Doug Hoffer

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Sanders rallies for Minter, Democrats

MONTPELIER — Sen. Bernie Sanders brought his political revolution home to Vermont Friday night, rallying Vermont Democrats in support of the party’s statewide candidates and boosting the campaign of gubernatorial nominee Sue Minter who is locked in a tie race. Sanders, whose presidential campaign soared high enough to provide Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton with a serious challenge in the primary, played the roll of emcee, introducing each statewide candidate at the podium. He also shared an abridged version of the stump speech he bellowed out across the country during his presidential campaign. “Nationally, democracy is, in fact, being threatened by Citizen’s United and by billionaires all over this country who intend to do everything they can to buy elections. In Vermont, we are saying you are not going to buy this election. Continue Reading →

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Sanders finally backs Minter, statewide Dems

MONTPELIER — Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has finally proffered his coveted endorsement to Democratic gubernatorial nominee Sue Minter and the entire slate of statewide Democratic candidates. Sanders, easily the most popular politician in the state, announced his endorsements in a news release Thursday afternoon without any fanfare. They include U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, his colleagues in Congress. For state offices, Sanders is backing Treasurer Beth Pearce, Auditor Doug Hoffer, Secretary of State Jim Condos and T.J. Donovan for attorney general. Chittenden County Sen. David Zuckerman, the Democratic and Progressive nominee for lieutenant governor, was previously endorsed by Sanders. Continue Reading →

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Feliciano announces GOP bid for auditor

MONTPELIER — Former gubernatorial candidate Dan Feliciano plans to run for state auditor as a Republican. Feliciano said Tuesday he is in the process of gathering the required signatures and plans to submit his petition to the Secretary of State’s Office by the Thursday deadline. Auditor Doug Hoffer, a Democrat and Progressive, has already filed for re-election. As a business consultant, Feliciano says he has the necessary background to help state government improve its operations and finances by finding improvements. He said he decided to seek the office after people told him his background was well-suited for the position. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers mull ethics

MONTPELIER — House lawmakers are contemplating the creation of an ethics commission, how to pay for it and what options they might have if they can’t find the money. The House Government Operations Committee discussed a proposed bill Thursday that would do such things as require lawmakers to disclose their assets to determine possible conflicts of interest, a move that would bring Vermont in line with the practices of the majority of states. According to the Joint Fiscal Office, Vermont is one of eight states that does not have an ethics commission, and one of three states that does not require financial disclosures for lawmakers or members of the executive branch. The Senate is also considering its own bill to create an ethics commission. “I just encourage people to understand, that from the outside, the lack of an ethics commission, it’s really a matter of the perception being more harmful than the reality,” said Allen Gilbert, executive director of the Vermont Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. Continue Reading →

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Hoffer: Judiciary failing to collect public defender fees

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Judiciary has done a poor job of collecting millions of dollars in fees for state-appointed public defenders, according to an audit report released Monday by Auditor Doug Hoffer. The state has failed to collect more than $2 million in fees over the past three years, Hoffer wrote in a letter to judicial officials, Gov. Peter Shumlin, House Speaker Shap Smith and Senate President Pro tem John Campbell, in a letter accompanying his audit report Monday. “We found that the State’s processes to collect court-ordered payments are not effective. The State has collected less than a third of the $3.1 million in court-ordered assessments for public defender services due between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2014,” Hoffer wrote in the letter. The sixth amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of all defendants to legal representation regardless of their ability to pay. Continue Reading →

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Report: State contracts need more competitive bidding

tate government is one of the biggest spenders in Vermont, with public agencies shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars annually for programs and services. But the process used to contract for state services has come under scrutiny, and a report from State Auditor Doug Hoffer raises questions about whether bureaucrats are getting the best bang for taxpayers’ bucks. The rest area on Interstate North 89 in Williston has become a destination in its own right. Motorists can grab a free cup of coffee while taking care of business, and even sit down for a while to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi. Seven Days named it the best public bathroom in the state in 2014. Continue Reading →

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Outside Audit Finds Vermont Health Connect Out Of Federal Compliance

he first independent, external audit of Vermont Health Connect has arrived, and Virginia-based auditing firm says the state is out of compliance with federal regulations for state health insurance exchanges. There’s a term of art in accounting called a “adverse opinion.” It means an institution isn’t in compliance with generally accepted accounting principles, or that documents needed to prove compliance are either missing or inaccurate. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Audit: Exchange remains high risk despite improvements

MONTPELIER — The state has been paying for work that hasn’t been performed and is at a high risk of failing to meet pending key deadlines in the development of the state’s online health insurance exchange, according to a performance audit released Thursday by State Auditor Doug Hoffer. The audit also indicates growing unease by the state’s largest health insurance carrier, Blue Cross Blue Shield, over billing discrepancies amounting to millions of dollars in unpaid premiums on the company’s ledger. The myriad malfunctions and setbacks associated with Vermont Health Connect have been well-documented since its bungled launch in October 2013. Key automated functions expected to be part of the online marketplace remain absent, and small businesses must still enroll offline directly through insurance carriers. That is after nearly $200 million in federal funding has been spent by the state on planning, developing and implementing the exchange to meet requirements laid out in the federal Affordable Care Act. Continue Reading →

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Hoffer will audit Vermont Health Connect

MONTPELIER — State Auditor Doug Hoffer announced Monday that his office is planning to audit the state’s online health insurance marketplace as the Shumlin administration and its new lead contractor look to fix ongoing technical issues. Hoffer informed interim Agency of Human Services Secretary Harry Chen in a letter dated Aug. 21 of the pending audit. Vermont Health Connect, the insurance exchange mandated under the federal Affordable Care Act, has been troubled since its October 2013 launch. Thousands of users who need to change information, such as their address or marital status, must undergo a cumbersome manual process rather than the faster, automated way the website was expected to offer. Continue Reading →

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Hoffer announces five auditing projects

Recently elected State Auditor Doug Hoffer announced this morning his office has begun five performance audits of state government functions. The Auditor’s office will review

The Department of Corrections’ “Correct Care Solutions” contract (a three-year contract worth $53 million);
Two Agency of Transportation contracts that have yet to be determined but will be identified in the planning phase;
The Agency of Administration’s Workers’ Compensation and Injury Prevention Program (which paid $7.3 million in claims in fiscal year 2012, according to the Auditor), to see whether the program has focused on prevention of causes of claims and identify trends in claims;
State-issued cell phones to see whether the phones are under-used and / or costs can be reduced;
Finally, the office will take a look at the state’s “last mile” telecom project, which is intended to bring high-speed internet to every home and business in Vermont through subsidies for the low-yield ‘last mile’ areas, and the state’s investment in health information technology.   Continue Reading →

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