by Gregory J. Lamoureux, for County Courier
The Impeachment Inquiry Committee for the Vermont legislature, which is considering possible action against two elected Franklin County officials, is scheduled to meet again behind closed doors on Friday.
The committee held two secret sessions on Thursday and Friday last week.
The committee is initially focusing on Franklin County State’s Attorney John Lavoie for possible improper and insensitive comments reportedly made about and in front of office employees since he was sworn in on Feb. 1.
The agenda says the Friday session is on the Lavoie matter and that the committee expects to conduct the session in executive session. It is due to run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., the agenda said.
The posted agendas for both last Thursday and Friday only said that after being called to order at 9 a.m. each day, the committee expected to do its work behind closed doors starting at 9:05 a.m. each day. The agendas further said the committee expected to adjourn at 5 p.m. on Thursday and 3 p.m. on Friday. Nothing else was listed for either day.
The committee, without any objection from any individual members, has adopted rules that will allow secret sessions, including when witnesses testify about the allegations that could lead to impeachment charges against Lavoie and Franklin County Sheriff John Grismore.
Grismore has been charged in Vermont Superior Court with simple assault on an intoxicated prisoner that was handcuffed and shackled to the floor at the sheriff’s off in St. Albans in August 2022. He has pleaded not guilty, and his lawyer has filed a motion to dismiss, which will be heard next month in Grand Isle County.
The names of the employees in Lavoie’s office are well-known, and the witnesses against Grismore in the assault case have been identified in court papers and have given public statements.
The Vermont Press Association (VPA), which represents the daily and non-daily newspapers across the state, including at least five that circulate in Franklin County, had raised serious concerns about having secret sessions, but the committee adopted the privacy rules nonetheless. The County Courier is a member of the VPA.
The VPA later hired a First Amendment lawyer, Matt Byrne of Gravel & Shea, to provide the finer legal points about transparency for hearings. The privacy rules adopted by the committee go against judicial rulings to keep courtrooms open to the public. They also go against standards for transparency within government, including Vermont’s Open Meeting Law.
The County Courier is the weekly newspaper for Franklin County.