Life Ain't Fair | Inside Track | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Published October 22, 1997 at 4:00 a.m.

He did his civic duty and now he's paying a very steep price for it. Last spring when Uncle Sam called upon him to step forward and testify to the government in Vermont's biggest drug trial, he did so willingly. Under oath in the witness box at federal court, he answered all the prosecutor's questions honestly, and unlike many of the other government witnesses, Steve Libbey, 52, had never been charged with a crime. He wasn't trying to cut a deal for a lighter sentence. He was just being a good citizen.

Libbey testified about deeds done long ago, way back in the mid-1970s. He'd driven cars with loads of hash and pot concealed in secret compartments behind the backseat across the border to Montréal. He worked for Stephen Hutchins, who, along with Billy Greer and three others, was convicted on Memorial Day weekend following a 10-week trial. By the early 1980s Libbey got out of the business and went on with his life in Franklin County, where he's a school teacher (driver's ed and speech pathology). In 19 years on the job, he says, he's never had a black mark against him. But today all that is changed.

You see, Steve Libbey's name appeared in a Seven Days article about the Greer/Hutchins drug trial. The article even noted how he'd written the prosecutor shortly before the trial began to politely ask if there was any way the government could get by without his testimony. The former U.S. Army captain feared that if he did take the stand his name would get into print land and his future would go "out the window."

Libbey's hunch turned out to be right on the money. The April 9 Seven Days story though, didn't get into the hands of the superintendent of the Franklin Northeast Supervisory Union until July. Last month the school board suspended Libbey for "conduct unbecoming a teacher," but they've left it up to Marc Hull, the state's commissioner of education, to decide if his teaching license should be revoked.

Libbey is being represented in the matter by Donna Watts, an attorney with the VT-NEA. Watts points out that "the standard for termination for out-of-school conduct unbecoming a teacher requires evidence of behavior which impacts on his ability to teach." In other cases she's handled, says Watts, the school district has had to establish that they actually investigated the conduct and were able to show it had an impact on one's ability to teach. At present it doesn't appear the district did so.

Look, if what we did 20 years ago in the swinging '70s can be used to drag us down today, then few of us, including yours truly and the governor of Vermont, would be left standing.

Even folks in law enforcement think what the school board did to Libbey stinks. One federal agent points out that Libbey, a government witness, did his duty and got screwed for it, while Dr. Bob Melamede, a defense witness and UVM faculty member, testified he smokes pot regularly to this day and not a bloody thing's been done to him by the university.

Hey, folks, life's not fair.

GOP Spectacular! — Whoa! What a crowd! What energy! The Vermont Republican Party is definitely looking like it's finding the comeback trail. Their big fundraiser at the Sheraton Saturday night was quite the blow-out.

National Committeeman Allen Martin enthusiastically noted for yours truly's benefit that not only were there 1000 Republicans present, but "1000 Republicans having fun!" Right on, Big Al! And here we thought only Democrats knew how to have fun.

The sound system was dreadful, but the singing senators — Jim Jeffords, Trent Lott, Larry Craig and John Ashcroft — gave it their best. Luck was on their side. There had been some concern that the train carrying the Republican majority leader and crew into the heart of the People's Republic of Burlington Saturday afternoon might draw protesters. Hey, pick an issue. Trent Lott's got a hand in every one of them. City, state and Capitol Hill police were on hand just in case. But, lucky for Lott & Co., the local protesters working that day were all up on Bank Street in front of McDonald's protesting meat and other issues. The GOP was saved by a Big Mac attack.

Together Again! — Two Republicans in a special fun mode Saturday night sat quietly at a back table in the huge ballroom. Former state senator and congressional candidate Susan Sweetser was sitting close to her husband, David Sands. Folks, the divorce stuff is history. They're back together. According to court records, on October 1 the pair signed a stipulation for dismissal of their divorce proceedings. Susie Creamcheese had filed for divorce last November. In June, their second child was born. All's well that ends well.

Mr. Charity? — Several lucky Vermont charities are about to get a boost from Congressman Bernie Sanders. Sanders confirmed last week he will donate his $3000 congressional pay raise to charity. Bravo! You may recall Inside Track's report, "El Cheapo" that indicated Ol' Bernardo had only claimed $1369 in charitable contributions on his 1995 tax return, which he released during the Sweetser race. (Susie Creamcheese earned a lot less but gave a whole lot more.)

As far as his new role as a leading critic of U.S. trade policy goes, Sanders said last week he does not drive an imported car. When he was mayor he had a beat-up Honda. Today he drives a Saturn.

Whose State Park? — Some friends received a very rude awakening Saturday when they headed down to Mt. Philo State Park for a little foliage hiking. A rather brusque Chittenden County Deputy Sheriff (we learned later it was one of the local liquor inspectors working a second job), informed the visitors that the park was closed to the public because a private party was using it. Naturally they found that to be outrageous.

A call to Bruce Brown, regional manager for Forests and Parks, confirmed the sorry tale. Brown told Inside Track that for one weekend a year after the official Columbus Day closing, the Killington Sportsman's Club takes over Mt. Philo for the weekend for road racing and overnight camping. Forests and Parks, said Brown, will collect around $1000 in permits and fees from the club. Since 1990, noted Brown, state parks have not received any tax dollars and have been forced to come up with income generators. This was one of 'em.