A top Vermont Democratic Party staffer resigned last month over allegations that he embezzled party funds.
In a statement issued to Seven Days, the VDP confirmed that officials uncovered seven "instances of improper use of party funds for personal gain" totaling $2,938 between January and June of 2019. According to the statement, the party "took appropriate actions to remove the source of the misuse and entered into an agreement for repayment of these funds."
The party declined to name the alleged perpetrator, but according to a person with firsthand knowledge of the situation, it was director of party operations Brandon Batham. The source said that he was asked to resign on July 17 and agreed to do so.
Batham, who served a two-year term on the Barre City Council, did not respond to several requests for comment Thursday and Friday.
According to a since-deleted biographical note on the VDP’s website, Batham moved to Vermont to attend Marlboro College and worked on the party’s 2014 and 2016 coordinated campaigns. He has been on its year-round staff since May 2017 and previously served as its political director. He has also chaired the Windham County Democratic Party.
Batham’s Twitter and Facebook accounts were deleted or made private after Seven Days first contacted him Thursday.
Former governors Peter Shumlin and Madeleine Kunin with Brandon Batham at a June 2015 event for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Burlington
In its statement, the party said that chair Terje Anderson had discovered “irregular transactions” during a routine examination of expenditures. A subsequent internal investigation turned up additional irregularities, but none in 2017 or 2018.
The party said that it had immediately put "stronger internal safeguards" into place and was working with its attorneys to alert the Federal Election Commission, which is required by law.
According to the source, the party did not immediately alert law enforcement authorities and had not yet determined whether it would do so.
Attorney General T.J. Donovan said Friday that the amount of alleged embezzlement likely would not trigger action by his office but could be prosecuted by a state’s attorney in the county in which it took place.
As Seven Days reported this week, the VDP has been plagued by low fundraising and high turnover of late. Within the past two and a half years, the party has been led by three chairs and three executive directors.
“This is a sad and regrettable situation, similar to what so many other Vermont organizations have experienced in recent years,” Anderson said in a written statement. “In the end, we are relieved that our internal systems were able to detect it, that the relatively modest amount is being repaid, and that we now have even stronger internal controls and procedures in place.”
Donovan, a Democrat, said he’d learned of the allegations two weeks ago. “My reaction was, ‘You should probably call law enforcement.’”
He said he’d worked with Batham over the years and liked him. “I’m certainly disappointed in the allegations, but I always found him to be professional. I always found him to be willing to help,” Donovan said. “The Democratic Party, as you know, has had a lot of struggles and this is yet another one. We really need to get our house in order.”