Amid Controversy Over Paperwork, Vt. Senate Approves Shumlin Appointee Robin Lunge

Apr 27, 2017

Senate lawmakers voted unanimously Thursday to confirm Robin Lunge to the Green Mountain Care Board, despite legal concerns from Gov. Phil Scott that her appointment may have been tainted by a clerical error.

Last November, then-Gov. Peter Shumlin appointed Lunge to a six-year term on the Green Mountain Care Board, which oversees almost every aspect of the state’s health care industry.

Scott, however, says that the Shumlin administration failed to file paperwork notifying the Vermont Senate of Lunge’s appointment. And lawyers for Scott say that clerical error calls into question the validity of Lunge’s appointment.

Addison County Sen. Claire Ayer says the Senate does not agree with the Scott administration’s legal analysis.

“I believe in the legal analysis that we obtained from both the AG’s [attorney general's] office and our own council,” Ayer said after the 30-0 vote to confirm Lunge Thursday. “We have the support of every single person in this body, in the Senate.”

Ayer says the Senate agrees with the Scott administration that state law requires a governor to submit notification of an appointment to the Senate. But she says the law is silent on what that notification entails. Ayer says public statements by the governor trumpeting the appointment will suffice as notification under the law.

“There is no language that describes a specific protocol,” Ayer says. “We do know that former Gov. Shumlin put it out for public knowledge through a number of ways, through a tweet even … and the Senate decided to consider that … good enough.”

Scott said last week that he would not challenge the Senate’s decision in court if the body decided to confirm Lunge despite his concerns. A Scott spokeswoman said Thursday that the governor stands by his recommendation “to restart the [nominating] process,” but that he won’t press the issue in court.

Lawyers for Scott say they’re worried that board actions in which Lunge is involved could be subject to a legal challenge by parties affected by those votes.

The episode spotlighted previous shortcomings in the appointment process for the Green Mountain Care Board. Former board member Betty Rambur never got a Senate confirmation vote, as is required by state law.

“And I just don’t know what happened,” Ayer said of the procedural misstep. “I don’t know how we dropped that ball.”