Video + Story: Senate boots McAllister

Sen. Norman McAllister, who was suspended by his fellow senators on Wednesday. VTDigger Photo by Jasper Craven.
Sen. Norman McAllister, who was suspended by his fellow senators on Wednesday. Photo by  Jasper Craven/VTDigger

Vermont senators made history on Wednesday, voting for the first time since their institution was established almost 200 years ago to kick out one of their own. The presiding officer called it a “dark, difficult day” for the Legislature’s upper chamber.

In a 20-10 decision, with all members present, the Senate suspended Sen. Norman McAllister, the Franklin County Republican charged with sexual assault, meaning he can no longer serve, though he will continue to be paid. Lawmakers make approximately $675 per week during the session.

The vote came after a discussion on the Senate floor that lasted several hours and included McAllister maintaining again that he had done nothing wrong and did not deserve to be stripped of his powers.

The ornate Senate chamber was relatively full, yet hardly packed, and several women who are advocates for domestic abuse victims attended, sitting in the balcony. Students from Johnson State College also were there, as well as Vermont historian Howard Coffin. A few House members stopped in. There were no outbursts or disruptions. The mood was serious and appeared somber at times. Several senators said afterward they were emotionally drained and wished McAllister had resigned instead of forcing them to send him packing.

After the vote, a clearly disappointed McAllister told reporters outside the Statehouse that “everything is on the table” and that he might consider resigning “after the dust settles.” He would not say whether he would legally challenge the suspension, but suggested a constituent might.

During a 15-minute session, the suspended senator also maintained he never had sex with the young woman he hired to work as an intern at the Statehouse, a statement at odds with claims by the victim and contrary to comments the senator previously made.

Senators who voted in favor of suspension sided with the Senate Majority Leader Philip Baruth, D-Chittenden, who said the seriousness of the criminal charges alone warranted removing McAllister from office, at least until the criminal charges are settled.

Those voting against the resolution were primarily concerned they were prejudging McAllister before his case goes to trial, which is expected to occur sometime this spring. Senators also expressed concern a suspension would deprive Franklin County voters of full representation.

Before the vote, McAllister told VTDigger: “I think it’s a forgone conclusion.”

McAllister fought the suspension to the end. He told his colleagues the allegations that had been brought against him were false and would be disproved in court.

“It would have been much easier had I resigned way back in the beginning, but I felt that I was not guilty of anything, and the only one who knows I’m not guilty is me. Others may prejudge me for what they read or saw but that’s not always fact.

“I do not feel I should be ostracized for something I am not guilty of,” McAllister said.

But his attempts to persuade his colleagues fell on deaf ears. A substitute amendment proposed by his closest ally, Sen. Peg Flory, R-Rutland, that would have blocked suspension, failed by a 20-10 margin.

McAllister, 64, has been charged with sexually assaulting two women, including a young woman he described as his intern. McAllister was arrested on the next to last day of the 2015 legislative session in May. Later, he was stripped of his committee assignments. He has denied all criminal charges and has said he did nothing wrong — criminally, morally or ethically.

Baruth outlined what the suspension would mean and said it offered a compromise between those who favored expulsion and those that favored doing nothing at all. He said expulsion was not pursued because some senators feared it could open a hearing process that could require witnesses to testify before the Senate and possibly jeopardize criminal proceedings.

Baruth said the senators faced an “ugly” situation.

“I have no doubt when we finish no one will feel good about what we do here today,” Baruth said. “As we are voting to suspend one of our own. It’s hard to imagine a more uncomfortable discussion, and yet today’s debate is crucial for the future of the Senate.”

Baruth urged senators to be frank during the debate even though McAllister was seated with them and then he proceeded to briefly describe the criminal charges McAllister faces.

“If it’s tough to hear, that says a great deal about why those charges and this chamber do not mix,” Baruth said. “They are extremely serious and carry with them the possibility of life in prison.”

Baruth then recounted that McAllister was charged with multiple felony counts and a range of “sexual activities.”

By suspending McAllister, Baruth said the senators sought to protect both McAllister’s constitutional right to a fair trial and the people who serve at the will of the Senate — pages, interns, administrative assistants and legislative counsel.

“The feeling of the majority was that the suspension avoided prejudging McAllister,” Baruth said. “It was not intended to express a sentiment or render a verdict.”

However, Flory, an attorney, said that was exactly what senators were doing.

“The very concept of innocent until prove guilty is so basic that to step on that and say because somebody has been charged we are going to remove them just goes against every grain in my body,” Flory said.

Sen. Norm McAllister, R-Franklin, right, listens as Sens. Peg Flory, Richard Sears and Senate Secretary John Bloomer confer with Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. VTDigger photo by Jasper Craven.
Sen. Norm McAllister, R-Franklin, right, listens as Sens. Peg Flory, Richard Sears and Senate Secretary John Bloomer confer with Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. Photo by Jasper Craven/VTDigger

Democrat Alice Nitka of Windsor County said before the final vote that the Senate had taken the “politically savvy” but easy way out by not moving forward with a vote on expulsion. Nitka voted against the suspension because she said it prejudges McAllister.

Fellow Windsor County Democrat Richard McCormack also voted against the resolution.

“It’s not up to us to determine guilt or innocence,” McCormack said. “If we were not implicitly determining guilt, we would literally have nothing to discuss.

“I think the cat’s out of the bag on this,” he said. McCormack cautioned senators to honor the separation between the branches of government: The Legislature should make laws and let the judiciary enforce them. He also warned about bowing to public pressure.

“Jesus was put to death by the will of the majority. Socrates was put to death by the will of the majority,” McCormack said.

Among those supporting the suspension was McAllister’s seat mate, Sen. Dustin Degree, also of Franklin County.

Before the vote was taken, McAllister removed all the papers from his desk and put them in the recycling bin underneath. He left the building willingly, escorted by members of the Sergeant-at-Arms staff, who offered to help McAllister get though the scrum of reporters on the way to his car. The senator laughed and said he was fine.

After the vote, many senators were clearly bothered by the proceedings and several said there were “no winners.”

Sen. Kevin Mullin, one of McAllister’s former roommates, voted against suspension.

“I don’t think any of it was a surprise,” Mullin said. “I think pretty much everyone in the building knew how the vote was going to come down. My major disappointment is that he didn’t do the right thing and just resign.

“But I don’t think we should be putting ourselves in the role of the judiciary,” Mullin said. “And this is really problematic because the people of Franklin County are being denied full representation. That being said, I recognize Sen. McAllister probably shouldn’t be serving here.”

“I don’t think there were any winners and losers here today,” said Mullin.

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott presided over the proceedings and was spent afterward.

“A very difficult, dark day for the Senate,” he said, still sitting in his presiding officer’s chair. “Somewhat of an empty feeling. There were no winners in this case and I knew that coming in, regardless of the outcome, I wasn’t going to feel good about this.”

Scott said he would have voted in favor of suspension. The lieutenant governor only votes in the event of a ties.

“I think the Senate did the right thing,” said Scott, who is running for governor.

Vermont, established in 1777, had a unicameral legislature until 1836. It added a Senate by constitutional amendment.

Sen. Richard Mazza, D-Colchester/Grand Isle, who voted against the resolution, said: “It’s a sad day. It was something no one looks forward to, but it’s over. It’s very disappointing from all sides.”

The vote was as follows:

Ashe YES
Ayer YES
Balint YES
Baruth YES
Benning YES
Bray YES
Collamore NO
Campbell YES
Campion YES
Cummings YES
Degree YES
Doyle YES
Flory NO
Kitchel YES
Lyons YES
Mazza NO
McCormack NO
McDonald NO
McAllister NO
Mullin NO
Nitka NO
Pollina YES
Rodgers YES
Sears YES
Sirotkin YES
Snelling YES
Starr NO
Westman YES
White NO
Zuckerman YES

Note: VtDigger chief political reporter Jasper Craven also contributed to this report.

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Anne Galloway

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  • Thomas Gauthier

    Disgusting; you all should be ashamed of
    Yourselves. The judicial process has been circumvented at the expense of Norm McAllister and his constituents. Clearly Vermont’s government makes up their own rules without reason and acts on a “whim”

  • Annette Smith

    looking at the numbers it appears to be a party line vote. Interesting to see that it is not.

    • robert bristow-johnson

      it’s not entirely party line. here are the “mavericks”:

      Benning R YES,
      Degree R YES,
      Doyle R YES,
      Mazza D NO
      McDonald D NO
      Nitka D NO
      Snelling R YES
      Starr D NO
      Westman R YES
      White D NO

      only 2/3 of the Chamber were party line. it’s sorta what i might expect.

      without precedent or rules saying that legislators *charged* with a felony should be suspended, i think i would have voted NO until there is a conviction.

      • John Odum

        Don’t fall for the red herring/smoke-and-mirrors. It’s not about being “charged” with anything – this is about his conduct; what he has openly admitted to doing. What any of us would’ve been fired from our own jobs for openly admitting to. The legal process is its own process entirely. The Constitution explicitly gives the power – and with it, the responsibility – to the Senate to set its own standards. If this repugnant behavior is not beneath the chamber’s standards, then it simply has no standards at all (and is abdicating that responsibility).

        • robert bristow-johnson

          well Matthew Choate quoted some Vermont constitution which *does* construct a scaffolding of rule:

          Section 2, Article 19 – “The Senate shall have the like powers to decide on the election and qualifications of, and to expel any of, its members, make its own rules, and appoint its own officers…”

          as far as precedent, this *is* unprecedented and there’s always a first time for everything. i only said that i hope the other senators know what they are doing regarding the precedent they are setting.

          again, no one is approving of statutory rape. i just wonder of some time, in another age, that some sitting senator is arrested for civil disobedience or for resisting the draft, or for “giving comfort to the enemy” or some other political incorrectness and, with the political makeup of the legislature at that time, is booted from their elected position prematurely.

          i just have a fundamental problem with persons elected to office forcibly not being able to serve their term.

          it’s different, of course, but back in 2014 Burlington was enacting redistricting (mandated due to population shifts indicated from the 2010 census) and, rather than allowing councilors elected in 2014 to serve their terms out to 2016, their terms were after the fact cut short and in 2015 *everyone* was up for election (and *now* in 2016 NO ONE is up). i considered it an affront, to me as a voter, that a person elected to represent me had her term cut short after she was elected. that’s the *major* reason i would have been more comfortable if the Vermont Senate waited until the case was adjudicated before acting.

          • Karl Riemer

            “i just wonder of some time, in another age, that some sitting senator is arrested for civil disobedience or for resisting the draft… is booted from their elected position prematurely”

            Let’s not do anything today that might be used as an excuse someday, by someone, to do something completely different. Let’s only ever do what can never be subverted or distorted. What might be in that category? Any ideas?

  • James Mason

    It’s unacceptable to have a sitting senator accused of statutorily raping a VT Senate intern. He rightfully shouldn’t be allowed back into the building until this is resolved.

    The judicial process is way too slow and has caused this issue, but if Franklin County residents want full represenation, they should push for Norm to step aside while this process happens. He can go back up for election in November.

    • robert bristow-johnson

      it is unacceptable to have anybody statutorily raping anyone else.

      if there were rules or precedent in the Vermont legislature that had established that persons *charged* (and presumed innocent until they are convicted) with a felony must be suspended, then this would simply be applying those rules.

      there are other governmental positions where the public trust **requires** such a suspension. we don’t want folks like police or DCF that are potentially rapists to be “defending” us or our kids. but who would be in danger (presumably of statutory rape) if Senator McAllister continued to sit in his Senate chair and cast votes representing the people who elected him?

      but since there were no pre-existing rules, effectively the Vermont Senate is today establishing precedent. i hope they know what they are doing.

      i would have been more comfortable if they had waited until a conviction before suspending him. and if he is acquitted or the charges dismissed, the Vermont Senate better be damn quick in restoring his Senate voting privileges.

      now, i *don’t* feel the same way about deciding or electing someone to an appointment in government. we can use whatever reason we want to vote for whomever we want. someone like Clarence Thomas could have been passed-over based on the allegations and the country would have done just fine with someone else in the SCOTUS. but *once* they are in office, it’s a serious deal to remove them and, again without rules or precedent, seems a little bit lawless to do so based only on allegations not yet proven in court.

      • Jamie Carter

        “i would have been more comfortable if they had waited until a conviction before suspending him. and if he is acquitted or the charges dismissed, the Vermont Senate better be damn quick in restoring his Senate voting privileges.”

        Conviction of criminal charges is not required. He crossed a moral and ethical boundary that in itself is enough to warrant removal. If he is aquited down the road so be it, to restore his seat would be the Senate saying … it’s ok to sleep with your interns and use your position of power for sexual favors. No, he should not have his seat restored if he is aquitted… it doesn’t matter either way he won’t win another election in Franklin County so he is done in November no matter the outcome.

    • Neil Johnson

      What is more unacceptable is that people can’t get a speedy trial in Vermont as written in our constitution. Meanwhile the attorneys make huge profits stringing this out and the innocent are left standing.

      When the most basic rights of a speedy and fair trial are denied we all suffer as evidenced. This would not be an issue if the trial had taken place 6 months ago.

      The only time you get justice is before the judge or a settlement just before entering the court room. If you can’t get before the judge, you can’t get justice and that is a serious, serious problem that’s been over looked for years.

      Attorneys won’t like it so much, they can’t make as much money. Perhaps it hasn’t been overlooked.

    • Karl Riemer

      Except that any citizen (probably any human) is allowed into the building as long as he/she isn’t disruptive. Even if he were expelled, he has the right to go anywhere in the building that you or I can go, speak to anyone you or I can speak to.

      Franklin County residents have pushed him to step aside, as have countless others. So far, he refuses and there’s no provision for forcing him out of office until the next scheduled election. That may change. Recall is a messy, expensive process, really a last resort, but the need for a last resort has now been demonstrated.

  • rosemarie jackowski

    What about ‘innocent until proven guilty’? The votes of citizens have been devalued.
    This is a sad day for all Vermonters…or at least the Vermonters who believe in due process.

    • Neil Johnson

      This just goes to re enforce that we need fair and speedy trials. It’s been a year and we still don’t have a court date. Even in small claims it takes more than a year. So justice isn’t served and attorneys on both sides rack up the bills. A murder trial shouldn’t take more than a year.

      So the side that is innocent, still does not have justice, our law makers have decided to be judges and the county doesn’t have representation. Yet the attorneys surely are getting paid…..

      Our legal system needs a boost, be it more judges and/or caffeine. Anyone who works with the court system knows you don’t get justice until you get before the judge and you won’t get a settlement until just before entering the court room. This waiting only benefits the attorneys and everyone else suffers.

    • William Hays

      “New” Progressive justice. Kinda takes the heat off of Jane O’Meara Sanders’ shenanigans.

    • Jamie Carter

      Oddly the same document that gave us those terms… the state constitution… also provided a mechanism to remove a senator from office regardless of criminal charges.

  • Have the Franklin county folks who put Senator McAllister in office asked that he be sidelined?

    Or is this maneuver basically the work of 20 holier than thou people in the Senate, which as a body along with the House has been reluctant to establish ethic standards to govern their own behavior?

    • Ok, 16 thumbs down on my two questions posted yesterday and its only 9:30 AM. So what’s the problem?

      The first question: Where do the Franklin County folks stand on Senator McAliister’s sidelining. Seems like a reasonable question to ask. After all, the Franklin County voters are effectively being disenfranchised by the removal of a Senator they elected to represent them. If they’re OK with that, that’s fine.

      The second question: Addressed the Senate’s vote to suspend Sen. McAllister while having demonstrated a reluctance to establish ethical standards to govern the conduct of members of the Senate (legislature) generally. It seems to me that the ad hoc judging of the behavior of an individual Senator while refusing to establish ethics standards for the Senate as a whole is problematic and worthy of questioning.

      So why do these two questions generate negative responses?

      Is it because the negative responders believe that the voters in Franklin County
      don’t count and should be ignored? This seems doubtful to me.

      Or do the negative responders believe that the Vermont Senate and legislature as a whole should not be subject to established ethical standards?

      Or is it simply that the questions hit a raw nerve with some members of the Senate and they voted “thumbs down”?

      What do you think?

      • claude turpin


        In a phone conversation between McAllister and the victim that police recorded several days before his arrest, McAllister acknowledged forcing her to perform oral sex on him. These were his exact words:

        “I understand why you felt that way, but it was not much of a turn-on. I knew I was forcing you to do something you didn’t want to do … I knew that you didn’t really want to do that.”

        Forget about the criminal proceedings. McAllister will have his day in court, where he will be presumed innocent, as the Constitution requires. But the presumption of innocence doesn’t apply in employment-related matters or in suspension hearings like the one that was conducted in the Senate yesterday,

        Are you seriously suggesting that the senate shouldn’t take action against a sitting member who admits, in his own words in a recorded conversation, that he forced a woman to perform oral sex on him and whose only excuse is that it wasn’t much of a ‘turn-on” for him?

        • Claude:

          I have no interest in and have made no attempt to defend Senator McAllister or his behavior.

          For you and Kathy Callaghan, whom I consider to be a reasonable and thoughtful person, my point is simply that the Vermont Senate and House have demonstrated little to no interest in establishing standards of behavior (ethics) to guide their behavior. Yet, while failing to establish ethical standards for the collective members of the Senate and House, the Senate elected to act on McAllister. This seems to be a “holier than thou” attitude to me.

          The fact that the Senate felt it had to act on McAllister actually high lights the need for the establishment of ethical standards in the Senate and House.

          Many in Montpelier crow about being the first in various endeavors……..yet then it comes to establishing standards of behavior for our elected and appointed officials, its appears that Vermont could be last. Not a good place to be in today’s world where mistrust of elected officials is at very high levels.

          • Neil Johnson

            They can’t make a standard, Because so far the only thing agreed upon the parties is sex out of wedlock, which I really don’t think they want as a standard for hold office. It’s interesting that only part of the phone conversation is released, not that I want to hear what turns either of them on or what they don’t like to do sexually. If he comes up innocent there will be some serious problems. Can you imagine the defamation law suit then? Norm will sit back and enjoy sandy beaches in the tropics for the rest of his life.

            IT COULD HAVE ALL BEEN AVOIDED WITH A SPEEDY TRIAL, as defined by our constitution for all citizens.

            The last thing they want to draw up are ethics standards, they earned a D- for the work they are doing INSIDE the capital , not even outside activities. As such it might suggest we need a massive change in representation.

          • Kathy Callaghan

            “Yet, while failing to establish ethical standards for the collective members of the Senate and House, the Senate elected to act on McAllister. This seems to be a “holier than thou” attitude to me.” Peter, I think it was more of a – “We should have established an Ethics Committee, ethical standards, et. al. a lot sooner, but we definitely have to deal with this one now” – kind of thing. I’d like to see that Ethics work done this session without fail.

    • Kathy Callaghan

      Peter Yankowski, to your first question, yes, many have. To your second point, the Senate may be a little late in establishing an ethics committee and formal ethical standards, but that does not make them “holier than thou”. What they did yesterday was very difficult for them to do, and they did the right thing in spite of the difficulty.

  • “The suspension effectively means that Franklin County constituents will not be fully represented for the remainder of the 2016 legislative session.”

    So now Franklin County constituents will be represented by ONE state senator … just like Orange County constituents.

    • Representation in the Senate is based on population …

      • Jim Christiansen

        In theory Anne, yes. In practice, no. I had two representative votes for governor and my neighbor a half mile down the road had six. Prior to reapportionment, I would have had six. That is not equal representation in any way shape or form.

        Is it any wonder that residents of the most affluent district receive the largest practical representation? Shameful.

      • Anne, I believe you’re wrong. District size is based on population, but representation in state governments whether it’s Senates, Representatives or other is based on equal representation.

        Vermont’s scheme of Senatorial districts doesn’t pass either test however. The easiest comparison is between the Chittenden and Orange senate districts:

        Reference: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/reports/02Redistricting/Act151_Senate_Map.pdf

        The Chittenden district has 129,585 residents and 6 state Senators.

        The Orange district has 19,852 residents and 1 state Senator.

        1) The size of the districts are widely disparate well beyond the 10% minor deviation rule, and I can find no rational basis for such a large difference in population that has the Chittenden district at 6 and 1/2 times the size of the Orange district (for a more complete discussion see the legal opinion from Lynn, Lynn, Blackman & Manitsky included in the packet at http://education.vermont.gov/documents/edu-sbe-item-j1-121515.pdf). The discrepancy in district sizes is clearly unconstitutional.

        2) Each voter in the Chittenden district has 6 state Senators representing her/his interest, but each voter in the Orange district has only 1 state Senator representing her/his interest. This is a wildly unconstitutional discrepancy in the right of equal representation.

        • Rama,
          District representation is based on population numbers from Census data.

          • You are absolutely correct on this specific point, Anne. Vermont’s way of creating state senatorial districts is based on the decennial census data. This however is quite different from “representation”.

            The fact that census figures are used to create districts that violate federal constitutional mandates as put forth by various federal courts (including the US Supreme Court) does not make the districts constitutional.

        • John Greenberg


          I must be missing something in your point. Taking your figures, 6x 19,852 = 119112. Chittenden’s 129585 for 6 senators is a little less than 9% more. Doing the math the other way gets the same result: the Orange figure is a bit less than 92% of Chittenden’s. Either way, the result is less than 10% which you say is the rule.

          What am I missing?

          • John, you are missing …. well hold on … I’ve got a longer oped in the churning bucket

  • Janice Prindle

    This WAS due process –the Senate rules have always allowed for a suspension, even though this is the first time it happened. It’s hard to imagine what action would merit one, if not a serious legal charge case like this one. As one of McAllister’s constituents wrote in a recent Digger commentary, the court will judge his guilt or innocence of the legal charges, but the Senate has the right to set its own standard, and McAllister is already in serious violation of community standards of character– as evidenced by his own words on tape. Serving in elected office is his privilege, not his right. I understand plenty of his constituents have signed a petition asking him to resign, so they can be fully represented. It’s his own stubborn refusal to do the right thing and step aside that has forced this move.

    • Zach Rivers

      Would you kindly provide some source for the VT Senate’s rules on suspension, since you’re so certain they exist?

      • Janice Prindle

        Vermont Digger, if you’ve been reading all along, makes this clear.

      • Janice Prindle

        Also the Vermont Constitution, quoted by Matthew Choate, blelow.

        • Zach Rivers

          You’ll notice the VT legislature set a precedent using California’s suspension of three Senators. They didn’t choose to expel McAllister (which is all the VT Constitution allows, as quoted below by Mr. Choate) because that most likely would have compromised the upcoming trial. In my opinion, opting for suspension sets a very bad precedent. In the future, any legislative member charged (but not tried or convicted) with any egregious crime (domestic violence, DUI, possession of illegal drugs, sexual harassment etc) should be subject to suspension. At the very least, our legislature should begin the process of amending the VT Constitution as provided for in Chapter 2, Section 72 and let the voters decide if we truly want to go down this slippery slope of politicizing the issue of suspension.

          • Janice Prindle

            If you read it, the Constitution clearly allows the Senate to set its own rules which includes a procedure for suspension. It seems to me a fair way to deal with someone who based on evidence made public, on tape, has clearly violated standards of character that are so widely held that I don’t see anyone here arguing his conduct is acceptable. Suspension allows for the work of the Senate to go forward without divided loyalties affecting our legislators’ ability to work together. Given the enormity of the action, I
            am confident no one took this lightly (and the fact that it wasn’t a vote along party lines underscores that for me). It is the opposite of politicizing: it restores our confidence that making laws that affect us all will NOT be tainted by what has happened.And for many of us, there’s relief that someone so lacking in judgment in his personal life is not making the laws that govern our lives. Regardless of the outcome in the court, he certainly has established his lack of judgment.

          • Zach Rivers

            Kindly point me to the part of the VT Constitution that allows the Senate to set rules including a procedure for suspension. They can certainly make rules regarding procedure for bills and committees, but they can’t change the Constitution to suit their needs. Expelling him would allow for the work of the Senate to go forward too, and that’s the only thing our Constitution allows.

          • Janice Prindle

            Read it. The Senate’s powers are very broad, including setting the standards for its members. As suspension is far milder than expulsion, a power also specifically granted by our constitution, it is clear that they had the right to do this. Constitutional language doesn’t spell out every detail.It’s unreasonable to expect otherwise.

  • John Odum

    Very disappointed in the explanations offered by Senators McCormack and Nitka, which underscore a fundamental misunderstanding of what the vote was even about. This had nothing to do with the legal process or the courts, this was about the Senate as an institution setting its own standards – standards which reflect the state of Vermont. Conflating it with the legal process is a red herring at best, and at worst it suggests an utter lack of understanding of where the legal process begins and ends, and just what they are doing in the Statehouse.

    • Keith Dewey

      Am i missing something here? Isn’t this a vote to merely suspend until trial conclusion? Wouldn’t something similar be applied to a police officer or other public official who was on trial for a felony of any kind, let alone this one? My confidence in the thinking ability of Nitka, Flory, Starr, MacDonald, White, McCormack, Collmore, Mullin, Mazza and McAllister himself has been seriously shaken. While a good portion of Franklin constituents likely don’t want to lose representation, it should be noted that most of the rest of us in Vermont should also have the right to not have our new laws influenced by a potential felon who is being tried for exercising horrid judgment. If he’s innocent, I’ll dust off his Senate chair for him after the trial…

      • Karl Riemer

        I don’t think there’ll be any need to dust off anything. Not speaking for any senators, but it’s likely the suspension vote will not be different even if he’s found not guilty in court. As John Odum eloquently and correctly said, he wasn’t suspended for violating the law, he was suspended for being duplicitous, debauched and apparently delusional, none of which is necessarily illegal but definitely disqualifies him from exercising the prerogatives of office. A jury can only declare him not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. No one (except Sen. McAllister, to his discredit) can consider him innocent of behaving boorishly and reprehensibly, with insufficient judgement and moral intelligence for the rest of the Senate to work with him. His own public statements are bizarre and disturbing enough on their own to warrant suspension. Getting him off the floor is not only their right, it’s their obligation to the rest of us.

  • Matthew Choate

    The comments thus far are interesting, and I am sure mirror what many of the Senators today were thinking. Yet, I think this is very similar to when we have an employee charged with a crime of this magnitude and we opt to put them on administrative leave with pay. The action in the Senate doing just that seems a middle road between expelling him (which the Constitution allows – Section 2, Article 19 – “The Senate shall have the like powers to decide on the election and qualifications of, and to expel any of, its members, make its own rules, and appoint its own officers…”; I think since they did not have a precedent to go by, and felt uncomfortable removing him from office until his crime was either proven or not, they opted for this administrative leave with pay. It seems very reasonable to me and Senator McAllister should simply bide his time. If he ends up guilty – the Senate was right, and he will either be expelled or resign. If he is innocent, they are still right, since they let him hold the seat but not report to work until his name was cleared. Seems a very wise decision actually.

  • David Ellenbogen

    If McAllister really cares about his constituents, he will resign so that a replacement is appointed. Until then, McAllister’s constituents will have less representation — a penalty of sorts for electing such a person in the first place. Let’s not forget that when we vote for people we are voting for more than just their views on issues — our votes should, at least in part, be based on a candidate’s character. If character didn’t matter, there might have been a President Ted Kennedy or Gary Hart, and Al Gore might have allowed Bill Clinton to campaign for him.

  • Walter Carpenter

    “My major disappointment is that he didn’t do the right thing and just resign.”

    I agree here with Sen. Mullin and, I’m sure, all of the other senators. This is so sad and should never have happened. Sen. McAllister should have done the right thing and resigned.

  • Gary Bressor

    The clear losers are the people of Franklin County who have had their duly elected Senator removed from his seat. I am discouraged that twenty people can overrule the votes of a majority of voters in a county. The judicial process should have been allowed to run its course.

    • Jamie Carter

      But what would the majority of voters in the county have voted for if there were a recall election held? If there was ever a case for amending the constitution to allow for a recall this would be it.

    • John Odum

      A duly elected Senator who is now a duly disciplined Senator. That’s the way it works, Constitutionally – and nobody should expect to get to pick and choose only those parts of the Constitution that serve their personal or partisan interests.

    • Janice Prindle

      It IS being allowed to run its course, Mr. Bressor. The Senate is not a court of law. It sets its own standard, under Vermont’s Constitution. That standard is a matter of character, not simply one’s criminal record or lack thereof.

      McCallister has cheated the voters of Franklin County, for his own benefit: If he would step down, someone could be appointed in his place; if he was found innocent of the legal charges, he could seek reelection. Meanwhile, he still gets paid, while he waits his day in court.

  • JP Cook

    It’s odd the VT legislators originally felt there might be reason for suspending a member at some point. The reason comes along, and there is all this, “oh me, oh my” — so having sex with someone over whom you have power apparently isn’t a crime in VT anymore. As stated, anywhere else, one would be on “paid” leave until the courts decide the outcome. Where are the young women’s rights or are they to be castigated because, heaven forbid, some male is aroused and it’s their fault and the young women are vulnerable. Have we adopted the Saudi Arabian’s attitude towards women as property and chattel? Good old Vermont!

  • victor ialeggo

    much talk of “what would the people of Franklin County want?”

    here’s a link to a thoughtful, balanced letter which appeared in the St Albans Messenger in December, by a constituent who voted for McAllister last time around:


    (sorry: I couldn’t access the original @samessenger.com.)

    • Patty Schroeder

      The individual you mentioned would have voted ‘None of the Above’ before ever marking a box for a person with ‘R’ after their name. The letter you cited deftly avoids declaring that she did, in fact, vote for him.

      • Paula Schramm

        Sorry to disillusion you, Patty Schroeder, but I have voted for a person with “R” after their name. None of your business, really, but just wanted you to be more aware of when you are making assumptions without being able to really back them up !
        But you are astutely right that I avoided declaring in my letter whether I voted for Norm.

  • Clara Schoppe

    [During a 15-minute session, the suspended senator also maintained he never had sex with the young woman he hired to work as an intern at the Statehouse, a statement at odds with claims by the victim and contrary to comments the senator previously made.] Senator McAllister had previously said that it was consensual and legal because she was 16. SIXTEEN!!! As the mother of a just turned 18 year old high school senior, that girl was not a woman; she was a girl, a high school girl chosen by her good grades and comportment at school to be honored to be a legislative intern. What honor did Senator McAllister show her? What life long lesson has she learned? Although I am opposed to girls and boys betraying their God and their future spouses before they even know them by engaging in the conjugal act previous to marriage, I understand how two 16 year olds, without proper supervision, can come to have more intimate relations with one another than is healthy for either of them, this is very different. A sixty four year old legislator is not a 16 year old boy. Doubly shameful is that these hoary old men are the ones who legislated that any 16 year old girl can be fair game to be seduced/coerced by any of them and not be able to charge rape, because she is a woman, and not a girl. So much for womens rights. The right for young girls to be taken by old men just as these girls are in puberty. If this was legal, it was because our legislators made it legal. It’s still odious!

    • Kathy Callaghan

      “that girl was not a woman; she was a girl, a high school girl chosen by her good grades and comportment at school to be honored to be a legislative intern.”

      Clara Shope, while I agree with some of your sentiments this one requires clarification. As reported by the media, I don’t believe that the girl in question was formally a legislative intern. Apparently she was someone that Senator McAllister called “his intern” but she was a girl he knew from his private life.

    • Karl Riemer

      I think you’ve misapprehended a couple of things. The youngest alleged victim is 20. The question of age hinges on how long ago the alleged sex began (as does the extra-legal question of marital fidelity), and though she may have good grades and comportment, she was chosen, by Sen. McAllister, to assist him as continuation of a long, involved relationship. He brought her to the statehouse, and his Montpelier apartment, because he admired her work over several years on his farm and re-election campaign.

      Also, 16 yo female humans are rarely “just…in puberty”. There’s a wide range but 16’s on the far fringe. 12-13 yo is probably about average.

  • Peter Liston

    This entire situation highlights the benefits of having 2 year terms for Senators.

  • Tom Heeter

    If Norm McAllister had been a Democrat, he would not have been booted out! Probably not one Democrat would have voted to force him out

    • Neil Johnson

      Have you forgotten, they become presidents.

    • robert bristow-johnson

      that simply is not true. a large portion (half of them) of the GOP senators voted to suspend their fellow GOP senator. and an equal number (smaller fraction) of Dems voted to not suspend the GOP senator. it’s not a party line vote.

    • Michel Consejo

      Well, I am a Democrat and a former State Rep , from Franklin County , and I can tell you it does not matter what party is Norm a affiliated with , I would have campaign just as hard and may be even more, for a Dem to resign .

  • “The very concept of innocent until prove guilty is so basic that to step on that and say because somebody has been charged we are going to remove them just goes against every grain in my body,” Flory said.

    Let’s be real here.This concept(due process of innocent until proven guilty) while great in theory is abused every day in civil forfeiture drug laws regarding a suspect’s property and money…even when the person is found innocent, it can take years to get such property back, if ever, at great cost.

    What has McAllister lost so far in terms of his property or money(he’s still getting paid) or his freedom for that matter? The real losers are the citizens of Franklin county who can’t recall him. As someone has said before, if he were a teacher etc. this action would have already happened. Why should a state senator be any different?

  • robert bristow-johnson

    i have to admit that it’s painful listening to the 15 minute conversation with the suspended senator above.

  • Katharine Hikel, MD

    GOOD – far too many sex offenders get away with their abuses. But why are we still paying him???

  • David Dempsey

    The senators who voted not to suspend the senator used the “innocent until proven guilty” argument to justify their vote. Using this logic, would they also support allowing teachers accused of similar crimes to continue teaching based on the same argument?