When the Vermont State Legislators leave Montpelier and head home, Governor Peter Shumlin should give serious consideration to joining them, as well. It is time for him to step down and turn over the reins of his office to the Lt. Governor.
The Governor, who had only been in office seven months before having to confront the devastation to Vermont from Tropical Storm Irene, today, eight months from when his term expires, has to contend with the greatest financial fraud ever perpetrated in Vermont.
If the allegations in the recently filed SEC 52 count civil indictment against the principals of Q Burke and Jay Peak Ski Resorts, as well as AnC-Bio Research facility, all in the Northeast Kingdom, are to be proven, the Shumlin Administration has presided over a financial fraud of historic proportions.
Over the past eight years, $200 million was misappropriated rom 700 foreign investors from 74 countries. This alleged fraud is massive, and it all took place under the watch of our Governor and his appointed Secretaries at the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. The investors were assured that the State agency was auditing the companies they had invested in — not the case.
The financial, emotional, and physical damage from this historic fraud follows so many other financial and policy debacles that the Shumlin Administration has experienced these past five and half years.
In December 2014, VTDigger went public, to the Administration's consternation, that the governor's pet project, the state's planned takeover of the healthcare insurance industry, was an abject failure and was to be abandoned, at a cost to the state of tens of millions of dollars. It is also interesting, that in the summer of 2015, the Governor was furious at the Editor of the VTDigger for revealing the SEC investigation.
The millions wasted on the aborted universal health care scheme pale next to what has been invested in the governor's response to the Affordable Health Care Act, Vermont Health Connect. Hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal and state treasury have been spent to date in what can be described, at best, as a partially-working state-run healthcare insurance program.
It is no mere coincidence that the governor's chief of healthcare reform was, in 2012, the head of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
It has been widely reported that the Governor's campaign was, in part, financed by contributions from the NEK principals. This comes at a time when there is a debate brewing as to who initiated the planned destruction of emails, some of which pertained to former Administration employees one of whom left and joined the Northeast Kingdom companies of Quiros and Stenger.
If the Governor wishes to take the "high road," he should step down now. To wait until January 2017 will only place the state's affairs in greater danger of spiraling downward. His successor will not only have to deal with the massive tragedy in the Northeast Kingdom, but also with the ongoing major glitches in the Vermont Health Connect, the repercussions from the Act 46 school consolidations, the state's continuing battle with heroin addiction – crime and deaths from overdoses. It is no secret, many of the Governor's appointed agency and department heads have left or are planning to leave Montpelier soon.
Governor Shumlin, no one is saying that you had anything to do with what Mr. Quiros and Mr. Stenger have alleged to have done. Nevertheless, the collateral damage from the fallout has seriously wounded you and your Administration, and has seriously tarnished the reputation of Vermont as a safe place for financial investment. It is time to turn over the Office of Governor and head home to East Montpelier and continue to make amends with your neighbor, Jeremy Dodge.
Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington