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Sen. Ed Flanagan Faces Scrutiny

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Sen. Ed Flanagan Sen. Ed Flanagan

Montpelier, Vermont - July 31, 2009

Vermont State Senator and candidate for lieutenant governor Ed Flanagan is facing scrutiny. It stems from an allegation of inappropriate behavior at the Burlington YMCA. There are also broader concerns about Flanagan's mental fitness ever since he suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident four years ago.

Ed Flanagan has never shied away from controversy or challenges. He served four terms as state auditor and is in his third term as a state senator.

"I still love it," he said.

But in November of 2005 Flanagan was forced to overcome an obstacle that almost took his life. The Democrat wrecked his car on Interstate 89 and suffered a traumatic brain injury. After several weeks in a coma he managed to recover, ultimately returning to the Senate-- in his words-- "better than ever."

"This is me and if there's any change I'm told it's for the better," Flanagan said. "But in terms of mental sharpness if anything I'm better because I'm more deliberate and I think about things more than I used to."

But some would disagree. Statehouse observers say Flanagan hasn't been himself recently. He's been known to walk through the Statehouse barefoot and according to an article published by Seven Days he has even taken naps on a balcony overlooking the Senate chamber while business was being conducted on the floor below.

"Often I was reading," he explained. "I was reading newspapers. I have an obsession with reading newspapers and current events, so the point I fell asleep is absolutely inaccurate."

Senator Flanagan's unorthodox behavior hasn't gone unnoticed by his colleagues in the Senate, but most have been reluctant to talk about it publicly. However Flanagan's unusual behavior did make news this week after the Burlington YMCA suspended his gym membership. Two members-- one a former head of the Progressive Party-- claimed they saw Flanagan alone in the wellness center performing a sexual act.

Reporter Keagan Harsha: What do you have to say about the complaint that was filed?

Flanagan: It's just not accurate and I will not be going to the Y for several months-- if I ever return.

The allegation made against Flanagan by members of the Y was never reported to police, so they are not investigating the matter.

But those allegations have some questioning Flanagan's mental fitness as he campaigns for lieutenant governor.

Roger Knakal is a doctor at Fletcher Allen Health Care. He's unfamiliar with Flanagan's medical history but says people with traumatic brain injuries can often hide their deficiencies.

"Colleagues notice they come back to work and say boy you look great, but it is one of those areas-- sometimes we call the patients the walking wounded-- in that they do still have deficits," Knakal explained. "They get around well and look like they're doing well, but in reality there may be ongoing problems."

The symptoms associated with traumatic brain injuries vary.

Maureen Mayo was hit by a car in 1985. She now lobbies the legislature on behalf of people with disabilities.

"It's difficult for everybody because you think of your brain controlling everything in your body. Depending on where you get hit depends on what part of your body gets affected," Mayo said.

"Sometimes individuals can get back to their work environment and actually do that very well because that is a known entity for them; something they've been doing a long time and they may be able to perform in that work environment without much difficulty," Knakal said.

Despite the allegations, Flanagan says he's still running for lieutenant governor, anxious to put the past behind him as he looks forward to the future.

Keagan Harsha - WCAX News

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