting him an interview and see what you learn and share it with your audience. He has been the leading vote getter in Washington County. Let the voters decide whether he is asleep at the wheel!!!!!!

  5. newzjunqie

    Kicking butt or simply stating facts we have a right to know should be aware of.

    Missing the point sir. Overarching issue is that we all need to have the ability to do our job when sheduled, whatever that may be. Quite a low bar to praise a lawmaker who is napping in statehouse chair rather than between the sheets. Reminiscent of workplace joke that lazy coworker(s) isn’t to blame–was hired under a different job description: “Able to walk & talk”. In which case sleeping would still be cause for dismissal. And workers are routinely fired on the spot for sitting or sleeping it’s considered *very serious*.

    Attributes very likely true but doesn’t really matter if the dog don’t hunt. Would also like to see some rules esablished so that there are standards for lawmakers as it appears–once again–those we trust to represent us don’t really care about our interests, continually made clear with each new eyeopener. Also, if voters, aware that the one hired to represent them is sleeping on the job would perhaps make a different choice.

    This session is the first one that I find myself thinking quite often ‘someone actually needs to be told this–there’s no rule against__? Way too many apologists, dirty secrets and free passes given to the privileged elite from fellow privileged elite.

    Protection of institutional fixtures, legacies and those merely resting upon laurels shouldn’t be the priority, doing the business of the people *is* Would you hire someone who does good things, nice person, has integrity, highly knowledgable but oh, just one thing–sleeps on the job? My guess would be: not very likely. Real issue being made clear–many have been there far too long–we need term limits.

    1. Dave Katz

      How about throwing some articles in there? Y’know–“an”, “a”, “the”, or maybe try certain forms of the verb “to be”? Might make your stream-of-consciousness work better for us po’ readers….
      Sayin’. Is all.

  6. NanuqFC

    As I’m sure you know, John, having someone opposed to a bill designated to vote in favor so that person can then (under Roberts Rules) request reconsideration, is a time-honored maneuver.

    Not that I doubt Sen. Doyle’s possible/probable confusion and sincere need to be on the record opposing it, along with many other Republicans.

    This maneuver does not make a difference to your point, or to Anne Galloway’s. Bill Doyle has long since ceased to be an effective Senator.


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