Politics

Shumlin land deal draws more questions

Jeremy Dodge of East Montpelier holds the folder on which Gov. Peter Shumlin sketched out the details on the sale of Dodge's property. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger
Jeremy Dodge of East Montpelier holds the folder on which Gov. Peter Shumlin sketched out the details on the sale of Dodge’s property. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

Gov. Peter Shumlin responded Thursday to media scrutiny of a recent land deal. He is now saying he will extend a lease for an unspecified period of time to a low-income man who sold his family homestead to the governor in November.

When Jeremy Dodge sold the property to Shumlin for about a quarter of its then appraised value, Dodge claims he did not know what he was doing. More than six months after the closing, Dodge and community members are questioning whether the governor took advantage of him, and it’s unclear whether Shumlin will charge Dodge extra for allowing him to remain in the home he and his father built.

This week an FBI agent, responding to a tip, questioned a neighbor about the deal.

The governor said he was trying to bail a neighbor out of deep property tax debt and was not aware that Dodge had any issues with the sale until the press reported it. Dodge said he never told the governor he had any problems with the deal, either.

“I thought I was locked into it, and there was no way out of it,” he said. “That’s not just a person, but the governor of a state.”

Dodge, a high-school dropout, says he has trouble comprehending many things, and he didn’t retain legal counsel or a realtor for the deal. The 53-year-old ex-convict was facing an imminent auction of his house for the more-than $17,000 in back taxes on the property, which he inherited from his parents.

On Sept. 25, 2012, three days before Dodge’s 16-acre property was scheduled for auction, Shumlin and Dodge signed a purchase and sale agreement to the tune of $32,000. Part of that contract included paying down the taxes before the house went up for tax sale. That sum was paid Sept. 26.

Standing stiff-lipped at the Salvation Army warehouse where he works, Dodge said Wednesday that he earns less than $10,000 a year. He says when he sold his home, he didn’t know he might be able to make money from an auction or that he would have the option of retaining his property by paying off the taxes, plus interest, over the course of a year. Even if Dodge’s home was auctioned off, he would have had the option to stay in his home for another year.

“I actually thought I was going to have to move in 30 days with no money, and some money was better than none, and I could not afford a lawyer,” he said Tuesday. “He took advantage of me because I’ve got bipolar; I’ve got zero education really. I like the governor as a person … but as far as a businessman, this sucked.”

Dodge says he’s been in and out of mental health facilities over the years, and his childhood friend Bernie Corliss says Dodge was in no state to negotiate such a transaction on his own.

“He absolutely doesn’t have the brain it would take to make the deal. He never had it,” Corliss said. “I believe Jerry needs assisted living. I don’t think if Jerry had $100,000 from the governor, he’d last much more than two or three years in an apartment. He just doesn’t realize what’s going on around him a lot of the time.”

Corliss said an agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation visited him earlier this week. The card left with Corliss was that of agent Christopher Destito.

While Destito did not deny visiting East Montpelier residents about the matter, he said he could not comment on whether the FBI was investigating the transaction.

“He wanted to know if I thought Jerry would be competent to make the decision and if I thought there was any wrongdoing,” Corliss said, adding that he did not reach out to the FBI.

Wednesday morning, the FBI field office in Albany would neither deny nor confirm an investigation into the matter and directed all questions to U.S. Attorney Tristram Coffin, who also said he could not comment on the status or existence of investigations.

The press and the governor’s story

The Vermont Press Bureau’s Peter Hirschfeld broke the initial story about Dodge’s “seller’s remorse” on Wednesday.

Expounding upon his previous statements, the governor explained to VTDigger how he viewed the deal.

“When we first talked about the tax sale, I told him that I would probably bid on the property if it came up, but I urged Jerry to reach out to his family for help and he agreed that would be the best outcome,” Shumlin wrote in an email. “Later he approached me and told me that he couldn’t get help from his family, and asked me to help him avoid a tax sale, which is always unpredictable.

Gov. Peter Shumlin's house. Photo by Alicia Freese.
Gov. Peter Shumlin’s house in East Montpelier in October 2012. Photo by Alicia Freese.

“The land is right next to my house and so I was interested in it if it were up at tax sale,” he continued. “We talked about the terms of our agreement together, and I firmly believe he understood them and felt they were fair. He got cash-in-hand upfront, as well as money when he moved out to help him find a new place to live.”

Although Shumlin closed on the property in November, he allowed Dodge to stay in the house until July 15 without paying rent. If Dodge’s house was auctioned off, he could have stayed for another year.

After Hirschfeld’s article, WCAX’s Jennifer Reading spotlighted potential FBI involvement. Her story indicated that Coffin said there was no current investigation into the issue, but Coffin did not return a second request for comment on this matter.

Then, on Thursday at 4:22 p.m., Shumlin issued the following statement to a group of reporters:

“As I have said, I was saddened and disappointed that Jerry Dodge now regrets our agreement. I see and talk with Jerry frequently, and yet first heard about this from the press. When Jerry asked for my help to avoid the tax sale, I agreed, and I want to see this through to a good resolution. If that means Jerry stays in the house beyond July 15, that’s fine with me.”

At 8:56 p.m., Dodge said he had only heard the news from reporters, not the governor.

The deal and the property’s value

In the summer of 2012, Shumlin bought the 27-acre property on Foster Road next to Dodge’s. Shumlin paid less than a quarter of the property’s appraised value of $145,600. That figure doesn’t include the price of his new 2,200-square-foot house.

Shumlin went in on the property with a group of four friends who also formed a limited liability company known as Jersey Ledges LLC. The governor told reporters last fall that the price for the acreage was divided equally between two limited liability companies. Jersey Ledges purchased the adjacent 155 acre parcel for $630,000; his company, Foster Road LLC, purchased the 27 acres for $35,000. One of the friends, Thomas Hagemann, has a long-running financial relationship with the governor and supported his unsuccessful campaign for lieutenant governor. In 2012, each of the four adjoining property owners gave Shumlin $1,000 in campaign donations.

Shumlin used Foster Road LLC to buy Dodge’s homestead. The $32,000 purchase and sale agreement for Dodge’s property was signed at the end of September. It included a $23,000 deposit, including payments for back taxes, child support and the remainder of the deposit. According to the agreement that Dodge provided, the remaining $9,000 is contingent on whether he vacates the premises by July 15. Shumlin has not yet indicated whether he would charge that amount if Dodge remains on the premises.

Dodge told VTDigger that, to date, Shumlin has paid the back taxes and $2,708.12 for child support. Shumlin, who chairs the Democratic Governors Association, was at an association conference in Maryland and did not have the payment specifics with him.

Both men said Shumlin advised Dodge to seek legal help on the matter, and Dodge said Shumlin’s attorney, Gloria Rice, suggested he have legal counsel the day of the closing. Rice is out of town this week and was not available for comment.

Dodge said he had no recollection of signing the settlement statement on Nov. 7, but a document of the statement provided by the administration’s legal counsel, Sarah London, shows his signature.

The final settlement of $58,000 includes an $18,994.57 deposit, a $2,708.12 lien for child support, a $4,597.11 payment for this year’s property taxes and a $12,000 hold-back. It also includes $9,000 in “repair credits” and $9,000 in “prepaid occupancy charges,” as well as $30 in settlement charges. The remaining $1,670.20 is in cash to the seller.

“I believed $58,000 was a fair price, and we both agreed to it,” Shumlin wrote. “The house is in terrible shape; it will have to be knocked down or totally gutted. I took that and a number of other factors such as the amount owed, rent for the time he’d be in the house, repairs and other costs and arrived at the $58,000 purchase price.”

At the time Shumlin purchased the property, it was appraised at $233,700. That appraisal was based on a 2009 townwide assessment. The contracted appraiser only inspected the exterior of the home, and Dodge never grieved that the assessment was too high.

After purchasing the property, Shumlin asked Town Lister Ross Hazel to reappraise the property and inspect the interior. Hazel evaluated the property in March when the town conducts a slate of appraisals.

“There was wall-to-wall refuse, the toilet didn’t work, the sink didn’t work, and it was totally trashed,” Hazel said. “I gave the governor the benefit of the doubt and took off the value of the structure, aside from the foundation.”

That was an $80,300 reduction, dropping the home’s value to $16,000. Hazel also deducted the value of outbuildings, and he eliminated the $5,000 value of the sewage system because he said it wasn’t working.

The land value held steady at $114,000, but the overall property value dropped $93,700 to a total of $140,000. The reduction in town assessed value significantly reduces the tax liability for the property.

Did Dodge get a fair deal?

“What’s fair to one person would be unfair to somebody else,” Hazel said. “If the person is wealthy, they could gain or lose property, and it would not affect their life. So, for someone with limited income, it could be a devastating change.”

Phil Dodd, editor of Vermont Property Publishing, analyzed state data for property transfers dating back to Jan. 1, 2010. He looked at the “raw land” value of arms-length transactions (no family transfers or special relationships) in Washington County, where East Montpelier is located, and across the state.

The median per acre land value of the 16 parcels of that size that sold in Washington County was $3,723. Statewide, the median value of the 175 parcels was $3,000. This means that during that two-plus-year period, 16 acres of land in Washington County sold for a median price of about $59,500 and across the state for $48,000.

The $58,000 settlement on Dodge’s property falls in between those numbers. But the property also includes $10,000 in site improvements for water and landscaping as well as the $16,000 value of the foundation, if including the lister’s most recent appraisal.

Several real estate experts — from Dodd to Tim Heney of Heney Realtors to the Northfield appraiser Dick Alderman — all said to take countywide and statewide numbers with a grain of salt because the value of a property depends greatly on its siting.

The issue that people surrounding the Shumlin-Dodge deal see is not necessarily with the price, but with the vantage point the governor negotiated from.

“This was certainly not an arms-length transaction,” Hazel said. “Certainly that Jeremy was under stress makes it not an arms-length transaction. … Do I think it was fair? I don’t know what happened behind the scenes. On the face of it, it seems Jeremy could have probably done better if he had counsel.”

Corliss, Dodge’s friend, said he didn’t find out about the transaction until after it happened. For the past three years, he has seen Dodge less frequently. Dodge spent time in jail for domestic assault, and Corliss said the two remained friends but grew distant.

In recent weeks, Corliss said that word of the deal has spread, and he and other townspeople have grown increasingly concerned about what happened.

“The governor straight up took advantage of somebody,” Corliss said. “Even if Jerry is not considered completely incompetent or disabled, somebody with the governor’s stature walks into your house; if you don’t have all of the knowledge you need to make the decision, and the governor says this is the way to go, then you’re going to go that way because the man’s the governor, and he wouldn’t screw over a Vermonter. I truly believe that’s what Jerry thought.”

Tax buildup and the lack of help

William Davies is a Northeast Kingdom attorney who runs tax sales for numerous municipalities and helps them with tax issues. He’s the sort of expert’s expert that Dodd goes to when he has real estate tax questions that he needs answers to, and he’s the sort of person who can explain a tax sale inside and out.

In Dodge’s case, he had more than $17,000 in back taxes. So, if his property went to tax sale and was auctioned off, Davies explained, the roughly $17,500 in taxes and penalties would go to the town and the rest would go into an escrow account for a year. If Dodge wanted to hold onto the property, he’d have to pay off the taxes, plus interest, and the money would then go back to the bidder.

If Dodge liked the price, he and any other entities that were invested in the property, like a bank, would divvy up the remaining amount that didn’t go to paying off the taxes.

What Davies thought was strange about Dodge’s case is that, over three years, a guy making less than $10,000 a year had accrued more than $17,000 in taxes and penalties. At that income level, well below the federal poverty line, Vermonters are usually eligible for state tax assistance.

Dodge said he wasn’t aware of any such assistance, and his municipal tax bill doesn’t show any state tax payments. Dodge never filed a property tax adjustment claim or a homestead declaration to reduce his taxes.

“If the town saw that the fellow was not getting a state payment, it would have been very helpful to guide him to get a state payment,” Davies said. “It’s not required by law, but for those of us familiar with small towns and how they operate, that’s what town clerks and treasurers often do, is to help somebody like that.”

Karen Gramer is the collector of delinquent taxes for the town of East Montpelier.

“If he had applied for it, he probably would have been eligible,” she said about Dodge’s situation. “That’s not our job to mention it to him.”

Neither the town clerk nor the treasurer was available for comment, but Gramer said the town offices weren’t in close contact with Dodge.

As a former state senator, Shumlin helped to draft the current tax code and the income sensitivity mechanism Dodge wasn’t aware of. Asked why Shumlin didn’t point this issue out to Dodge, he replied: “You have to remember this was an already-warned tax sale of an amount that had accrued over a number of years.”

So, who could have helped Dodge?

Mary Peterson, commissioner of the Tax Department, said that her position was given the authority to grant “extraordinary relief.”

“That process requires a recommendation by the Taxpayer Advocate, and obviously, a case must fit the statutory criteria, and would be confidential as well,” she said.

Vermont Legal Aid didn’t have any suggestions and the Central Vermont Community Action Council directed questions to the Central Vermont Community Land Trust.

Harry Sanderson, senior housing counselor at the land trust, said there are very few resources available to sellers.

“We mostly help homeowners who are in trouble with their lenders,” he said. “About 90 percent of what we do deals with foreclosure.”

Sanderson said that if he received a call from a homeowner with unpaid property taxes, he would tell them to ask the town for an abatement.

“Homeowners are pretty much on their own,” he said.

Updated at 9:12 a.m. on May 24, 2013. 

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Andrew Stein

About Andrew

Andrew Stein is the energy and health care reporter for VTDigger. He is a 2012 fellow at the First Amendment Institute and previously worked as a reporter and assistant online editor at the Addison County Independent, where he helped the publication win top state and New England awards for its website. Andrew is a former China Fulbright Research Fellow and a graduate of Kenyon College. As a Fulbright fellow, he researched the junction of Chinese economic, agricultural and environmental policymaking through an analysis of China’s modern tea industry. He is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and has been awarded research grants from Middlebury College and the Freeman Foundation to investigate Chinese environmental policies. A member of Investigative Reporters and Editors, his work has also appeared in publications such as the Math Association of America’s quarterly journal Math Horizons and Grist.org. When Andrew isn’t writing stories, he can likely be found playing Boggle with his wife, fly fishing or brewing beer.

Email: [email protected]

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  • Eric Robichaud

    Unconscionable

  • Mark Milazzo

    After watching the news reports on this story and seeing the interview with Mr. Dodge, I was disgusted with what had taken place. Our current Governor lacks appropriate morals to guide this State and should resign.

  • Peter Everett

    Is anyone surprised that a millionaire would take advantage of another person to get what he wants?

  • Fred Woogmaster

    Thank you for the excellent story. Unconscionable on Mr. Shumlin’s part? Probably. He does always emphasize that he is a businessman; business is about deal making for financial gain, is it not?. How many other Vermonters are in similar positions. If Mr. Dodge “understood” the Vermont tax system, (and filled out various forms which he was apparently incapable of doing)his tax bill would have been very low. How many of these properties, owned by multi-generational Vermonters, are purchased by wealthy individuals, including developers, who know a good deal when they see one. Perhaps we can use this circumstance to prevent others, like Mr. Dodge, from ending up in such a pickle to begin with. Mr. Dodge cannot be the only Vermonter so desperate, so vulnerable. We owe our unseemly Governor a thank you for helping to expose such a problem in our communities. What about Shumlin’s lawyer? I say ‘shame on her’ too!

  • Don Peterson

    Exceedingly unwise for an incumbent Governor to be engaging in real estate transactions with an impaired neighbor. Looks excessively greedy no matter how it was done. What were you thinking?

    The boader story is that here was a man who inhereited property from his parents and lost it due to property taxes, even when he might have gotten relief due to income sensitivity. So he falls through the cracks, and could easily wind up pushing a shopping cart through the streets.

    I say Peter Shumlin can make this a teachable moment by negating the sale, helping his neighbor file amended state returns that would lower his property tax bill, and purchasing the property with a life lease if he wants the property so badly.

    • I gotta agree in principle (pal?) – while I don’t believe Shumlin did anything illegal or even wrong in the business sense, he does have a great opportunity to do something elegant and right.

      I’m not sure if that involves negating the sale or retroactively increasing the price or what – but there is a human dimension here that shouldn’t be ignored.

      Of course it would be great if we applied that human dimension to all our economy … but I doubt it at this point.

      In the meantime we should understand that this is what business often looks like.

      • Eric Robichaud

        Spoken like the true socialist that you are Rama.

        However, NO this is not what business often looks like unless you want to spend time in prison.

        Your apologist attitude is revolting! Either Shumlin fixes this himself or a court of law will fix it for him.

        Based upon his remarks to date he will be resigning this summer!

        • Walter Carpenter

          “However, NO this is not what business often looks like unless you want to spend time in prison.”

          How many big bankers, for example, have spent any time in prison for doing business deals far, far worse than this and inflicting much greater suffering on a grander scale than what is going on here? How many people who did not know the fine print on a form were screwed out of everything that they had? No, business is very often worse than anything that this could ever come close to and no one, or very few, of the dealers ever go to jail for what they did.

          • Water,
            These bankers were scoundrels, no doubt, but Shumlin is an incumbent governor, a HUGE difference.

      • Karl Riemer

        Rama, of all people! ‘Principal’ is first in line: headmaster of a school, owner of a corporation, substance of a debt. ‘Principle’ is first in concept: ethics, assumptions, tenets, rules. Principals are central (to something), principles essential. You’ve met many principals (and no doubt talked about them) but you can only talk about and act upon principles, not shake their hands (or tax them). Schools always have principals; principals almost always have principles.

  • Scott Williams

    I’ve tried to look objectively at the Governor’s actions. Whether legal or ethical, the bigger question is whether this incident serves as a model for Vermonters to emulate. No question, it fails miserably. While a private transaction, it is made by someone we are supposed to look to for guidance in how we should comport ourselves. An experienced real estate developer “sketches” a real estate deal on an envelope? Only if he knows he’s getting over on the seller and wants to nail it down before the seller starts thinking too much. The GOVERNOR of the State engaging in a real estate transaction with a guy with a 9th grade education? Perhaps worst of all- being a “good neighbor,” you couldn’t use your knowledge and skills to make sure he gets a good price? Is the $30-$40K more that would have made it truly fair more than a drop in the bucket to the TWO LLC’s that bought the property? Finally- paying the taxes off, when the governor was buying the property- was NOT a value to the seller- it was a value to the buyer- so that $17k should not be considered part of the purchase price- the Governor paid off the taxes so it wouldn’t go to tax auction, where someone else might have been willing to pay more to live next to the governor . . .

  • Bud Haas

    Thanks for a really good piece. I’ll have to agree with Don Peterson’s suggestion about negating and life lease, or a good alternative prepaid housing arrangement for Mr. Dodge, who obviously has a hard time maintaining a household.
    We need “boarding homes” with meals, or assisted living places for the non-elderly and/or non-medically disabled. Sort of pre-homeless homes.

  • A new low of ethics by an incumbent Vermont governor?

    A piece of land next to where the governor lives is prime real estate worth much more than its listed value.

    The land on which his new house was built was also acquired at about 1/4 of the market price.

    One would think, being an incumbent governor, requires a time-out from shenanigans.

    Similar activities go on in other areas of government, especially the heavily- subsidized parts, such as renewable energy, which enrich a few, well-connected owners of heavily-subsidized wind turbine projects, at the expense of all other Vermont households and businesses, all made possible by a politically-compliant PSB after extensive, mostly pro-forma hearings.

    • Timothy MacLam

      Perhaps now people can see up close what Shifty Shumlin is all about. He is a con man, using his acumen in real estate and business, to further his personal agenda(s).

      His ethics are probably not of a “new low” for Gov. Shumlin, but this time he was caught with his pants down, and making a successful attempt to swindle a man with obvious intellectual disabilities, who is in poor life circumstances. This man felt that the governor, by virtue of being the governor, was somehow beyond reproach.

      I suspect, Mr. Post, if we were to establish a pattern of what the governor favors or disfavors, most of it would be driven by his financial gain, or that of his wealthy friends.

      It is time to show Shumlin aka Richie Rich the door.

  • Fred Woogmaster

    I agree Mr. Peterson. .A teachable moment indeed

  • Jay Davis

    I guess I confused Shameland’s other deal with this one. He and his wealthy friends rob the poor and the down, then claim these are the very people they defend.

    It is obvious what Shameland is up to and this behavior I infer has happened before and doubtless, contributed to his millions in wealth both in cash and property.

    This should bring him down because it is shameless self interest and taking advantage where he can .

  • Phyllis North

    The governor should have been more cautious. He could have reached out to the man’s family personally, and at the least he should have made sure the mane was represented by a lawyer.

    On the other hand, there appears little prospect this guy could have ever paid the back taxes, plus the 1% per month required in tax sales, plus whatever higher amount someone was likely to bid at a tax sale.

    In today’s Times Argus, his daughters are complaining and talking about legal action. Did they do anything to help their father when he was living in dire circumstances? One has to wonder whether they are now worried more about their father or their inheritance.

    • Lynn Nila

      It happens in the best of families, disputing legalities of the legacy. It is only my opinion that this is the situation here.

  • Duncan Kilmartin

    Sometimes the devil is in the details.

    This was a private transaction between two Vermont citizens, one a very vulnerable adult, and the other, a very sophisticated, well educated, well-connected, wealthy, highly knowledgeable, highly successful, self-proclaimed successful businessman extra-ordinaire, white board expert, adult.

    The power/status differential between citizen Peter and the vulnerable Mr. Dodge conclusively demonstrates that the transaction is voidable. Whether a jury would award additional damages, including punitive damages, is a question for another time and forum.

    The devilish detail which caused me to write this note concerns citizen Peter’s use of an attorney employed by the Governor and paid by Vermont serfs and vassals to disparage Mr. Dodge and present some defense for citizen Peter.

    Why is a state employee, Sarah London, the administrations’ general counsel, presenting citizen Peter Shumlin’s defense?

    Attorney London is paid by the taxpayers. Any lawyering up by citizen Peter should be by private counsel paid for by wealthy citizen Peter Shumlin, in his citizen’s capacity, not out of the general fund.

    Previously in regard to Governor Shumlin’s administration I have referred to the “Emporer’s New Clothes”.

    Here we have a new, pernicious, and far less comical, theme emerging: “The Imperial and Imperious Governor”.

    Our Imperial Governor, has adopted the theme “The King Can do No Wrong”, while he makes use of his Court Courtesans to shoot arrows at serf Dodge from the ramparts of the Executive castle. Where is the Magna Carta when you need it.

    Once fooled citizen Peter, shame on you. Twice fooled, shame on us!

    • Lynn Nila

      Yesss! We are still Vermont that recognises “The King’s Law”. Finally, someone who is aware of this.

  • Joyce Fredercik

    Evidently he likes to use his position as a bargaining chip. I don’t know of anyone else who could purchase 27 acres for $35,000 ($1296/acre) when the adjacent property sold for $4065.acre. He didn’t want the run down condition of Mr. Dodge’s property to affect the net worth of his own. Do I think it was a slimy deal? Yes I do. Do I think Shumlin has ethics problems? Yes to that as well. I think that he and his buddies have been in office long enough – I hope that the Vermont voters keep this and all the things he has given over to illegals in mind when it comes time to vote them all out.

  • Fred Woogmaster

    As a vocal critic of the “two party system” and a member of no party, I begin to cringe when partisans of both R and D
    persuasions come out of the woodwork to make political hay. This IS NOT a political issue or problem. It is a matter of ethics and principle. Neither political party has demonstrated superior morality in my judgment. Selective morality seems to be a practice within the body politic – equal opportunity for all. We gain little or nothing from politically partisan criticism of flawed human behavior.

  • Fred Woogmaster

    I agree with Mr. Kilmartin. This is not official business. State employees should not be involved on the Governor’s behalf. I say this despite the partisan rhetoric surrounding Mr. Kilmartin’s statement

  • Cheryl Pariseau

    In the beginning of the article is states “Although Shumlin closed on the property in November, he allowed Dodge to stay in the house until July 15 without paying rent.” This is a bit of a misleading statement because the article goes on to say “The final settlement of $58,000 includes … and $9,000 in “prepaid occupancy charges,”… So he is not allowing this to stay on the property rent free he just took the rent out of the purchase price.
    Nevertheless, this entire deal seems extremely shady. The Governor was in a position to help Mr. Dodd but instead took complete advantage of him. As for Shumlin’s lawyer Ms. Rich she should be ashamed of herself for participating in such a shady deal. I would even suggest the state bar take a look at her part in this deal because it seems obvious that this man is of a low IQ.
    If Karen Gramer’s position is an elected on I HIGHLY suggest that the town vote her out. If it is an appointed/hired position I suggest here Superiors get into CYA mode because her response “That’s not our job to mention it to him.” is BS! She is in charge of collecting delinquent taxes for the town. It should make no difference where the money comes from and everything should be done to assist a resident. She had all of the information to see that Mr. Dodd did not file for a property tax prebate.
    Finally, this entire story saddens me and enrages me at the same time. There were several people involved that could have assisted this guy, but no one did. The one person that should have help (Shumlin) instead took advantage of him.Mr. Dodd looked at the Governor as a person in power and figured he wouldn’t give him the shaft, but it looks like that is exactly what happened. All involved should be ashamed and everything should be do to right this blatant wrong!

  • Jim Barrett

    PREDATOR anyone! Remember when Shumlin was arrested for speeding? Remember when he went after VTY using millions of our hard earned tax dollars and still is spending millions on a personal vendetta against a company? An attorney working both sides? Shumlin had to know the man was handicapped ………and therefore couldn’t act in his own best interest. Secondly, the town didn’t attempt to help him but went the full course for Shumlin!!!!!

  • Lee Stirling

    Am I the only one who has a hard time picturing Shumlin traipsing over to Dodge’s place and working on this deal with him in-person, face-to-face to sketch-out the details of the transaction on yellow legal paper?

  • rosemarie jackowski

    Do we need any more proof that elder/disabled/disenfranchised citizens are being exploited and abused in Vermont.

    This is not a matter of R/D. It is a matter of human decency. One can only wonder about the moral compass of the governor.

  • Lance Hagen

    Governor Shumlin showing us the new ‘Vermont Way’!

  • Peter Starr

    “Governor Scott” Has a very nice ring to it !

  • Don Peterson

    I wish there were more leaders in the world. IN their absence I offer this observation:

    Poor unschooled Vermonters who own property have a very hard time filing their income taxes because the forms are difficult to understand, and full of jargon. In many cases the poorest of us have to either pay someone to file for them, or miss out on programs meant to help them. THis is definitely the case with Mr. Dodge.

    I call on the Dept of Tax: do something for our poorest taxpayers besides confuse them.

    • Walter Carpenter

      “I call on the Dept of Tax: do something for our poorest taxpayers besides confuse them.”

      You’re right. I agree.

  • Lee Stirling

    One of the only things that could have made this story come off even worse than it has is if Dodge was an EITC recipient whose benefits were cut by a successfull Shumlin attempt to plunder EITC funds.

  • Annette Smith

    Andrew, thank you for fleshing out the details. Might be worth asking around to see if Gov. Shumlin spoke with anyone in East Montpelier about closing the road his new house is on, once he took ownership of the Dodge property.

    Using Google Earth or Bing Maps, type in “Foster Road, East Montpelier, VT”. The Governor’s new house is not yet shown, but what you see is a short narrow dirt road that goes east/right from Putnam Road. Turn off road names if you’re using Google Earth, and you find that the narrow dirt road goes past the Dodge home, the Governor’s new home (in the field to the right of the Dodge home), with his friends’ white farmhouse at the end. Then it turns into a jeep trail that is not navigable by a car.

    Once he owns the Dodge property, the Governor gains an advantage in the ability to have the road turned into a private road. Based on how amenable the town officials in East Montpelier seem to be in helping the Governor, they would probably be glad to close the road at his request.

    No, Governor Shumlin, you do not “help” your disadvantaged neighbor by negotiating a deal that puts him out on the street. No matter the amount of money, that the Governor did not recognize that this man, with his criminal record and domestic pets and hardly any money left over afterwards, would not be able to find housing is truly remarkable.

    And if I’m doing the math right, he charged him $1000 a month rent to stay in his own home, without adequate sewer?!!!

  • Lee Stirling

    In a twisted and perverse sort of way, I bet that Shumlin is relieved that all the flooding due to the torrents of rain in Northwestern VT overnight has occurred. It certainly is dominating the headlines on the local “breaking news” outlets, serving as a distraction from this negative Shumlin story, and allowing the Governor to put his disaster relief hat back on (which gained him much praise following Hurricane Irene).

  • The Governor has created a situation in which he can now only lose, meaning further damage to his reputation and growing questions about his character, if the agreement proceeds as written. The Governor’s reputation is far more important than this property, thus he should:

    1. Void the present agreement, but take a lien on the property for any out of
    pocket money the he has expended,

    2. Allow the Dodge family the time to pay back taxes and/or sell the property
    at fair market value,

    3. If the Dodge family is unable to pay taxes or sell the property, the town
    would put the property up for a tax sale,

    4. If the Governor really wants the property, he can out bid all others and get
    it in a fair open market process,

    5. Upon sale of the property, Mr. Dodge would receive any equity remaining
    after satisfying all property related obligations,

    6. Even if the Governor loses the property as a result of being out bid in a tax
    sale, he saves his reputation, which is taking a huge beating at this time
    and will not be soon forgotten.

    Governor do the right thing for Mr. Dodge and yourself.

    • Peter Romans

      At this point, Shumlin’s financial means can not salvage his character. He should be exiled from the state as an example to “public servants”.

  • dale tillotson

    Let’s see AG investigates consumer fraud, so lets throw it over to him for the investigation, and while we are at it lets rename these properties as Whitewater Vt. style land Inc. Really though the Governor only wanted his neighbors land to put Dem Marhowitz’s precious plants on after Mr. Berry rescued them after Irene. Lets get this investigation started.

  • Joe Sullivan

    The Governor did him a favor. What a disrespectful way to thank him. The Governor should have just let his house be auctioned-off. This is why people shy-away from doing business transactions; all you get is a swift kick in the a$$.

    • Oliver Olsen

      Joe – Mr. Dodge was being overcharged on his taxes. Governor Shumlin would have done much more to help Mr. Dodge out if he had pointed out the glaring error, helped him file his homestead declaration (which would have cut his tax bill from $4,500 to something like $500/yr), and worked with the tax department to secure Mr. Dodge a refund for the overcharges that pushed him to the brink of tax sale. Mr. Dodge was injured by a complex tax system that confuses the best of us, but Governor Shumlin simply threw salt in the wound, rather than lend a helping hand.

    • Todd Taylor

      You certainly have a strange definition for the word ‘Favor’, don’t you Joe? Unfortunately, we have too many ‘elites’ in power imposing their ‘favors’ on us. Someday I do believe they’ll get paid back all that they truly deserve, with interest.

  • Tony Redington

    This story amounts to human exploitation in more than the economic sense. Our brother’s keeper? One wonders how the Onion River Land Company would approach a person like Mr Dodge. Would the Governor Shumlin actions be how Ethan and Ira hanled their affairs? Governor Chittenden? Probably not–how sad a legacy if this all turns out to be the facts of the matter for a Governor who started with such great promise.

  • Fred Woogmaster

    During a recent campaign (I think it was the most recent Democratic primary)in which it was necessary for him to burnish his liberal (to progressive) credentials, Mr. Shumlin spoke of his reverence for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As others have indicated, the Governor can act in any number of ways to ameliorate the situation.
    What would Dr. King advise, Governor? Deny culpability? I think not. Be humble. Do something good for Mr. Dodge and for the State. Surprise those who see humility as being beyond your grasp. The sincere acceptance of responsibility from a powerful leader can be quite inspiring; it seems to happen so rarely.

  • Ralph Colin

    Why is anyone living in Vermont surprised at what the governor has done in this instance? He has been doing this sort of thing (think a word the first letter of which is “f”)to Vermonters individually and collectively for years. The only difference in this case is that one true journalist (I can’t think of any others currently worthy of that approbation) has finally lifted the cover off this charlatan and revealed him for what he is and has been for all his years in the public’s eye.

    One of the real disgraces coming to light in this story is the fact that the press generally has given this man a pass while he (the governor) has, in one form or another and with the full cooperation and endorsements of many of his political cohorts, been getting away with sleazy maneuvers of this kind and worse for his entire public life.

    So now he has been caught at taking advantage of an individual, someone unfortunate enough to be in a position of not having the faculties to be able to defend himself against a predator like the governor. What will be done about it? Will the appropriate government agencies step into the matter and take the necessary actions against the governor as they would against a similar miscreant of not so prominent a stature or will they give him the usual pass?And what, if anything, will the Democratic Governor’s Association do about having their institution led by a person who, for his own personal benefit, screws over a disadvantaged neighbor? It should be very interesting to see what happens in the next few days.

    • Timothy MacLam

      HEAR, HEAR! You say it well:

      “One of the real disgraces coming to light in this story is the fact that the press generally has given this man a pass while he (the governor) has, in one form or another and with the full cooperation and endorsements of many of his political cohorts, been getting away with sleazy maneuvers of this kind and worse for his entire public life.”

      Now the public should prepare for the standard sanctimonious Shumlin defense e.g. “I was just trying to help a needy Vermonter…” etc. followed by the angry “private life” tirade directed to any member of the press (darn few) who continues to question his lack of ethics, both public and private.

  • Amelia Silver

    What an interesting series of comments following this article. Admittedly a defender by training, and by disposition, I must say I am fascinated at the attack-dog response to this real estate transaction. Have any of you people ever bought a piece of property? Did you [possibly have more money or education or street smarts than the person from whom you bought? Did you feel obligated to improve their lives, make them better than before, negotiate against your own interest because the seller was not as well-off as you? Further, do you all believe that you know everything that transpired here? Your comments sound very much like the usual cries of the rabble whenever someone is acquitted: “unfair, rigged, he did it, the jury was corrupt, the judge was corrupt,” when in fact no one who did not sit in the jury box and hear every piece of evidence is qualified to evaluate the fairness of any trial’s outcome. It’s indisputable that Peter Shumlin has plenty of money–does that mean it’s incumbent upon him to enter into the mind of the person from whom he is buying property and research all the other alternatives that person might pursue? Come on folks.

    • Don Peterson

      I rather resent being lumped into the perjorative “rabble”, but will let that pass for now.

      I sold my house to my neighbor years ago. We were on equal footing, and I am not impaired; however, when I suffered a setback and asked him to let me change my mind, my neighbor did so. He could have forced the sale, he did not. The realtor could have asked for the commission, they also graciously forgave me (I will supply names if asked.)

      THe point being– Vermont isn’t a jungle. We’re still human beings here. We treat each other with respect. Even people poorer and less advantaged than ourselves.

      And we hold our elected officials to at least the standard of their rhetoric.

    • Don Peterson

      I rather resent the term “rabble” being loosely thrown around, but I will let it go for now.

      We can hardly expect dogs to behave like angels when a steak hits the floor, but we can expect elected officials to behave at least to the standard of their rhetoric. That doesnt sound like too much to ask.

      • Amelia Silver

        Don, I didn’t loosely use rabble (being a member of that group more often than not, I think I’m permitted to use it.) And Fred, what you are hearing from me is not the sound of loyalty, but rather is a protest of a subtle but real double standard. The semblance of impropriety, a legal term of art, may be apposite, and I fervently believe that apologies should be offered far more often than they are, but I am not so quick to judge. Do you know, for instance, whether all this purportedly unfair bargaining was done face to face, or was it through reps of the LLC? It may have been more at arms length than is suggested by the story. I care about the poor, disabled, downtrodden, ignorant and hapless, deeply, and I have come to recognize that they are as much the pawns of their supposed champions in political fights as of their detractors. WHo in that town was looking out fro Mr. Dodge? Apparently no one. But now he’s transacted business with a famous, easily targeted wealthy official, and everyone claims to be his protector. Forgive me my cynicism.

    • Scott Markoski

      I was thinking the same thing. It will be interesting to see what further details emerge. However, I will say, regardless of who was right or wrong here, this wasn’t the brightest thing a governor of a state to do. While I realize this was a private transaction between two private citizens, the fact that one of the parties happens to be a governor does factor into it. There are doubtless numbers of people out there who make ethically shady deals all the time. Using their extra money, street smarts, or knowledge to the disadvantage of the opposing party. But, all those people are not high level politicians. Once you take a high political office, such as governor, you need to be aware that in addition to people judging your political views and actions, people will be judging your character at all times. Character counts. As we’re seeing here, it seems to count a lot.

      I think people should definitely “call off the dogs” so to speak, especially until we get a clearer picture of the story. But loss of faith in character should not be underestimated. I would say if someone felt that way here, they would likely be justified.

      • David Dempsey

        One fact that is important in this discussion is that the Governor was buying this house the day before the scheduled tax sale. Being involved with real estate, he knows that the owner, Mr Dodge has the right to stay in the house for one year and can keep the house by paying the taxes before the end of the year. If the house sold at auction for $70,000, which would be a steal for property appraised at $140,000, $18,000 of that money would be paid to the town for the back taxes and $52,000 would go into an escrow account. Mr. Dodge could have lived there rent free for one year and if he didn’t pay the taxes, the $52,000 would be his to keep. If he paid the taxes, the buyer would get the money back and he would keep the house.
        Shumlin originally offered Mr. Dodge $32,000 and Mr. Dodge didn’t accept that offer. Shumlin then offered $58,000 and they agreed. But if you look carefully at the terms of that agreement, Mr. Dodge didn’t see any of that extra $26,000. From the $58,000, Shumlin deducted $9,000 for 7 months rent, $4,600 for the 2013 property taxes apparently using the logic that Mr. Dodge is living there so he should pay the property tax despite the fact that Shumlin owns the property and charged Mr. Dodge $9,000 for rent. Then Shumlin put a $12,000 repair credit in the contract to be deducted if Mr. Dodge didn’t do repairs that were in the contract before the sale. Mr. Dodge (surprise surprise) didn’t do whatever repairs the contract required before the sale. Hence, $12,000 more deducted from the $58,000 sale price. After all these paper transactions, there was $32,400 left. What a coincidence it is how close that amount was to Shumlin’s original offer of $32,000, the one that Mr. Dodge rejected. Anyway, $18,000 of the $32,400 paid for the past due property taxes and last but not least $30 was deducted for settlement charges. That leaves around $14,000 for Mr. Dodge. $2,700 of that paid off the child support he owed, and he will get the rest, around $11,300, paid to him. I am sure that the Governor explained all this and Mr. Dodge decided to take the $11,300 instead of the the likely $52,000 or more he would get if the auction was held the next day because the Governor was such a nice guy.

        • David,
          Thank you for doing the research.

          These numbers illustrate very devious behavior with respect to a semi-literate, mentally-challenged neighbor, unworthy of ANY governor, and certainly not a governor of Vermont.

        • Scott Markoski

          Thanks for those numbers and details! I’ll definitely say one thing: I’m reasonably well educated, work in a technical field, and this whole scenario is difficult to keep track of even for me. It’s pretty unfortunate that things like this have become so confusing. I guess if you had a background in accounting, or real estate, you could negotiate a deal like this on your own, but I think ANYONE else (regardless of education level and intelligence) would be foolish not to consult with an attorney. I realize Mr. Dodge explicitly declined an attorney, but if I’m in Gov. Shumlin’s shoes, I would insist Mr. Dodge consult with an attorney as a prerequisite to any deal made. If he really wanted to “help” his neighbor and do him a “favor”, that’s what he should’ve done.

  • Fred Woogmaster

    Good try, Ms. Silver; loyalty is admirable. A governor with such poor judgement, at the very least, must be confronted. Poor judgment can extend to many areas. Poor taste is another matter. Encourage the Governor to accept responsibility for creating the strong semblance of impropriety, damaging not only his reputation but the confidence of the citizenry. I voted for Mr. Shumlin and I agree with many of his positions. This “thing” stinks. Help him to deodorize it (as best he can.

  • STINKS.

    d morrisseau w pawlet, VT 802 645 9727 [email protected]

  • Meg Berlin

    Hindsight is always 20/20…”if only I’d known”. Known what? If only Mr Dodge had known the value of his own land? If only this man’s family had cared enough about him then to look after him and assess his situation and care about it prior to his need to sell his land at an undetermined price, conceivably much less than what he got from the governor? In either situation he was going to lose his land and no one seems to have cared a wit prior to the moment he did sell. Now all the Shumlin haters rise up to cry “FOUL!!” Impropriety? Actually, so far there is none. The only real question here is whether Mr Dodge could have made more money. Maybe, maybe not.

    • Scott Markoski

      I think that’s a fair assessment. But for me personally, I’d like to think that someone in the type of leadership position Shumlin is in would’ve played this a bit differently. I don’t think it’s too far a stretch to say that a lot of people nowadays are pretty unhappy with perceived (or actual) wealth disparity, friction between socioeconomic groups, and leaders who seem out of touch. He absolutely didn’t have to, but Gov. Shumlin had a unique opportunity here to display real character and leadership with respect to those issues, and I think he blew it. That’s what really has people upset here. True, if this was just two random people, I doubt it would’ve made the news (doesn’t make it any different though). However, as governor, Mr. Shumlin should have understood that people would assess his actions (public and private) through the lens of his position as a leader. If he was unprepared for those kinds of assessments, then he shouldn’t be governor. It’s a 24/7 job, and character counts every single minute.

      • Karl Riemer

        Nicely said.
        Of all this gobble-gobble, that speaks most clearly: Gov. Shumlin is bright enough to assume nothing stays secret, should act as if everything he does is witnessed, and in this case could have behaved in an exemplary manner rather than a legally justifiable manner. It was, frankly, a golden opportunity to do something praiseworthy, letting it perhaps be discovered, instead of something self-serving, hoping it wouldn’t. I can’t help thinking the reaction would be less virulent if he weren’t so annoyingly persistent in congratulating himself for his plebeian identification and front-porch neighborliness. That fools absolutely no one and makes everything else he says suspect. Reaction would be virulent, nonetheless, because for some people every failure is an opportunity to damn, but, that noise aside, this was a failure, a failure to recognize an opportunity, a chance to rise above. I, too, think he blew it.

  • Viewing one of the photos provided within the new WCAX news report aired this evening ( http://www.wcax.com/story/22419735/shumlin-speaks-out-on-land-deal-controversy ), the portrait of former Governor and U.S. Senator George Aiken can be observed within the background hanging on the wall of Governor Shumlin’s office.

    Since Governor Peter Shumlin is always talking about him in one context or another, it makes one wonder whether the land deal in question would pass muster and be of the standard ascribed to by the likes of George Aiken and other top Vermont political leaders who have followed since him?: i.e.,

    Back when there were still those who knew better about how to comport themselves concerning such matters and did not need laws or policies to be on the books in order to help keep themselves in check and do the right thing on behalf of both neighbors in need and also in general terms as well.

    • i.e., … , it makes one wonder whether the land deal in question would pass muster and be of the *higher ethical* standard ascribed to by the likes of George Aiken and other top Vermont political leaders who have followed since him? …

  • Fred Woogmaster

    Ms. Berlin: I am not and have never been a “Shumlin hater”. I voted for him to become governor and have no regrets!
    A foul odor is a foul odor. Despite the most recent individual conversations with reporters, the stench remains. It is the stench of imprudence compounded by arrogance, both common human traits; unbecoming for a governor.
    In Governor Aiken’s time the fear of the semblance of impropriety alone was sufficient to prevent such imprudence. Times have changed. Sad.
    If the only real question, Ms. Berlin, is “could Mr. Dodge have made more money” there would be no question. That is hardly the only question. I can imagine voting for Mr. Shumlin again in the future if I consider him to be the best candidate; not while the stench is still in the air. No human being I have ever known is immune from imprudence and therefore imprudence is humanly forgivable. Most of us will not run for high elected office, however, counting on the trust of voters for election. If Mr. Shumlin truly acted on compassionate impulse, as he implies, as well as self interest, and can convince the voters of that, the foul odor will waft away – and the “Shumlin haters” will become silent.

  • Roger Cooper

    In the weeks, months and years before this transaction took place, where were all of the people that now care so deeply about Mr. Dodge? How did they let him fall into such desperate straits? Why were they not taking time out of their day and money out of their pocket to help clean his “refuse filled” home?

    Bottom line: Mr Dodge would have continued a fairly miserable existence anonymously had this transaction not come to pass. Mr. Dodge is using his 15 minutes of fame to get a better deal well after the fact. The author of this piece clearly thinks Shumlin is in the wrong. And all the hypocrites commenting on this list are making political hay out of it… you all know characters like Mr Dodge but you’re not doing anything to help them.

    Should Shumlin have let this go to auction? For political purposes only, yes.
    However, I think he’s doing an excellent job as Governor and this is noise from the peanut gallery that will be forgotten in short order.

    • Amelia Silver

      Roger Cooper: You said what I really meant to say! Thanks for getting right to the point.

      Amelia Silver

    • Karl Riemer

      “In the weeks, months and years before this transaction took place, where were all of the people that now care so deeply about Mr. Dodge?”
      Answer: they were heaping vitriol on him in the comment section of the Burlington Free Press, because whenever someone commits a violent felony, that person ceases to be a person, according to these moral absolutists, worthy only of scorn. However, if a violent felon comes into contact with a politician, he thereby not only regains his status as an upstanding citizen but becomes a victim in his own right, entitled to boundless compassion and generosity. Isn’t democracy grand?

      • Amelia Silver

        Ah Karl Riemer, you have gotten to the heart of the matter. Isn’t it amazing how strongly people are arguing about poor Mr. Dodge when of course he lives next door to them, they have voted many times to deny him the kinds of social supports they now say the Governor should be extending on a personal basis….”successfully not noticing”–perfect!
        The dreadful situation of felons, even of those with misdemeanors on their records, is an almost never-told story, and certainly one no one wants to hear. I work with the Mr. Dodges of Vermont, every day, and they can’t get a job, a house, an apartment, food, transportation, mental health treatment, drug treatment, dental care, and on and on. But when I argue on their behalf, the righteously indignant folks on this blog are deaf. All they care about is trashing Peter Shumlin,

  • pat white

    I am no fan of our governor but seems to me he did everything legal. This is business and both were adults. So one make got the short stick. Does this mean I can go back in my life and cancel out my mistakes. Is this not what life is about? Learning from our mistakes? If the governor was not part of the transaction we’d never know about it.

    • rosemarie jackowski

      Just because something is legal, that does not make it honorable or moral. There was a time in Vermont when eugenics/sterilization was legal – and that was not so long ago.

      I agree, if the governor was not involved we would not know about this. As I say often, we need a system of advocates to protect the vulnerable. There is a lot of abuse of the disenfranchised under the radar. We never hear about it, but it is there.

    • Timothy MacLam

      Taking advantage of another person, one who cannot compete as an equal, is not a mistake, it is reprehensible. Unfortunately the it is Shumlins’s usual way of doing business. Many people of more equal footing might be put at disadvantage dealing with this fast-talking huckster. Mr. Dodge thought because he was dealing with the governor of Vermont (bodyguard and all), that he was dealing with an honest and ethical person.

  • Peter Morris

    I guess I can see why a payment of 25% of the appraised value of the property could be seen as equitable… those 16 acres come with Peter Shumlin as a neighbor. “Neighbor”, in only the most technical sense of the word.

    In addressing one question above, and echoing another’s response… Shumlin used a state-paid defender (Sorrell) in pursuing his personal vendetta against Vermont Yankee in the first law suit. And, his second VY court case in the near future. Millions of tax payer dollars applied, just so he can get in the last frivolous dig. Considering his track record on these issues, should any of us be surprised that he has employed this tactic in this instance too?

    In the WCAX interview, the reporter asked if he would do anything differently if he had a chance for a do-over. He replied that he would change nothing! I found myself talking to my TV screen, at that point… “That’s what we were afraid of.”

    • John Greenberg

      Just to set the record straight about the Vermont Yankee case, Mr. Morris is wrong on every count.

      1) “Shumlin used a state-paid defender (Sorrell) in pursuing his personal vendetta against Vermont Yankee in the first law suit.” First, the case was brought by Entergy, not the State. Second, Sorrell, like Shumlin, is named as a defendant (in his official capacity) in the case. Third, the Attorney General of Vermont makes his own decisions about which cases to defend.

      Second, the preemption case raises significant legal issues beyond the operation or closure of Vermont Yankee. In particular, if Judge Murtha’s decision stands, legislatures in the Second District (if it appealed and won in the Supreme Court of the US), the whole country, will find themselves significantly gagged on ANY issue where federal preemption MIGHT be invoked.

      Additionally, there are significant questions of the limits of State jurisdiction that ANY AG should have wanted to defend, regardless of his position on nuclear power or even on Vermont Yankee specifically.

      It is worth recalling that the legislative votes on the laws that were overturned were not at all close. Some were unanimous, and if memory serves, none passed by less than a 10-1 majority (including in the majority supporters of Vermont Yankee); the laws in question were signed by Governor Douglas, not Governor Shumlin and were passed when Shumlin was not in office.

      Third, As to Shumlin’s “personal vendetta,” it should be remembered that until the Senate vote in 2010 (or shortly before it), Shumlin was NOT a VY opponent. Indeed, at various earlier points, he was a significant defender. His position has been that the plant should have been allowed to operate until its original license expired (whence his early defense) but not beyond that date (whence his later opposition). I am not defending his position – indeed, I disagreed with it vociferously at times, but VY supporters have short memories and the record should be stated correctly.

      2) “And, his second VY court case in the near future.” There are far more than 2 pending Vermont Yankee cases, all of which have been brought by Entergy, not the State. The original case concerning preemption is on appeal (by both sides), and awaits a decision from the Second Circuit Court. The tax case (won by Vermont in the lower court) is also on appeal and awaiting the decision of the Second Circuit (unless there is to be oral argument first). Then there are the two suits brought by Entergy to the Supreme Court of Vermont, concerning the Public Service Board’s interpretation of its own prior decisions (and its unwillingness to modify them retroactively just to suit Entergy) and a preemptive suit alleging that the Board WILL fail to act, by the date Entergy says it requires (June 11) in the diesel generator case. To the best of my knowledge, the Attorney General’s office is not involved in either of the Supreme Court of Vermont cases.

      3) “Millions of tax payer dollars applied, just so he can get in the last frivolous dig.” The correct number, so far at least, is in the hundreds of thousands. Entergy has spent millions. In the district court preemption case, the State spent around $450,000; Entergy, about 10 times that. The State’s appeal of that case was estimated to cost far less than that figure, which given that no witnesses needed to be paid, there weren’t 6 trial days, etc. is completely plausible.

      • Peter Morris

        Then, I guess I stand corrected on the law suit topic.

        Thanks for your detailed and insightful response.

        I’ll become a Shumlin fan when he starts dismantling those miles of wind turbines currently in place, and relaxes his policy on proceeding with 200+ miles of ridgeline devastation.

        But your response to my inaccuracies is appreciated.

      • Amelia Silver

        John Greenberg, thank you for setting everyone straight about VY.

  • David Black

    Shumlin has shown his true colors and was brought out by true greed.
    I am sure if the shoe was on the opposite foot Shumlin would be outrages as the many people commenting on this story.
    Oh, by the way, I have never seen this many outrages people since the Casey Anthony trial verdict.

  • David Black

    I suspect that If everyone in Vermont knew about this swindle. Shumlin’s approval rating would plumit.

    • rosemarie jackowski

      David…His ‘popularity’ has already taken a dive. The problem is ‘croneyism’.
      Come the next election, I predict, the voters will again vote for the lesser of the evils.
      Nothing will improve until the voters are willing to vote outside the D/R box.

  • Lynn Nila

    Lead by example? No wonder Vermont is so ripe for a wind- turbine-on-every-mountian-top come hell or highwater philosophy.

    • Peter Morris

      Amen, Lynn !

      When you combine this land deal with the earlier one that seems to be accompanied by more suspicious improprieties… most would say ‘Strike Two’. Shumlin had reached ‘Strike Three’, with me, a long time ago.

      Had he done the most minimal homework into the dozens of better options, that do not require decapitating our mountains, he may have not made those rash proclamations.

      “Killing our environment, to save our environment”, makes about as much sense to me as, “I’d give my right arm to be ambidextrous”. But, considering the original post, I may be getting off-topic, here.

  • Kathy Callaghan

    I hate to state the obvious, but this is the man you will be relying on to fund and pay all your health care claims after 2017.

    • rosemarie jackowski

      They prepared for that. That’s why we have Assisted Suicide.

  • Jay Davis

    Folks it how the rich play Monopoly. Look at the acres his friends bought for pennies on the actual worth of the land. Now, they needed the Dodge home, the last piece of the land graft

    • Amelia Silver

      It is troubling to see how blithely people have jumped on this “we hate the rich and we hate Peter Shumlin” bandwagon, without exercising any analysis. Assuming good faith on the part of my fellow Vermonters, I am trying to see this as the very natural blowback from the widening gap between haves and have-nots in our country as a whole. I also disparage the unfeeling rich and superrich at times. This being said, I suggest you happy-haters consider this: Peter Shumlin has been generous, even magnanimous to less fortunate individuals all his life. How do you think he would have fared as a selector in Putney if he hadn’t been that way? He dug a lot of post holes, cut a lot of trees, drove tractors, farmed, sugared, weeded, listened to and advocated for his townspeople for years. I saw him in action in the early days in Putney. Actually I saw him in action long before he was elected to anything. I saw him as a 14-year-old boy standing against injustice in his school, demanding a fair hearing from the faculty for a classmate who had been falsely accused. I saw him dedicate himself to the common good of a small community, selflessly, for all of high school. I was a witness to the years when his character and his commitment to public service were forming.
      It is so easy to condemn a person who has been successful and cast aspersions on them for their success, and assume that they got where they are through greed, trickery, and selfishness. But there is no proof of any of this when it comes to Peter Shumlin. In fact there is abundant proof of the opposite.

      • Lynn Nila

        I only see a more “worldly” (your friend, Peter. vacationed in Italy recently, as an example) man dealing a short-end-of-the-stick land deal with a very down-and-out-neighbor at an opportune moment for His own interest rather than the “neighbor” and, forgive me, derelict. Living in Vermont, I fear this may be my future should illness in any form challenge my ability to make good decisions for myself if my needs outweigh my senses as my neighbors also have their eye on my “goldmine”. Mr. Dodge could be any one of us under the right circumstances.

        • Peter Liston

          Hard to see how an individual’s vacation preferences have any place in this conversation.

          • Lynn Nila

            He can afford much… It costs much money to leave the country, these days.

      • Timothy MacLam

        Ms. Silver,
        I do not think anyone here denigrates person who has honestly earned his riches. We are talking about the fast talking, slick huckster who has been the Governor of Vermont since 2010. This is the governor who has indicated he does not care about the “hard working Vermonters” he sanctimoniously says he wants to protect; The man who has gotten in bed with corporate energy interests and policies which can only damage our environment; The governor who has done all he can to take away benefits of low income workers and people in Reach Up programs and to wink at the problem of abuse of vulnerable adults; The governor who took financial advantage of an intellectually disabled man, whom he belittled publicly, while defending his own actions; The governor who did not think he has to campaign for reelection, and does much to keep most people at a distance.

        He might have worked hard physically as a youth, but that did little for his character as an adult. He fooled me too – in 2010 I voted for him in the primary and the general election. Just a couple of months into his first term, I saw him for what he is: arrogant, easily angered when questioned, slick, ambitious, a plutocrat, and as another reader said, “a very intelligent Republican.” He is the Eddie Haskell of Vermont politics, and now perhaps other people (besides Ward and June Cleaver) see him for who he is. He espouses neither Vermont values nor the values of the Vermont Democratic Party.

        I admire your loyalty to your friend. Sadly many of us only know him through his public life as an elected official and he has let us all down as he has continued to polish his resume to advance his own capitalist, expeditious self-interests.

  • Fred Woogmaster

    Ms. Silver: I have no reason to question your experience of Peter Shumlin as a young man. It sounds as if his actions were admirable and, you believe, well motivated.

    Then was then; now is now, nearly a lifetime later.

    Our Governor has not committed an illegal act and, probably, as many have suggested, if it had not been the Governor, it would have been a blip on the screen, virtually unnoticed.

    He is the Governor and he failed to take the high moral ground in this instance, his actions as a younger man notwithstanding. Don’t excuse him, Ms. Silver. Help him accept responsibility for having exercised terrible judgment; as a governor.

    And how many among us are without flaw? None!

  • Fred Woogmaster

    Human hubris often, not always, increases in those who seek and gain power and great fortune. In my opinion, those who govern with little or no hubris – govern best. This governor’s hubris quotient, present day, appears to be mighty high.

    Mr. Shumlin exercised very poor judgment in this “deal” – at the very least. Is it hubris that prevents him from accepting full responsibility for that poor judgment?

    Subject to challenge from within his own party? – if any worthy Democrat has the nerve. Most of the potential (D) challengers have compromised themselves by joining the administration.

    hubris n. – overbearing pride or presumption;
    arrogance.

  • Jane Palmer

    What really bothers me is that Governor Shumlin has brought up Mr Dodge’s criminal record on numerous occasions saying he “did bad things to innocent people” or something like that. I am not familiar with Mr. Dodge or what his crime was, but it does not seem he is incarcerated at this time, nor is he on the lam, so to speak. (It appears his only “crime” now is being poor and ignorant of tax law.) So I have trouble with the fact that Shumlin even brought Mr Dodge’s record up to the media…it’s like he was suggesting that the guy’s a scum, so it was OK to screw him or at least, get him the heck out of the neighborhood. Mr Dodge’s past is his own business and unless he has committed another crime, it shouldn’t have been mentioned. It speaks volumes about Shumlin’s character though.

    Shumlin should never have gotten involved in this deal. If he was really being a good neighbor, he would have checked into Mr Dodge’s tax record and helped him on that end. As a public servant, that is what he is supposed to be doing. I, personally, would not want Mr Shumlin as my neighbor and I cringe every time he touts the fact that he is a “Vermonter”.

    • David Black

      Jane, I actually know Jerry Dodge. He was an EMT in Vermont and a good one at that. I know because I served with him 15 years ago. Now he is working at the Salvation Army to make ends meet. Why didn’t Shumlin mention that?

    • Karl Riemer

      If you don’t know Mr. Dodge or what he did, why are you expressing an opinion? The governor is not the only one to mention his incarceration, and it’s pertinent for one simple reason: it’s behind all of this. It’s a major factor in why he can’t get a job that pays enough to afford to live in his parent’s house. It’s a major factor in why he lives alone in his parent’s house. It’s a major factor in why nobody told him about income sensitivity to property taxes, nor anything else he could use knowing. It’s a major factor in why someone might not want to negotiate a sales agreement with him, or any other binding arrangement or close relationship. It’s also a contributor to his desperation, because he knows his chances of renting anyplace are slim and he’s likely to end up in jail again if, when, he loses his parent’s house. It isn’t who he is but it’s a huge determinate of his options, largely because it affects how people treat him. And before you think there’s something evil in that, examine your heart carefully and pretend you know what you would do, because there’s a good chance someone like Jerry lives near you and you’re successfully not noticing.

      • Doug Spaulding

        But it was indeed the Governor who mentioned his incarceration first. You need to remove your blinders and take a good hard look at where your allegiance lies…..the actions of the Governor are indefensible. God forbid a Jerry ever moves anywhere near you…….

  • Lyle M. Miller, Sr.

    This and all of the comments need to be copied and sent to every legislator who will be voting for our governor in a couple of days, and then maybe they will wake up to the fact that Shumlin is not someone who deserves to be governor and elect Scott Milne to take his place in Montpelier