Democrats Slam Scott Over Interim Attorney General Appointment | Environment | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Democrats Slam Scott Over Interim Attorney General Appointment


Published June 23, 2022 at 6:03 p.m.

  • Kevin McCallum ©️ Seven Days
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Updated 11:02 p.m.

Democrats accused Republican Gov. Phil Scott of partisanship Thursday for his decision to appoint Susanne Young attorney general  following T.J. Donovan’s decision to step down to take a private sector job.

Anne Lezak, chair of the Vermont Democratic Party, condemned the appointment and noted that it defies the convention of filling vacancies in elected offices with people of the same party. Donovan is a Democrat.

“Whether this appointment is an attempt to undermine Democratic efforts to fight for affordable prescriptions and against climate change or due to another political agenda, Governor Scott has flaunted decades of bipartisan tradition to install a former Republican aide over the Attorney General’s capable, statutory deputy,” Lezak said in a written statement.

The national Democratic Attorneys General Association had accused Scott on Wednesday of playing politics with the appointment.

"Shame on him for appointing a Republican to take former AG Donovan’s seat," its statement read. "Vermonters overwhelmingly elected a Democrat to the office of Attorney General in 2020, and they deserve to have a Democrat in office for the remainder of AG Donovan’s term.”

Scott has praised Young, who retired as his secretary of administration in October, as "the embodiment of public service." Young had a 40-year career that included 23 in the AG's office.

"It is especially meaningful that she will be the first woman to serve as Vermont’s top law enforcement officer,” Scott noted.

Young will fill the remaining six months of Donovan’s term after his surprise decision to step down as of Monday to take a job at the online gaming platform Roblox. She starts July 5.

Currently, Donovan's job is being performed by Chief Deputy Attorney General Joshua Diamond. When he left, Donovan argued that Diamond’s experience and the impending August 9 primaries that could determine his successor made an appointment by Scott unnecessary.

Donovan’s former chief of staff, Charity Clark, and Washington County State's Attorney Rory Thibault are vying to be the Democratic nominee for AG. Also running in the primaries are Progressive candidate Elijah Bergman and perennial GOP candidate H. Brooke Paige.

If Clark wins the Democratic primary on August 9, she would be well positioned to be elected in November. Young's appointment means that if that happens, Clark would be robbed of being able to say she was the first female AG in Vermont.

Lezak noted several instances in which Scott has previously made appointments in keeping with party affiliation in the name of "stability."

"I guess ‘stability’ and six years of 'keeping with tradition' all goes out the window when there's a Republican power grab to be had,” Lezak wrote.

Scott’s spokesperson, Jason Maulucci, dismissed what he called “pathetic attacks.”

“This is why everyone hates politics,” Maulucci said. “Fortunately the vast majority of Vermonters couldn’t care less what a couple of political operatives have to say.”

He noted that governor Howard Dean, after appointing then-attorney general Jeff Amestoy, a Republican, to the Vermont Supreme Court, replaced him with Bill Sorrell, a Democrat, who himself has praised Young’s appointment.

Scott has tended to appoint people of the same political party to fill vacancies in the legislature, Maulucci said, but Young is a civil servant filling a role to assure a smooth transition.

Seeing criticism of the appointment of someone so widely respected, he said, “makes our blood boil.”

“This isn’t something we asked for,” he said. “We didn’t ask for the attorney general to leave office.”

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