Crime and Justice

Panel publicly reprimands ex-Chittenden County assistant judge for approving his own $2,000 bonus

Chittenden County Courthouse. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Former Chittenden County Assistant Judge Charles Delaney has been disciplined by a panel for approving a $2,000 bonus for himself while he was still on the bench.

In a decision posted to its website this week, the Vermont Judicial Conduct Board issued a public reprimand to Delaney, who contested the allegation of wrongdoing during a hearing last month.

The allegation stems from $2,000 bonus payments the panel says Delaney and fellow Chittenden County Assistant Judge Constance Ramsey approved for themselves in 2018 for overseeing repair work to a county courthouse damaged in a storm.

“By requesting and approving his own bonus, Assistant Judge Delaney put himself on both sides of the transaction, as both steward and recipient of County funds,” the eight-page decision from the Judicial Conduct Board stated.

“And he did so intentionally, not by mistake,” the decision added.”This in and of itself gives rise to an appearance of impropriety.”

Delaney could not immediately be reached Tuesday afternoon for comment. 

The penalty, a public reprimand for Delaney, is the same as the one handed down over a year ago to Ramsey, who did not contest the allegation.

Delaney served two, four-year terms as an assistant judge. He lost a bid for re-election in 2018.

The allegations date back to October 2017, when a windstorm damaged the Chittenden County courthouse grounds. A restoration project that was overseen by Ramsey and Delaney was completed in late 2018, according to Judicial Conduct Board filings.

The project, the filings stated, included replacing trees, working to divert water flow away from the courthouse, replacing a brick walkway with granite pavers and moving shrubs.

Ramsey and Delaney submitted written requests in November 2018 for merit bonuses of $2,000 each, in recognition of the “significant hours” spent on the courthouse project, according to the filings.

In its decision, the board stated that Delaney had argued at the hearing that his actions related to the bonus were done transparently and none of the other county officials involved questioned the transaction. 

“In this regard,” the decision stated, “the Board wishes to be very clear about what it is not finding: We do not find bad faith or culpable intent on Assistant Judge Delaney’s part.”

The decision added that the board believed Delaney worked “diligently and in a good faith” on the project, working beyond standard hours, and that it eventually came in under budget.

But according to the board’s decision, that does not change the outcome that an appearance of impropriety existed and that a public reprimand, the minimum available sanction, was warranted.

“In light of his overall good faith,” the decision stated, “a harsher penalty would be unjustified. Second, it is appropriate, in our judgment, to mete out the same results to Assistant Judges Delaney and Ramsey.”

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