Franklin County State's Attorney Rejects Calls to Resign | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice


Franklin County State's Attorney Rejects Calls to Resign


Published May 2, 2023 at 5:17 p.m.

Franklin County State's Attorney John Lavoie - KEVIN MCCALLUM ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Kevin McCallum ©️ Seven Days
  • Franklin County State's Attorney John Lavoie
Franklin County State’s Attorney John Lavoie is rejecting calls to resign following an internal investigation that found he made off-color remarks in the workplace and inappropriately touched employees.

Lavoie, a longtime deputy state's attorney elected as top prosecutor in November, was asked to step down by the Executive Committee of State’s Attorneys after a law firm substantiated what it called a “pattern of harassment and discriminatory conduct” by Lavoie against employees in his office and others.

John Campbell, executive director of the Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs, declined to recount Lavoie’s specific comments and actions but said they were offensive and derogatory toward people who worked for and with him.

“It creates an atmosphere that is not only uncomfortable and unwanted but is destructive," Campbell said.

There were dozens of such remarks reported by employees and others, as well as at least two instances of unwanted, nonsexual touching, Campbell said during a Statehouse press conference on Tuesday.
  • Kevin McCallum ©️ Seven Days
  • John Campbell
Lavoie attended the event and then immediately held a press conference of his own in which he downplayed or denied the allegations and suggested the complaints were politically motivated.

“The idea that I would even say something racist or sexist, that I absolutely deny,” Lavoie said. “I do acknowledge that my sense of humor is often inappropriate.”

Lavoie said he has apologized to those he may have offended but would not resign because the language he’s accused of using was “not sufficient” for him to step down.

He declined to detail the nature of his comments but acknowledged that someone who didn't know him and his sense of humor might find them "shocking and dismaying." He denied ever touching anyone inappropriately.

Campbell said his department’s role is to protect the dozen or so workers in Lavoie’s office, most of whom are women.
John Lavoie talking to Franklin County senators after his press conference - KEVIN MCCALLUM ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Kevin McCallum ©️ Seven Days
  • John Lavoie talking to Franklin County senators after his press conference
The department has no power to remove Lavoie from office, however. Lavoie is an independently elected officer and can only be removed if the legislature impeaches him, Campbell said. It’s unlikely that can take place this session, but the process could be started, he said.

Lavoie said he has been an attorney for 37 years and found it interesting that the complaints have all been filed against him since he took office this year. He suggested that people are using the complaint process to undo an election result.

“I know for a fact that there were some people in my office that were not happy with that event,” Lavoie said of his election. "That seems suspicious timing."

He declined to describe the kind of remarks that he finds funny but that offended others. Lavoie acknowledged, however, that someone from outside his office might find the language he uses "shocking and dismaying"; those who know him well wouldn't, he said. 

"If anybody was offended by my behavior or hurt by it, I want to know about it, so I can address it directly, " he said.

House Speaker Jill Krowinski (D-Burlington) said in a statement that she was “deeply disturbed” by the allegations and was reviewing lawmakers' options, “including the possibility of impeachment proceedings.”

“This is an evolving situation, but it is always critical that we do all that we can to protect the integrity of the justice system here in Vermont. We must do all we can to support the victims,” she wrote.

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