Hoffer criticizes Salmon’s $5,000 payment of former campaign manager for health initiative

Candidate for state auditor Douglas Hoffer today criticized incumbent Thomas Salmon’s $5,000 payment to his former campaign manager for promoting a statewide health initiative, describing it as a “waste of taxpayer dollars.”

According to state financial data, the state auditor’s office paid $5,000 from the state’s general fund to John Kleinhans, in the financial quarter ending March 31, 2012. Kleinhans is in charge of the Accountable to You, Accountable to Me health program, which encourages Vermonters to give up alcohol, tobacco, and illegal substances, to lose weight, and to donate $2012 to a Vermont charity.

Asked why the relatively small payment of $5,000 is significant, Hoffer responded rhetorically: “So it’s OK to waste $5,000, as long as it isn’t $50,000 or $500,000? We shouldn’t be wasting any money at a time where there’s not much to go around.”

Salmon and Kleinhans didn’t return repeated requests for comment for this story.

Active in Republican political causes, Kleinhans has managed Salmon’s state auditor campaign in 2010, as well as Mark Snelling’s unsuccessful 2010 lieutenant governor campaign, according to his public LinkedIn profile. A former trustee of Vermont State Colleges, Kleinhans now works in Connecticut as a campaign manager for a U.S. congressional candidate.

Representatives at the state auditor’s office didn’t have information on how the initiative has fared at the time of press. Originally, the goal had been to sign up 1,000 Vermonters. Presently, however, the initiative’s Facebook page shows only 120 ‘likes’ and contains little other information on the initiative.

Tom Salmon, Vermont state auditor.

By Hoffer’s calculation, that’s a cost of over $40 per “like.” In a statement he said: “Ill-advised programs like this are one reason people get upset at government.”

Besides using social media on Facebook and Twitter, the initiative paired Vermonters with mentors to help them stick to their goals, and gave a monthly prize to a lucky contestant for submitting a personal story of “growth and transformation.” It isn’t known how much has been donated to Vermont charities to date thanks to this initiative.

Doug Hoffer. File Photo by Terry J. Allen

Hoffer emphasized that his criticism didn’t target Salmon personally, but that it was the first in an upcoming series of public criticisms of practices at the auditor’s office, which would show Hoffer’s “attention to detail” and ability to “ferret out” useful information. Salmon is not running for re-election. Hoffer’s opponent is state Sen. Vince Illuzzi, R/D-Essex-Orleans, a moderate Republican who has served in the state Senate for 32 years.

Hoffer also questioned why the state auditor’s office should participate in a health-related initiative, given its typical roles and responsibilities, but declined to say more about his general ongoing review of the auditor’s office, or his imminent criticisms in future weeks.

On the Facebook page’s Welcome section, user Wild Bill Goodhue writes of the program [sic]: “your not doing a very good job of getting the word out, no one I talk to has herd a thing , and I talk a lot.”

Correction: John Kleinhaus is no longer a trustee of the Vermont State Colleges. He completed a one-year term on June 30.

Nat Rudarakanchana

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