by Peter Freyne
Now I remember where this - the "Tarrant Weekend" idea - started. It started on Thursday morning when I picked up, er, clicked on, the editorial page of The Burlington Free Press.
Something’s going on over there, folks.
Six years ago, in 2000, all-powerful Conservative Freeps Publisher Jim Carey prevented the largest daily newspaper in Vermont from publishing an editorial supporting same-sex marriage. You'll recall the landmark Vermont Supreme Court decision of December 20, 1999 that extended constitutional marriage rights to all couples in Vermont?
Carey would not let his newspaper paper say a word - a single word - in its editorial-position column on the Opinion Page about the most historic and heated political debate under Vermont’s golden dome in decades!
Oh, sure, the local daily published plenty of letters-to-the-editor, but NEVER an editorial of its own. Censored!
It was dead silence in Burlap, while down the road a ways, the Rutland Herald's editorial page and editorial writer David Moats were winning a Pulitzer Prize for writing about what The Burlington Free Press editorial page was deliberately NOT writing about!
What a world!
THE POINT (at last!) is - In the past week, The Burlington Free Press editorial page reads like the paper’s editorial board is undergoing reprogramming. There was the Friday editorial smack at Republican congressional hopeful Martha Rainville mentioned below in “Martha’s Good Friday?”
And a few days back on Saturday August 19, the editorial page that has been marching in lockstep with Republican Gov. Jim Douglas in opposing commercial, megawatt-sized, wind-power development in Vermont, suddenly softened its strident, perplexing, anti-wind power stand with this declaration to its readers:
"This needs to be said. The Free Press Editorial Board continues to strongly oppose wind turbines that damage and mar the state's ridgelines, and fervently hopes that state regulators agree and put Vermont's undeveloped landscape first in this matter. But this Editorial Board welcomes a thoughtful discussion about other options for turbine location -- the Searsburg towers prove that Vermont-scale opportunities exist -- and other methods of generating clean, renewable energy."
Even the blind are starting to see?
With Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie coming out of the closet last week as a "pro-wind guy" and the Free Press rethinking its extreme no-commercial-wind position, what would you do if you were Jim Douglas? Seriously?
Stick to your anti-wind power position that most Vermonters, including your running-mate The Doobster, think is out-of-touch with reality? Or repackage and soften your stand before Democrat Scuddder Parker starts reminding everyone on a daily basis?
OK, finally, here’s where we’re going....it is a Tarrant Weekend after all!
On Thursday morning, the Freeps editorial positively left teeth marks in parts of Republican Senate hopeful Rich Tarrant’s torso, the exact loccation of which we’ll leave to your imagination...
"Tarrant also said his background as former CEO of a successful health care software company would help him convince potential employers that Vermont is open for business. That makes sense.
"His answers were less inspiring, however, when asked about his responsibility as a member of the Fletcher Allen board of trustees to detect or prevent criminal fraud by hospital officials overseeing an expansion at the facility.
"In that case, former hospital CEO William Boettcher pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges for his role between 2000 and 2002 in covering up the true costs of the project, which eventually climbed to an astounding $367 million. In the aftermath of the fiasco, Tarrant was among board members who were asked to resign by Gov. Jim Douglas.
"Tarrant actually told the Editorial Board that he doesn't remember many of the details of what went on at that time. He said federal investigators found that "it's very hard for the board to catch fraud," and that essentially the hospital board was the "victim" in the case. That might have been the finding, but voters might see it differently."
"Doesn't remember any of the details?"
Yikes! This is a guy who considers himself perfectly qualified to represent Vermont on Capitol Hill! Tarrant's "memory problems," unfortunately, are becoming his trademark!
Now, here's something from our pre-blog days. A transcribed tape from a June 20 Tarrant press conference where the ol’ Fletcher Allen scandal came up:
Q. The Sanders Campaign put out something this morning under the headline “A Failure of Accountability” laying out your record and role at FAHC which they call “the worst scandal in Vermont history.” That happened on your watch. You resigned on Feb. 13 and then wrote that op-ed in the Free Press a month later...any comment?
A. "Certainly I wasn’t involved. The U.S. Attorney found that the board was the victim in that case. And fraud is very hard to manage especially when you have a financial genius like Boettcher who perpetrated the fraud."
Q. Anything in that op-ed in which you criticize Sanders and others and claim no wrongdoing....
A. "Yeah. The one mistake I made in the op-ed is saying no one could rightly accuse. That was a mistake. And I realize after the U.S. Attorney spent two years investigating the details. At that point in time, that’s what I thought."
Q. What do you mean?
A. “There was something in that editorial. It goes way back, I can’t remember. I said, I said ‘No one can rightly accuse something’ and I was wrong in that aspect of the editorial which I found out after two years of investigation the US Attorney laid some things out for me that I had not been aware of."
Q. Were you on the Audit Committee for this period?
A. "I was on the Audit Committee at one point in time. I knew when this thing all blew up, I requested to get on the executive committee because I wanted to dig into it and within six months after I went on the Executive Committee Mr. Boettcher was gone."
Q. While you were on the Executive Committee, did you unravel any of the web, this financial genius?
A. "No, no, not really. It was convoluted. There was an investigation going on and there were lawyers and so forth going on, but we didn’t, ah, it took a couple years for do a serious investigation, to piece it all together by the US Attorney."
Today Rich Tarrant, whose resignation in disgrace from the FAHC board for his staggering lack of attention and oversight, was called for by Rep. Bernie Sanders, is now running child-molester attack ads on TV against Bernie in order to join Sen. Patrick Leahy as Vermont's new voice in the United States Senate.
Actually, denying reality appears to be Richie's normal style when it comes to this kind of stuff. Back in 2003, within a month of his FAHC resignation, ex-trustee Tarrant wrote a extremely arrogant and defensive op-ed in the Freeps denying any and all wrongdoing by hospital officials:
"The accusations related to Fletcher Allen's building project have been flying for some time, and I have yet to read anything in these pages that resembles the truth, supported by real facts."
Wonder if Mr. Tarrant, the ex-trustee on the board's "Executive Committtee," bothers to write former Chief Executive Officer BIll Boettcher these days?
What federal prison did you say Mr. Boettcher's in, Richie?
What was that?
Oh, you don't remember?