Vt. Legislature to launch impeachment investigations of Franklin County officials

Published: May. 4, 2023 at 1:03 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont lawmakers are launching the first impeachment process in the state in nearly 50 years. Democratic leaders Thursday said a special committee will investigate not only Franklin County State’s Attorney John Lavoie over workplace harassment allegations, but also the county’s sheriff, John Grismore, who faces ongoing assault charges from before his election last fall.

In front of a standing-room-only crowd at the Statehouse. House Speaker Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington, said they would be taking the first steps which could lead to the impeachment of both Lavoie and Grismore. “We take this seriously. We want to ensure justice is served and we want to make sure that the process is fair, thorough, and transparent, she said.

Krowinski says lawmakers will vote on a resolution to form a seven-person bipartisan committee that will collect evidence and interviews about the allegations of misconduct against the top elected law enforcement officials in Franklin County. “I want to make sure that members understand what it means to serve on this committee because it will be a long and rigorous process,” Krowinski said.

The Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs, which brought the original allegations against Lavoie earlier this week, on Thursday released a redacted version of their report on Lavoie shortly before the Speakers announcement.

The 10-page memorandum details dozens of alleged incidents including somewhere Lavoie used misogynist, sexist, and ableist language against employees. Lavoie does not deny most of the comments but has said he was joking.

In one instance, Lavoie allegedly picked up a photograph from a female employee’s desk, wiped it on his backside, and said the employee’s male partner looked like a woman. Two employees told investigators that they sought therapy because of the alleged conduct.

Grismore is facing criminal assault charges after being caught on surveillance video last summer using his foot to shove a man in custody while he was off duty. Grismore was elected sheriff after the incident.

Both men took office in January and both have resisted calls to step down. Krowinski acknowledges she did not read the investigative report into Lavoie’s conduct before launching the probe. “I am not making a judgment, I am just making a process for the investigation to happen,” she said.

At the same time, lawmakers are moving forward with a bill and a constitutional amendment providing more oversight of all elected county officials. “Maybe we find that articles of impeachment aren’t warranted, but this is serious enough that we need to take this step and do a thorough and thoughtful investigation,” said Rep. Mike McCarthy, D-St Albans.

The top Senate Republican from Franklin County, Randy Brock, says he is still waiting to see the results of the investigation before drawing any conclusions.

There are just days left in the regular legislative session, so lawmakers will likely be called back over the summer to hear the results of the impeachment committee’s investigation. If the full House votes to impeach either man, the Senate would then conduct trials to determine whether they would be removed from office.

The last Vermont impeachment proceedings took place back in 1976 when the Washington County Sheriff was impeached by the House but was acquitted in the Senate. The last official impeachment to end in a conviction dates back to 1786.

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