Donahue: Since when are state senators above the law?

Editor’s note: This letter is from Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Northfield.

148 Donahue Drive

Northfield, VT 05663

October 15, 2010

To the Editor:

October 15 was the deadline for the latest campaign filing, and as I pulled into one of several open “visitor” parking spaces at the Secretary of State’s office, I couldn’t help but notice a car with “Senate 1” as its plate, parked squarely in one of the marked handicap parking spaces.

The plate had no handicap indicator, and no temporary handicap sign. As a member of the disability community, it’s something I’m sensitive to.

Yes, it happens. We can all be careless. But we in the legislature have an obligation to set higher standards for ourselves as elected leaders, and an identifiable car becomes a symbol of the legislature as a whole.

I went in and asked who “Senate 1” was, and Sen. Susan Bartlett identified herself. She was signing in to deliver a finance report on behalf of Sen. Peter Shumlin’s gubernatorial campaign.

I said found her parking inappropriate.

I expected a bit of embarrassment, and an apology along the lines we all make when we err: “I knew I was only going to be there a moment and wasn’t really paying attention, but you are right, it was a bad example to set.”

Instead, she defended it and, clearly annoyed, attempted to make light of it. There were lots of open [handicapped] spaces, she said.

When I persisted she tried to shush me. “Oh, cut it out,” she repeated several times. In effect, “stop trying to make a big deal out of nothing.”

She turned her back to me to walk out, still brushing it off. “Cut it out.”

I responded: “I’m damn serious about this.”

She half turned her head. “Go to hell,” she said, and walked out the door.

Since when are state senators above the law?

The term for this kind of response is arrogance.

It is the kind of arrogance that has dominated Senate leadership over the past several years, so it should not have surprised me, coming from that leadership and that campaign.

I told Sen. Bartlett that her response tempted me to write a letter to share her attitude publicly.

“Go right ahead,” she snapped.

So here it is.

Rep. Anne Donahue


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  • Susan Bartlett as well as those she was working on behalf of ought to know better, especially with being disrespectful and dismissive of people within the disability community (i.e., picking a fight) concerning these matters they appear to be completely clueless or insensitive about.

    It does not matter if there were other handicapped parking spaces available, nor how many, neither that it was raining.

    Given that Susan Bartlett has publicly confessed her guilt in violating the law in this particular instance, as professed by her and reported elsewhere, it is possible she could be fined by a member of the law enforcement community as a result of the infraction and actually ought to be.

    However, it would serve as an example for other members of the public if she simply acknowledged that she was wrong as well as stated there is never a good reason or excuse to do so and then voluntarily pay the fine for her violation without having to be served.

    Otherwise others will continue to follow her poor example whenever they deem it permissible for them to do so.

  • Jeffrey Frost

    Thanks Anne. I too have experienced the arrogance of elected officals in the past, particularly our state senators, and I applaud your taking the time to publically remind one of them that we are neither amused nor impressed by egregious behaviors.

  • Margaret Roddy

    “It is the kind of arrogance that has dominated Senate leadership over the past several years, so it should not have surprised me, coming from that leadership and that campaign.”

    Yes, Ms. Donahue, let’s bring in the party politics and partisanship on this one. We should blame everyone because they belong to “that” leadership. How typical.

    I do agree that it was not appropriate for Susan Bartlett to have parked in a handicapped space. And she was probably setting a poor example on behalf of her important status. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but laugh at Ms. Donahue’s comment. I think this statement merely shows a fellow Republican digging at a fellow Democrat. Yet this goes on all the time so really “it should not have surprised me coming from that leadership and that campaign.” That is exactly the kind of “arrogance” that is so typically present between our Congress members and utterly infuriating. These partisan comments are uncalled for and frankly childish.

  • Zachary Hughes

    Rep Donahue should have snapped a picture and submitted it to Montpelier Police Department.

  • Penelope Chevalier

    Self-righteous people trying to make a federal case over small transgressions reflects much more about them than about the transgressor.

    There are always a lot of empty handicap places in every parking lot these days, overkill would be putting it bluntly. I’m glad there aren’t enough handicapped people to fill all the empty spaces, and if I see someone double parking or simply stopping in the middle of the street, it is aggravating. But I try to maintain perspective, and it would be a better world if more people maintained perspective.

    Ann Donahue, we could use fewer self-righteous zealots in government, why don’t you consider stepping down and becoming a traffic control officer or meter maid? This issue obviously means a great deal to you, more than being a wise and understanding human being who has better things to do than retaliate against others you see as behaving incorrectly. I would rather have wise and understanding human beings in our legislature.

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