In angry email, VPIRG director blasts Gekas, Shumlin over lite guv candidacy

We’d been hoping to break it in tomorrow’s print editions, but a tip of the hat to Paul Heintz at Seven Days, who just posted online the same email we received earlier today.

Paul Burns, executive director at the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, said he would “neither confirm nor deny that the email came from me.”

The fiery missive, sent to VPIRG board members on June 14, castigates Cassandra Gekas for failing to inform him ahead of time that she had decided to run for lieutenant governor.

Gekas initially told reporters that she’d departed her post as a health care advocate voluntarily, but, as Heintz reported in today’s “Fair Game,” she now says she was fired from the job.

“He just said, ‘Collect your things, leave immediately, and don’t come back,’” Gekas told Heintz.

Burns’ email to board members must have been sent immediately after he found out Gekas was running, because it was time-stamped at 3:57 p.m. – one hour before the candidate filing deadline.

“I’m sending you this quick note to tell you that Casasndra Gekas just informed me that she’s quitting VPIRG to run for Lt. Gov. I know it sounds absurd but it’s true,” Burns wrote.

Not giving advance notice, Burns said, “was an utterly unprofessional and dishonest move, doing great damage to VPIRG and to a lesser extent the movement for health care reform in Vermont. I am sickened by it.”

Burns said in the email that he blames Gov. Peter Shumlin for convincing the 30-year-old lobbyist to enter “a race for which she is completely unprepared.”

“He should be ashamed of himself,” Burns told board members. “He deserves to hear from others who don’t appreciate this self-serving political move.”

Contrary to what she told Heintz, Burns said today that Gekas wasn’t fired, but “resigned immediately to run for lieutenant governor.”

“And it wasn’t my impression there was any dispute over that,” Burns said. “I’m 100 percent certain that she quit her position here effective immediately .”

Burns said the nonprofit’s policies effectively preclude their lobbyists from working at VPIRG while running for statewide office.

“We talk about for example not walking door-to-door with politicians, not appearing at press events with politicians running fo r office, so it’s a reasonable extension that that would apply to you if you’re candidate yourself,” Burns said.

Burns said anyone has a right to run for statewide office.

“But it is not anyone’s right to be paid by ther private employer while they run for office, and it’s not a reasonable position to suggest otherwise,” he said.

We’ll get the governor’s take on the skirmish at  a press conference in just a few minutes. Stay tuned…

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