Seemingly out of nowhere today, Governor Shumlin threw his support behind the idea of an independent state Ethics Commission. The idea’s gotten a lot of push in recent months, thanks to a string of public-sector embarrassments including (but not limited to) Attorney General Bill Sorrell’s squicky relationships with big national law firms, Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell’s landing a state job after he’d lobbied for its creation, the revelation that longtime lawmaker Norm McAllister is (allegedly) a felony-class sleazeball, and most recently, Brent Raymond’s overnight transformation from EB-5 regulator to EB-5 project manager.
So congratulations, Governor, for finally seeing the bright, glaring, blinding light.
His spokesperson Scott Coriell claims, according to VTDigger, that “Wednesday was the first time, to his knowledge, that the governor had been asked whether he supports such a commission.”
That might be true in the narrowest of senses. But until now, Shumlin has been down on the general idea of tougher ethics standards, insisting that we’re all good Vermonters, we all know each other, and we’re above this sort of tawdry behavior. But hey, better late than never.
Brent Raymond’s move from regulating the EB-5 program to operating one of them is proving impossible to ignore. How impossible? Top Shumlin administration officials are actually raising questions about it. They’re even invoking the feared Executive Code of Ethics.
“The governor has concerns about the potential for a conflict of interest in this decision. … We fully expect all appointees and former appointees to comply with the Executive Code of Ethics,” spokesman Scott Coriell said in an email. “The governor has also asked (the Agency of Commerce and Community Development) to review the communications leading up to this departure to ensure that all actions were in compliance with the Executive Code of Ethics and conflict of interest policies.”
Ah, the Executive Code of Shmethics: the Mock Apple Pie of good government. (Mmmm, Ritz crackers and RealLemon!)
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The most interesting phrase in the above paragraph is “leading up to his departure.” It would, indeed, be instructive to know how long Mr. Raymond was negotiating his new job with an EB-5 developer while continuing to be, at least in title, the state’s EB-5 regulator.
And how in Hell he thought it was okay to do that.
Well, at some level he probably knew it wasn’t okay. Otherwise he wouldn’t have kept his superiors in the dark until he actually had the job in hand. Whereupon they waived his 30-day notice and showed him the door toot suite.
He’ll still get paid for the 30 days. Because after all, why punish the guy?
Oh looky here, another top Shumlin administration has turned in his resignation. This time, it’s Brent Raymond, the chief overseer of (and cheerleader for) EB-5 programs in Vermont. His biggest task has been to kinda-sorta ride herd on the Bill Stenger suite of projects, including a major expansion of his ski resort in the Northeast Kingdom.
And where’s Mr. Raymond going?
Raymond said Monday he has accepted a position working for Mt. Snow and Peak Resorts…. Mt. Snow has a $52 million EB-5 project with the Vermont Regional Center.
… Raymond said as part of his new duties he will be working on Mt. Snow’s EB-5 project.
Small world, isn’t it?
Once again, I am moved to say “This is exactly the kind of thing that makes people think our government is a den of corruption and insider dealings.”
And “This is the kind of thing that illustrates, as if any further illustration was required, the need for an independent state Ethics Commission. And some tougher ethics laws, while we’re at it.”