David O'Brien, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Service, sent a letter to VT Digger this week explaining an issue that has plagued him for a few years: The allegations that he was too cozy with Entergy, the owner of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.
Shay Totten, the columnist at Seven Days, reported last year that O'Brien, whose job it is to represent ratepayers before the Public Service Board, had Thayer, the then-vice president of operations at VY, over to his Stowe home for a holiday dinner.
That raised some eyebrows, especially since Entergy was seeking the department's support – and the Board's approval – for some major plans, including extending the life of the plant for another 20 years. O'Brien denied that the party was improper and said that business was not discussed.
With problems plaguing VY, this issue hasn't gone away. In fact, it's become a bit of a chain around O'Brien's ankle and an easy plot point to point to for someone convinced that the regulators are too close to the industry they oversee.
O'Brien has continued to defend that party and this week took to Anne Galloway's Web site to state that he would do it again if he could.
Here's what he said:
In hindsight I regret being forthcoming about my personal holiday party, I should have answered that it was no one’s business who visits my home. Ever since this matter was first raised I feel as though my personal space has been invaded.
What do you think? Should state officials who oversee certain industries be allowed to party with those executives on their off-time. Is this no big deal? Clearly, O'Brien doesn't benefit from having Thayer over his home. But did Thayer benefit? I'd love to hear your thoughts.
– Dan Barlow