Klar: Correcting my harsh commentary about Zuckerman

By John Klar

I recently met with Vermont Lieutenant Governor Dave Zuckerman at The Wayside restaurant in Montpelier. This was not a cross-party collaboration or cozy get together. This was a confrontation of sorts over my harsh commentary criticizing Mr. Zuckerman during the 2022 campaign for allegedly receiving a sweet deal on the purchase of his Hinesburg farm. It appears that I was mistaken in my attack of him, for which I owed him a meeting, and an apology. I owe Vermont Daily Chronicle readers, and voters, an apology as well.

The commentary in question alleged two things in particular that were mistaken: 1) that Dave took expenses to which he was not entitled while a legislator; and 2) that he received a huge financial windfall from the Vermont Land Trust when he purchased his farm. Both of these assertions were apparently wrong.

As to the first, I extracted my criticism from a Seven Days article which stated that Dave was “virtually alone” in voting against a legislative pay cut back in 2010, and that he appeared to have claimed expenses to which he was not entitled, stating “Every day I claim the mileage, and I probably shouldn’t….” 

At The Wayside, David revealed that he was referring to taking mileage reimbursement for days on which he didn’t commute – but on which he also stayed overnight in Montpelier and could have claimed the (higher) housing stipend but had not. Other times he accepted the allowance for days on which he carpooled, which was allowable. His opposition to the proposed legislative pay cut was premised on his view that it disproportionately benefited people who traveled long distances to the State House because it impacted the meager base legislative salary and not expense reimbursements, of which long-distance commuters benefited more handsomely (including for housing allowance that exceeded their actual costs). He also explained to me that at the time, the expenses were standardized and paid out routinely absent any significant change in travel or housing patterns, so that when he “claimed the mileage” it did not mean he fraudulently completed an expense report, but simply failed to adjust the routine reimbursement for those odd days that he didn’t commute.

I agree with Dave that legislators are paid so little that mostly only wealthy people can afford to run for office and serve in the Vermont Legislature. I was mistaken in my belief that he was using that problem to justify taking moneys to which he was unentitled – he wasn’t. 

The second error was that I reported in my commentary that Dave received $500,000 from the Vermont Land Trust at his closing on his farm, concluding that he had possibly walked away with cash in hand from the transaction. I say “possibly” because I allowed for the potential that I was making an error since I lacked the closing documents and only had the transfer tax returns. I stated:

This cursory review of public document filings surely does not tell the entire story – it is hoped that Mr. Zuckerman will fill in the blanks. I am here reporting what I was able to unearth, but there must be more under the surface: perhaps David and Rachel paid or received other monies not evident in these filings, and have a perfectly sensible explanation – and clean hands – to share with would-be Vermont voters. 

There is indeed more to know under the surface. The “entire” and corrected story is that David and his partner Rachel did receive a check for $500,000 from the Vermont Land Trust at closing for the development rights for the land, but that they signed it over immediately to the landowner, who ultimately received those funds as part of the consideration for the transfer – not Rachel and David. The funds transferred to the seller thus totaled $879,000. (I still have had no access to the private transfer documentation for the sale, but I completely believe that Dave is accurately correcting me).

The result is that Dave indeed did pay $379,000 for the property, not a negative $121,000 as appeared from examining the transfer documents in isolation. I here clarify my error, and genuinely regret having averred these facts mistakenly.

There is enough truth for me to write about without slandering anyone unfairly. I certainly did not deliberately misrepresent the facts in either of these allegations: I lacked all the relevant information and acted rashly. What I should have done, and what Dave Zuckerman is rightly most concerned about, is simply called him and asked. I didn’t, though I had his personal number, and for that I pay the price of having made a public misstatement for which I here seek sincerely to atone.

Dave Zuckerman has been an ally to small farmers, especially relating to Vermont’s on-farm slaughter rules. He and I are miles apart on many issues, but regarding local agriculture we have been and will continue to be allies. Regardless, I owe readers a correction and him and Rachel a sincere apology.

I apologize to Dave Zuckerman and Rachel Nevitt, neither of whom merited my erroneous allegations. I apologize as well to Guy Page and the Vermont Daily Chronicle for my error, and especially to readers whom I misled.

Categories: Commentary

11 replies »

  1. Atleast you owned it. Wish the scott, levine, DOH, CDC, FDA, faucci, pharmaceuticals and the biden administration could do the same. At some point, they’ll have to.

  2. I commend you, John Klar: Taking responsibility for the fullness of one’s mistakes and doing all possible to make amends and sincerely asking for forgiveness are virtues lost greatly from a society that has turned its back on the God who gives us these virtues for human flourishing and everlasting life. I also commend Dave Z. for meeting with you and having a sincere conversation.

  3. While it’s certainly better to not post erroneous information as that can be construed as slander, at least you did both apologize to them plus publicly admit your error and apologize to the readers. That’s sadly way more than those who run our government and agencies ever do. And certainly the NYT doesn’t apologize!

    And I agree that while on many issues Zuckerman and I are far apart, on VT agriculture we have always been of the same mind. Among other things I respected his stance and efforts at requiring that GMO’s needed to be clearly labeled if allowed in our food, feed or seeds.

  4. Will Mr. Zuckerman divulge what was spoken during his meeting with the CCP in February 2019? Trust and respect is earned through actions and those actions are not to be forgotten.

  5. I commend Mr. Klar for helping to correct his erroneous attacks on David Zuckerman. I trust it will influence his future public statements as well as those of politicians of all political persuasions.

  6. Nice Mr. Klar sucked it up and admitted he did not complete due diligence originally. Problem being the genie is out of the bottle and once spoken words cannot be taken back…………

  7. Thank you for the clarification….however, it still stands that while Mr.Zuckerman may not have completed and filed a false expense report, he didn’t bother to correct his reports either. Therefore, (and by his own admission) he still may have received reimbursements he wasn’t entitled to. And wasn’t it nice that Mr. Zuckeman met with you to discuss the article – it still doesn’t give me the warm fuzzies about him. And you can stop apologizing now…he’s a politician and they only warrant so much in the way of apologies – how many politicians have ever apologized to us for the things THEY do?

    • Reading Mr. Klar’s notes above, it sounds like Mr. Zuckerman probably ended up with the short end of the expenses since while he did not downward adjust milage expenses on days he didn’t drive, he also didn’t take the higher allowing housing stipend when he stayed overnight in Montpelier. I bet it was close to a wash if not going against him since he didn’t take those higher stipends.

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