Gov. Peter Shumlin joined a growing group of politicians and advocates calling for an ethics commission to examine conflicts of interest and other ethical issues within Vermont state government.
On Vermont Edition Monday, Shumlin said he supports the premise, though “the devil’s in the details.”
Shumlin said he wanted to be sure such a commission would hold everyone in all three branches of state government equally accountable and wouldn’t grow into a costly bureaucracy.
“What I care about is that it applies to everybody ... legislative, executive branch, judicial, everyone,” he said. “And that it doesn't become a huge bureaucracy that just feeds people's salaries. Let's do it the Vermont way and the sensible way.”
Shumlin also addressed claims by the Vermont Republican Party that incoming Commissioner of Environmental Conservation Alyssa Schuren will be improperly influenced by her husband Paul Burns, who runs the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, which lobbies on environmental and energy issues. The governor said he’s “not concerned” about Schuren’s integrity.
“No one’s accusing her of lining her own pocket,” he said. “I am the branch of government that has an executive policy that you have to sign as an employee which Alyssa – any exempt employee – Alyssa, everyone else in my administration signs, which says that you shall not do those things.”
Other ethical issues raised recently have to do with money. Brett Raymond, formerly the state’s overseer of EB-5 foreign investment projects, quit his job to go work for an EB-5 developer. Lt. Gov. Phil Scott’s company has been winning construction contracts with the state throughout Scott’s time in elected office.
Shumlin said these issues – whether there is wrongdoing or not – are the reason why the state needs an ethics commission.
“On the other ones you’re talking about money,” Shumlin said. “That’s a different conversation. And all I can say is in the questions of money, you shouldn’t be in state government to line your own pockets. So whether it’s my folks – Brett Raymond – or whether it’s the lieutenant governor or whatever, an ethics commission would help to ensure that when people have concerns of that nature, they would get answered, reviewed and you’d have a response.”