Courts & Corrections

McAllister wants Senate to reconsider suspension

Norm McAllister
Sen. Norm McAllister, R-Franklin, in the House chamber. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger
Sen. Norm McAllister, who was suspended from the Senate in January, is asking the five-member Rules Committee to reconsider his ouster.

McAllister has been charged with multiple counts of sexual assault and faces a criminal trial in May. The Senate suspended the Franklin County senator, pending the outcome of the case. McAllister was arrested at the Statehouse in May last year. He pleaded not guilty to three counts of sexual assault and three counts of prohibited acts at his arraignment in Franklin County criminal court. The sexual assault charges are felonies and carry a potential sentence of three years to life in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.

On Friday, McAllister sent a letter to Luke Martland, the head of legislative counsel, requesting that the committee meet to consider lifting his suspension.

Martland, in a memo to senators, said that the Franklin County State’s Attorney’s office “has indicated that they do not wish to begin the criminal trial until after the General Assembly has adjourned.”

“As a result, Sen. McAllister’s suspension will last for the complete session, and he therefore believes that it is equivalent to an expulsion,” Martland wrote. “In addition, with his criminal trial delayed, he is fully able to fulfill all of his duties as a Senator. As a result, Sen. McAllister requests that his suspension be lifted and he would like to be able to present his case to the Rules Committee.”

McAllister has requested a formal response from the Senate Rules Committee by Friday, March 11. The committee does not yet have a scheduled meeting time.

In comments made to Vermont Public Radio Tuesday, McAllister said there are “no rules down there as far as the Senate. They walk all over my constitutional rights, and they walk over Franklin County’s (rights of representation in the Legislature). They broke their constitutional oath.”

Last Friday, VTDigger’s Morgan True reported that one of McAllister’s accusers has sued the senator in civil court for sexual abuse in a sex for rent scheme. The victim says she was forced to perform sex acts as a condition of keeping her job and housing on the farm. The housing is a trailer located on McAllister’s goat farm.

In a separate legal filing on Feb. 12, McAllister is seeking to have his alleged victim evicted from the trailer on his property where she is staying. McAllister told VPR that she has not paid rent while living there. However in the suit the victim filed, she alleges that McAllister kept part of her wages as rent.

The eviction filing is not a public record because the court has not yet successfully served notice to the tenant, according to Court Operations Manager James Pelkey.

The Vermont Rules of Civil Procedure say that a clerk can’t release records in a case until the defendant responds to being served the complaint or until 30 days after the defendant is served.

Franklin County Sheriff’s deputies have been unable to serve the alleged victim with the complaint. McAllister’s attorney in the eviction suit, Richard Gadbois, has filed a motion seeking a so-called “tack order” to have deputies post the complaint at her home, according to court officials. Gadbois did not return a call from VTDigger seeking more information about the suit.

McAllister, who is representing himself in the victim’s civil case, filed a motion on Sept. 25 requesting a stay in the proceedings, arguing that his constitutional right against self-incrimination outweighed the alleged victim’s “interest in expeditiously receiving monetary damages.”

The civil case is on hold until the criminal charges are resolved.

The judge has granted that order.

The victim is being represented in her suit against McAllister by the Burlington law firm Montroll & Backus, P.C. Attorney Rob Backus said he did not want to comment on the case, citing the pending criminal litigation against McAllister.

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Anne Galloway

About Anne

Anne Galloway is the founder and editor of and the executive director of the Vermont Journalism Trust. She has been a journalist for 20 years. Galloway was the editor of the Sunday Rutland Herald and Times Argus from 2006 through 2009. For many years, she was a contributing writer for Seven Days, and her reporting has appeared in The New York Times (Vows column), the New York Daily News, Vermont Life and City Pages (Minneapolis). In March 2017, she was a finalist for the Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism for her investigation into allegations of fraud at Jay Peak Resort. Galloway was also a finalist for the Investigative Reporters & Editors FOI Award in April 2017.

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  • Ed Deegan

    McAllister said there are “no rules down there as far as the Senate. They walk all over my constitutional rights,” What about the rights of your victims?! The process the Senate went through to suspend you was complicated and not rushed. You should have resigned if you had a shred of decency and not put the legislature in the position you did. The lack of remorse you show hopefully will be taken into consideration on sentencing.

    • And to address the issue of constitutional rights directly:

      Vermont state constitution § 19: “The Senate shall have the like powers to decide on the election and qualifications of, and to expel any of, its members, make its own rules, and appoint its own officers, as are incident to, or are possessed by, the House of Representatives. …”

      Vermont state constitution § 14: “… [the House] may expel members, but not for causes known to their constituents antecedent to their election, …”.

      There, Mr McAllister, are your rights regarding membership in the Senate.

  • Peter Liston

    I wonder if he’s planning on running for re-election.

  • This man clearly lacks not just a moral and ethical compass; he also lacks simple common sense.

    He is the one who is walking all over his constituents rights by refusing to step down.

    As his constituents, WE DON’T WANT HIM to represent us; his fellow Republicans don’t want him to represent their party. I would be astonished if he could scrape together ten Franklin County residents not related to him, who CAN READ and still believe he should continue as their senator.

    His puffed-up insistence that he is somehow the victim sounds positively pathological.
    Could this be leading to some kind of an incompetency defense?

  • Gary Murdock

    With any luck the trial can be continued until after the upcoming election, and McAllister’s seat remains open. This will prevent Shumlin from filling a republican seat with a liberal democrat. This is what’s best for the state.

    • Jamie Carter

      It would be highly unlikely that Shumlin would appoint anyone other then another Republican. While he is allowed to appoint whomever he wants traditionally the state GOP would present several candidates and Shumlin would choose one of them. Even as bad as Shumlin is, it is unlikely he would deviate from this.

      Secondly, there is zero reason to wait until AFTER the election, because after this election McAllister won’t be in office anymore. There is a greater chance that it will snow in July then Franklin County residents re-electing McAllister.

      • Peter Liston

        Point of clarification: Senator McAllister’s term as Senator ends concurrently with that of the Governor. That would be the first day of the legislative session, in early January of 2017 — roughly two months after the election.

        Should McAllister decide to not resign until the end of his term, Shumlin will have no chance to appoint a replacement.

        If McAllister resigns today, it would take a few weeks to vet a replacement. Traditionally, the County Republican party would conduct interviews with candidates and recommend 3 to the Governor. The Governor would then pick one from the three.

        So it would be early May before another Senator would be appointed in McAllister’s place. The session typically ends in very early May and is out of session until after the next election.

        So it’d be a lot of work appointing a person to serve for 3 or 4 weeks. There wouldn’t be much point really.

        Additionally, the Democrats have such strong numbers in the Senate that they really don’t need Shumlin to go against tradition and appoint a Democrat to that seat. There’s no advantage to that.

      • Karl Riemer

        Oh, Lordy, I once saw a few flakes of snow in July… make it < the chance of Lake Champlain freezing over in July.
        (Anyone else, you'd naturally assume wouldn't run for reelection, but this guy…)

  • Linda Maloney

    Words fail me. And that’s a first.

  • Kathy Callaghan

    There is nothing to be gained by Mr. McAllister returning to the Senate at this late date. The Rules Committee voted to suspend McAllister pending the outcome of his case, not simply if the case was settled during the session. The fact that the criminal trial has been scheduled for May does not change and should not impact their decision. It also appears that from his remarks that Mr. McAllister holds the Senate in somewhat low regard, so there is a real question of how effective he could be working with his colleagues in any event. Finally, several of McAllister’s Senate colleagues will be called to testify regarding his actions in his criminal trial. As the old adage goes, it is best in this case to “let sleeping dogs lie”.

    • Karl Riemer

      Well said. Imagine you’ve been asked to leave because no one wants you around, no one trusts you anymore and no one wants to get further entangled in your personal problems. So you leave. Imagine what you’ve left is a job, one of your two jobs. You continue drawing your salary as if you were going to work but now you have all the time in the world to sort out your predicament, tend to your other job, and perhaps enjoy life while that’s still possible. Imagine that’s your situation. Can you imagine petitioning to go back, forcing everyone to deal with you?
      This is one peculiar fruitcake. It’s like no one else is real—only he matters.

  • Susanna Rodani

    Should comprehensive psych testing be a requirement for holding public office?

  • Jamie Carter

    It’s interesting that Norm wanted to delay the civil case because he has a right against self incrimination….

    You only have the right against self incrimination if you actually committed a crime.

  • Mark lundie

    This guy still thinks he above the law. He’s in for a rude awakening.