Health Care

Auditor suggests Gruber may have overbilled

MIT economics professor Jonathan Gruber is a consultant on Vermont's examination of a publicly financed health care system. Courtesy photo
MIT economics professor Jonathan Gruber is a consultant on Vermont’s examination of a publicly financed health care system. Courtesy photo
This article was updated at 6:31 p.m. Monday.

State Auditor Doug Hoffer says the Shumlin administration failed to provide sufficient oversight of Jonathan Gruber’s contract and it appears the economist may have overbilled for the work of a research assistant.

The MIT professor was hired to use his proprietary economic model to project the impact of various single-payer financing options. State officials have praised Gruber’s work as essential to their decision not to move forward with a public health care program in the near-term, but his involvement has created problems of its own.

Last year, a series of impolitic remarks captured on video turned into a public relations nightmare for Gruber and his public clients (including the Obama administration, Vermont and several other states with which Gruber had contracts). In the wake of that episode, Gruber agreed to forgo $120,000 of his original $400,000 contract.

However, the lack of detail in Gruber’s invoices to Vermont caught the attention of several lawmakers, who brought their concerns to Hoffer.

State officials originally said they were unconcerned about the way Gruber was billing, because officials overseeing the development of a single-payer financing proposal were in near daily contact with him and satisfied with the work he was producing.

Gruber’s contract included an hourly rate of $500 for his work and $100 for his research assistants. Both invoices the state received were for $100,000. The state was billed for 100 hours for Gruber’s time and 500 hours for his research assistants.

The invoices do not include a breakdown of when those hours were worked, or what work was performed. They also do not identify how many research assistants worked the 500 hours, nor do they list the names of the assistants.

State Auditor Doug Hoffer. Photo by Roger Crowley/for VTDigger
State Auditor Doug Hoffer. Photo by Roger Crowley/for VTDigger

In a memo to the Agency of Administration, notifying them that he has referred the matter to the attorney general, Hoffer writes that it’s “implausible” the actual work would fit neatly into two identical invoices, and suggests the state was remiss not to have challenged that reporting.

Furthermore, public records and Hoffer’s own investigation have shown that Gruber had only one research assistant working on the project. That means the researcher would have to have worked 1,000 hours in a 10-week period to cover the time Gruber billed, or 14 hours per day every day — a feat Hoffer describes as “unlikely.”

“The evidence suggests that Dr. Gruber overstated the hours worked by the RA and that the Agency of Administration ignored the obvious signs that something was amiss,” Hoffer writes.

Administration Secretary Justin Johnson said Monday that Gruber completed the work specified in his contract, but he shares Hoffer’s concern that the hours billed weren’t well recorded. He’s sent a note to his staff that oversees contracts to ask that they “fully document” all relevant information going forward.

The state has paid $80,000 on each of Gruber’s invoices, revoking a 20 percent retainer included in the contract — bringing the total amount Gruber was paid to $160,000.

Johnson, who became secretary after those invoices were partially paid out, said at the time state officials didn’t realize Gruber only had one research assistant working on the project.

“My understanding is they just didn’t give it much thought. They were dealing (directly) with Gruber, and the contract referred to assistants, and he referred to his team. I don’t think they sat down to parse out ‘does he have more than one?’” Johnson said.

Gruber’s proposal to the state of Vermont identifies one research assistant and states that more could be hired as needed. His contract includes a line item for “Programmers,” which was the result of a compromise over language detailed in emails released by the administration.

After receiving a draft of his contract Gruber writes in an email to Michael Costa, deputy commissioner of health care reform, “I’m not sure yet of the name of the programmers nad (sic) the absolute allocation of dollars between myself and htem (sic). Is it possible to just make one line item for myself and programmers for $400k?”

Costa replies that he will check the “flexibility” regarding “how to phrase the split between you and programmers” with the Attorney General’s Office. The two ultimately agree to a single line item that specifies the programmers be paid no more than $100 per hour and that the total contract not exceed $400,000. An additional $50,000 for Moody’s analytics was later dropped. In reviewing 2,253 pages of emails and attachments sent between Gruber and state officials Gruber makes several references to his “team.”

Vermont has since received two more invoices, totaling $90,000, submitted by Gruber in December, which it is now contesting. Officials contend that Gruber is billing for his own time in violation of their amended contract (Gruber agreed to take less money, but asked that his research assistant continue to be paid).

“The state, however, is not satisfied with the last 2 invoices received [from] Dr. Gruber, which are dated December 30, 2014. … In essence, we are concerned that one invoice bills for Dr. Gruber’s time in violation of the contract amendment. Additionally, we are no longer satisfied with the level of detail provided,” wrote Robin Lunge, commissioner of Health Care Reform, who had primary oversight of Gruber’s work, in an email to Hoffer this month.

Those invoices bill for 500 hours of Gruber’s research assistant’s time, which would mean he or she worked on the project eight hours every day or 11 hours each weekday from Oct. 15 to Dec. 19. Again Hoffer is skeptical: “Though possible, this is not realistic,” he writes.

Johnson said Vermont has requested additional documentation to substantiate the sums in Gruber’s latest invoices, and he won’t be paid until that’s received.

Gruber originally told the administration that his research assistant was a private contractor, but when asked for documentation, he submitted W-2, indicating the researcher was actually his employee. Lawmakers had voiced concerns that the research assistant might have been one of Gruber’s students, which would violate MIT’s ethics policy.

The W-2 indicates that Gruber may have kept much of what the state paid him for his research assistant’s work. The researcher, whom public records show is a recent college graduate, made $32,000 while working for Gruber in 2014, which Gruber acknowledged to Hoffer includes “some work on other projects as well.”

The total is far less than the $100,000 Gruber billed for the research assistant’s time, or the $80,000 Vermont paid Gruber for his assistant’s time.

Gruber billed at the contractual rate for his research assistant’s time and is under no obligation to pay him that amount. It’s common for an employer or contractor to bill an hourly rate that is higher than what is actually paid to an employee, Hoffer writes, and the difference allows them to pay for any benefits they offer, payroll taxes, overhead and to earn a profit.

The evidence suggests Gruber “overstated” the hours worked by his research assistant, according to Hoffer, and the auditor has referred the matter to the Attorney General’s Office.

Attorney General Bill Sorrell said the invoicing raises “major questions” and his office will sit down with administration officials to determine “what evidence and records are available to justify the billing amount.”

The state has withheld $40,000 in retainers on the first two invoices and has paid nothing toward the second two, which gives it “significant leverage” in winding down the contract, Hoffer notes.

Still, Hoffer concludes the Agency of Administration “failed to exercise due diligence” in managing Gruber’s contract, and it should do a better job of oversight to assure accountability going forward.

Gruber declined to comment for this story.


If you read us, please support us.

Comment Policy

VTDigger.org requires that all commenters identify themselves by their authentic first and last names. Initials, pseudonyms or screen names are not permissible.

No personal harrassment, abuse, or hate speech is permitted. Comments should be 1000 characters or fewer.

We moderate every comment. Please go to our FAQ for the full policy.

Privacy policy
Morgan True

Recent Stories

  • Willem Post

    Gruber overbilled and Shumlin oversold? Was Shumlin bamboozled by Gruber?

    It must have been somewhat egregious, as Hoffer, likely with someone’s permission, is now on the case.

    Can’t wait for ALL-PAYER, et al., to raise their profiles with a 0.7% payroll tax for starters.

    I wonder if more expensive “initiatives” are waiting in the wings to be loaded on already-struggling households and near-zero-profit businesses trying to make ends meet in a low, near-zero-growth Vermont economy, while paying for an ever-increasing ponderous, expensive, state government.

    • State Auditor Hoffer doesn’t need “someone’s permission” as he works solely for the taxpayers of Vermont.

    • Walter Carpenter

      “while paying for an ever-increasing ponderous, expensive, state government.”

      Which is needed more and more to help those households struggling and “near-zero-profit businesses” (I am assuming that you mean small businesses. Large corporations are doing just fine, courtesy of our government, as the benefits of this so-called recovery (caused by big businesses gambling with our economy) are being sucked out of the economy up to the top.

  • Jim Christiansen

    This has an interesting stink to it.

    Will Robin Lunge get the Doug Racine stern dismissal treatment or the Mark Larson loyal soldier pass?

    What’s it gonna be Governor?

  • Anyone wonder why Vermont has a 100 plus million dollar deficit?

  • George Cross

    Hoffer does not need anyone’s permission to act. He is an elected official and his office is independent of all other offices for the work he is elected to do.

  • Mike Kerin

    “May have”?
    Corruption in the 1% is NOT unusual.

  • The most remarkable detail, to me: this only came under scrutiny because Gruber said something dumb on camera.

    If that had never happened, he’d still be getting paid without any scrutiny today.

    • Willem Post

      Justin,

      Often, consultants are chosen by political operators to say the right things about issues.

      Gruber* became radioactive after his statement, which was not stupid, because he really meant it, but it was politically incorrect.

      It became good politics to “investigate”.

      Loosy-goosy oversight of consultant billing practices BEFORE Gruber came on the scene likely were at fault.

      I wonder who’s fault THAT is. Do socialist-types make poor administrators?

      * Gruber, a self-discredited consultant, hired by Shumlin, made the following statement: “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage, and basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever. But basically that was really critical to getting the thing (ACA, a.k.a., Obamacare) to pass.”

      A Machiavellian statement, or is it Orwellian?

      Vermont a leader?

    • Estella Leach

      Justin, Gruber’s big mouth is what set this in motion. I completely agree that it would not have been looked at if this hadn’t gained national attention.

      Willem Post makes many excellent points, and I agree with his remarks about the RE contracts. crony govt. payouts. Audits required.

      And I applaud Hoffer’s testimony about comparative pricing on medical procedures, which would have been step 1, NOT trying to push everyone onto a single payer system which has done nothing to make health care more affordable ( just the opposite in fact.) but the testimony was too late. The 100 million plus has already been spent. Ideas like this were suggested and ignored due to Shumlin’s political agenda and everyone who was complicit with it and did not speak up. Cynthia Browning has my deepest respect for her honesty and integrity which was not politically popular. Very few tried as hard to slow this dog and pony show down.

      In the end, political cynicism will rule the day when voters continue to elect a single party government down the line. If you want true independence, voters need balance, an auditor of a different party for instance and some balance in the legislature.

      Both Larson, and Spaulding, as Wendy Wilton pointed out, didn’t get fired, they got nice cushy assignments somewhere else. So this incompetence came from the top.

      I completely agree with you, Gruber opened his big mouth; something HAD to be done to save face, and Gruber is the target when the REAL FOCUS SHOULD BE ON THE POLITICAL APPOINTEES WHO SIGNED OFF on behalf of the administration, not because of any altruistic motive to help Vermonteres but because they were hell-bent on saving political face. This is one time they got caught. I hope its not the only time because like rabbits, i doubt there is only one Gruber.

      • Willem Post

        Estella,

        Thank you for the compliments. I like to call them as I see them.

        Must be inborn, because my mother noticed it when I was two and had a mind of my own, which was many decades ago.

        The political, incestuous, one-party rule in Vermont is seriously damaging the economy, because multiple laws with taxes, fees and mandates are passed to suit socio-political agendas, whether they be RE or Single-Payer, or what have you, without serious regard of their CUMULATIVE, LONG-TERM economic impacts.

        This trend is seriously at varience with the frugal, self-reliant Vermont culture.

        People are being bamboozled with Madison-avenue type methods, and by “consultants”, such as the Gruber types, who know full well the deceptive games they are playing for the benefit of various politicos in government agencies, (being paraded in dog-and-pony shows, making studies and reports, giving testimony, making appearances, etc.), but they do it any way, because of the kicks they get out of it, and the big bucks.

        • Willem Post

          Addition to above comment:

          The seeing of the CUMULATIVE, LONG-TERM economic impacts requires a 360 degree view, which likely is not in the DNA of government workers and legislators who often are more narowly focussed, parochial and program oriented.

  • Earle Elliott Jr

    Why is Shumlin/Gruber still getting a pass on the delivery of this report. It was overdue by law how long?! If Gruber took that long to finish the report than it wasn’t delivered in the required timeframe. That would be a contract violation and he shouldn’t be paid for delivering it late.
    Or on the other hand Shumlin didn’t require the report be done in a timely manner. That is negligence and should also be pointed out by the audit. Exactly what work has been done over the past two years and when? The politics being played with the timing and delivery of the “Gruber report” should be obvious, yet no one s jumping on that. Why?

    • Willem Post

      Earle,

      May I point out an election was coming up.

      Shumlin desparately needed the Single-Payer vote.

      He almost lost the election to an unknown neophyte, who was not seriously campaigning.

      Shumlin did not want that report until AFTER the vote.

      The “explanation” of his decision not to go ahead with Single-Payer was released December 30, 2014, a date when most of us are too busy with other matters.

      Machiavelli would be so proud of the happenings in Vermont!

      The same type shenanigans are happening with H-40 and RESET. Google it.

    • The overdue report by Gov. Shumlin was a significant issue and I wrote about it and it was published in multiple papers around the state. Unfortunately, the time for Gov. Shumlin to be held accountable passed when the legislature re-elected him after the close general election. The only person elected to statewide office who has all Vermonters best interests is indeed State Auditor Doug Hoffer.

  • Do key officers in the State Government of Vermont have their priorities in the right place? Here we have an audit and investigation, involving who knows how many high paid state employees, over a $100,000 matter related to the work of Jonathan Gruber’s assistant.

    Granted, $100,000 is certainly a lot of money to most Vermonters and the Gruber mess has drawn plenty of unwanted attention. But it’s a rounding error in comparison to the more than $100 million dumped into the health care exchange, which has hardly raised an eyebrow in the Auditor’s or Attorney’s General offices.

    So where should the priorities be? On a $100,000 Gruber billing question or the $100 million health care exchange managerial incompetence we have witnessed over the past couple of years?

    • Dear Mr. Yankowski:

      Unfortunately, what you have conveyed is not true. The URL link below to State Auditor Doug Hoffer’s active work refers to a separate review his office is undertaking as it relates to Vermont Health Connect which is separate and apart from the Gruber matter.

      Before making suggestions that paint a negative impression of our incredible State Auditor you should visit his website more often and specifically his flow chart that shows all work in progress and their estimated delivery time frames.

      http://auditor.vermont.gov/sites/auditor/files/Audit_Calendar.pdf

      Best wishes,

      Thomas Joseph

    • Wendy Wilton

      Thank you Peter for pointing out the real elephant in the room…that the state’s deficit at $100 million-plus where the focus should be. And both the Shumlin administration and Auditor Hoffer have a responsibility on this, here’s how…

      If Mr. Hoffer were really doing his job before Gruber the contracts with CGI and failures related to the $100 million health care exchange debacle may have surfaced sooner. If the state had better accountability it would have been forced to consider shutting down the project, which would have saved millions—reducing the state’s current deficit problem.

      The administration’s contracts are managed by the Agency of Administration. And where did the Secretary of the Agency of Administration go? Oh yeah, Jeb Spaulding now heads up VSC as of January 2015…

      • Willem Post

        Wendy,

        “If Mr. Hoffer were really doing his job before Gruber the contracts with CGI and failures related to the $100 million health care exchange debacle may have surfaced sooner.”

        Hoffer investigating a Shumlin multi-billion dollar pet project would make him persona-non-grata in the Governor’s office, et al. There likely would be an avanlance of calls to lay off, at least for the time being.

        He would be considered “off the reservation”, usually not a good place to be for an elected official.

        Treading lightly and “hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil” would the modus operandi.

      • Dear Ms. Wilton:

        It’s apparent from your posts that you don’t support the amazing job that State Auditor Hoffer is doing. However, may I ask a question? Do any other person elected to statewide office provide direct comments to our state residents as Mr. Hoffer does often long after the workday is over?

        I try to come from a perspective of being grateful despite the many problems our state and federal governments face. Can we at least agree that Mr. Hoffer is the only politician elected to statewide office who directly respond to questions and his critics on sites like VTDigger?

        Best wishes,

        Thomas Joseph

    • Doug Hoffer

      Mr. Yankowski

      You said, “the health care exchange…has hardly raised an eyebrow in the Auditor’s…office.”

      You are mistaken. My office has been conducting a performance audit of the Vermont Health Connect since last fall. The audit was announced in August and began in earnest the following month. It is expected to be completed by the end of March.

      Here is the announcement.

      http://auditor.vermont.gov/sites/auditor/files/Audit%20Announcement%20Letter%208.21.2014.pdf

      And this link will show you all the work completed and in progress.

      http://auditor.vermont.gov/sites/auditor/files/Audit_Calendar.pdf

      • Robert Salzman

        Mr. Hoffer:

        Will your office also be investigating the state worker’s health care switch from Cigna to BCBS of VT in which a “promised”$10 million savings failed to materialize?

        Thank you!

        • Doug Hoffer

          A related issue is on the long list of possible audit topics. Wish we had a larger staff.

          • Darryl Smith

            We sympathize, keeping up with Shumlin’s shenanigans would take an army. Don’t expect the Auditors Office to get a budget increase any time soon.

          • I even be willing to make Donations for this one!

      • Mr. Hoffer:

        Thank you for the references. It appears that your audit of Vermont health care exchange is on going with results due some time in the future. I can’t tell from your calendar when the audit will be completed, but look forward to seeing the results of your work.

        What’s more troubling than Gruber’s billing practices is the apparent lax oversight exercised by the Shumlin team in the matter. The red flags shown would have been obvious to anyone with the slightest lick of business acumen and questions would have been asked early on. This apparently did not happen and the administration had to be alerted by legislators. This sort of occurrence does not build confidence in the Shumlin team’s abilities.

        As you are well aware, over $100 million has been spent by Shumlin’s team on the exchange to date. Now, the taxpayers need to be assured that the money was spent responsibly and with adequate oversight. The Shumlin team’s handling of Gruber’s billing is the Auditor’s red flag that there could be other problems.

        In advance of your audit results, hopefully Justin Johnson is tightening administrative controls at Vermont Health Connect as well as raising awareness in all state agencies.

        Thank you again for your attention.

      • Wendy Wilton

        Won’t your report be too late for the legislature to make a decision about VHC for this year? Rates are already being reviewed by GMCB…

        • Wendy:

          Unfortunately, you can’t audit something that is underway. Therefore, the timing of Mr. Hoffer’s report is not to blame for “rates” as your comment refers.

          The time for the legislature to have held Gov. Shumlin accountable for his multi-million dollar debacle which all Vermonters are now paying for with painful budget cuts was when the legislature chose party over accountability and re-elected him. I wrote about this and it was published in multiple newspapers around the state. I’ll share one with you here:

          http://bit.ly/1ug5jhb

          Best wishes,

          Thomas Joseph

    • Christopher Daniels

      It’s not just managerial incompetence. Don’t forget that CGI, the private, for-profit company, failed to deliver a workable product in return for the millions of dollars it billed the State of Vermont. That’s fraud. Yet we focus on the measly contract of Mr. Gruber.

  • Dave Bellini

    “failed to exercise due diligence”

    That’s code for incompetence.

    • Willem Post

      Dave,

      And all these losses, due to whatever, are a mere drop in the bucket compared to the money being wasted on highly subsidized RE projects that produce junk energy at 2 – 5 times wholesale prices.

  • Linda Baird-White

    CYA

    To prevent many millions from being Squandered Senselessly again, there should be an ongoing oversight process through the VT State Auditor’s Office covering any multimillion projects along with a requirement for a maximum monthly “checkups” on said projects.

    It’s already proven we can not trust the Administration to oversee and/or manage those tasks without at least a monthly oversight. It would be worth it to add a position to do just that. Had a plan like this in place we would have saved multimillions.

    There should be mandatory oversight and approval over entering into any multimillion dollar contracts to include any related subsequent contracts for the same project.

    Common Sense & Good Judgement – Just Say’in…!

    • Willem Post

      Linda,

      Governments do things ponderously, inefficiently and expensively, because, in general, the people who work for governments do things that way, i.e., crossing every T and dotting every I, and thinking of more initiatives that require more crossing of Ts and Is.

      A much SMALLER Vermont government would be soooooooo much better for the Vermont economy.

      • Linda Baird-White

        More ponderous initiatives are stimulated through the discoveries of inefficiencies and dereliction of duties or responsibilities.

        More importantly by *electing and then *appointing more efficient, knowledgeable, *ethical and more frugal minded people who are actually adept at carrying out their duties and responsibilities is where it needs to BEGIN. With that done, the rest could follow.

        Lastly – When a proposal for a Gazillion dollar IT system with promises of more efficiency with elimination of redundancies it should be approved only on the basis that resulting redundant positions WILL be eliminated.
        Spell out the consequences for failure to achieve those promised goals with the inclusion of a penalty in the contract, signed and sealed. If a contractor won’t agree during contract negotiations, it ends right there. That eliminates large corporations who’s real agenda is to milk & bilk the state.

        Naive, I know …..but it would provide the state with more control.

        • Willem Post

          Linda,

          Who would be the movers and shakers to bring reforms? There likely is an inborn DNA problem that is self propagating by hiring more of the same, like a virus.

          The socialist-types leading the government usually have near-zero business experience and near-zero administrative experience, so they have NEAR-ZERO idea what their initiatives and programs are doing to the hard-working households and businesses of Vermont’s private sector, which PAYS FOR THE GOVERNMENT.

          Those socialist-types, and the more-recently-emerging RE-types, by and large, aim to self-actualize by means of starting, running, and enlarging social programs, under the banner of “doing good/serving a need”, but, in reality, for their own long-term security purposes.

          Government does not create wealth. It USES other people’s wealth for its ponderous, inefficient, expensive activities.

          Vermont’s government sector has been growing itself by increasing taxes.

          The hard-working, already-struggling households and near-zero-profit businesses of Vermont’s private sector have been excessively burdened by that government.

          Vermont’s economy is significantly moving in the wrong direction and most of the damage was, and still is being done, by
          Vermont’s socialist government, which appears to be on myopic autopilot.

          Did not Cuba, Russia, et al., have various forms of socialism? How well did that turn out?

          Will Vermont be a “leader” and have a “Vermonty-way” form of socialism?

          • Linda Baird-White

            “Who would be the movers and shakers to bring reforms?”

            Vermont Educators, Business Owners, Everyone who has a stake in the security and well being of Vermont’s future by getting more Vermonters to educate themselves about the candidates before voting. Get more people out to the polls to vote. The last election had an extremely low voter turnout and weather was not to blame.

            Former supporters of Shumlin simply threw up their hands in disgust and didn’t vote because they felt there were no worthy candidates. Scott Milne was an unknown lacking political expertise but not lacking in smarts. That decision came back to bite them hard and they’re now paying for that.

            Finding a candidate that is clear minded, stalwart and has a serious grasp of fiscal responsibility that would step into the fiscal mire that Shumlin has left behind is the infuriating conundrum. We’ll have to wait and see if a candidate surfaces who is *truly committed, highly capable and willing to roll up their sleeves and imagine a pair of tall sturdy mud boots wouldn’t hurt either.

            All we’ve got right now, therefore we wait.

  • I wish the same scrutiny could be applied to hospital bills…there are charges that never have an explanation of how they are arrived at.
    Many seem arbitrary at best.

    • Doug Hoffer

      We addressed the issue of health care price transparency in a recent report. See the bookmarks on the left and go to “Objective 3.” Then scroll down for the beginning of that section of the report.

      http://auditor.vermont.gov/sites/auditor/files/Final%20VHCURES%20Report%206.25.2014.pdf

      We have testified on this issue before several legislative committees and remain hopeful that the Green Mountain Care Board will move forward.

  • Everything Gets the”Slow Walk!”

    The biggest problem with CGI, VHC, Gruber, et al – is that there is nothing proactive about the “investigations” – it is always looking around long afer the horse has left the barn, rather than trying to get the barn door closed, or more importantly keeping the door closed in the first place.

    Doug Hoffer (and Bill Sorrell) seem to always be late on the scene – sniffing around for clues instead of catching the rascals in the act.

    How about we start preventing the payment of thousands (actually millions) of tax dollars on unworthy and most often fraudulant contract billings?

    • Dear H. Brooke Paige:

      Respectfully, I would refer you to the statutory definition of the State Auditor’s role as defined on the State Auditor’s website. Mr. Hoffer is not a member of law enforcement but elected to office to carry out specific statutory responsibilities. Additionally, its apparent to everyone that the demands of Mr. Hoffer and his small staff only grow by the day.

      Moreover, as the federal whistleblower in the recent fraud litigation in federal Court involving the Brattleboro Retreat I have a unique perspective on the topic of the failures of law enforcement. Mr. Sorrell has been in office for what 15 years but a State of Vermont False Claims Act is now only being considered seriously with H.120 as it wouldn’t be on the radar if the state hadn’t lost millions as alleged in the federal Complaint. The technical defeat in federal Court now includes a footnote and involves allegations of attorney misconduct and yes, fraud by the Retreat’s own attorneys who are now under investigation. At bottom you can visit my website for more information but I want to provide you with the statutory definition of the State Auditor’s job available on his website:

      “First, what our office does. There are three major types of audits for which we are responsible – performance audits, the State’s financial statement audit (CAFR), and the State’s single audit (which looks at the usage of federal funds by the state). All of these audits focus on the accountability of the State to its citizens, from both a financial and service delivery perspective. I’m particularly proud that we’ve successfully implemented performance auditing in our office because these audits provide valuable insight into whether government programs and operations are working effectively and efficiently and provide recommendations for improvements. I invite you to email suggestions for future performance audits.

      Next, how we perform our audits. We perform our audits in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards, which are promulgated by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Implementation of these standards ensures that our audit work and products are of the highest quality and uphold the principles of independence, objectivity, competence, and integrity. If you are interested in the nuts and bolts of how we perform our work, I invite you to peruse our Professional Standards Manual. Of course, the most important element in ensuring that our audits are conducted in a quality manner is our staff. Currently, we are an office of 13, which includes eight staff auditors, many of whom have achieved prestigious certifications, such as Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and advanced academic degrees.

      Lastly, the results of our work. A quick synopsis can be found in our annual performance report. The most visible results are in the implementation of our recommendations. As you’ll see in our annual performance report, the most recent follow-up work on our recommendations showed that more than two-thirds had been implemented. As a result, the state has saved money, employed additional safeguards against fraud, waste and abuse, and improved its processes and procedures.”

      Best wishes,

      Thomas Joseph
      http://www.brattlebororetreat.info/

      • Willem Post

        Thomas,

        Thank you for your insight.

        “Additionally, its apparent to everyone that the demands of Mr. Hoffer and his small staff only grow by the day.”

        And that growth is due to Vermont’s government sticking its nose into everyone else’s business, looking for ways for imposing a tax, fee or mandate to further aggrandize itself, as evinced by its continued growth rate in excess of the private sector growth rate, since about 2000.

        The development of the monstrous US Tax Code is a perfect example of the way such government aggrandizement comes about.

        • Dear Mr. Post:

          It’s my pleasure. I just wish those who criticize Mr. Hoffer would put their energies into lobbying for the one state budget line item that should be seeing an increase and that is the budget for State Auditor Hoffer and his small staff who churn out amazing work despite the growing demands of their office.

          Best wishes,

          Thomas Joseph

  • Henry ‘Hank’ Buermeyer

    Fabulous story by Morgan True. Really. Welcome to Vermont Digger. Keep ’em coming. Hank

  • Kathy Callaghan

    Sorry I can’t provide a link (Luddite) but everyone should go to Vermont.Gov, and on the main page type in, “Ethics in Government”.

    That will take you to EO o9-11; “Executive Code of Ethics”. There are standards that must be met, and a requirement that every appointed official sign off that they will uphold with Code of Ethics.

    There you will be able to assess whether or not you believe that that the Governor and/or his staff have lived up to the Code of Ethics. It will be an interesting read as one ponders the Gruber contract, the CGI contract, the Optum contract and so many others.

    • Wendy Wilton

      Thanks for this information Kathy. I really do hope that State Auditor Hoffer is able to use the ethics policy as he examines the expenditures, processes and the product re: VHC. I am glad he’s working on this, I hope he does a thorough investigation with priority on VHC, and that his work will be completed in time for the legislature to take meaningful action this session.

      • Mr. Hoffer cannot run an office based on the timing of the legislature. Frankly, its all the more reason why Vermont needs a full time legislature as we have full time problems. More importantly, it’s not efficient nor practical to pull a small staff from one audit/review to another and then back again later (to whatever they were previously working on). Those who are now putting the burden on Mr. Hoffer to pull a rabbit out of a hat really should be focusing their energies on those who caused our states problems and its not State Auditor Hoffer.

        Moreover, I testified this past week in support of H.120 or the Vermont False Claims Act which would put very strong anti-fraud legislation on the books. I advocated for retroactive enforcement provisions so that the State of Vermont could legally go after any number of fraudsters as the list of problematic state contractors who may have engaged in fraud only grows. Now that H.120 has passed the House Judiciary Committee everyone should be encouraging the Senate Judiciary to keep the House version in tack because its a very strong bill for all Vermonters and will put Vermont on the national map as it relates to fighting fraud and having a strong fraud deterrent.

        If you want to blame anyone blame Attorney General Sorrell who has been in office 15 years and Governor Shumlin (who I wrote to twice and he ignored me) neither had fighting fraud or a Vermont False Claims Act on their radar until I filed the federal complaint under seal against the historic Brattleboro Retreat.

        Best wishes,

        Thomas Joseph
        http://www.brattlebororetreat.info/

  • Cecile Betit

    Good morning,

    Thank you State Auditor Hoffer for raising the issues re Gruber’s consultant fees.

    Thank you Peter Shumlin for putting forward the idea for single payer. At the beginning, many thought the idea had merit. I hope we will look at what we have learned from the strengths and weaknesses in single payer in order to go forward. It is courageous of you in this polarized ‘gotcha’ environment to think outside the box for the common good to pursue new thoughts and initiatives.

    We have, in the main, done well in Vermont. This is our home and I hope that we can apply wisdom to cooperate and collaborate to bring ourselves out of our fiscal problems.

    Best,
    Cecile Betit

  • Bonnie MacBrien

    Mr. Post – Russia and Cuba are communist countries not socialist countries . There is a difference – please check the definitions in the dictionary.