UPDATE: He did it! He chose Option 1A — he will sell his share in Dubois Construction if he wins the governorship. Full credit to him for doing the right thing. And no, I don’t feel sorry for him possibly having to exit the family firm he’s spent most of his adult life in; his share of the firm is worth two and a half million dollars. That’ll buy an awful lot of binkies.
Kudos to Mr. Leadership Phil Scott for unveiling his conflict-of-interest fix at the friendliest possible venue — his construction firm’s annual picnic. Ah yes: burgers, dogs, potato salad, Daddy Pops, frisbees, sack races, football tossin’, and the long-awaited announcement of how he will handle the inherent conflict of owning a firm that regularly bids on state contracts.
“One of these things is not like the others…”
This isn’t the first time he’s tried to settle this particular issue, which tells me his past solutions have failed to satisfy. The fact that he’ll make this announcement before a crowd of family, friends, and folks on his payroll doesn’t fill me with confidence about how he’ll handle it this time.
Heck, I don’t know if he’ll even take questions. Even if there is an opportunity, the occasion certainly won’t be conducive to aggressive questioning; any reporters who get uppity are likely to be shouted down by the Scottophiliac audience.
All of which leads me to expect some kind of half-assed, modestly tweaked version of his laughable “blind trust.” If so, well, he might have to try yet again.
In my mind, there are only two credible choices for him. That is, if he really wants to eliminate any appearance of conflict. I don’t expect him to choose either one.
1. Sell his stake in the firm. That would provide a complete and convincing separation, even though Dubois Construction would presumably remain a family business. The sale would leave him independently wealthy (net worth over $3 million, almost entirely from his ownership share). And if he wanted to get back into the business after he’s done with politics, I doubt he’d have any problem getting a job with the firm, or some other Vermont contractor.
And really, the move would make sense for the firm. It’s not like he’ll be able to split time between the governorship and Dubois, as he has done while drawing a full-time salary as Lieutenant Governor.
1a. Variant on the above. He holds off on selling his share until after the election. If he loses, he could return to the family business.
2. Dubois Construction promises not to bid on any state contracts or be a subcontractor on any state-funded project as long as Phil Scott is governor. This could be very damaging to the business. I don’t know how much of their work is publicly funded, but I suspect they’d have a hard time making ends meet without those lucrative road jobs.
That’s it, as far as I can see. The current “blind trust” is a joke. Even if he severs all direct ties with Dubois, everybody knows he’s a half-owner whose entire net worth is dependent on the firm’s continued success. Every legislator, every state employee, and every political appointee will know who’s behind Dubois Construction.
I honestly don’t believe that Governor Scott would tip the scales in any way. But could his appointees be expected to be completely impartial in awarding contracts?
At the very least, it’s practically a textbook definition of “conflict of interest.”
What do I expect from him on Saturday? Well, he might well surprise me and announce his divestiture, in which case I will give him full credit for doing the right thing. More likely, I think, is that he’ll devise some tougher-appearing version of “blind trust”. I don’t know what that would look like, but I do know it wouldn’t pass muster with any real ethics standards.
We shall see. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to a gaggle of reporters standing awkwardly on the sidelines of the Dubois Staff Hoedown, waiting for Good Old Phil to take the microphone.