The Watchdog labors mightily and brings forth a mouse

The readership of this blog has been growing rapidly of late. Part of the new crowd, to judge from the Comments and my Twitter feed, is comprised of conservatives who apparently read this stuff as a form of aerobic exercise: Stimulate the heart rate through aggravation.

One brave Tweeter recently responded to my disparaging comments about Phil Scott’s letter touting “concerning reports,” anonymous, that the Shumlin administration was trying to shoehorn political job-holders into regular state positions.

Scott has kept quiet about the letter ever since, so methinks he realized he had no evidence beyond, according to his office, one single inside source.

(Either that, or somebody told him to STFU because Jim Douglas did exactly that during his exit from office.)

This Tweeter referred to a report on Vermont Watchdog about the allegations, and cited it as the kind of quality journalism that I’d failed to produce.

Well, as you already know, Watchdog is a place where they spell “quality” with a “K”, but I thought I’d better take a look at the article.

And yeah, it’s a big fat nothingburger. It blows up an insignificant fact into an alleged conspiracy when, in fact, there is no “there” there.

Watchog’s yapper-in-chief Bruce Parker trumpets a “private job meeting”  as post-facto proof that something fishy was going on.

Vermont Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan backed away from reclassifying the position of a division director after Republican leaders accused Gov. Peter Shumlin of acting secretly to protect exempt appointees’ jobs beyond his tenure.

Parker goes on, breathlessly, to relate a sudden burst of emails among top state officials, apparently all aflutter over the Scott letter. At issue was the proposed reclassification from political appointment (“exempt”) to permanent employee (“classified”) of Rose Lucenti’s position as Workforce Development Division Director. As Parker reports, Noonan rejected the idea. And Parker cites this non-event as proof that Scott was onto a real scandal.

Eh, not so much.

The truth, which is buried deep within Parker’s piece, is this.

Before Lucenti took the exempt position as as Workforce Development Division Director, she had been a classified state employee since 1977. Under state law, any exempt employee with more than ten years’ previous experience as a classified employee can opt to return to a classified position when their exempt employment ends. Lucenti more than met this requirement.

What she wanted to do was stay in her current position instead of making a move. Normally this is not permitted; but her position used to be a classified one — up until 2005, when the Douglas administration changed it to exempt. Lucenti reasonably argued that a reclassification was therefore appropriate.

Noonan’s decision was that, appropriate or not, she lacked the authority to make the change. So it did not, in fact, happen.

Clearly, the facts are at odds with Parker’s overwrought narrative. This was a non-political state employee of long standing who was recruited by Noonan to fill an exempt vacancy. With the Shumlin administration nearing its end, Lucenti sought to ensure her continued employment — as allowed by state law for people like her. Her request was turned down. So:

— This was a very special case, not a matter of a political hack “burrowing” into government, and

— Nothing happened!

That’s the scandal.

If anything, it shows that administration officials are being careful to dot their i’s and cross their t’s when it comes to shifting political workers into nonpolitical positions.

No scandal. Not a hint of wrongdoing.


2 thoughts on “The Watchdog labors mightily and brings forth a mouse

  1. Walter Carpenter

    “Clearly, the facts are at odds with Parker’s overwrought narrative.”

    I do not think that Parker was after the facts per se, but the emotions, the suspicion, and insinuations, to rile up the fear, and so on.


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