BENNINGTON — Bennington County's two senators explained Wednesday why they decided to vote, along with 18 other members of the Vermont Senate, to suspend Franklin County Sen. Norm McAllister.
VTDigger reported that the Senate voted 20-10 to suspend McAllister, who is facing charges that he sexually assaulted two women, one of them a Statehouse intern. McAllister has pleaded not guilty to the charges in Vermont Superior Court and has publicly denied any wrongdoing.
"I felt I had no choice, given the seriousness of the allegations," said Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington.
The allegations that McAllister had sex with a statehouse intern, which he reportedly admitted to in an October 2015 article published by Seven Days, were the main reason behind Sears' vote to suspend him. Sears said the safety of those who work in the Statehouse must be upheld.
The vote, he said, has nothing to do with McAllister's innocence or guilt.
Sears explained that, being suspended, McAllister will not be able to vote, serve on committees, or receive travel expenses. He will still be paid, however, as per legislative rules. He can also sit in his seat and watch Senate proceedings.
Sears said McAllister had the option to resign, and was urged by many to do so, even from within the Republican Party, but he did not and thus put the Senate in this position.
This action by the Senate is consistent with what any police agency, hospital, or school would do if a member of their organization were accused of something similar, said Sen. Brian Campion, D-Bennington.
"First and foremost, we have to protect young people," he said. "We have to step up to the plate and be responsible, we have to get rid of arrogance in government."