O’Brien: No regrets over Jay Thayer dinner

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

6 Responses to O’Brien: No regrets over Jay Thayer dinner

  1. gary fromvermont

    Dear Davey made his bed and now he had best sleep in it. Each Christmas season from here till whenever his reign as DPS Commissioner/ Chair wimp of VT state Nuclear Advisory Panel (WE WILL NOT MEET UNTIL SENATOR MARK MACD IS OFF THE PANEL)ends, I INTEND TO DEMAND MY REQUEST TO HIS BIRTHDAY PARTY.

  2. Peter Alexander

    On the face of it, David O’Brien, Vermont’s Commissioner of Public Service, was wrong to invite Jay Thayer of Entergy to his holiday party. O’Brien’s rationale that his personal life is no one’s business but his own only shows that he has a deep misunderstanding of the ethical principles of public service. His relationship with Thayer is a function of his public responsibility to serve the people of Vermont; it is NOT a personal relationship in any conventional sense, but an official one. For O’Brien not to the know the difference–and after all this time to continue defending his obviously inappropriate behavior–is deeply disturbing. Whether or not such basic, common sense ethical guidelines are codified in Vermont Law (they should be), O’Brien’s behavior and defiant attitude raise serious doubts about his fitness to serve in such an important position.

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