A roadside video released last week shows that Auditor Tom Salmon not only asked a Vermont State Trooper if he knew he was the state auditor — an office similar to the governor and lieutenant governor — but also questioned why he was being handcuffed.
After being arrested for driving while under the influence last November, Salmon told reporters he wanted no special treatment and would take his punishment like any Vermonter should. He pled guilty, lost his license for 90 days and paid court fines.
He also told reporters he had five drinks that night — two red wines, two scotches and a coffee liqueur drink. He told the trooper — at least twice — that he had only two red wines through the course of the evening.
You can watch 12 minutes of the roadside video here. The file depicting first six minutes of his stop would not convert to YouTube. What appears in this 12 minutes is his sobriety test and initial arrest. There is additional video released last week that includes his time at the Middlesex barracks where he was processed.
The roadside video became public after Burlington attorney John Franco — a longtime Progressive and supporter of Salmon's Democrat-Progressive opponent Doug Hoffer — sued to get the video released. He argued that Salmon's DUI video was a public record, as it was a record of his initial arrest.
DPS Commissioner Tom Tremblay refused to release the Salmon video, stating that because it was part of a criminal investigation that it was not a public record. Aspects of a criminal investigation can be kept secret.
Franco argued that Tremblay was playing political favorites by releasing a traffic stop video involving Sen. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, but not Auditor Salmon, a Republican.
Franco also admitted that his pursuit of the video was, in part, political. "I think it reflects on his judgment," said Franco.
Perhaps, but I doubt this video will win Hoffer any votes. In fact, I predict it will be just the opposite. I suspect Salmon will pick up some sympathy votes thanks to the video's release and Hoffer may lose votes given his close association with Franco.
In Shumlin's video he can be heard chattng up the trooper — noting that perhaps the rookie officer could be driving him next year once he was elected governor. Shumlin also handed the trooper his Senate ID card, and not his driver's license, when he was initially pulled over. Many observers read into this exchange that Shumlin was trying to get out of his ticket by promising the trooper a job as his personal driver — or showing his Senate ID as a way to perhaps curry favor.
However, during his roadside sobriety test Salmon repeatedly dropped hints that he was an elected official, or at least a prominent state employee.
Salmon struggled with the dexterity tests — failing to follow the trooper's finger with only his eyes (he kept moving his head) and couldn't walk heel to toe or hold up one foot and count slowly. Salmon repeatedly told the trooper his legs were "like rubber" or "rubbery" because he was nervous.
In the seconds before Trooper Brandon Doll administered the roadside breathalyzer test, Salmon asked, "You know I'm the state auditor, right? I'm like the state treasurer, governor and lieutenant governor," said Salmon.
"I understand sir," replied Doll. "I'm just doing my job."
Salmon then agreed to the breathalyzer.
The roadside breathalyzer recorded Salmon's blood alcohol content at .095. The state legal limit is .08. Later at the state barracks, Salmon's BAC was recorded at .086 — just barely over the legal limit.
After he learned of his BAC, Salmon told the trooper "OK, tell me what to do and I'll be ... I'll be part of the solution."
It was then that Trooper Doll placed Salmon under arrest and drew his handcuffs.
In the video, Salmon briefly questioned the need to be handcuffed.
"Oh come on, you're not going to cuff me. You're not gonna ... I'll go anywhere you want," said Salmon.
The trooper then asked Salmon, again, to put his hands behind his back. "Sir, I'm asking you," the trooper repeated twice.
"I understand who you are," the trooper then said.
"I'm not anybody. Tonight, I'm just a Vermonter," replied Salmon. "You're just doing your job. You're on mission. I spent nine months in Iraq and it was mission oriented and you're on a mission and I respect that."
After placing Salmon in the car, the trooper turned to a Montpelier police officer and said, "He says he works for the state or the governor or something — he threw that card out a few too many million times."
Later, during the drive to the Middlesex barracks Salmon apologized for trying to pull rank: "I want to apologize for that kind of 'Do you know who I am' stuff. It wasn't appropriate."
"No it was not," replied the trooper. "But I appreciate the apology."
The arrest came nearly one year ago as Salmon was heading home to St. Johnsbury after celebrating several office promotions and a pay raise at an undisclosed Stowe restaurant. Salmon repeatedly refused to reveal the name of the restaurant to the media, and even hedged during his interview with state police.
At one point during his processing at the barracks, Salmon burped in the first two minutes of a 15-minute observation period before he could take a second, court-admissable, breathalyzer test. The trooper was not pleased as he had warned Salmon that any burping or vomiting would require them to start the 15-minute clock all over.
Trooper Doll told Salmon that if he did this more than once, the officer would consider that action the equivalent of refusing to take the breathalyzer.
As he awaited taking a second breathalyzer test at the barracks, Salmon at one point, speaking to no one in particular, reflected on his situation: "Everything happens for a reason."