MONTPELIER — Outgoing Gov. Peter Shumlin’s top administration official is leaving state government at the end of the month to join a Montpelier-based lobbying firm.
According to the administration, Secretary of Administration Justin Johnson will leave his government post on Sept. 30. He will join MMR, Inc., to head up a new division that focuses on international projects, particularly climate change initiatives, according to MMR. Johnson’s position will focus on helping governments meet their goals and obligations under the Paris climate accord that has been signed by more than 170 countries.
“We are excited to help facilitate the critical conversations between business and government
that will be so important to meeting regional, national, and international climate change goals,” MMR President Andrew MacLean said in a statement. “Justin brings with him more than 20 years of state, local and federal government experience in the US, Australia and abroad and will be a great asset to our dynamic firm.”
Shumlin, in his own statement, thanked Johnson for more than a decade of service in state government.
“He has been an important member of my team, helping this Administration to deliver a sixth consecutive balanced budget without raising income, sales, or rooms and meals tax rates. Justin’s background in environmental protection efforts from his time at the Agency of Natural Resources will serve him well as he focuses on international climate policy. I wish him the best for his future,” Shumlin, who is not seeking a fourth, two-year term, said in a statement.
Shumlin’s office said Trey Martin, currently the deputy secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources, will replace Johnson as secretary of Administration. Martin’s work at ANR has included overseeing its administrative functions, budget, information technology, legal and policy work. Martin has worked on several major projects including the decommissioning of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant and meeting federal requirements for cleaning Lake Champlain.
Johnson was a member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative Board for seven years and has previously worked on carbon emissions trading systems in the United States and internationally. Before being appointed secretary of Administration he spent eight years at the Agency of Natural Resources and served as chief of staff to a member of the Australian Parliament.
“My diverse international experience, combined with my deep understanding of how governments work, puts me in a great position to help bring business and governments together to navigate what is one of the biggest challenges of our time,” Johnson said in a statement.
MMR said Johnson will begin working at the firm on Oct. 1.
Shumlin spokeswoman Sue Allen said Johnson began discussing the position with MMR in July. Johnson sent a memo to Chief of Staff Darren Springer on July 11 outlining a “potential conflict of appearance of conflict regarding possible future employment.”
“As soon as Justin began having serious conversations with MMR about future employment he produced a conflict memo for the administration which included removing himself from any decisions affecting MMR and its clients,” Allen said.
Johnson noted in the memo that he was likely to leave state government by the end of October. He outlined how he would avoid potential conflicts of interest. The move will not violate the Executive Code of Ethics that Shumlin signed in 2011, according to the memo. The code prohibits state officials from taking “any official action that materially advances the interests of any entity (except the State of Vermont) with which the appointee is actively seeking employment.”
Johnson stated in the memo that the work he was in negotiations to do with MMR does not include Vermont companies or companies that operate in Vermont. Still, Johnson said he would recuse himself from any dealings with companies or entities represented by MMR. He included MAXIMUS, Deloitte, Vermont Information Technology Leaders, Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health systems, Vermont Nursing Home Association, Bayada Health Care and Microsoft.
Johnson did not return a message seeking comment.
Read Johnson’s memo below: