Should state officials have to wait to take a job once they get out of government? A controversial new bill aims to stop the revolving door of state leaders and the private sector they regulate.
The measure has been dubbed by some the "Karen Marshall bill," for the Shumlin administration appointee who recently left her job to work for VTel, a Springfield telephone company that received major state and federal funding under her tenure.
The bill would require executive branch employees to wait at least a year before accepting employment in a private sector job in an area that they regulate. Rep. Kurt Wright, a co-sponsor, admits that while the bill's unofficial moniker is unfair, its aims are valid.
"It's a common sense move to make sure that there's no bad appearance to the public about somebody coming into government and then leaving a position where they are able to take a job where they may have just had some influence, regulatory authority-- perhaps it's to hand out millions of dollars to that company," said Wright, R-Burlington.
Under the bill, which has 80 bipartisan co-sponsors, a former executive branch employee could face a fine of up to $10,000 for any economic advantage gained by the change in jobs. The AG's office would provide oversight.
Karen Marshall has denied she used her position to influence the outcome of state grants, and there is no evidence to the contrary. Calls to Marshall for comment Wednesday were not returned.
Despite the public attention, the Shumlin administration has stood by her work.
"Ms. Marshall didn't do anything that wasn't allowable under the current process and she did a great job for the state of Vermont," Vt. Administration Secretary Jeb Spaulding said.
Spaulding says while a conversation about ethics is worth having, he cautions that too much regulation could be counterproductive.
"Having member from the private sector come into the public sector for a limited amount of time is a benefit to everybody, and while we look at ways to make sure we have high ethical standards and we don't have conflicts of interest, we want to make sure were not discouraging people from participating," Spaulding said.
Wright says whether it has been a Democratic or Republican administration, there have been several cases over the years that raise questions of impropriety. And that the measure introduced Tuesday has good government and transparency at its heart.
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