Tag Archives: Scott Coriell

Today’s Special at Phil’s Diner: Nothingburger

In the best political tradition of “ready/fire/aim,” Phil Scott and friends sent out a letter this week accusing the Shumlin administration of playing politics with state jobs. Specifically, of shifting political appointees into permanent state positions. It’s a way to reward your loyalists and extend your influence into putatively non-political areas of government.

The letter was addressed to Human Resources Commissioner Maribeth Spellman, but it was released to the media on the same day it was written. (A sure sign of political motivation.) The letter cites “concerning reports” that the administration is either reclassifying exempt (political) positions into classified (nonpolitical) ones, or creating new classified positions that political appointees could slide into.

It would be a minor scandal if true. Unfortunately, Scott has no concrete evidence, no published reports, and not a single example.

I reached out to Rachel Feldman, Scott’s chief of staff, in search of documentation. This is all I got:

The information comes from a reliable whistleblower within State government.

Okay, well, that’s not much, is it?

Continue reading

Advertisements

The sun sets on the Vermont Enterprise Fund

Hey, remember in January, when the state Emergency Board approved two grants from the Vermont Enterprise Fund? GlobalFoundries was given $1 million, and $200,000 went to BHS Composites. Well, turns out those will be the last VEF grants ever awarded. During its recently concluded session, the Legislature rejected Governor Shumlin’s bid to add new money to the Fund — and decided not to extend the program.

The Fund is empty, and in the absence of legislative action, the program will sunset at the end of the fiscal year.

“It’s disappointing,” says Shumlin spox Scott Coriell*. “The Enterprise Fund has been a useful tool, but we do have other tools at our disposal.”

*Say that five times fast.

There was some funny business around those January grants that may have sealed the fate of the two-year-old program.

Continue reading

Oh, about that other thing happening Thursday…

As we all eagerly await the arrival of Our Benevolent Overlord Donald J. Trump and the potential shitshow of a rally in a 1400-seat theater for which more than 20,000 tickets have been issued, there’s another high-profile political event tomorrow in Vermont. That would be, of course, Peter Shumlin’s sixth and final State of the State address.

He’s set the stage with a self-congratulatory website chronicling the progress made during his tenure. It’s chockablock with conveniently-limned graphs designed to emphasize the positive markers, sometimes sacrificing the nuance of truth in the process. And he has said this last year will be a process of consolidating the advances of past years, not an occasion for new initiatives.

Which would seem to imply a somewhat minimalist address. That makes sense, given his status as a lame duck dependent on the cooperation of Democratic lawmakers who will be campaigning without him in November. However…

Peter Shumlin isn’t exactly a shrinking violet. He has used past S0S addresses as springboards for major policy initiatives. Would he really go out with a whimper, not a bang?

Continue reading

He shoots — and misses! Again!

In basketball, there’s a derogatory term often applied to very good players: “Volume shooter.” It refers to a skilled offensive player who hogs the ball and shoots a lot. If most of ‘em go in, it’s good. But when he’s missing, he keeps on shooting, often to the detriment of his team.

The NBA’s current king of volume shooting is the formerly great Kobe Bryant, limping through his final season with stat lines like 7 for 26 (12/1 loss to Philadelphia), 4 for 20 (11/29 loss to Indiana) and 6 for 22 (11/22 loss to Portland). Enough bricks to build a full-scale replica of the Capitol Plaza Hotel.

The #1 volume shooter in Vermont politics is David Sunderland, chair of the Vermont Republican Party. He’ll fire off a press release whenever he sees the faintest opening to score a political point. Like the 2015 Kobe, he shoots a lot but seldom scores. Unlike the real Kobe, he doesn’t have a Hall of Fame career in the rear-view.

Sunderland’s latest desperation heave is a thoroughly nasty (even by his standards) attack on Governor Shumlin for having the audacity to attend the Global Climate Summit in Paris. He begins by totting up the imagined sins and shortfalls of the Shumlin administration, and then gets to the red meat:

While we can appreciate why you would want to leave your many problems behind for a few days, that’s not leadership. And it’s certainly not the job you were narrowly re-elected to do.

It is not necessary for you to attend this meeting. It would be far more economical — and far more environmentally responsible — to send your thoughts in writing or attend by video conference. You’ve frequently touted the state’s telecommunication advances — you should be taking advantage of them now.

The whole thing reads like that. Never does Sunderland pass up an opportunity for snark.

Continue reading

Drawing the Shmethical Line

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!)

This picture should not be interpreted as visual commentary on the content of this post.

This picture should not be interpreted as visual commentary on the content of this post.


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?

Continue reading

Tom Little: The right choice for the job

I’m sure it’s a coincidence (paging Mr. Coriell), but Governor Shumlin chose today to announce his choice of independent investigator to look into Eternal General Bill Sorrell’s campaign finance activities. On a Friday, and on a Friday when a sitting State Senator did a perp walk after his arraignment on sex-crime charges.

But the hiring is noteworthy, and from all appearances, Shumlin made a fine choice. Tom Little appears to be above reproach in his personal conduct, and even-handed in his political dealings. The only drawback — and to some it’s a very significant one — is that he doesn’t have any experience as a prosecutor. His legal practice has mainly been in corporate and real estate law.

Little served ten years a Republican State Representative. He distinguished himself greatly in the fight for civil unions. In this age of widespread marriage equality, that might seem like ancient history; but it was only 15 years ago, and at the time it was a legal milestone and a red-hot controversy. An August 2000 profile piece by Seven Days’ Kevin Kelley called him “the single most influential figure in steering the [civil unions] legislation to narrow passage.” As chair of the House Judiciary Committee, Kelly writes, he “helped persuade other moderate Republicans to vote on their conscience, not their fears.”

He’s currently a top exec at the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, and he’s got a list of public service activities as long as your arm. And someone with much more knowledge than I characterizes Little as a “straight shooter, non-corruptible.” But here’s the point where my cynicism threw in the towel: according to a bio I’ve seen, he “currently serves as Chancellor of the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont.”

Good grief. Who is this guy, the reincarnation of Jimmy Stewart?

I don’t know Tom Little, never met him. But apart from the lack of prosecutorial experience, it’s very hard to find any fault with the choice. Not bad for a Friday newsdump. (Sorry, Scott.)

Unwarranted outrage from your Freeploid

 

(See also addendum below: the Free Press didn’t have a reporter at one of the biggest news events in recent history!) 

Regular readers of the Burlington Free Press (all six of us) know that transparency is one of its signature causes.

(Except when it comes to the Burlington Free Press itself; there, secrecy rules the day.)

Well, this preoccupation caused Vermont’s Saddest Newspaper to leap to an unwarranted conclusion yesterday.

In the morning, the media got notice of a gubernatorial press conference to be held at 2:15 p.m. There was no mention of the subject matter.

And this caused the Freeploid to throw a nutty. It posted a short piece entitled “Secrecy surrounds Shumlin’s news conference.”

Shumlin has led the fight for government transparency, but his new press secretary, Scott Coriell, has failed to respond to questions about the topic of the governor’s meeting with the media.

Well, son of a bitch. Of course he didn’t respond.

Most gubernatorial pressers include a bit of political business — a bill signing, a new initiative, a ribbon-cutting. In those cases, the media alert will tell us what’s coming up.

But when there’s an actual policy announcement of significant magnitude? Hell no. Shumlin’s people aren’t going to upstage the announcement by providing advance information. The Freeploid is basically demanding that the administration leak its own stuff.

Particularly in this case, when the announcement was made simultaneously to the media and to those who’d been involved in the single payer work.  If Coriell had disclosed the subject matter, do you think the Free Press wouldn’t have found a way to publish the “scoop”?

The Freeploid went on to complain about changes in the time and venue for the presser. Which, c’mon, grow up. It’s not that big a deal.

I suspect the Freeploid’s real problem is that it no longer has a Statehouse bureau, and the editors had to decide whether to send a staffer down from Burlington. That’s a big deal for a paper as understaffed as the Freeploid. But that’s not the governor’s problem. And Scott Coriell shouldn’t be raked over the coals for simply doing his f’n job.

The article was slightly updated after the presser, and can be viewed by anyone who hasn’t canceled their subscription yet. The updated version mostly changes the verb tenses; the misperceptions, self-entitlement, and aspersions on Coriell remain intact. One more signpost on the Burlington Free Press’ descent into irrelevance.

 Addendum. A loyal reader pointed out that the Free Press’ main article on Shumlin’s presser was not written by a Freeploid staffer, but by the Associated Press’ Dave Gram. That’s pretty awful for a “media company” that insists it hasn’t retreated from Statehouse coverage, and whose leader has publicly slammed “rumors and speculation that we are abandoning coverage in Montpelier.” Well, sir, your absence at yesterday’s announcement is not rumor or speculation, but fact.

Presumably what happened was: the Free Press tried to find out the subject of the presser and failed. The editors then made a calculated gamble not to send a reporter — although they did send their photographer Glenn Russell. Their gamble exploded in their faces. Dave Gram’s a fine reporter, but Vermont’s largest newspaper should not be depending on the AP for coverage of a huge news story.