State Government

Impeachment committee shuts down Lavoie inquiry

by Mike Donoghue, Vermont News First

MONTPELIER — The Vermont House Impeachment Inquiry Committee, which has been meeting behind closed doors all summer, held a brief public session Friday to announce it was ending its investigation into embattled Franklin County State’s Attorney John Lavoie in the wake of his resignation.

“Because Mr. Lavoie has chosen to resign, the Special Committee finds that it would not be in the best interests of the State to impose additional burdens and stress on witnesses, nor to expend additional State resources involved in continuing the investigation,” Rep. Martin LaLonde, D-South Burlington, the chair of the committee, said.

The committee voted 7-0 to approve its report to end its inquiry.

Lavoie informed John Campbell, the Executive Director of the Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs, this week he would be stepping down effective Sept. 1.  Gov. Phil Scott was alerted, and the resignation was accepted Tuesday.

Vermont News First broke the story early Tuesday afternoon about Lavoie’s resignation.   Lavoie said he would have a statement later, but subsequently changed his mind.   He was unavailable for comment on Friday afternoon following the legislative meeting, which he did not attend.

It will be up to Gov. Scott to find a permanent replacement, but in the meantime an interim boss will be put in place in Franklin County

The committee is encouraging the Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs “to expeditiously implement a succession plan for the leadership of the Franklin County State’s Attorney’s Office until the Governor appoints a person to fill the vacant State’s Attorney position for that Office,” LaLonde said reading from the final report.

The legislative report said the department also should provide the additional resources to the Franklin County office necessary to reduce the disruption during the transition period and to support the staff.  The House committee did not say where that money or personnel will come from.

“The Special Committee also concludes that it will maintain the confidentiality of the testimony and documents received in executive session to protect the privacy of individuals involved,” Lalonde said .

The report noted 31 witnesses had testified regarding the allegations and the findings by the Burlington law firm Paul Frank & Collins, which did an initial investigation for the Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs. 

Lavoie was among those providing testimony, Lalonde said after the meeting. 

The names of about a dozen potential witnesses, mostly co-workers, had been made public earlier in media reports based on state records.  They included Victim Advocates Kelly Woodward and Wendy Boyce and Deputy State’s Attorneys Diane Wheeler, Jennifer Hatin, Deb Celis, and Juliet Dowling. Others include office staff Peggy Wimble, Sherry Pontbriand, and Corinna Stanley, the records show.  

Former Franklin County State’s Attorney Jim Hughes, Lavoie’s former boss, also was a potential witness, along with at least two lawyers from Burlington and Winooski that had been targets of Lavoie’s comments. 

The investigative report has been made available to the public, but the names of witnesses have been redacted. 

The committee was not expected to meet on Friday, but agreed on the special session after Lavoie said he was resigning, LaLonde said.. 

Besides LaLonde, the others on the committee are Reps. Michael McCarthy, D-St. Albans, Matt Birong, D-Vergennes,  Karen Dolan, D-Essex Junction, Carolyn Branagan, R-Georgia, Tom Burditt, R-West Rutland and Kelly Pajala, I-South Londonderry.

The impeachment committee had serious technical problems on Friday in trying to make its meeting available to the public.  The link to the meeting on the Legislature’s website failed to work until about  8 or 9 minutes after the meeting was supposed to have been called to order.  The broadcast also cut off before the committee voted to adjourn.

After LaLonde recapped the committee’s work, much of the portion that was aired was spent by committee members and staff thanking and praising each other for a job well done.

Branagan did say the committee heard testimony that Franklin County was well served by Lavoie as a “superb litigator and a fine lawyer.”

However, the issue with Lavoie was not his legal skills.  The complaints involved a pattern of harassment and discrimination directed at employees and other individuals since he was sworn in Feb. 1, officials have said.

The investigation also did not involve Lavoie’s work for about 35 years as a deputy prosecutor.  He served as a deputy for two stints at the Windham County State’s Attorney’s Office for about 10 years. He also had short stops in Bennington County, the Vermont Drug Task Force and the Vermont Office of Child Support before landing in Franklin County.

LaLonde did report that the committee will now focus on the possible impeachment of Franklin County Sheriff John Grismore, but nothing will be happening soon.  The committee is looking into a recorded incident showing Grismore apparently kicking an intoxicated prisoner, who was shackled, and also some questions about finances when he was chief deputy sheriff.

Former Sheriff Roger Langevin fired Grismore at the time.  But as the only name on the ballot in the General Election in November, Grismore easily won the election over two last minute write-ins. 

LaLonde said Downs Rachlin Martin, the Burlington law firm hired to do more investigation of Grismore, has indicated its report will be available in mid-October.  LaLonde said the impeachment committee may want to meet at least once in September.

Grand Isle County State’s Attorney Doug DiSabito has charged Grismore with simple assault.  Grismore has pleaded not guilty to the charge and his lawyer has filed a motion to dismiss.

State police are working with the Vermont Attorney General’s Office on the financial probe. 

Categories: State Government

3 replies »

  1. The taxpayers of Vermont paid for all this baffoonery and total expenditures unknown. The despots have provided a redacted report for your reading pleasure. Now, we get to pay money to fill the public safety void they created, on purpose, with no authority to do so in the first place. Golden Dome gifters gotta grift…time is running out.

  2. Nobody is above the law and this includes the impeachment committee. There was never legitimate grounds for impeachment. Innocent until proven guilty. This committee has wasted over $100,000.00 dollars of taxpayers money. They said they would be transparent but they did everything in secret. They claim they want to protect the so called victims. Were these women helpless victims or were they educated women working for the criminal judicial system? These women more than the ordinary woman should have had enough self respect and knowledge to stand up for themselves. If they felt so strongly about their hurt feelings as to ruin a persons life, they had an obligation to face the public. What this impeachment committee is doing is all wrong .

  3. Came here to see whether Rep. McCarthy would, as usual, go on an ego trip. Sounds like LaLonde headed him off at the pass.

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