Vermont’s new Ethics Commission offered a stern rebuke of Gov. Phil Scott Tuesday — calling out the governor’s ongoing financial relationship with his former business. The governor receives large annual payments from the business while the business itself has received at least one major state contract valued at $250,000 since Scott took office.
The Commission stated that the governor “has a conflict of interest because he is financially intertwined as a creditor, who has an ongoing financial interest in a company that contract [sic] with the State, which the public official as governor is the chief executive officer.”
VPIRG has long been engaged in campaign finance and government reform work in Vermont and actually helped to pass the legislation that created the Ethics Commission in 2017. This was the Commission’s first every advisory opinion and came in response to a VPIRG request.
The Ethics Commission has no enforcement powers of its own. And the opinion issued in this matter was advisory only. But the message was unambiguous:
“The appearance of the potential or actual conflict of interest is apparent by virtue of the filing of this ethics advisory request. Furthermore, given the governor’s authority over the Commissioner of Buildings and General Services, and the Secretary of Administration, this appearance is well founded.”
VPIRG Executive Director Paul Burns noted the strong opinion issued by the Commission. “The Ethics Commission has delivered a very clear and convincing opinion in this matter,” said Burns. “The governor’s ongoing financial entanglements with his former business are a violation of Vermont’s Code of Ethics. The question now is, what will Gov. Scott do about it?”