Charges of sexual assault against Norm McAllister have cost the Franklin County senator more than his reputation and the threat of jail time. Administration officials have decided to revoke a $20,000 state agriculture grant that McAllister was in line to receive.
Three years ago, lawmakers created the Working Lands Enterprise Initiative as part of a plan to rejuvenate the state’s agriculture and forest economy. During this fiscal year alone, the board that governs the initiative has awarded $1 million in grants to 36 applicants across the state.
One of them was a state senator who was arrested last week for allegedly sexually assaulting two women dozens of times over the past two years.
Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Ross confirmed Tuesday that the Working Lands Enterprise board had approved Franklin County Sen. Norm McAllister’s request for $20,000.
“The situation has become more complicated in light of the last week’s events,” Ross says.
Ross says there were already problems that threatened to disqualify McAllister, who hasn’t yet received any money. McAllister’s arrest, and the resulting charges, Ross says, have cemented his decision to revoke the award.
“And this is the kind of thing that as the appointing authority connected to this grant request that I have to evaluate, and this becomes a very high risk application, and it’s my responsibility to say ‘no.’ And that’s the decision that I’ve reached,” Ross says.
McAllister has worked as a dairy goat farmer, but Ross says the senator's grant application related to a business to increase vegetable production in Franklin County. Ross says the board notified McAllister that he’d been “pre-approved” for the award back in March. But he says McAllister has since failed to follow through on certain items the grant process required.
“The application is deficient in terms of a W-9, a certificate of insurance, there’s been a request to enroll a business advisory consultant, and he’s supposed to re-submit his goals and performance measures for the application, none of which we’ve received,” Ross says.
Ross says McAllister’s failure to produce those elements in a timely fashion had already raised red flags.
“The events of the last week amplify that risk … and make what is already a high-risk application even riskier,” Ross says.
McAllister was arraigned last week on charges that include alleged sexual assaults that occurred in a rented Montpelier home McAllister shares with two other lawmakers during the legislative session.
McAllister is free on $20,000 bail.