Lawmakers Won't Attempt to Impeach Franklin County Sheriff Grismore | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice


Lawmakers Won't Attempt to Impeach Franklin County Sheriff Grismore


Published April 9, 2024 at 11:43 a.m.

Rep. Martin LaLonde (D-South Burlington) and Rep. Mike McCarthy (D-St. Albans) on Tuesday - KEVIN MCCALLUM ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • Kevin McCallum ©️ Seven Days
  • Rep. Martin LaLonde (D-South Burlington) and Rep. Mike McCarthy (D-St. Albans) on Tuesday
Updated at 4 p.m. with comments from Sheriff John Grismore.

Vermont lawmakers will not try to impeach Franklin County Sheriff John Grismore, finding he committed no crimes as sheriff that merit the rare act of removing an elected official from office.

The special House committee investigating whether to bring impeachment charges nevertheless on Tuesday urged Grismore to resign. The committee also asked the Senate to raise the bar on who can be elected sheriff in the state.

Rep. Martin LaLonde (D-South Burlington) served as chair of the seven-member Special Committee on Impeachment Inquiry, which met five times last year and interviewed 26 witnesses.

Grismore was caught on video kicking a detained man in the groin twice in August 2022, before he was elected sheriff. The Vermont Criminal Justice Council later voted to decertify Grismore as a law enforcement officer due to what they concluded was excessive use of force.

Legal precedent generally restricts lawmakers from impeaching elected officials for conduct done before they were elected, LaLonde said.

“Only in extraordinary circumstances should the legislature nullify the results of an election, particularly where there was widespread media coverage of the candidate's preelection conduct and the electorate nonetheless chose to elect him to the office,” LaLonde said on Tuesday.

Grismore told Seven Days on Tuesday afternoon that he was grateful for the decision, though frustrated it took so long and that so much was done in secret.

“They’ve gone on a very expensive fishing trip and come back with nothing,” Grismore said.

The sheriff said he will “absolutely not” resign because some representatives in Montpelier think he should. “With all due respect, I’m accountable to Franklin County voters,” he said.

Grismore's attorney, Robert Kaplan, issued a statement calling the investigation a "boondoggle" led by a "small cadre of elitist, super-voters in Montpelier."

 The Criminal Justice Council's action effectively restricts Grismore to administrative duties. The Vermont Sheriffs’ Association also called on Grismore to resign to restore trust to the office. He has refused.

Rep. Mike McCarthy (D-St. Albans) - KEVIN MCCALLUM
  • Kevin McCallum
  • Rep. Mike McCarthy (D-St. Albans)
Despite legislative leaders pledging transparency in the impeachment probe, the committee has worked largely in secret, spending most of its time in closed-door executive session. On Tuesday it met in public and released a 44-page report outlining its findings.

These include the discovery that, while a captain and bookkeeper in the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, Grismore paid himself four checks totaling $16,550.

In defiant testimony last year, Grismore said the checks were meant to fund his retirement as an alternative to a pension. But payments for sheriffs' pensions are required to be made to the Vermont State Employees' Retirement System.
John Grismore - KEVIN MCCALLUM
  • Kevin McCallum
  • John Grismore
After the payments were discovered, the department in January 2023 was forced to repay the pension system $20,232, the panel found. Grismore testified that the previous sheriff, Roger Langevin, approved the arrangement for the side retirement payments.

The committee also found that while it may be a problem that Franklin County’s sheriff is not a certified law enforcement officer, the Vermont Constitution does not require it, and therefore the panel could not justify impeaching him for lacking those credentials.
  • Kevin McCallum ©️ Seven Days
  • John Grismore
Rep. Mike McCarthy (D-St. Albans) called it a “really terrible thing for Franklin County” that its sheriff can’t perform law enforcement duties, especially with the shortage of officers all departments are facing.

“We cannot impeach an elected official just because they aren’t doing their job to the fullest,” McCarthy said.

To change the qualifications for sheriffs would require a constitutional amendment, a multiyear process that the Senate has not yet indicated an interest in pursuing. McCarthy said he hoped the details of the report will help convince his Senate colleagues to reconsider.

In statement, House Speaker Jill Krowinski (D-Burlington) praised the committee for its work. 

"While the Committee is not recommending articles of impeachment for Sheriff Grismore, they made it clear that Mr. Grismore remaining in office is a detriment to the citizens of Franklin County," she said, adding that much of the conduct outlined is "completely unacceptable of an elected official."



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