Vermont Dems Uncover More Alleged Embezzlement, File Police Report | Off Message

Vermont Dems Uncover More Alleged Embezzlement, File Police Report


  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Brandon Batham
In a statement to the press earlier this month, Vermont Democratic Party chair Terje Anderson accused a former employee of embezzling "the relatively modest amount" of $2,938.

On Sunday, the party disclosed that the sum wasn't so modest after all.

In a new statement, the Democrats alleged that former director of party operations Brandon Batham embezzled roughly $18,500 this year. The party also disclosed for the first time that it had filed a criminal complaint against Batham with the Montpelier Police Department.

Batham, who resigned under pressure on July 17, has not publicly addressed the allegations. The former Barre city councilor did not respond to requests for comment on Sunday.

In an email to party supporters, Anderson and other top officials called it a "difficult and painful time" for Vermont Democrats. "We will be doing everything possible to move beyond this very discouraging set of circumstances and to regain or retain your trust," Anderson, party vice chair Tess Taylor and treasurer Billi Gosh wrote in the email Sunday. "We will do so in a spirit of humility and honesty."

The party also posted on its website a lengthy description of the alleged events. According to that document, Anderson first noticed a suspicious mileage reimbursement request from Batham on June 30. After reviewing earlier records, the party chair concluded that Batham had stolen close to $3,000 on seven separate occasions using the party's debit card and filing false reimbursement reports. Party leadership confronted Batham and demanded that he resign, repay the party and disclose any additional theft.

Roughly two weeks later, according to the party document, Anderson gained access to payroll accounts and found that Batham had begun issuing "unauthorized additional paychecks and 'bonuses'" in February 2019 and gave himself an unauthorized raise in March. In total, the party alleged, he committed another $15,629 in payroll fraud.

Anderson did not respond to requests for an interview on Sunday evening.

In the document posted to its website, the party appeared to lay blame for the alleged events on Batham and his former boss, then-executive director Josh Massey, while casting Anderson's actions in a heroic light.

As director of party operations, Batham was in charge of payroll and accounting, though he did not have signing powers on party accounts. Massey, meanwhile, was "responsible for oversight and management of day-to-day spending and financial operations, including reviewing documentation for expenditures and signing checks," according to the party document. "Unfortunately, this did not happen effectively during the first four months of 2019, so the safeguards were not used to prevent these events," it reads.

According to the document, Anderson "repeatedly" asked Massey and Batham for more detailed financial information but failed to obtain it.

Massey resigned his position in April 2019 — after the alleged embezzlement began but months before it was uncovered. Anderson, the volunteer party chair, replaced Massey as acting executive director. Reached Sunday evening, Massey declined to comment.
When Seven Days first reported news of the allegations on August 2, a person with firsthand knowledge of the situation said the party had not yet contacted law enforcement about the matter and had not decided whether it would do so. In Sunday's statement, the party said it filed a police report on August 8 and had planned to announce the news but did not at the request of authorities.

Montpelier Police Chief Anthony Facos could not immediately be reached for comment Sunday evening.

According to the document posted to its website, the party has revamped its internal controls to avoid future fraud and has contracted with an independent accounting and reporting firm. The party also plans to hire an outside auditor to review its finances for the past three years.