Jerry Dodge broke his
silence over selling his land to his neighbor, Governor Peter Shumlin, last
month, telling WCAX News he didn't understand the deal. Shumlin scrawled the
terms on a folder, buying the 16 acres and home in East Montpelier for $58,000.
Dodge was facing a tax sale and did not have a lawyer, even though the governor
encouraged him to get one.
"I was definitely
outgunned," Dodge told WCAX in May. "You know, he's got millions or
whatever he's got and I had nothing."
After Dodge went public,
the governor agreed to renegotiate. The governor hired M. Jerome Diamond, a
well-known lawyer and former Democratic Vermont attorney general. Diamond told
us the governor is willing to reverse the controversial land deal if he's
reimbursed for money already spent on home repairs, back taxes and delinquent
Dodge wanted a lawyer to
help with the new land deal. He earns about $8,000 a year and tried to get help
from Legal Aid, but the advocate for low-income Vermonters declined-- news that
prompted a lawyer with strong Republican ties to take Dodge's case. Brady
Toensing is a high-powered attorney from Charlotte. He defended former
Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Dubie against alleged campaign finance
Toensing is traveling out
of state and issued this statement: "Mr. Dodge has been dealing with a
sophisticated and shrewd businessman. A businessman who is also the most
powerful person in Vermont, being represented by one of the best lawyers money
can buy. Mr. Dodge clearly needed some help."
Shumlin's lawyer says so
far he has not been contacted by any attorney representing Dodge. He issued
this statement: "I was glad to learn from press reports today that Jeremy
Dodge has retained attorneys. As I made clear last week, the governor is happy
to meet Mr. Dodge's request that the property be sold back to Mr. Dodge for
what the governor has paid out of pocket."
Political Scientist Eric
Davis says these two high-profile lawyers could turn this political.
"The fact that you
now have attorneys with political backgrounds representing both of the parties
in the case presents the potential that this will become not just a private
matter between Peter Shumlin and Jerry Dodge, but a more political matter
between Republicans and Democrats as the story develops over the next few
weeks," Davis said.
We have not been able to
reach the Dodge family. And we have not been able to determine if Dodge is
paying for the lawyer. Sometimes attorneys do give free legal advice to
Governor Shumlin is out of
state as head of the Democratic Governors Association. In the past, he has
referred all questions to his lawyer. No meeting between the two legal teams
has yet been set.
Both lawyers are
well-known, politically connected and have represented high-power clients and
cases. Diamond served three terms as Vermont's attorney general. He then won
the Democratic nomination for governor, but lost the general election to
Republican Dick Snelling. Diamond's clients include General Motors and Dish TV.
The governor secured a
lawyer right away, but Dodge has been looking for weeks to find someone who was
willing to represent him and possibly upset an incumbent governor. Toensing has
represented clients in a number of congressional investigations, including
Clinton White House Pardon issues, Ruby Ridge and Waco. In-state, Toensing made
an in-kind donation to Republican Brian Dubie for legal research. Dubie ended
up losing his bid for governor to Peter Shumlin.