AG’s office investigating complaints against Annette Smith, anti-wind advocate

The state attorney general’s office has opened an investigation into criminal complaints against a prominent champion of Vermonters who are adversely affected by renewable development.

The attorney general’s office is investigating whether Annette Smith, executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, has practiced law without a license — a charge with penalties left entirely to the court’s discretion.

Smith says the complaints that prompted the AG’s investigation are politically motivated.

Attorneys who have argued against Smith’s clients say she gives bad advice, unconstrained by the sanctions licensed attorneys would incur for similar behavior.

Smith says the AG’s investigation “is very intimidating.”

“I don’t know what to do. I think our work’s being shut down,” Smith said. “I believe this has the potential to shut down my organization of 16 years. It clearly falls under the definition of harassment.”

Residents who live near planned and existing renewable projects have claimed she’s their only advocate.

Smith said she represents people who too frequently have nowhere else to turn. Renewable energy developers hire talented attorneys against whom landowners near project sites have no other way of successfully representing themselves.

Many of these cases involve people who can’t afford a lawyer, and who didn’t want to become involved in legal proceedings to protect their interests, she said. Lawyers know it’s impossible to fight renewable energy developers, Smith said, and won’t take on affected landowners’ cases anyway.

“Anybody who does this with a lawyer has wasted tens of thousands of dollars,” she said. “The reason I’m doing this is so people have a voice without bankrupting themselves.”

The attorney general’s office would not offer comment on the case.

“There is a matter under investigation by the criminal division, and we can’t comment on it further, and we never comment on ongoing criminal investigation,” said John Treadwell, Chief of the Criminal Division at the AG’s office.

Practicing law without a license is a charge that has rarely been prosecuted in Vermont, Treadwell said. It carries potentially severe penalties. “It is punished as criminal contempt of the Vermont Supreme Court, and is potentially punishable by fine or imprisonment or both, in the court’s discretion,” Treadwell said.

“In the court’s discretion,” Treadwell said, means there are no maximum defined penalties.

Assistant Attorney General Zachary Chen named five cases in a letter notifying Smith of the investigation, and two attorneys were involved in both cases. Smith said one of them had previously accused her of practicing law without a license. Both have given Smith reason to believe they’ve sought to instigate an investigation against her, she said.

Joslyn Wilschek is one of the attorneys, and in a previous Public Service Board hearing she told hearing officers that Smith had been in that instance practicing law without a license.

Non-lawyers aid participants in legal and other proceedings all the time to good effect, Wilschek said, but Smith represents herself as having training that she actually lacks.

“She gives legal advice to landowners, and she drafts their filings to the Public Service Board, and I think it’s a real disservice, because she puts herself out there as having the knowledge of a lawyer, when she doesn’t,” Wilschek said.

Wilschek said she didn’t file a complaint against Smith with the AG’s office, but said she supports it and said that if asked, and if her clients consented, she’d testify Smith had done what she’s been accused of. Wilschek said her remarks reflect only her personal observation, and not her clients or their positions.

Based on what she’s seen, such charges have no basis in political motives, Wilschek said. “I disagree with people all the time — that’s what a lawyer does — but when someone does something this egregious, it’s not political, it’s protecting the public,” she said. “When you see someone putting themselves out there like a lawyer, it’s a real disservice to people who don’t understand the training a lawyer needs.”

People who Smith has assisted say they have no other effective advocate, and say they’re shut out of the hearing process for renewable projects by the excessive legality of the proceedings.

“What she does is she provides citizens — normal, everyday citizens in the state of Vermont — with a possibility of having any chance at participating in the Public Service Board process,” said Christine Lang.

Lang, with her husband and with Smith’s assistance, is attempting to persuade the Public Service Board to assess penalities on prospective wind developer Travis Belisle for constructing a meteorological tower without a permit. The met tower is a precursor to the wind turbine development project, and she says a permit filed with the board would have given the public advance notice.

State agencies and developers are well-represented by lawyers at Public Service Board hearings, while ordinary citizens are shut out of the process, Lang said.

“I think it’s a witch hunt to distract her from the work she’s trying to do to help citizens, because she’s the only one out there who’s helping citizens,” Lang said. “Does that make sense I should have to have an attorney to participate in what is supposed to be a public process?

“This is why this entire process is completely broken,” she said. “It is a developer-run process run by the developers and their lawyers, and they are getting everything they want, and they are going to destroy this state.”

Leslie Cadwell, another attorney who has represented wind developer David Blittersdorf, says Smith has led her clients to bad ends. Cadwell participated in a case against Smith that complaints with the AG’s office have highlighted as representative of Smith’s alleged illegal behavior.

“As a result of Annette’s participation in a case she was involved with before the Public Service Board, the town of Irasburg has violated open meetings law twice, and has admitted it,” Cadwell said.

Professional ethical standards lawyers abide by prohibit this kind of behavior, Cadwell said.

“If Annette wants to represent people in the Public Service Board process, or advise people about how to participate in the Public Service Board process, she ought to go to law school,” Cadwell said. “Or, in Vermont, she can actually do a four-year clerk program where she can learn how to be a lawyer and understand how to ethically represent her clients in courts.”

Vermont is one of few states that allows lawyers to work as clerks in lieu of law school as a means of studying to become an attorney, Cadwell said.

Cadwell said that she did not file complaints against Smith with the attorney general’s office.

Mike Polhamus

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  • Melodie McLane

    Annette has never represented herself as our attorney. We have never paid her for her “services” as an advocate. We draft most of our own filings and occasionally have used a law firm to draft some in the past when we felt that we needed legal advice. These are ridiculous accusations and isn’t it interesting that they come at a time when citizens are revolting en mass against bad siting of wind and solar.

    • Robert Rich

      Stepping back a few yards for the broader view, one might observe this is the sort of thing that results from continuous one-party rule.

  • Peter Galbraith

    Annette Smith is an advocate exercising her First Amendment rights of free speech and association. She has never represented herself as being a lawyer or as having a legal education. There is a real imbalance of power between the wealthy corporations promoting industrial wind and the small rural communities where they want to locate the turbines. Annette Smith is a person of integrity who has helped the weaker party in what would otherwise be a very uneven contest. This investigation will have a chilling effect on all citizen advocates. Regardless of how one feels about Annette Smith’s views on industrial wind, Vermonters should be concerned about this investigation. I feel confident the investigation will never result in charges but it could have a chilling effect. I hope that is not the internet.

  • Gary Viens

    In my mind, this is another way for the wind turbine companies to get their way again, with less interference from the people who will be/ are most effected. It is time for our State government to listen to both sides of this issue not just listen to the ones who hold all of the money and power. Presently there are many bills on the wall of the House Natural Resources Committee which takes up these issues. Rep. Tony Kline as chairman of this committee will ever allow these bills to be taken up or make it out of his committee. It is time for voters to make changes in Montpelier. Remember, all politics are local, and yes, it is up to you.

  • Melodie McLane

    Here is one example of how Annette supports neighbors of wind projects: On Wed. January 20th we had a hearing in front of the Public Service Board. She went with me and before the hearing she sat at my side and we chatted about everything but the hearing details. We talked about the upcoming birth of my first grandchild and the fact that my husband could not attend the hearing because he wanted to save his vacation time to spend with his elderly father. Her presence was relaxing and supportive in every way but the legal sense. So were the several friends in the background in green vests who showed up in my support. Are they going to be accused of acting as my attorneys as well?

  • I don’t see any claim that Smith presents herself as LEGAL representation, but I do see where she is being attacked for presenting herself as someone who is knowledgeable about the laws and processes.

    I’m on a school board, and over the years I have often opened my VSA Title 16 book to use in support of an argument. Does that make me a miscreant lawyer wannabe? Rhetorical question – of course it doesn’t. It merely makes me someone who is interested in working from a factual basis.

    This is an outright attack on a citizen’s right to participate in governance.

  • Randy Koch

    Move over, Cotton Mather, Bill Sorrell is setting himself up as Vermont’s chief witch hunter.
    A few questions:

    First of all who brought this complaint if not the developer lawyers? Was it David Blittersdorf, Mr Industrial Turbine himself? Why are the accusers hiding in the shadows? And why is the AG participating in the conspiracy of silence?

    Second is this all the AG can figure out to do with the state’s limited resources? To help a Blittersdorf bring a vindictive SLAPP suit against a respected public advocate? What are Sorrell’s motives here?

    Third, aren’t we edging pretty close to absurdity? If I tell you that you’d better not drive too fast or you’ll get a ticket, is Sorrell going to come after me for practicing law?

    This is a dumb move, Bill Sorrell. You are bound to end up with egg on your face. Best regroup and figure out something useful to do with your last months in office.

  • bruce wilkie

    Anyone want to hazard a guess as to which well known industrial wind /solar developer from Charlotte is behind this travesty? When you have the chair of the house energy committee and the chair of the PSB in your hip pocket, it is easy to destroy the opposition to the destruction of Vermont.
    Very Trumplike tactics by our government.

    • Candy Moot

      I don’t know who contacted the AG’s office, but I do know Dave Blittersdorf’s law firm, Dinse Knapp (where the Speaker of the House works … who knows if there’s a connection) filed papers against the Town of Morgan regarding Annette. I’m a resident of Morgan and we’ve had to pay a lawyer responding to them. So what I do know with total certainty is that one of Mr. Blittersdorf ‘s law firms ( he has more than one) has already gone done this road, with the same allegations as were made by the AG’s office. Hoping this backfires ….

      • Annette Smith

        Here are those letters that apparently led up to this investigation. http://vce.org/DB_VCE_AS_CorrespondenceRequests.pdf

        • Willem Post

          Annette,

          Keep up your good work.
          Do not worry.
          We will be voting those b….s out of office.

          You have enormous support among the people who have been fleeced, seen their real estate values drop, had adversely impacted their health and peace of mind, and those who are going to be fleeced, etc., by:

          – Powerful, in-state and out-of-state multi-millionaire interests, owning subsidized (by us) wind and solar systems, that produce expensive, variable, intermittent, not-all-that-clean, energy onto already-struggling households and businesses, and by

          – Various aiders and abetters, in and out of government, which now also includes the AG office.

          Vermont an RE Leader, an example to the world???

          You have got to be kidding me.

  • Karen Pease

    The people of VT should be appalled at this waste of tax-payer money by a powerful, wealthy Special Interest. Once again, the Industry finds itself in a desperate situation and rather than letting the facts speak for themselves, rather than allowing citizens to stand up and effectively work to protect themselves and their environment, the Industry has fallen back on intimidation tactics. They (once again!) are squandering tax-payer money — this time in an effort to convince a state agency to do their dirty work. Vermonters are very lucky to have Annette/VCE as an advocate. It is regrettable that in today’s America, a citizen can be intimidated into silence by threats of lawsuits or criminal investigations. No matter what your position on this controversial issue, ALL Vermonters should be up in arms about this attempt by Big Industry to gain control over a citizenry and its environment. The Industry knows that they cannot win on a level playing field due to that niggling little detail called “FACTS” so they are using the courts to their advantage. It will be very ‘telling’ when the name(s) of the complainants are revealed. God Bless Annette and those like her. Thank you for your courage and the ethical perspective you bring to the table. Respectfully, Karen Bessey Pease, Lexington TWP, Maine

    • David Kelley

      I have practiced law in Vermont for over 30 years. My primary clients have been ski areas, but I have also worked with many families that could not afford an attorney. I have known Annette as an ally and an adversary. She is one of the most principled, ethical, idealistic, selfless, hard working human beings I have ever met. Vermont is lucky to have her. Without her help there are many people who would have been chewed up and spit out by people (read this to mean industrial wind developers) with more lawyers than principles. This behavior on the part of “licensed” attorneys is pathetic. They profess to be concerned about the Town of Irasburg. I would suggest they leave Irasburg alone and read the Bill of Rights.

      • Willem Post

        Dave,
        Well said. I agree 100%

      • Stephanie Moffett-Hynds

        I agree with David Kelley and all of the voices of support for the incomparable Annette Smith. What would we have done without her compassion, when there was nowhere else to turn? I am disgusted by this pathetic attempt to intimidate her. Shame on Leslie Cadwell and all the rest who would use this tactic to scare fellow Vermonters from seeking out others with whom they can try to make sense of the often horrendous predicaments they find themselves in, to educated themselves, and to engage in civil discourse to find solutions. It is a testament to Annette that they should feel so threatened. Shame.

  • Bruce S. Post

    I imagine this might be somewhat akin to SLAPP: Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation. We once had a developer/attorney threaten us and several of our neighbors with civil and criminal action if we walked across the road, a traditional right of way, to our neighbor’s house. As long as his development proposal was going well, he was all smiles; when our planning commission reversed its earlier approval on challenges from many of us, he turned on a few of us with his legal threats. Eventually, the municipal government approved his project, but I can tell you that, for a long time, many people were seriously afraid to sign on to any efforts to oppose him.

    “Leslie Cadwell, another attorney who has represented wind developer David Blittersdorf, says Smith has led her clients to bad ends.”

    My Gawd, if the State went after every attorney who led their clients to bad ends, at least half the Bar would be fined, in jail or out of a job. For instance, check this out: https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2012/05/02/derby-wind-attorney-apologizes-asks-for-no-delays/

    Just a brief quote:

    “An attorney for the Derby Line Wind Project admits that some abutting landowners did not receive proper notification as required by state utility regulators.

    Leslie Cadwell of Gravel & Shea has apologized by letter to the property owners who found the error – John and Sherry Wagner of Holland, and to state utility regulators on the Vermont Public Service Board. She accepted responsibility on behalf of her client, Encore Redevelopment.

    Cadwell said a person at her law firm left out some names on the official notification list by accident. She said it was her fault and said Encore should not receive any blame.

    “I deeply regret the error, and I apologize to the board and to the parties for my oversight,” Cadwell said Monday in a letter to the board’s clerk.”

    Is that the same LESLIE CADWELL quoted above? Oops!

    And is JOSLYN WILSCHEK the same attorney Peter Shumlin recently appointed to the District 5 Environmental Commission? See: http://www.vermontbiz.com/people/august/governor-shumlin-appoints-joslyn-l-wilschek-primmer-alternate-member-state-vermont

    As the article indicates:

    “Joslyn has almost a decade of experience advising utilities and private renewable energy developers on all aspects of project development, including permitting, real estate, net metering programs and projects, easement acquisition, state agency coordination, and contract negotiation for renewable energy projects and reliability projects such as substation and electric line upgrades.”

    Leonard Cohen had it right: “Everybody knows the dice are loaded.”

  • Eddie Fisher

    Mrs. Smith must consider this . This is Vermont , its a state where liberal ideologies rule politics , rule the economy , the courts AND the laws . Any talk otherwise is but rhetoric . No matter that anyone should be able to “stand the court ” licenced or not , Especially when the economic stimulus of our federal government and the subsidizing dollars of wind , solar power is so embedded in the psychy of liberal entitlements . as to so deeply effect our economy , our courts , and the direct health of these neighbors .

    • Tom Rood

      Dear, Sweet Old Vermont….you’ve come a long way baby! And the hard working, salt-of-the-earth men and women who started it all are rolling over in their graves. Shame!

  • Candy Moot

    There is no question that Annette is the only hope small towns have in protecting our natural resources against industrial wind and solar developers, in whose favor the deck is already stacked. In my professional life, I hired many, many consultants like Annette who were not lawyers …. who never ever faced this bizarre accusation, intimidation and harassment. This is a total outrage.

  • Bob Stannard

    It might be a good idea to hear all the facts surrounding these serious charges. Yes, Ms. Smith is perceived as a champion by those she represents and she may very well be operating within the confines of the law. The complaint may be baseless and nothing more than a tactic, but until ALL of the facts come out no one really knows.

    • Teddy Hopkins

      Its not very often I agree with you Bob but I do in your comment. Until all the facts are out one really doesn’t know what is happening.
      If anyone is involved in any Vermont town business these type of public document requests come in from time to time. A lot of requests appear to die off but some could be the basis for a brewing problem be it in the field of employment, environmental and/or real estate etc.

    • After all these years of tirelessly defending the indefensible record of Peter Shumlin, again we find Bob on the wrong side of the issue.

  • Don Peterson

    It’s a lesson in history industrial wind developers should reread: attempts by the Tsar to stifle dissent only makes it easier to stir up resistance next time. Bad strategy on their part.

    It only proves that an open discussion of the pros and cons of Vermonts energy policy is the last thing anyone doing business in Vermont wants.

  • Meg Streeter

    As if the opportunity to intervene in the industrial wind siting process weren’t unequal enough thanks to our current Governor and Legislature, now this? I hope this blatant attempt to silence Annette Smith’s free speech rights will alert more Vermonters to the ongoing problems with this part of the energy sector. I’ve met Annette and donated to her organization – her efforts are admirable and I doubt that any of the people she’s helped have confused her work with that of an attorney.

  • Tom Pelham

    There is something very wrong here. There’s a term for this, it’s called a “slapp suit” defined as “a strategic lawsuit against public participation that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.” It’s a shame the AG’s office would embrace and nurture this ploy. From the article it appears that the suits with briefcases aren’t happy that Annette sits across the table from them helping average Vermont citizens burdened by industrial wind and solar projects participate in highly formal Pubic Service Board procedures. I’ve never met Annette but am ready to contribute to a defense fund to help her beat back this repressive attack on her freedom to organize (in the best tradition of Barack Obama) and help her fellow Vermonters speak in opposition to developers who profit heavily from taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies.

    • Ralph Colin

      I have known Annette for many years. There are times when she may be abrasive and there are issues over which we may had our differences, but never for a moment would I question her ethics.

      Moreover, in numerous conversations we’ve had about renewable energy, I have never heard her oppose the concept of renewable energy resources per se, but she sure has questioned the methods used by developers who stampede and bulldoze the site approval process to the detriment of citizens who live in close proximity to the proposed (or actually developed) sites after the sponsors have destroyed the local, natural environment and have ignored warnings with respect to the probable hazards which may have contributed to health problems being experienced by those living nearby the erecting of wind turbines.

      That individual citizens are banned from participating in the siting process because they can’t afford lawyers, if any exist, who are willing to represent them in front of the intimidating and bullying antics of the Public Service Board hearings is something about which we should all be very concerned. Annette is one of the very few people who has sought to assist such citizens in guiding them through a very complicated and convoluted process without ever specifically representing them in front of the Board. She receives no compensation for her efforts and does not, to the best of my knowledge, offer legal advice.

      If certain developers, some of whom are very cozy with our governor, view her as a threat to their ability to receive public funds (subsidies) to financially justify their business plans, then it would not be difficult to understand that they might employ sub rosa techniques to shut her up. What is really scary, yea, even terrifying, is that the AG would tolerate such unsubstantiated attacks upon a good Samaritan and sublimate himself and his department to the narrow interests of those who may have supported his election to office.

      This looks like a phony accusation trumped up to get rid of a well-meaning and honest individual who is just trying to be helpful to other residents who are being crushed by an unbalanced, quasi-judicial system. Instead of correcting what often appears to most people in Vermont as an inequitable and unreasonable process designed to eliminate the right of ordinary citizens to be heard on matters which directly affect their lives and those of their families, it is easier for the powers-that-be to simply eliminate the stumbling block to prevents them from having their way. That appears to be the possibility, if not the probability, in this case. If so, none of us should tolerate it.

  • Wendy Wilton

    Annette has been a tireless champion of the everyday Vermonter in this fight against the renewable industrial millionaire cronyism. This move by the AG is a statement on why Sorrell needs to go–he has forgotten about the constitution and the bill of rights, but he remembers who gave him and Shummie the campaign cash. Remember he is the AG who argued against campaign finance as free speech and lost in front of SCOTUS.

    To make matters worse, he was recently exonerated of any wrongdoing in campaign finance laws, which also seems like lawyer cronyism.

    Shameful.

  • barry Kade

    “You don’t need a [licensed] weatherman to know which way the wiind blows”

  • Janice Prindle

    Bill Sorrell gets a “gentlemanly ” inestigation; Annette Smith gets the bully treatment– by Sorrell.

    Disgusting.

    Most of us would consider the allegations of election fraud by an attorney general more dangerous to a democracy than someone inadvertently afffronting the legal profession in advocating in public proceedings where “clients” are not even required to have a lawyer. The political motivation behind this is transparent. Proof that the influence of corporate money in politics affects Democrats as well as Republicans, and Vermont is not immune from this national evil.

  • Mark Milazzo

    Hi Annette:
    You are doing really good work and helping a lot of people in Vermont. Do not give up and do not be intimitated! I would suggest you set up a Go Fund Me website to cover any possible legal expenses or let me know where I can send you a check. Keep doing what you are doing!
    Mark

    • Melodie McLane

      This is a very good idea Mark, many of us would contribute!

      • walter Moses

        Hang in there Annette. Mark and Melodie have the right idea. Count on me to help with any expenses, and set up that Go Fund Me website. Blittersdorf and Sorrel aren’t running this State yet.

  • A new low for Vermont and it’s easily pliable political class and obedient bureaucracy all too willing to serve the interests of the industrial wind and solar oligarchs.

    A shameful act on the part of the Attorney’s General office against an individual trying to help ordinary citizens against big money interests and a dysfunctional bureaucratic system.

    Annette you’re making a positive difference in addressing injustices against the small guy……keep up the good work. There are thousands of Vermonters with you.

  • Steve Thurston

    From the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct for lawyers: “A lawyer should use the law’s procedures only for legitimate purposes and not to harass or intimidate others.”

  • Bob Orleck

    This is horrible and an obvious move to silence critics of industrial wind turbines on the ridge-lines of Vermont. This has to be terribly upsetting to her and surely is designed to silence opponents. Folks wake up before it is too late and before they come after you.

  • Nancy Tips

    I guess those of us who are part of Vermont’s energy rebellion should be heartened by the sudden appearance of a good old dirty-tricks campaign by the renewable energy profiteers. Even so, I object to the clumsiness of their efforts to frame us. C’mon guys: are we a scary rabble who threaten the poor developers, or are we whining NIMBYs who can’t see the beauty in those “slowly turning windmills?” Or are we clever upstarts like Annette with the gall to teach ourselves and each other how to play the anti-democratic games favored in Montpelier? Are we goons, buffoons, or smarty-pantses? Or an obviously frightening combination of all the above?

  • Kathy Leonard

    This charade is an indictment of developers who force renewables carte blanche onto Vermont towns rather than work WITH them and an indictment of the PSB and a legislature who enable them. The result is a large and growing backlash against renewables in the state. How unfortunate.

  • George Plumb

    What a sham! Annette is one of the most courageous, hard working, deep thinking, and devoted environmentalists I know. So she maybe made a coupler of minor mistakes. How many thousands of times has she offered good advice? And highly paid lawyers never make mistakes?

    Sadly, Vermont has become like the rest of the U.S. where millionaires and corporations control our government decision making process resulting in highly destructive development like wind towers on our ridgelines or massive development like the Exit 4 development proposed for Randolph. Yes, sometimes we end up with compromises like will probably happen in Randolph and the development will be scaled back a little but it will still result in tremendous damage to our environment and the once uniqueness of Vermont..

    Annette our hearts go out to you during this very stressful time. We are very grateful to you for all that you have done over the years. And you have done it on a very modest salary and with very little staff support. On a personal level you also walk the talk which shows the kind of person you truly are.

    • Annette Smith

      George, please do not take anyone’s word in the article that I made any mistakes. Regarding the reference to the violation of the open meeting law, here’s the story: Town of Irasburg wanted to participate in the Blittersdorf-met-tower-without-a-CPG pre-hearing conference. I agreed to meet them at the hearing a few minutes early. We went into a conference room. I had never met or talked to most of the people in the room, I had no idea who was there representing the town. I suppose I might have first inquired if there was a quorum of the select board present, which never occurred to me because heck, I’m not a lawyer. I am aware of the issue but in the context of assisting a town in understanding what happens at a pre-hearing conference, with only a few minutes before the hearing was to start, the primary discussion was to help them understand that pre-hearing conferences are about scheduling. Is that giving legal advice? Sen. Bobbie Starr was in the room with us.

      Afterwards I learned that a quorum of the Irasburg SB was present. I was not involved in those discussions. I read in the paper that they realized their error and acknowledged it. I have no knowledge of the second allegation, I had nothing to do with it, I saw a headline but haven’t had time to read the story.

      I do recognize that people give up rights by attempting to participate in the PSB process without a lawyer. That’s not my fault. I told that to Sen. Chris Bray on Wednesday morning. It is a legal process and if people do it without lawyers, they are at more than a disadvantage because in the current climate at the PSB, in my experience parties not represented by counsel are treated abusively by the developer’s legal counsel, and the PSB does not stop it. Now, because of this effort by the AG, the very people who could tell their stories to the legislative committees who want to understand the problems for the public and towns may not want to testify about their experience at the PSB, if their testimony will be used against me in a state-sponsored criminal investigation.

  • Jacob Gregory

    If they are going to go after Smith on this flimsy basis, why don’t they go after Shumlin and Sanders for practicing engineering without a license when they went after Vermont Yankee?

  • Kevin Jones

    I could not agree more with Peter Galbraith and others here. The people complaining about Annette are not the people she has worked with but instead the monied interests that she has opposed. You won’t find people who have worked alongside Annette who criticize her, they praise her for her skills and perseverance. Those who don’t like Annette are the ones who are concerned because Annette is effective.

    Procedural rules should be followed but what non-lawyers can do in these quasi-judicial proceedings varies by state. When I was Director of Energy Policy for the City of New York as a non-lawyer I would do things such as present oral arguments before the PSC with my lawyers blessing because it was legal to do so in NY and it made no sense in certain intstances for both of us to make that train ride to Albany. If Annette and VCE has in an instance or two unknowingly crossed a procedural line in my opinion at worst she deserves a light slap on the wrist and a short lecture on what was done wrong with a warning not to do it again. Following this I expect there will be a long line of people who will give Annette a hug and thank her for her work in defending Vermonters and the environment. Hopefully we will also find a long list of the wonderful lawyers in Vermont who care deeply about the public interest and the environment to assist VCE with the procedural rules so that VCE’s work can go on. Whether you agree with Annette Smith or not on any particular issue, I believe many Vermonters support the right for Annette and VCE to continue to help both the underrepresented individuals and environmental causes in her uniquely effective way. I do.

    • Annette Smith

      Kevin, I have never crossed any procedural boundaries. One attorney attempted to get me to go on the record and explain my role. Here’s the video, go to 14 minutes in https://youtu.be/jboQWZP1oS8. We were looking at a calendar on my iPad looking at dates. Is that practicing law without a license? The hearing officer did not require me to say anything but he allowed the attorney to ask the question on the record and I complied. Note the attempt to get me to say I am “advising” people, apparently trying to set me up for these absurd allegations.

      I am respectful of the PSB’s rules and procedures and make every effort to help Vermonters comply with them and follow the rules. I don’t do fee for service work, I don’t speak or represent clients at hearings, I have never represented myself as an attorney or in any way claimed to give legal advice. I am there to support the public in their participation in an incredibly arduous and citizen-unfriendly process. It is not for the faint of heart. The people who do it want to try, they tell me they want to be able to say at the end of the day (knowing in advance they will lose) that they did everything possible. The possible is limited by the cost of legal counsel now at $175 to $250 an hour. How many Vermonters can afford that in order to get trees planted to screen solar panels?

      • Kevin Jones

        Obviously I trust that you did not. But if a citizen or organization were to make a mistake in these administrative processes to me the first time it happens does not warrant much more than a warning. Is it a worse offense than speeding particularly if no one is harmed? We have solar companies that are participating in deceptive consumer practices and they are being given awards and recognized at press conferences by elected officials. Is consumer deception politically correct in Vermont but protecting the environment and standing up for the underrepresented is worthy of investigation?

  • Steve Woodward

    I Was always under the impression that when you are being accused of something illegal,you had the right to stand in front of your accuser.Not knowing who brought these accusations is very Stalin like.These charges have no legal leg to stand on,only the ability to detract Annette from HELPING,NOT CHARGING! citizens trying to get a fair shake in a lopsided process.I’m sure the two attorneys didn’t file the complaint,but I’m willing to bet they know who did.Come out of the shadows and make yourself known,I know your reading this.Funny how after all the press about Wednesdays events at the statehouse, this becomes public.

  • rosemarie jackowski

    First they came for the pan-handlers, then they came for Smith…..
    The chipping away at the First Amendment is a big problem in Vermont.

  • Peggy Sapphire

    Annette Smith’s extraordinary advocacy on behalf of “ordinary” Vermonters faced with the quasi-judicial corporate-friendly PSB powers has been profoundly & singularly effective. Nothing else explains the AG’s effort to intimidate & silence her efforts on behalf of industrial wind turbines opponents.
    Smith has proven her prowess representing Vermonters, whose only recourse in defense of their homes, properties & quality of life has been to enter the PSB arena where Goliath Corporations prevail.
    Annette Smith’s knowledge of the law does not make her a lawyer, it defines her unequalled expertise. The AG’s perverse investigation of Annette Smith is evidence of her impact & reveals the power & influence of corporations in Vermont.
    Clearly the PSB perceives her as a threat to their business-as-usual rulings.
    The People perceive Annette Smith as one who Speaks Truth to Power.
    Annette Smith has joined the legions of citizens, past & present, whose insistence on Justice has not/will not & can not be denied.

    Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
    Frederick Douglass 1857

    Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.
    Frederick Douglass 1886

  • Justin Turco

    Annette was a friend to us in Ira when wind developer: Vermont Community Wind Farm (Enel) came after us. 65 turbines on 3 significant separate ridgelines. Acting as a Lawyer?! Not even close! It is absolutely a witch hunt designed to slow the shifting tide that is building against Industrial Scale Renewable Energy Developers.

    Nothing VCE does has led to bad ends for the groups of people she’s helped to get organized. Period.

    The bad end is what’s coming for an administration and it’s dirty friends who harass the only person in Vermont who actually cares about the desires of regular Vermonters. At some point your names will be identified the lines of connection will be drawn and everyone will know how far David Bliddersdorf, Governor Shumlin and say….Tony Klein??? and GMP are willing to go to get what they want.

    I’ve always wondered if speaking out could be dangerous to people like us. Now I know…. it is.

  • Kim Fried

    Do we really think this is Vermont? Here we have Annette doing everything she can to help Vermonters to participate in a lawyer/developer run state and lets shut her up. This is the liberal, progressive state of Vermont? Give me a break. Are the lawyers seeing the future of big income being impacted by citizen participation? Are the developers starting to see the hand writing on the wall? Is this lawyer/developer/legislature house of cards starting to tip over? We the poor small towns and citizens owe Annette so much thanks and gratitude, and if it’s taken away by the State, I can almost guarantee that the despicable house of cards won’t only fall over but will be crushed.

  • Stan Shapiro

    Annette Smith is an advocate who deserves the same respect and accolade as Karen Silkwood or Norma Rae.She has selflessly worked on behalf of poor and defenseless people against overwhelming and powerful interests.
    She personally advised me she was not a lawyer and reccomended legal representation which was sought.

  • Annette Smith

    Thank you for all your support. This is the letter I received Thursday
    http://vce.org/VCE_AG_011916.pdf
    After I received it I called the attorney listed (had to look up his number in the state phone directory because the AG office’s phone system was a round robin where whatever button I pushed it went back to the opening message telling me to push buttons). He would not tell me who filed the complaint. In response to my question he said it was not a complaint. They had received documents. I asked him what would happen if I did not respond. He said the investigation would continue. I said I would file a public records request, which I did by the end of the day. Note that the letter does not say it is a criminal investigation.

    Friday morning I got a phone call from a different attorney responding to my public records request. In that conversation he informed me it was a criminal investigation. Read that letter again. It seems like a set up for someone who might be naive. No mention it’s a criminal investigation. When I called immediately upon receiving the letter, the person I talked to indicated it wasn’t a complaint and downplayed it. What kind of mickey mouse government are we running in this state?

    • Jacob Gregory

      Mickey Mouse and spoiled children who don’t seem to understand the consequences of their actions. They run Vermont Yankee out of town on a rail and then complain that they aren’t gettting the same revenues and grants and payments from the cash cow that they killed, and are still trying to milk it. They allow hundreds of miles of ridgelines to be blighted by these monstrosities of windmills, leaving an ugly, scarred environment, and then don’t seem to understand or accept that people might take exception to that. When you have children running your government, expect selfish and immature actions.

    • rosemarie jackowski

      Annette, it is time for you to run for governor. Governor Smith has a nice ring to it !!!

      On your first day in office, you can restore the First Amendment in Vermont.

      • Theo Talcott

        Yes! Annette for Governor. A few years ago I made this video to support a write-in campaign for Annette for Governor, and I repost it here today to remind folks that Annette would be a great governor. https://youtu.be/JC7fbBt4QaI

        Annette Smith is the bravest environmental champion in modern Vermont history, a diligent champion of the poor and marginalized, and someone we should rally to support as she is harassed by the moneypeople and their lawyers. I seriously want Annette to be Vermont’s next Governor, charged with a mandate for major reform at the PSB. What do you say, Vermont????!!!

    • Amelia Silver

      Assistant AG Chen’s letter certainly does mention that it’s a criminal investigation. It says the potential charge is “criminal contempt.” If you were a lawyer you would understand the plain language of the letter.I don’t know anything about your obviously extensive ‘advocacy’ but I do know I would never rely on a lay person to represent me in complex matters that require legal experience and acumen. And your inability to understand the plain meaning of the letter you mention is an indication that you may not be adequately representing the interests you care so much about. It appears you have lots of supporters here: I suggest you all pool your money and hire an attorney instead of crying victim!

      • Scott Woodward

        Amelia,

        With all due respect, I don’t see in the letter where it explicitly states that the investigation is criminal in nature (I may just be missing it). The letter does reference “contempt,” but unless someone understood that in Vermont, unlike many other states, the unlicensed practice of law has only one remedy – criminal contempt (In re Welch), then it’s not obvious by the letter that the investigation is criminal in nature.

        Moreover, it’s interesting that the most recent ABA surveys show that when asked “How Active is Jurisdiction in enforcing the UPL regulations?” the answer has consistently been “Not Active.” That may not mean much of anything, but it does beg the question as to how frequently these kinds of complaints are brought forward in Vermont.

        http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/professional_responsibility/2015_upl_report_final.authcheckdam.pdf

      • mike pollica

        Amelia, no offense but you are seeing things in AG Chen’s letter that don’t exist. The awful letter clearly does not say the potential charge is “criminal contempt”. Please don’t make up things that suit your agenda.

        • Liane Allen

          If she were familiar with the law, she would have known that the referenced contempt *is* criminal contempt. While a layperson may not know this fact, a person with knowledge of the law *would* know it – even without the word criminal being present in the letter.

      • Glenn Thompson

        To clear up this misunderstanding!

        “I can confirm that a criminal investigation is underway,” Assistant Attorney General John Treadwell said in an interview Friday afternoon. “

        And refer to this link to learn what division of the AG’s office Mr. Chen is assigned. Sounds like a criminal investigation to me!

        http://www.middlebury.edu/studentlife/cci/exploration/sophomore-conference/bio

  • Tyler Resch

    EvHNc
    This outpouring of support for Annette is most gratifying. The attempt to intimidate or silence her are as abhorrent as they are obvious. It is becoming clear that industrial wind has no place in the mountains of Vermont.

  • Steven Pike

    Wow, I guess they will come after you if you are not PC enough and get in their way, Funny, this time it’s the left aligned with big money because there is so much green money to be made.

  • Kevin Jones

    I think the unknown party or parties who initiated this will soon find that this tactic has backfired for them. While Annette must take this seriously for others this is just going to cause us to rally around her and VCE because the real democrats in this state respect her moxy and the rights of those who VCE has so ably supported. This is just going to fire a lot of people up who have been concerned that our supposed public servants in Montpelier have gotten a little to close to the regulated. We need more public participation in these processes not less and reform is clearly needed. Lots of work to do between now and November.

  • Rob Pforzheimert

    Annette,
    I’m not a lawyer, but offer the following, free legal advice, which the AG can prosecute me for if he’d like. Tell the AG to take this politically motivated, unjustified, unconstitutional complaint and stuff it.

  • This is a violation of Smith’s constitutional rights as well as all the Americans and people globally being harmed by the lies and deceptions of this industry, which is ruining our environment in the name of the environment. Anyone who researches this first hand knows the layers of lies that should be allowed to come to the public- it is a huge cover up and anyone bringing the truths to light should be applauded not made afraid to speak for conservation of our natural resources and human health and welfare.

    • Barbara Durkin

      It would be just if wind LLCs were compelled to demonstrate alleged benefits and held to a standard of truth in advertising. That citizens, like Annette Smith, are exposed to criminal fines and incarceration when they assist other citizens defending their private property rights is a gross injustice.

  • Jane Palmer

    From my perspective, it seems that Ms Smith has made a difference in the regulatory process and that is an inconvenience and a financial assault to the attorneys that make their living within the process and their clients. So, the lawyers do what they are so good at, they get the AG to do an investigation. Seems kind of like a kid calling their mom to step in and settle a fight. What are the attorneys so afraid of? Ms Smith’s participation probably creates more billable hours for them. What I fear is happening is that Ms Smith has disclosed some shady dealings and that puts someone else at risk, so the reaction is to strike out at her to draw attention away from the wrongdoings that are going on within the system.
    Personally, Ms Smith has been helpful to us in the regulatory process because she knows where to find stuff and how to deal with a system we are unfamiliar with. Chris Recchia testified at the last hearing regarding the Vermont Gas pipeline,that the landowner intervenors are only at a disadvantage because of their inexperience and lack of knowledge about how the process works. Other than that, he says the opposing parties have the same influence as the DPS in the docket. So, even if this were true, why in hell would anyone want to prevent Ms Smith from helping intervenors find their way through this complicated process? I think the State should pay her for her service to the public. Lord knows the DPS does nothing to protect or support the public.

  • Penny Gray

    Wow, Annette must be pretty darn good to have scared the wind industry suits this badly. She should go to law school, and the wind developers and their suits should be ashamed of themselves for trying to intimidate Vermont citizens. They can’t put a gag order on free speech.

  • Luann Therrien

    I am finding it very difficult to write a comment. When people or agencies go after someone I consider a dear friend and confidant is the quickest way to set me off.

    In our almost four years of having contact with Annette Smith, she has never given us legal advice.
    If Annette is guilty of anything it is that of being a dear friend and confidant.

    She has been a shoulder when I needed to cry and vent over the absurd way we have been treated by the State and the Industrial Wind Industry.

    She has laughed with me over some of the most silly things my children have done.

    She has held my hand when I testified after she edited my testimony so I wouldn’t sound like a fool. Not change what I wrote, just clean it up. I have learned a lot, but be aware, she has not run the vacuum over this post.

    This woman has been burning the candle at both ends because she truly cares about Vermont’s citizens and environment.

    She deserves respect, not speculation or accusation.

  • Phil Lovely

    Annette has been tirelessly challenging big wind for years. The Shumlin Government tolerates advocacy-so long as it’s not successful. This effort to silence one of the strongest voices in opposition to industrial degradation is despicable. We must stand with Annettee and push back.

    • Doug Kramer

      Phil, Short and to-the-point. Thank you!

  • Robbin Clark

    WE would not be in this situation if the PSB had done their job in the first place. Annette has been the ONLY public advocate for so many. Things happen for a reason only good will come from this. My check is in the mail!!!!!!!!

  • Peter Morris

    If there is a ‘crime’ here… Annette is NOT the one who should be in the crosshairs.

    In scanning all the comments, there is not one voice who is speaking against her. If any person or group who had sought her support was complaining they were duped by a charlatan, that might put a different blush on the charges. But, I very much doubt that you would find that to be the case, in any instance.

    She does not drive a Rolls-Royce, and works on a shoe-string budget, in being Vermont’s champion against the bullying tactics of the wind industry. Our best hope in saving our state.

    Since the wind industry will not have Mr. Shumlin to help tweak the rules on erecting more turbines, by this time next year… I suspect these are just desperate measures (by the ones who should be under investigation) to quiet the one voice who can make a difference.

    Stand strong, Annette. We are on your side.

  • Tom Shea

    Funny charge in a state that does not require a law degree to be a practicing attorney.

    Also very curious that there does not seem to be an offended party (i.e., a party that would have been adversely affected by the supposed activity). Still looking for the first comment of someone who was a direct recipient of the supposed ‘legal’ advice.

    While I have not been involved in all that many of Ms. Smith’s activities, in all of my dealings with her, she never (NEVER) represented any of her involvement nor requested any (ANY) payment for such advice, either directly or by inference. However, I have willingly donated to her organization. Not as payment for anything, but more so that she can continue her work for the overwhelmed individuals fighting these big money interests.

    The PSB procedures are a sad caricature of a fair and open process. Ms. Smith is trying to even the playing field and is being harassed for it by those same big money interests.

    Both Act 248 and the U.S. constitution acknowledge the right to representation *without* a lawyer. The people pushing this travesty are annoyed by that right and lashing out in an attempt to squash it. This is intimidation and nothing else.

  • Fred Woogmaster

    Petty Politically Partisan Prosecutor Persecutes

    Annette Smith is only to be commended for her diligent work;
    Mr. Sorrell is only to be condemned for this action.

  • Why are her accusers not identifying themselves? What do they fear? This sure smacks of plutocratic bullying.

  • John Rodgers

    Further proof that the system needs a major overhaul. Annette is the only one helping towns around Vermont. This is more bullying by wealthy developers who want to run over towns unimpeded . Thank you Annette for all that you do.

  • This would be laughable were it not so terrifying. Shame on the AG’s office!

  • John Zuppa

    A Thank You note to the Wind Factory builder…and his cronies in Vermont government…

    This will ring louder than the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” at Lexington in 1775…This shot will be heard “Round the State of Vermont”…

    The brave colonists who believed that the People should Not be Afraid of their Government…(It should be the other way around)…Stood at Lexington and Concord…

    The people of Vermont will rise to this call…

  • John Freitag

    Throughout history from Socrates on down those who have been willing to ask uncomfortable questions have faced unjust persecution. My friend, the late Rev. William Sloane Coffin often said, “our job is comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”. Annette Smith is a shining example of a person dedicated to doing just that.
    While I have not always agreed with Annette on every issue, I deeply respect her integrity and decency. Unfortunately this is not something I can say about Big Wind or our AG’s office. If a defense fund is set up . Let us know so that I can contribute.

    • Melodie McLane

      John, a defense fund has been set up on GoFundMe. I cannot post the link here, but you can go to the GoFund site and look for her and VCE’s name. Thank you for your support.

  • Bill Heller

    Just an idea….might someone local (I’m not) consider crowd funding for a lawyer to defend Annette….or see if the ACLU or similar organization would be willing to jump in? There are a lot of anti-wind industry folks the eorld over on Facebook and Twitter who would hopefully donate to the cause. This is a real travesty of justice.

  • Mark H. Arel

    Isn’t there more important items on the agenda for the “AG’s office to pay attention to other than harrassing law abiding citizens! We pay taxes and abide by laws that are written for the wealthy so why pick on the average citizen just trying to keep their lives and homes in a safe enviroment? Sounds like the taxpayers are being railroaded once again! What a waste of our tax dollars in many more ways than one and its a shame that this is even being brought forth ! Bend over fellow Vermonters ! Here comes the political train! Better yet wood skidder! Does anyone wonder why their is a constant flow of residents and businesses moving out of this over reaching state? This is just one example of how our tax dollars are being wasted! Harassment of our citizens protecting what they care for is just plain disgusting!

  • Melanie Peyser

    Wouldn’t the AG better spend his time investigating why the Public Advocate’s Office of the Department of Public Service is presenting itself as the public’s and ratepayers’ advocate but is instead representing the interests of utilities with taxpayer and ratepayer dollars? Or perhaps, he could respond to citizens when they write to him asking that his office intervene on the public’s behalf when DPS’ public advocate isn’t doing its job or has openly admitted that the Governor is directing its legal positions in a case. He received hundreds of communications making that request in the pipeline case in the summer of 2014. No response! A ratepayer, who had complained to DPS public advocate’s office about being charged for the pipeline, reported in a recent public hearing that she got a letter in response telling her to get herself a lawyer!

    Another member of the public, a former DPS engineer, pointed out that while DPS gets taxpayer funding and utilities bill back their legal and permitting costs to their customers through rates, DPS has completely stopped fulfilling its duty of vetting and analyzing utility and developer claims in applications and testimony before the Public Service Board. Instead, DPS’ public advocates remain silent, or worse, support utilities’ arguments without mention of inconvenient truths. DPS signs agreements with utilities that are enforceable only by DPS and the utility – not by ratepayers, who bear the brunt of regulatory mistakes, or by landowners and others directly affected by those agreements. The PSB can deny intervention of outside parties when utilities are investigated for rule violations leaving ratepayers and others dependent upon the DPS public advocate to represent them. When DPS doesn’t present or request admission of relevant evidence, no one can do anything about it. Ratepayers and the public have no recourse for ineffective representation of the public interest or DPS’ position that the public interest is what the governor says it is because he was elected by the public. How exactly, does the AG think citizens can defend their rights when they are locked out of the process by the agencies charged to make sure they’re protected and when the costs of obtaining their own counsel and experts are prohibitive?

    The easy solution is for the legislature to pass a bill authorizing lay representatives in PSB proceedings and creating an independent public advocate office to represent those, whom Annette doesn’t have time to help – that is right after the appropriate committees present her with an award for her public service on behalf of Vermonters.

  • I have been a licensed attorney for nearly 37 years. I am outraged by this. Access to the judicial system and the administrative apparatus in Vermont has become cost prohibitive for all but the richest Vermonters. By going after a person like Annette Smith –more knowledgeable in her area than the vast majority of VT attorneys–who is trying to assist Vermonters who cannot afford attorneys, the powerful are attempting to ensure that access to justice will only be afforded to those who can pay the price. This concept of “practicing law without a license” is a hoary construct from our past when lawyers–like many other skilled tradesmen–sought to keep prices high by keeping competition out. Today, with the explosion of internet sites, thousands of websites are “practicing law without a license” . So, this suit looks and smells like selective prosecution.

  • Colleen Belanger

    I don’t believe any of it. Annette is being harassed by advocates of wind.

  • Mary Alice Bisbee

    While I am not a lawyer, either, I think that the best way to repudiate these charges is to work tirelessly in our communities to plan wind and solar projects that are not huge commercial ventures, but rather community based projects, planned meticulously by the folks living in the community and paying for it. Perhaps a strong rising of grass roots support for such bottom up ventures would be the only way to stop the moneyed interests
    from having their way.
    We desperately need wind and solar projects all around the state, but not necessarily run by huge conglomerates, only in it for the money. Let’s not hide our heads in the sand as climate change MUST be addressed, somehow.

    • suzan seymour

      Small-scale renewables are the answer…along with less consumption. No one is hiding their heads in sands up here, Mary Alice…..

      Many of us in the “Energy Rebellion” who came together last Wed. at the Statehouse have a plan that includes just that….but it appears some rich & powerful types want to get the focus off of what we are saying and appear to be attempting to throw mud (or bury her) on our advocate in order to stop the momentum.

      Won’t work.

      We don’t “desperately” need wind. Industrial wind doesn’t work for our state…nor many places in the world, actually. Please review: http://www.stopthesethings.com for more info on why Industrial Wind is a terrible terrible idea. Vermonters should ban industrial wind because it is more harmful than good.

      Our energy can be found in other ways, but we need to also focus on consuming less and implementing better efficiency measures for homes. That puts us way ahead in “making a difference”….much more than any turbine.

      But hey! Don’t take my word for it. Stop These Thing’s website is chock full of data that will make your teeth shake like a turbine blade covered up with ice!

  • Rob MacLeod

    This is a perfect example of how the wealthy are using the basic principles of republican government and open society to destroy an open, republican society. Does Annette Smith give legal advice? No! Does she give citizens who find themselves in conflict with powerful special interests because those citizens are trying to defend their constitutional rights advice on how the system works? Yes! Perhaps, in the hands of an unethical lawyer that can be construed as giving legal advice. If that is the case, then anyone who has ever gotten or given help with negotiating the complex rules of various public meetings and processes has been in violation of the ‘law’.

    Trick question: when does a person’s right to free speech end?
    Not trick answer: when someone or something with a hidden agenda that goes counter to the genuine public interest gets upset because that person is knowledgeably exercising their Constitutional rights.

    Some years ago, my wife and I were involved in an Act 250 dispute. Annette and VCE gave us invaluable support. They did NOT give us legal advice, they did NOT tell us what to say. What they did was give us advice about how the process worked, and reassurance that we could present strong arguments ourselves. They were there for us in every way, but it was always clear to us that while they were knowledgable about the process, they were never presenting themselves as lawyers.

  • Andy Crosier

    Sounds very much to me like Wilscheck can’t take the heat of a strong challenge. Time to get out of the kitchen. Little people need some guidance, not harassment!

  • H. Brooke Paige

    Vermont Supreme Court’s Professional Responsibility Program

    The Vermont Constitution provides the Vermont Supreme Court with the exclusive authority to discipline attorneys. In 1999, pursuant to its constitutional authority, the Supreme Court adopted Administrative Order No. 9.

    The Professional Responsibility Board – (“The Board”) is responsible for the supervision of the Program. “The Board’s mission is to protect the public, promote confidence in the integrity of the legal profession, and assist attorneys to achieve and maintain high standards of professional responsibility.”

    The Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct – In 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court promulgated the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct (“the Rules”). The Rules are often referred to as “the ethics rules.” A lawyer who violates the Rules is subject to having a disciplinary sanction imposed against his or her law license.

    The Attorney General’s Office has overstepped its constitutional mandate by initiating an investigation (whether founded or unfounded) into an allegation of “practicing law without a license” and Sorrell and his assistant should, themselves, be subjected to sanctions by the Supreme Court’s Professional Responsibility Program coordinated by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, Beth DeBernardi, Esq., Disciplinary Counsel for their transgression.

    Professional Responsibility Program detailed at: https://www.vermontjudiciary.org/LC/attydiscipline.aspx

  • Scott Woodward

    Those in the renewable energy industry had better hope that this investigation has merit. If not, then it will lay bare how badly many of those in the industry want to silence opposition.

    Peter Galbraith is 110% right about the imbalance of power (which is also pervasive in other areas of VT government). I can relate directly to Annette’s passion to equalize the playing field and she should be applauded for her efforts. The complainants should also come forward and own their complaint.

  • bruce wilkie

    This allegation has Shumlin/Klein/Sorrell/Blittersdorf/PSB stink all over it.
    Time for the complainants to come forward and show 1% of the bravery that Annette has shown in bringing truth to power.
    Annette is Vermont’s version of Erin Brockovitch.

  • Suzanne Fay

    One of the few aspects of Vermont’s renewable energy system that truly IS purely “for the public good” is Annette Smith’s work.

  • Michael Colby

    Occupy the Attorney General’s Office.

  • John McClaughry

    Without taking any position on the merit of the charges against Annette, it is clear to me that the PSB has become a lucrative playground for lawyers, and that citizen voices have little access or impact. As I described Sen. Kitchel’s bill re wind tower siting: “Translation: small rural towns and their citizen groups are welcome to bring their Big Wind objections into the labyrinthine PSB forum, and try to overcome “other factors affecting the general good of the state” urged by the Shumlin administration and the Big Wind legal team. Lots of luck with that. They’ll be whacked like a careless raptor hit by a spinning turbine blade.”

    • John Brabant

      Well put Mr. McClaughry, with the exception that “careful” raptors are being whacked out of the sky by these turbines everyday. There is nothing in their DNA to prepare them to survive in an environment containing these monstrosities. Of course I diverge, but the system is as you note, severely weighted toward the monied developers and their high paid attorneys and against We the People. But that isn’t enough for them. Annette’s spraying of her garden hose on them has caused their green paint job to wash off and they and their governmental cohorts will see that she pays for daring to expose the truth. Speaking truth to power is dangerous business in Vermont these days. Vermont has become an extremely hostile place for people who just want to live and let live. The Vermont we knew that allowed for civil discourse without retribution is on life support. This is all very sad and is a tragic symptom of a larger societal problem here in what was once a truly wonderful place to live and raise a family.

  • Susan Shashok

    In the 9 years I have known Annette, she has never misrepresented her abilities. She helped both my neighborhood and the company who owned a gravel pit navigate the regulatory process of their proposed expansion to the benefit of all. She offered a glimpse into the what ifs down the road, people to contact, another eyeball and viewpoint after writing a long paper and a friendly ear to work through frustrations. Everything came complete with a dose of reality and a laugh.
    She inspired me to run for my town Selectboard and I now help residents navigate the town and state governance process. I wonder if the next step in this craziness will be a cry that all of my colleagues and I need to become lawyers in order to serve the public.

  • Paul Brouha

    My wife and I began fighting the Sheffield Wind Project in the fall of 2002 and hired our first attorney the following spring. We, the Town of Sutton, and Ridge Protectors have participated in Vermont PSB, Environmental Court, Civil Court, and Supreme Court processes and now are pursuing a nuisance suit in Federal Court. We have been represented by attorneys (and by ourselves, pro-se) throughout the process.

    In 2008, when we were emotionally and financially exhausted, Annette Smith contacted us and buoyed us up to continue our fight against UPC/First Wind/Vermont Wind/Sun Edison. She has been an ally, friend-in-need, and informed consultant as we considered options at each turn. As might be imagined, we know what attorneys do, and can say, without equivocation, that Annette has never presumed to be, or to serve us, as an attorney.

    We are distressed by this personal attack by the State of Vermont on a person of great integrity who is trying to ensure due process, equal protection under the law, and just compensation for individuals upon whom these developers, abetted by the Governor and State agencies, are preying.

  • bill mckibben

    This is nuts. Look, I think renewable energy is a good thing and we need lots of it. But I also think advocacy is a good thing that we need lots of, and trying to criminalize it is not okay.

    • suzan seymour

      Glad you feel that way, Bill…since your voice carries alot of punch! Renewables: a great idea, but small-scale projects, properly sited projects and home energy efficiency make more sense for our beautiful state. I hope you begin to advocate for THAT in this Energy Rebellion.

      • Kathy Nelson

        Mr. McKibben, what has happened here is the result of the monster you helped create. Your comment here is surprising. What did you think would happen when you pushed for corporate/industrial developers to pay legislators to create laws that would stomp on citizens and whole communities? Your concern in this matter is too little and too late.

    • Bruce S. Post

      In addition to a thumbs up, I say, “Thank you.”

    • Bill:

      It would be very helpful if you were to tell Gov. Shumlin, the legislature and the industrial wind and solar industry that when building “lots of” renewable energy there needs to be sensible siting and development standards and a meaningful voice for impacted communities.

      The wild west show behavior that now characterizes industrial wind and solar development in Vermont is just as nuts as the attack on Annette Smith.

      Talk to the Gov, legislature and developers for the benefit of the Vermont. I can’t see anyone considering himself an environmentalist while remaining silent on what’s now happening in Vermont.

    • Liisa Kissel

      Dear Bill McKibben:

      I have to believe you and Annette Smith share the same hope: a clean, healthy, sustainable future for Vermont. You may differ in the “how.” Don’t know about you, but I do know that Annette Smith has spent untold (unpaid) hours in living rooms and coffee shops, listening to Vermonters who want renewable energy but have been harmed by ill-sited big projects or are at risk of harm. The people in the living rooms and coffee shops want renewable energy, done right.

      Respectfully,
      Liisa Kissel

  • walt amses

    Kafka would beam with pride.

  • Glenn Thompson

    I’m late to comment on this article. Most of my thoughts have been covered. I’m looking forward to learning who the culprit was who filled the complaint with the Attorney General’s office? I can only hope the news media make “them famous”. I expect these type of tactics to be used in places like Chicago, not Vermont. Looking forward to the ‘house cleaning’ in Montpelier this fall. Can’t come soon enough for me!

  • rosemarie jackowski

    Has the AG finally met his match? Looks like Smith supporters are winning.
    Chalk one up for the people.

    http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Articles8/Frank_Dean-Sorrell-Corruption.htm

  • Sally Collopy

    As part of the Swanton Wind fight and how our lives have been turned upside down these past 7 months, we can’t thank Annette enough! Thank goodness she is looking out for the “public good” because the “Public Service Board” and the “Department of Public Service” certainly is not representing the “public”!

    There’s a part of me that wants to thank the spineless person(s) who brought this charge against Annette. Is it a coincident that it comes following our January 20 State House day, where numerous local representatives from around the State testified at how this bullying has to stop and changes need to be made? I think not.

    It’s pretty clear that the “public” comments made support Annette and will only unite further the “public” in this travesty of justice that has been taking place for far too long.

  • Martine Victor

    I witnessed Annette’s unflagging support of a Wells family in a protracted battle with VELCO. The family was in a position to retain an attorney and ultimately won their case. Still, it was a terrible, grinding ordeal. Imagine the plight of those with no recourse. Annette has provided support and encouragement to families, individuals, and towns with little or no means to protect themselves from the depredations of corporate greed.

    The mean green giants hope to derail Annette’s work by resorting to frivolous, vindictive tactics, precisely because her work continues to be so effective. We know the PSB process is rigged from the git go, green-lighted by the crazy 90% renewable mandate decreed by the Governor. It gave developers a sense of entitlement and created a frenzy of renewable projects, notable for their lack of oversight in siting and impact on residential areas, wildlife, and aesthetic considerations. Vermont is a tourist mecca, after all.

    Personally, I am so grateful to Annette for her crucial work in slowing the Green Rush. She has showcased the need for thoughtful, reflective consideration regarding potentially harmful projects with invariably long term, detrimental consequences. *

    Developers come and go, while we are forced to live with their sacrilege.

    This attack on Annette may well backfire and create a groundswell of opposition to the AG and all those who have participated in this petty, malicious act of intimidation.
    Like others have mentioned, if the need arises to set up a Go Fund Me! website, I will gladly contribute.

    Stay strong, Annette!

    *See wireless transmitting “Smart” meters if you need proof of a money driven, technological folly with serious health, privacy and security issues – at least Vermonters have the legal right to opt out at no charge, keep their analog meter or request a non-transmitting digital one.

  • H. Brooke Paige
    • Kevin Jones

      I don’t think it is anymore fair to pressure an individual assistant AG than it is an environmental advocate. There are a lot of excellent lawyers in the AGs office trying to do the best they can to look out for all Vermonters. Increased civility from all corners is warranted.

    • bruce wilkie

      Dear Mr. Chen:

      I am writing to urge you to cease and desist in your investigation (fishing expedition) of Annette Smith of the VCE.
      As Vermonters we value activism and dissent. We also value freedom of speech.
      It appears that powerful political and industrial interests are behind this witch hunt.

      Please visit the article on VT. DIGGER to see what the sentiments of real Vermonters are on this issue.

      Stifling dissent and citizen involvement in regulatory issues are hallmarks of the worst of government heavy-handedness.

      Please don’t add your name to this travesty of justice.

      Bruce Wilkie

    • Too often the “public servants”/bureaucrats who make mistakes and abuse their power remain anonymous and unaccountable. Naming names, and letting them know they have stirred a hornets nest is perfectly appropriate….and might even be seen as a duty of an informed citizen when a fellow citizen is being abused.

  • mike Pollica

    the legal profession is one of the least respected by the public. not surprising if they resort to weak attempts to gag a citizen from a legitimate role at the PSB. Whats wrong here , is that the PBS makes it too difficult for the common person to testify . Then if the citizen gets some help, as in the form and content of Annette, unethical lawyers file a complaint. What is the purpose other than to suppress the first amendment, unless they are unscrupulous enough to resent free consulting, or are afraid Annette may win. The two letters sent by Dinse Knapp+mcandrew to Irasburg and Morgan specifically identify and seek out Annette, in a fishing expedition apparently to attempt to dig out some violation. Who paid for this fishing expedition, not Dinese, right? No wonder lawyers have a bad name. Swell, big city lawyers going after NE KIngdom towns who have no legal representation, surprised? I see this as an attempt to harass and intimidate Annette and the Towns and this should be the findings of sorell. But don’t hold your breath, because Sorell is not free or independent, because Blitterdorf contributes heavily to his Campaign. No independence here. sorell needs to recuse himself from this altogether. this is looking like dirty politics to me. The ACLU is needed to step in. First amendment issues are obvious.

  • Mark Duchamp

    Lawyers giving lessons of ethics to honest, admirable citizens!
    Shame on you, lawyers!

  • Guy Page

    Do NOT express your opinion in any forum that matters. Do NOT speak truth to power, because power can be very vindictive. If anything embodies the screwed up, hypocritical reality of energy policy in VT, the attack on Annette Smith is it. Her problem is that she is a real advocate.

  • Fred Parks

    Annette Smith is a hero to the hard working, law abiding, tax paying citizens of this State who must attempt to defend themselves against the corrupt Industrial Wind Empire that has taken over Montpelier and our state. Thank God for Annette Smith … she is a GodSend.

  • I had not heard of Annette Smith before this VT Digger piece. I have never seen such an immediate and intense response to a VT Digger article. This story has legs and should be picked up by the national media…..NY Times, Wall Street Journal or 60 Minutes…..renewable energy, first amendment, and abuse of the justice system through legal action/complaints. Thanks VT Digger!

    • Glenn Thompson

      Has any other major news outlet in Vermont even picked up this story yet? I’m not finding one!

  • Thomas McLeod

    When I read the AG’s letter, I had to laugh, because it is such a pathetic attempt to harass and silence Annette that it will surely backfire. I quote Article 20 of the Vermont constitution: “That the people have a right to assemble together to consult for their common good.” The dictionary defines “consult” as to “consider or deliberate; take counsel; confer, or to give professional or expert advice.” Moreover, pro se parties have the right to hire paralegals to file routine papers, just as attorneys do. No one should be the least bit intimated by this, because it’s not going anywhere. But the fact that a letter was sent means that Annette’s got them worried, that she’s being effective. She’s got them thinking: “how can we do an end run around democracy here?” How corrupt and stupid.

  • Noreen Hession

    Have you seen the comments on Facebook by ERIN BROCKOVICH? https://www.facebook.com/ErinBrockovichOfficial/?fref=nf Along with thousands of Annette Smith supporters, Ms. Brockovich is outraged. She says:

    “The head of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, Annette Smith, is under criminal investigation by the Vermont Attorney General’s office for alleged “unauthorized practice of law”. Whoever could have imagined helping people have a voice in regulatory proceedings would lead to this; it is obviously politically motivated. I am outraged. The charge is highly unusual; if there is prosecution, it would be tried at the Vermont Supreme Court. This hasn’t happened since 1962 and only five times in the history of Vermont. The legal community in Vermont is scratching their heads, outraged, and various things in between.”

  • What happened to Bill McKibben’s post saying that the Annette Smith investigation is nuts?

    Last evening there was a post from Bill McKibbon commenting on the inappropriateness of the Smith investigation and now it’s gone.

    I also had a comment in response to Bill McKibben asking that he call on the Governor and legislature to enact sensible siting standards for industrial wind and solar development and provide a meaningful voice to communities impacted by such development. My comment is now hone.

    What has happened?

    • The McKibben comment is still there.

      • Anne:

        Thank you. I didn’t realize that there was a button the bottom of the page to access more comments. Also, the thumbs down on your comment was another one of my mistakes. I hit the thumbs down instead of “reply”.

    • Tom Shea

      In defense of McKibben (words I’d never thought I’d write), he was referring to the investigation being nuts, not Annette.

  • Tom Grout

    Funny strange all these commenters jump on Ms. Smith bandwagon much like they jump on the alleged harmful effects of windmills without actually expierencing the problem.
    How does everyone who comments in her favor actually know what every step, correspondence, phone calls, emails etc Ms.Smith has undertaken?
    If all is above board then I agree this could be perceived as a witch hunt but from what I have read over the years in these blogs there appears to be a sense that Ms.Smith word is believed to be gospel.

    • suzan seymour

      Mr. Grout, one wonders how you’ve come to your “conclusions” RE: “they jump on the alleged harmful effects of windmills without actually expierencing the problem.”….how do YOU know what people have experienced? It seems to me, (and I have read the thread OR met some of these folks), that they have indeed had some real life interaction with bad experiences…which is why they have had some opportunities to connect with Annette.

      I also take offense to your terminology of “alleged harmful effects”….you sound like a tobacco company spokesperson from the 1930’s! Do the research…a great site is: http://www.stopthesethings.com to learn exactly what harm people all over the world are experiencing, not just here in Vermont.

    • Jane Palmer

      Mr Grout,
      Ms Smith has provided us, as intervenors in a 248 docket, with information and also directed us where to find what we were looking for. She never offered us legal advice,( in fact she has a hat that says “I am not a lawyer!”) and we never expected her to. What many of these people that have commented have experienced is the frustration of trying to find their way through a process that is designed to keep them in the dark and at a disadvantage.
      So, no, I don’t know everything that Ms Smith has ever done, but I am disgusted that this case has been brought against her. There is so much wrongdoing going on in the utility regulatory system that needs to be examined, it is ironic that someone who has been help to those that have are at a disadvantage..the public.. would be the one who gets investigated. This smells distinctly of Shumlin.

      • Tom Grout

        Can you please cut and paste any statements by Ms. Smith in any blog where she states she is not a lawyer? Not just recently but when she began to be a mouthpiece for everyone anti windmill and solar?
        BTW, I dont disagree that an individual can present themselves for a cause and this may be a witch hunt however you have to respect anyone else’s thought that maybe she has crossed the line and filed a complaint with the AG? Its the complaintee right to do so as well. Free country cuts both ways whether the majority of these commentors like it or not.

        • Jane Palmer

          In this interview, Ms Smith says exactly that…that she is not an lawyer and she even puts on her hat:
          https://www.cctv.org/watch-tv/programs/vermont-gas-utility-ratepayers-need-advocate

          • Tom Grout

            A video over a year ago is not what the issue is about. Anyone can call the licensing division to find out if any individual is licensed to be a lawyer, electrician and many other specialty fields.
            What appears to be at play is if Ms. Smith at any time misrepresented herself. Apparently someone believes that to file a complaint and it is probably bogus however the topic is very interesting.

        • Glenn Thompson

          Tom Grout,

          I believe you are failing to see the big picture on this issue. One of the definitions of an advocate is “a person who argues for or supports a cause or policy”. That applies to Annette who tirelessly helps and gives advise to those who are getting ‘blindsided’ by events and decisions that impacts their lives in a negative fashion. These people don’t have the monetary resources nor the experience in dealing with the complexity of government policies.

          That leads to this thought. What is the difference between a lawyer and an advocate? The difference is not exactly “night and day”, The danger of this particular complaint is……it can apply and impact any advocate on any issue where a complaint can be filed for whatever reason which would lead to informed people from offering up advise or helping out their neighbors for fear of being served with a complaint notice from the AG’s office.

          I can visualize a bill being put forward that would require advocates to hold law degrees before being allowed to be advocates for any causes or even give knowledgeable advise to individuals. We do know, there are those within Montpelier, special interest groups, and Green Energy developers who wish to ‘stifle’ any opposition to Industrial Wind and Solar. Perhaps that is one of the reasons this complaint was filed? To silence those who dare challenge the energy policy this state is attempting to ram through.

          End result, those who have little power, limited knowledge, and the inability to hire lawyers to fight for their cause or protect their rights will be reduced to becoming irrelevant and silenced. Is this really the type of government you want?

          • Tom Grout

            And…. I dont want a government bogged down with every citizen becoming a legislator and building an addition on to the statehouse to hold 300,000 strong.
            There is a reason we vote every March and November in Vermont. Its to elect your representative be it good or bad.Having an individual tie up matters from their own self agenda needs some revision.
            . A professional attorney has a code of ethics they must abide by and in this case the prime directive seems to needlessly tie up matters in the judicial process to run out the clock and force the developers (in any field) to give up and move elsewhere. .A licensed attorney could face reprimand if the motives of that attorney were to have a hidden agenda. So, yes maybe Ms. Smith and others need to realize their objectives are becoming quite transparent in nature and this is the reason why the bat boy does not bat cleanup.There are rules follow them.

          • Sara Luneau-Swan

            Sometimes the elected officials loose sight of the citizens best interest the same citizens that voted them in. Last I knew we are still a democracy and we ought to become active when our voices are not heard. Voters can be the most powerful lobbyist and they shall not be silenced by private interests. Ms. Smith has always advised groups to seek legal counsel as she is well aware that any group or citizen voice is nothing in PSB world unless your lawyer is speaking which is not her. Transparency is one thing that big wind and solar is lacking as well as the PSB. It is uncovering this lack of transparency that has sparked these allegations.

          • Tom Grout

            The main question not answered is whether or not everyone listening to Ms. Smith is hearing your responses in the same light.
            This complaint could have been sent by the big corporation, an enemy of old, another lawyer or someone disgrunted with advice.

          • Mr Grout, can you point to a time and place where Ms Smith claimed to be a lawyer and presenting legal representation?

          • Tom Grout

            Rama: It is not an uncommon effect of late joiners to any rally not knowing the whole story behind an issue. There could be anyone out there that filed this complaint and quite frankly its does not have to originate from Ms. Smith’s claim of not being a lawyer. To ask me, a late comer, to point to a time and place…. is irrelavent and shows a great deal of ignorance by the public readers.
            Let the AG handle the complaint and act accordingly or drop the complaint and lets not try to handle this manner is the arena of public blogging.

          • To quote Tom Grout “Can you please cut and paste any statements by Ms. Smith in any blog where she states she is not a lawyer?”

          • Kathy Leonard

            It should be evident from these comments that there exists a monumental lack of access to meaningful participation in Vermont’s energy permitting and regulation processes — regardless of any outcomes from this investigation. This investigation, however it turns out, serves as a giant red flag calling attention to this much larger problem. Letting “the AGs office handle the complaint” without recognizing and bringing attention to this larger problem would simply prolong this festering wound. I am heartened that so many are speaking to this and also grateful to Digger for making this space available for discussion.

    • suzan seymour

      Tom, it sounds like you are a troll for the wind people. Since your original post, many people have shown different ways to look at this matter, logically, but you are having none of it. “Funny strange”, I’d say!

      • Tom Grout

        I speak to the complaint against Ms. Smith and not wind power in general. Please reread what I have typed or are you being so blinded you cannot fathom a reasonable alternative opinion?

  • Mercedes Bright

    There is something out of balance here. The complainants should not use the AG’s office to investigate what they believe is improper. I believe this side steps the environmental/conservation issues that are delaying their projects. While I understand they have an obligation to look into the matter, I believe the AG’s office should be recused from getting embroiled in this debate.
    The PSB website is supposed to be user friendly and instructional for those interested in being part of the process. To that end I believe the ANR has done a good job. However, the process can still be difficult to sort out: the rules, the calendar, the hearings, time limits, rules of evidence on what can or cannot be admitted and the postural energy exhibited by parties or attendees during hearings. All of this can be intimidating to the average citizen. Where can they go for help when they don’t have thousands of dollars to spend hiring an attorney? That is why the art of non-lawyer advocacy was created, so there is an effective voice for the underdog to help sort out a haphazard process. I don’t know Ms. Smith, but my guess is that she has ruffled a few feathers. Well, this is what good advocacy does. If the state is so concerned that the opposition is getting some much needed guidance and assistance to help citizens voice their concerns over the exploitation of their land, then perhaps the state should create a Legal Advocate position or team to assist these citizens. Conflict of interest you say? Perhaps not. Check into what the state spends for the cost of criminal defense attorneys, victim’s advocates and Ombudsman services for health care and financial aid benefit recipients when needed for hearings before the Human Services Board. The Public Service Board should act as a processor only. It’s time for an official Legal Advocate, or two or three, to be assigned to these citizens. I would suggest the state collaborate with Ms. Smith to help create the job description.

  • Hilary Cooke

    Another example of…….I love our state, its the government I am afraid of.

  • Ben Riggs

    She may want to seek the support of the ACLU. She is not representing another party in a legal or quasi-judicial proceeding. She is acting as a community organizer and drafting sample letters for people to use, and publicly advocating her beliefs. It’s done all the time, and is protected by the First Amendment.

  • Robert Kischko PE

    An earlier writer wrote ” The people of VT should be appalled at this waste of tax-payer money by a powerful, wealthy Special Interest.” Just another example if you have enough money anything is possible. So the ‘Special Interest’ picks on an individual who really cares about Vermont and our environment. All this stems from political contributions to our elected officials. Shame on all of them.

  • Mercedes Bright

    Funny strange……I don’t know Ms. Smith, but I know about advocacy and I applaud the efforts of all advocates everywhere & anywhere who fight for the elderly, the children, the homeless, the crime victim or people trying to protect their ridgelines, their land or their health, whether they are licensed lawyers or community organizers. I couldn’t possibly know their methods, but I applaud those who help people find their voice in a time when the headwind is just too strong and embedded into a process too complicated to understand. While I hope I never know what it is like to have 21 wind turbines directly in front of my house, I can tell you what it is like to have 21 turbines go up one dark night in October of 2012 that can now be viewed from my back yard at a distance. With no voice in the process they took our bats away and lit up the blackened night sky with red lights. We don’t get any tax break and our electric bill is the same. No big deal, right? Whose to judge? We don’t suffer health problems, but if they were any closer we’d be having a different conversation. I am sad for Ms. Smith as this was not an outcome she had intended, I’m sure. All she did was try to help. And in the spirit of those efforts, I would hope that our state government would have the good sense to resolve this matter before it leaves the gate and in moving forward search for a remedy/process that would serve all citizens concerned about these ongoing conservation & environmental issues statewide.

  • This is reminiscent of NextEra’s defamation lawsuit against the Ontario activist, Esther Wrightman. NextEra’s lawsuit is a thinly veiled effort to silence Wrightman. Dr. Sarah Laurie in Australia is also facing professional harassment for her opposition to wind turbines.

    I’m going to take a different tack from most of the other commentators, here. I’m going to cheer! “Hooray! The wind thugs and their lawyer shills are hauling Annette into court! This is the best news I’ve heard in 6 months! This is a marvelous, brilliant, perfect opportunity for Annette to publicize the sleaze, corruption, scandal, folly, avarice, and overall insanity of Big Wind. The wind thugs just gave her a perfect forum, a perfect pulpit from which to lay out her Ninety-Five Theses (see Martin Luther). Annette: Go for it! Embrace it! Insist that the AG haul you into court! Represent yourself. All the big media, including the NY Times, will be in attendance! This will be like the Scopes Trial! Hooray!”

    Calvin Luther Martin, PhD
    Editor, WindTurbineSyndrome.com

  • Dennis Liddy Westfield, Vermont

    Annette Smith should be applauded for the time and effort she has given to the citizens of Vermont in giving them a voice and the courage to stand up to the Vermont Public Service Board process. This is a broken process and legislation has been introduced in both the Vermont House and Senate to correct it. I surmise that this action by members of the legislature, to do the right thing, is prompting the developers and their lawyers to slam Annette. In all the time that efforts were made to fight the Lowell wind project, never once, did Annette or anyone from Vermonter’s For A Clean Environment, ever say that they were lawyers or bill anyone for their time and effort. Annette knows the way the Public Service Board process works and willingly gave her expertise, free of charge, to those of us asking questions. She is a champion for the voiceless who can’t afford the time and do not have the financial resources to enter into a Public Service Board Process, a process that does not favor the average Vermont citizen.
    Was Peter Shumlin a real estate lawyer when he wrote out a deal on a napkin so that his neighbor,Jerry, would sell his property to Shumlin? I wish that our Vermont Attorney General knew that his use of Vermont taxpayers money to fight the federal government over an issue where federal law always takes precedence was going to be a waste of that money. Judging from the actions of these two lawyers Vermonters should have called Annette Smith, I surely would have.

  • Sandy Wilbur

    Annette Smith is not a lawyer. She has never represented herself to be a lawyer. She is an ethical, fair-minded, intelligent and caring Vermont citizen who wants to be helpful to people by educating them on both the benefits and costs of gigantic renewable development projects deemed in the public good but which have proven to be inherently bad for communities and the increasing number of people who live in close proximity. She has the first amendment right to speak her mind and people can choose to listen or not. I do not agree with everything Annette says, but I believe she has the right to speak out and I support the work she has done for Vermonters for a Clean Environment. We all want renewable projects, but the citizens of Vermont are starting to recognize the need to be able to weigh the benefits against the costs to wildlife, healthy and biodiverse natural resources, headwaters, and the quality of life for people nearby who are paying the price for any deemed “public good.” We have just made a contribution to VCE to honor her work. I hope others will, too.

    We all depend on power but power comes in all forms. And power that tries to silence opposing points of view is not good for Vermont, democracy, or the public good. When that happens, one has to ask why. If it turns out that the powers that be don’t want the average Vermonter to learn all the facts (the benefits AND the costs of renewable energy projects that are so profitable to those involved and the “environmental” groups they support), we as a society need to look deeper and find out the reasons. It is our duty as democratic citizens to do so. The people who directed the Attorney General to start a criminal investigation against Annette Smith for “practicing law without a license” have some serious explaining to do.

    Sandy and Jim Wilbur, Londonderry

    • richard scheiber

      Individuals should continue to have the right to choose whoever they desire as their agent or attorney in fact when they argue their own case before a quasi-judicial or judicial body. This action by the Vermont Attorney General attempts to erode that right and as Peter Galbraith points out above, it creates a chilling effect. I would go a bit further, calling this de-facto injunction a prior restraint.

  • Maggie Standley

    Hello,
    I’m not personally involved in this issue, however, came upon this article in looking for those related to the city of Burlington’s past DRB- Development Review Board members and that process, as well as the professionalism and integrity of P.and Zoning Dept, specifically in terms of how much discretion they possess in interpreting ordinances to make their admin decision. Political favoritism is alive and well, and while not all members of any organization/board don’t live up to it’s tenants, we need more who do.

    Process is broken and the sham of fairness and transparency is the most infuriating. For the AG’s office to do this, without even naming from whom the complaint came, is ludicrous at best and scary at most!

    We all know money is power. However, so is information, knowledge and hard work as is evidenced here.

    You got this Annette! What bs!
    Maggie

  • Annette Smith

    I am overwhelmed by these comments and thank you all for your support. VCE provides facts and information so people can make informed decisions. Upon receipt of the AG’s letter we filed a public records request with the AG’s office and we received a redacted copy of the complaint and surrounding documents. The materials are now posted. https://vermontersforacleanenvironment.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/i-represent-david-blittersdorf/

  • rosemarie jackowski

    Vibrations cause a rare allergic reaction reaction… new science just out.

    See this
    http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2016/02/genetic-cause-rare-allergy-vibration-revealed

  • Judy Wood

    I FULLY SUPPORT ANNETTE SMITH AND HER VCE ENDEAVORS.
    The investigation and charges of unlicensed law practice are obviously politically (but more accurately, $$$$$$) motivated because Smith and VCE provide help to ordinary citizens in opposition to corporate solar and wind.

    Christine Lang nails it:
    “I think it’s a witch hunt to distract her from the work she’s trying to do to help citizens, because she’s the only one out there who’s helping citizens,” Lang said. “Does that make sense I should have to have an attorney to participate in what is supposed to be a public process?

    “This is why this entire process is completely broken,” she said. “It is a developer-run process run by the developers and their lawyers, and they are getting everything they want, and they are going to destroy this state.”

    Furthermore, while she provided invaluable information to a group of us working to oppose a commercial solar array proposed for a beautiful rural neighborhood in Granville, ANNETTE MADE IT PERFECTLY CLEAR THAT SHE IS NOT A LAWYER.

    I will be communicating with the office of the AG in support of Annette and demanding that this bogus investigation be dropped.
    The investigation is not democracy, but corporatocracy in action.

    Judy Wood

  • I am a victim of Industry after a cellular communications tower went up behind our home in 2000. I and my children were made so sick from the pulsed radio frequency microwave radiation emitted by the tower day and night. After a few years we had to abandon our home, declare bankruptcy and our family slowly fell apart after 16 moves moving from house to house trying to avoid the wireless radiation evading every home we lived in thereafter. I am severely affected. I protected the children while attending school where I had to advocate for their rights not to be exposed to radiation while attending classes. This was before wireless was installed so cell phones were the issue of the day. I was a mother warrior and vigilant to protect them until they graduated. No easy task and exhausting for someone who was so sick throughout it all. These people who live near wind turbines experience similar symptoms and develop similar illnesses. just google microwave illness and you will see.

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