Little white lies

Kyle Midura, able Statehouse reporter for WCAX-TV, has got himself a scoop.

We’re learning more about the true cost of Governor Peter Shumlin’s trip to Paris in December, a cost the administration sought to hide.

A court sided with WCAX News, forcing the governor’s office to release documents showing the tab amounted to four times what Vermonters were told.

The administration, citing security concerns, had rejected Midura’s request for cost information about the Governor’s trip to a global climate summit. The court rightly found the administration’s reasoning to be transparently specious bullcrap inadequate.

The dollar amounts are tiny. Shumlin had said the public outlay amounted to $1,200. The newly released documents show the true cost was at least $4,000.

The additional cost is for rental of a chauffered limousine with bilingual driver — which is actually prudent from a security point of view. Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn:

“In Paris, the Protection Unit followed the lead and recommendation of other states with governors attending the conference… [the driver] was familiar with navigating the routes that were traveled. Operating in a city that was hosting multiple heads of states and other dignitaries and that had just experienced a terrorist attack, were factors that the Protection Unit considered…”

I can accept that. It’s the cost of having your governor in a big, complicated, potentially dangerous foreign city. But Shumlin saw the potential blowback from riding around the City of Light in a taxpayer-funded limo, and deliberately understated the price tag. And tried to hide it behind bogus “security” concerns.

So now he’s caught in a lie so picayune it seems pointless. It’s perfectly in character, and it’s repeatedly gotten him in trouble. It’s why his statements are routinely greeted with skepticism. It’s why, for instance, that nobody believes his explanation for the attempt to delete old staff emails. And it’s why his legacy will be largely defined by Vermont Health Connect, Jerry Dodge, and Bill Stenger — all issues he had sought to minimize in ways that turned out to be, in the words of Nixon Press Secretary Ron Ziegler, “inoperative.”

And it just makes him look worse when the truth comes out.

This Paris story should have been a mere footnote. The Shumlin administration is in the process of making it into a minor scandal. I say “in the process” because Midura expects to uncover more:

The judge is still reviewing additional documents, so more costs may become apparent in the future.

Wonderful. What should have been one slightly embarrassing story becomes a series of rolling revelations. Each one chips away, just a little bit, at his remaining credibility.

And he wonders why nobody trusts him. Sad thing is, so much of the harm has been self-inflicted.


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