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Shumlin administration releases emails it sought to delete

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MONTPELIER — The Shumlin administration has released the first batch of emails sent and received by five former staffers that it sought to destroy last month, a request that drew heavy criticism because it came just days before state and federal fraud charges against two Northeast Kingdom developers were revealed. The first batch of emails — about 5,500 — that were slated for deletion was released to the Vermont Press Bureau Friday as part of a public records request. The administration agreed to release the emails after they were reviewed to redact protected and privileged information. Scott Coriell, spokesman for Gov. Peter Shumlin, said all members of the governor’s staff, excluding the governor, have spent the past week completing the request, which required about 200 staff hours. There are tens of thousands of emails that are subject to the records request, according to Coriell, and the administration has no precise timeline for when the remaining records will be released. Continue Reading →

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VSEA, Democratic candidates call for funding labor contract

Vermont State Employees Association Executive Director Steve Howard calls for lawmakers to fully fund a new labor contract at a State House news conference. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — The Vermont State Employees Association and the three Democratic candidates for governor are calling on lawmakers to fully fund a new labor contract for state workers recommended by the Vermont Labor Relations Board, but Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin says it is too costly. The VSEA and the candidates — Matt Dunne, Sue Minter and Peter Galbraith — held a State House news conference Wednesday calling on the Legislature to include a 2 percent salary increase for state workers in the 2017 fiscal year state budget and a 2.25 percent increase in the 2018 fiscal year budget. That increase was recommended by the Vermont Labor Relations Board Tuesday in a 3 to 2 split decision over the Shumlin administration’s proposal for a 1 percent increase in 2017 and a 1.25 percent increase in 2018. VSEA President Dave Bellini said Wednesday the union has been seeking a fair contract through collective bargaining since last August that respects state employees. “You show respect and support by putting your money where your mouth is — funding our contracts, our retirements, making investments in safety for the hardworking Vermonters who are state employees,” he said. Continue Reading →

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Story & Video: Gubernatorial candidates pounce on alleged EB-5 fraud, call for transparency and release of documents

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith calls for an independent commission to investigate the state's role in EB-5 projects that are the subject of civil fraud litigation. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

https://youtu.be/1W3BtbhRw4c

MONTPELIER — Candidates seeking to succeed Gov. Peter Shumlin are calling for transparency and one is seeking an independent commission to review the state’s involvement as a federal and state fraud case against two Northeast Kingdom developers proceeds. Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Peter Galbraith, a former Windham County state senator, held a State House news conference Monday to call for an independent commission appointed by the chief justice of the Vermont Supreme Court to investigate the state’s role in the fraud case against Bill Stenger and Ariel Quiros. The two men are facing civil litigation filed by the federal Securities and Exchange Commission and the state for allegedly misusing $200 million in investor funds they raised through the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program. Quiros is accused of using $50 million of investor funds for his own personal gain. Galbraith said the two men have contributed significant amounts of money to Gov. Peter Shumlin and the Vermont Democratic Party and it should be determined if those contributions resulted in any favorable treatment for the EB-5 projects led by Quiros and Stenger at the Jay Peak and Q Burke Mountain resorts, and other projects in Newport. Continue Reading →

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Shumlin administration defends its request to delete emails

Darren Springer, chief of staff for Gov. Peter Shumlin, briefs reporters on the administration's request to delete the emails of former members of the governor's staff. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — The Shumlin administration sought Monday to disassociate its request to delete the emails of five former staffers from a major civil fraud case revealed last week against two developers in the Northeast Kingdom who used a foreign investor program overseen by the state to raise capital. Top administration officials briefed reporters on its request made prior to the public revelation of fraud charges against Bill Stenger and Ariel Quiros to delete the emails of former administration staff members that are more than three years old. The request to delete emails came under fire over the weekend after it was revealed in a VTDigger.org article. “To conflate them is absolutely incorrect and inaccurate,” Darren Springer, chief of staff for Gov. Peter Shumlin, told reporters Monday. One of the former staffers in question, Alexandra MacLean, left the governor’s office for a job at Jay Peak, where many of the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program development projects headed by Stenger and Quiros took place. Continue Reading →

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Potential dam purchase gets bipartisan support

The Wilder dam on the Connecticut River is among the 13 hydroelectric facilities put on the market by TransCanada. (Len Emery)

MONTPELIER — State officials are mobilizing to explore the potential purchase of hydroelectric dams on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers, but plenty of obstacles remain in the way to complete a purchase the state passed on just over a decade ago. TransCanada put the 13 dams on the market on March 17 as part of an effort to acquire Columbia Pipeline Group, a Texas-based firm that operates a natural gas pipeline between New York and the Gulf of Mexico, for $13 billion. The sale process involves a total of 4,600 megawatts of power in TransCanada’s northeast power portfolio, including the hydroelectric plants on the Connecticut and Deerfield Rivers that total 560 megawatts, according to spokeswoman Jennifer Link. The move has prompted a bipartisan group of state officials, including Gov. Peter Shumlin and House Speaker Shap Smith, both Democrats, and Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, to express interest in purchasing the dams through a state-owned power authority. A similar effort under former Gov. Jim Douglas was made in 2005, but TransCanada outbid the state with its $505 million offer. Continue Reading →

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Story + Video: Galbraith launches Democratic bid for governor

Peter Galbraith announces his candidacy for governor Tuesday in the Cedar Creek Room of the State House in Montpelier. (Times Argus/Stefan Hard)

https://youtu.be/Vj5E8T4btGM

MONTPELIER — Peter Galbraith, a former Democratic state senator from Windham County, launched a campaign for governor Tuesday, promising to change a system of government that favors special interests over regular Vermonters. “I am a candidate for governor of Vermont,” Galbraith said at a State House news conference Tuesday morning. “This is a remarkable state, but that doesn’t mean we should continue to do things as we have.”

Galbraith, 65, served two terms in the Senate before announcing in 2014 that he would not seek re-election. The former diplomat was appointed United Nations’ Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan in 2009, and served as the first U.S. ambassador to Croatia under former President Bill Clinton. The Townsend resident, who will join a Democratic gubernatorial primary that already includes Matt Dunne, a former Windsor County state senator, and Sue Minter, a former secretary of the Agency of Transportation, promised he would run the state differently than others. Continue Reading →

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Peter Galbraith plans Tuesday announcement

Peter Galbraith

MONTPELIER — Former Democratic Windham County Sen. Peter Galbraith has registered as a candidate for governor and will announce his political plans at a State House news conference Tuesday. Galbraith, who served two terms in the Senate, decided not to seek re-election in 2014. He registered with the Secretary of State’s office Monday and updated his political Facebook page to “Peter Galbraith for VT Governor.”

Galbraith has been mulling a bid for governor for several months. He recently participated in a news conference by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Matt Dunne to denounce corporate donations to political campaigns. Galbraith, 65, is a resident of Townsend. Continue Reading →

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Gubernatorial candidates raise big money

MONTPELIER — All four declared candidates for governor posted big fundraising hauls Tuesday, the first reporting deadline since last July, in what is likely to be the most expensive gubernatorial race in state history. On the Democratic side, Dunne, a former senator from Windsor County, reported raising $452,436 and spending $134,668 during the eight-month reporting period. That brings his total contributions for the campaign to $567,469, and his total spending to $136,314. Dunne now has more than $430,000 in cash-on-hand — the most of any gubernatorial candidate — for the remainder of the primary season and into the general election if he wins the nomination. Sue Minter, the former secretary of the Agency of Transportation Secretary and Dunne’s primary opponent, reported raising $487,557 and spending $159,044, leaving her with about $328,500 cash on hand. Continue Reading →

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EMILY’s List officially backs Minter

Emilys-List

MONTPELIER — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sue Minter has been endorsed by EMILY’s List, an expected move that had been hinted at in recent weeks. Minter, the former secretary of the Agency of Transportation, and the group announced the endorsement Monday morning with a pair of press releases. “Sue Minter has the leadership experience and progressive values to move Vermont forward,” Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, said in a statement. “Throughout her career as a public servant, Sue has brought people together to get the toughest jobs done. In the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, Sue worked with communities and businesses to rebuild the state’s economy.”

EMILY’s List works to elect pro-choice Democratic women at the local, state and federal level. Continue Reading →

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State officials are investigating water contamination in North Bennington

Gov. Peter Shumlin announces that six wells in North Bennington have tested positive for Perfluorooctanoic, or PFOA, a potential carcinogen. His administration is now working to determine the responsible party and assist impacted residents. (VPB/Neal Goswami)

MONTPELIER — A possible carcinogen found in a nearby New York town has also been found in several private wells in North Bennington, the Shumlin administration announced Thursday morning after receiving test results just hours earlier. The chemical, Perfluorooctanoic, or PFOA, is the same chemical that was found in the village of Hoosick Falls, N.Y., that has drawn national attention. It was that case that spurred a concerned citizen to reach out to members of the Vermont Legislature with concerns of potential contamination in North Bennington. One company, Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, operated factories that made non-stick coatings in both towns under the Chemfab name in recent decades. The New York plant is still operating while the North Bennington facility, which was purchased by Saint-Gobain in 2000, was closed in 2002. Continue Reading →

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