Press, public, State’s Attorney, Sheriff banned from meeting by Judiciary
By Guy Page
Mike Donoghue – an “Open Government” advocate and reporter for at least four decades – has broken yet another story of Vermont government meeting behind closed doors.
And this time, not only the public and the press were excluded – so were a county’s state’s attorney and sheriff, Donoghue reports in the September 8 Islander, the community newspaper covering Grand Isle County and nearby towns.
According to a news report headlined “Brass from Vermont judiciary meet in secret with state legislators about courthouse,” a virtual online meeting was held to discuss the state judiciary’s unexpected and unpopular closing of the county courthouse three days a week, due to lack of deputy sheriff staffing to provide security.
The former guard had retired, and none were available to take his place – one example of the impact of Vermont’s chronic shortage of law enforcement personnel.
The Tuesday, Sept. 8 meeting was called and hosted by Vermont Court Administrator Patricia Gabel, the Islander reports. Although local lawmakers encouraged the newspaper to attend, it was denied access to the meeting, as were State’s Attorney Doug DiSabito and Sheriff Ray Allen.
“Today, the Vermont Court Administrator scheduled/held a virtual meeting with select legislators, just 48 hours before the county-wide meeting I arranged, and specifically excluded myself, the assistant judges, the sheriff, the probate judge, and the public,” DiSabito posted on his Facebook page. “What are they afraid of? Don’t they realize they work for us?”
Donoghue is also a former St. Michaels College journalism professor. In his lengthy career with the Burlington Free Press, he was by turns an outstanding sports, police, and local government reporter. Besides writing for the Islander and other Vermont newspapers, he serves as executive director of the Vermont Press Association, and is a (pardon the overused journalistic cliche, Professor) tireless advocate for open government.
For complete coverage of this news story, including Vermont Judiciary responses, see the September 8 Islander.