Courts & Corrections

Former Burlington College employee says FBI probe relates to Sanders land deal

Coralee Holm, dean of operations and advancement at Burlington College, emerges from the locked school to speak with alumni and reporters in May 2016. File photo by Morgan True / VTDigger

BURLINGTON — A former Burlington College employee who coordinated the school’s cooperation with an FBI subpoena confirmed Friday that agents were looking into a land deal orchestrated by former college president Jane Sanders.

VTDigger reported Thursday that, as recently as February, the FBI and U.S. Attorney were combing through Burlington College records that the state took possession of in the wake of the school’s closure pursuant to an investigation.

Both law enforcement agencies declined to comment on the substance of their investigation. However, two Burlington College board members speculated that the investigation pertained to the purchase of 33 acres of prime lakefront for property for a new campus during Sanders’ tenure.

The former Burlington College employee, who dealt with the FBI, is the first person with direct knowledge of the federal probe to confirm that suspicion.

Coralee Holm, who started working at Burlington College in 2012, was dean of Operations and Advancement when the school closed last May. A few months earlier — Holm could not recall the specific date — an FBI agent arrived with a subpoena, she said.

“They were asking for documentation about the fundraising that had occurred before the college had moved to its new location,” Holm said.

Holm said she provided the FBI with email communications from Sanders, who orchestrated the 2010 purchase of the college’s North Avenue campus, as well as electronic and paper files relating to pledged donations used to secure a $6.7 million bank loan used to finance the purchase.

“There was not a lot of documentation for me to provide on the topic,” Holm said.

Jane Sanders is the wife of Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Holm said she didn’t have time to go through all the records she turned over to the FBI, but she said a cursory look showed there were not a lot of records pertaining to the fundraising campaign. Using a spreadsheet with donor names provided by the FBI, she said she was unable to find records of their pledges.

In addition to emails and electronic files, the FBI ultimately carted off a “filing cabinet full of donor files,” Holm said.

VTDigger has previously reported that Sanders overstated pledged donations used to secure a loan from People’s United Bank. She told People’s United Bank in 2010 that the college had $2.6 million in pledged donations to support the purchase of the former Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington property.

The college, however, received only $676,000 in actual donations from 2010 through 2014, according to figures provided by Burlington College.

Two people whose pledges are listed as confirmed in the loan agreement told VTDigger that their personal financial records show their pledges were overstated. Neither was aware the pledges were used to secure the loan.

Holm said she was not aware if any other individuals or organizations were subpoenaed as part of the FBI investigation, but she said an agent told her that, once they’d collected documents, they planned to speak with Jane Sanders and another former Burlington College president, Christine Plunkett.

Plunkett served as vice president for administration and finance during Sanders time as college president.

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  • If college were free for everyone, as well as healthcare, Jane wouldn’t have had to deceive People’s Bank.

    • Sue Rosenthal

      Nothing is free! Left just thinks other people’s money is theirs to use as they want! Can’t fix stupid…

    • John Gales

      Ken, that would be great. However, ask yourself this. If it were free, wouldn’t the quality of the education spiral downward? Standards lowered continually to make up for the level of output, moving students along because it’s free but they can’t continue at the same level year after year? You know, like the public educational system in our country is today. I guess I”m just a niave capitalist but I truly believe when a cost to the consumer is involved, the demand for a better product and outcome exists.

    • JohnGreenberg

      What does the cost of tuition — whether zero or greater — have to do with the need to borrow (or otherwise find) money to build or buy a campus? If anything, free tuition would spur greater need for buildings, campuses, etc.

      And if we assume that Jane Sanders did indeed deceive the bank (as your statement appears to), what makes you say that she “had” to do so? Are you suggesting that someone put a gun to her head and made her commit fraud?

  • otis cambell

    Socialism ! Gotta love it !

  • James Daniel Rogers

    She doesn’t care if she committed fraud when it’s against the “fat cat bankers.” Her opinion is that they don’t deserve their money anyway.

    • Lea Terhune

      That was Burlington’s attitude about the BT loan from CitiBank, and hmmmm, let’s see, Mr. Leopold was CAO when that deal went bad, and he had the same fiduciary responsibilities when BC purchased the Diocese land.

  • James Q Morrison

    Jane Golden Parachuted right out of that mess. She must have gone to Hillary commando school

  • Shaun McDonald

    Well, they ARE avowed Socialists and this IS other peoples’ money so, just sayin…..

  • Richard A LaRouche

    Yet Sanders got off Scott free

  • Jim Candon

    Remember Burlington Telecom? That too was a progressive venture that stiffed the banks as well.

  • Edward S Gilbert Jr

    Being one of the only Socialist Democrat/Progressive Super Majorities destroying the affordability of Vermont for all Vermonters. After 8 years of jumping on board the Socialist Democrat/Progressive Doctrine due to Vermont’s 3 Federal Representatives 2 actual card carrying Democrat’s, 1 a Socialist Democrat that is NOT SO independent voting Democrat over 90% of the time. All 3 EB-5 Champions taking pictures with 2 developers using the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program raising $350 Million, misappropriating $200 Million, $50 Million in the personal accounts of one of the developers while accepting Political Contributions. Vermont voting for Hillary R. Clinton, the shady Real Estate Development Projects settling for $150 Million Settlement. Vermont Tax Payers deserve far more than the empty promises of 10,000 Jobs in the Northeast Kingdom to settle for another Ponzi Scheme. At least at Fidelity Investments we made money for our client’s, Vermont seems to be a never ending bad investment that never ends up in the black. A $4.6 Billion Dollar Deficit, over $400+ Million LOST on the failed Vermont Health Connect, one of the most complicated State Tax Codes. Bernie Sanders only paying 13.5% Tax Rate? Everyone should have Bernie’s Accountant. He has a 6 figure income, he is a multi-millionaire, the best Health Care Access, can pay cash $575,000+ for a Lake front property on Lake Champlain. Not bad for a guy beating up the Top 1% while being among the top 1%. All 3 Federal Reps doing far better than a vast majority of Vermonters.