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Tarrant's Dark Past

Inside Track


Published June 1, 2005 at 4:00 p.m.

Bumped into Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Ritchie Tarrant at the Vermont Business Expo last Thursday. The IDX gazillionaire told us he's thinking about getting rid of the Bentley.

That would be his new 2005 Bentley Coupe GT with a list price of $156,285 that we reported on last week. Ritchie Rich told "Inside Track" he keeps his magnificent new wheels at his Florida residence.

Campaign-wise, Tarrant the businessman says he's not worried a bit about building up enough name recognition to match that of his opponent -- Vermont political superstar Bernie Sanders, our eight-term Indepen-dent congressman.

In a live radio interview from the Business Expo, Tarrant confidently told WDEV listeners the "only thing" that might keep him out of the U.S. Senate race is "something that might come up between now and then ... I can't tell you right now what may stop me, but you never know."

Indeed, the former St. Mike's hoop star was brimming with confidence. After all, the reason for his Expo visit was to proudly accept the annual Deane C. Davis Award on behalf of IDX, the South Burlington software giant he started.

And Jump Shot sure sounded like a successful CEO when he analyzed the challenge he faces.

"Bernie is well-known throughout the state," acknowledged Tarrant. "He's been a politician his whole life in Vermont. He's got a lot of recognition. It's going to be a very large campaign with national prominence."

Oh, boy!

And sounding very much like a businessman, Tarrant gave a hard-nosed, confident forecast of what lies ahead.

"We'll be able to catch up in name-recognition," said Mr. IDX assuredly, "and then it'll just be a matter of battling out the messages and the beliefs."

Yes, indeed, the "messages" and the "beliefs."

Can't wait.

Meanwhile, one loose end Ritchie Rich is attempting to tie up before the campaign kicks off involves the big, bad Renaissance Scandal up on Hospital Hill. You may recall, Mr. Tarrant was a member of the distinguished Fletcher Allen Health Care board of trustees when the crimes were committed. Crimes that violated the public trust. (In fact, former CEO Bill Boettcher begins serving his two-year jail sentence in six days. More on that later.)

Mr. Tarrant has been planning his upcoming U.S. Senate shot for quite some time. It will be, after all, a new ball game for him in a whole new ballpark -- politics.

The nation's -- and state's -- political graveyard is full of millionaires who couldn't get elected. Success in Corporate America and on Wall Street doesn't always translate into success in Campaign America and at the ballot box.

Like anyone of substance running for such an important position, Tarrant can expect his past will be closely scrutinized. Perhaps in anticipation of that, the former Mary Fanny trustee has taken steps to correct the record, as they say, in regard to his less-than-shining hospital trustee performance.

"Inside Track" has obtained a copy of a formal sworn "Declaration" Tarrant filed recently at U.S. District Court. The two-page document was signed on April 24, just five days before former Mary Fanny CEO Bill Boettcher was sentenced.

In it, Tarrant professes "under penalty of perjury" his complete ignorance regarding statements and information CEO Boettcher presented to state regulators while Tarrant was a trustee (and should have known better).

You see, Mr. Tarrant was on the Mary Fanny board from 2000-2002, precisely when the crimes of fraud for concealing the project's true cost were committed. During that period, Mr. IDX sat on the trustee finance and planning committees. As everyone now knows, the hospital's finances and plans were at the very root of this evil.

Specifically, the skeleton in Ritchie's closet is a tough-talking March 11, 2003 op-ed he wrote for The Burlington Free Press titled "FAHC Trustees were not 'sitting idly by.'"

Just one month earlier, Jump Shot had been one of the eight distinguished FAHC trustees who resigned amidst public outcry. CEO Boettcher had departed (with a golden parachute given to him by Ritchie and the trustees) the previous summer. The federal and state criminal investigations were well underway.

In his Freeps op-ed, Tarrant attempted to clear his good name. He strenuously made the argument that, "No one can justly accuse Fletcher Allen of hiding the true cost of the project or of it careening out of control with trustees standing idly by."

Ritchie Rich angrily accused the Freeps of not publishing the "truth, supported by real facts." Tarrant made the case that state regulators had long been aware of the true cost of the massive project, and even went out of his way to take a shot at Rep. Bernie Sanders.

Sanders, you see, had, at the time of Tarrant's writing, recently formed his own "FAHC Task Force." Ol' Bernardo had called on the hospital to open its trustee meetings to the public. He also suggested the FAHC board suffered from a lack of "diversity."

Ritchie suggested Bernie didn't know what he was talking about.

No doubt they'll get to elaborate on this and other topics on the Vermont U.S. Senate campaign trail that lies ahead. And, we predict, Rep. Sanders will regularly mention the official "Declaration" Mr. Tarrant filed in the case of United States of America v. William V. Boettcher. That's because Tarrant's "Declaration" is actually a Tarrant confession. The trustee had gotten his facts very, very wrong.

In the court document, Candidate Tarrant states that when he wrote his 2003 Freeps op-ed he was "not aware" of a lot of things on Hospital Hill.

For example, Ritchie Rich "was not aware that Fletcher Allen management specifically advised BISHCA on numerous occasions in 2001" that the project "would not cost more that $173.5 million to construct."

Latest cost estimates are around $380 million.

Tarrant also wrote he "was not aware" that the FAHC budget showing the project cost of $343 million "had not been shared with BISHCA in 2000 or 2001."

Ex-Trustee Tarrant also "was not aware" of the extent of FAHC's representation to the state that the Renaissance Project would only cost $173 million.

There's more Ritchie claims he "was not aware" of, but you get the drift.

The question is, who gave Trustee Tarrant all the bad info he had?

Answer: the lawyers!

"In response to statements criticizing the Board of Trustees," wrote Tarrant, "I asked for and received information from Downs Rachlin Martin and Fletcher Allen and worked from this information in drafting my op-ed."

Ah, yes, thank God hindsight is 20-20, eh?

"I now realize," Tarrant wrote to the court, "that a full explanation of what happened here required a much more detailed factual investigation than I undertook in 2003."

One can almost hear the jaws flapping: How will someone who overlooked the biggest hospital scandal in Vermont history that was happening right under his nose handle the national scandals that come under the U.S. Senate's nose?

"After reviewing material submitted by the government in connection with the sentencing of Bill Boettcher," declared Tarrant, "I see now that FAHC management had a plan to mislead BISHCA relating to the costs of the Renaissance Project. Based on this evidence, I would not now say that 'No one can justly accuse Fletcher Allen of hiding the true costs of the project.'"

Confession, they say, is good for the soul. Even for wannabe big-time politicians who drive Bentleys.

Mr. Tarrant, unfortunately, did not respond to our requests for an interview.

P.S. Acting U.S. Attorney David Kirby tells "Inside Track" the Fletcher Allen investigation is continuing. But the word on the street is, don't get your hopes up that more arrests will be made.

Insiders note that, to date, not one of the great legal minds that advised Fletcher Allen during the criminal scandal has yet been charged with criminal misconduct.


Inmate Boettcher - Former CEO Bill Boettcher is scheduled to turn himself in to federal prison officials next Tuesday, June 7. But as Seven Days goes to press this week, it's still up in the air which federal prison Big Bill will be reporting to.

Boettcher's attorney has recently filed several motions attempting to get his client's address for the next two years changed from Nevada to Oregon.

Originally, Attorney Jerry O'Neill requested, and Judge Bill Sessions agreed, Boettcher would be locked up at the air-conditioned Nellis minimum-security federal prison camp in North Las Vegas, Nevada. According to court documents, O'Neill sought Nellis FPC for his client because of the prison's 500-hour Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP).

Was Bill Boettcher on drugs?

That explains it, eh?

According to Attorney O'Neill, Bill was absolutely not a junkie, but did have a drink or two now and then. Our research indicates federal standards for admission to RDAP are quite low. Even drug dealers have played the alcohol angle to get into the program. Inmates must only demonstrate past "use" of alcohol to get admitted.

But why would Boettcher want admission to a drug treatment program?

Because successful completion of the program would knock three months off his jail time. Every minute counts. In fact, they say they count even more when you're 57.

The problem is, Nellis, Boet-tcher's first choice of residence, is slated to be closed by the Bush adminstration's Bureau of Prisons. The last RDAP at Nellis starts this week. Boettcher won't arrive in time.

So Attorney O'Neill is making a last-minute pitch to get his client transferred to the federal prison camp in Sheridan, Oregon, where hopefully, Big Bill can get into the RDAP.

Boettcher's biggest problem, noted in documents filed by the U.S. Attorney's office, is that the convicted CEO did not divulge his alleged alcohol "problem" in time to be included in the pre-sentence report. The government says it sounds fishy.

"Boettcher provides no explanation as to why, if this information were somehow relevant, he did not share it with Probation or the Court in the time period prescribed," U.S. Attorney David Kirby wrote in opposition.

Instead, Boettcher and his attorney successfully lobbied the judge to recommend Nellis, apparently hoping that once there, the Vermont inmate could easily slip into RDAP.

A decision by U.S. District Court Judge Bill Sessions is expected this week.

Either way, Nellis or Sheridan, the former CEO of Vermont's largest hospital will have his last drink Monday night.

Cheers, Bill!

Bernie & Gaye -- What do they have in common, our Independent Congressman and our Democratic Speaker of the House?

Answer: trouble with deadlines.

This week, Associated Press says Rep. Sanders failed last year to file required financial disclosure reports following three speechmaking trips paid for by the sponsors. Staff Chief Jeff Weaver says the paperwork was filled out but got lost.

And who were the insidious sponsors?

How about Smith College, Cal Tech and NASDAQ?

Certainly one could argue Bernie Sanders is a pro-lesbian environmental capitalist, but who'd listen?

Closer to home, Democratic House Speaker Gaye Symington has recently had similar difficulty. Word from GOP sources was the Speaker's household was a few weeks late paying the Jericho property taxes.

When we asked her about it last week, Speaker Gaye informed us we were the fourth journalist to inquire. And, yes, it's true. Her husband, whatshisname, apparently blew it. And it gets worse.

"Inside Track" has learned that the Vermont Speaker of the House, a woman who has courageously established a strong and respectful leadership style, a champion of a progressive universal health-care system, also failed to renew the family dog's license on time.

Sounds like a suburban crime wave, eh?

Race Matters -- As the song says, "You've got to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em." And folding 'em on the matter of racial appointments is something Gov. Jim Douglas appeared only too happy to do last week.

As you may know, our Republi-can governor did a dumb thing recently. He used his powers of appointment to turn the Vermont Human Rights Commission into a white-only panel. Jim Crow must have smiled.

The issue wasn't about whether Douglas' appointee, who had replaced the commission's only person of color, was "qualified." Rather, the issue was our governor had completely failed to imagine what an all-white jury looks like to a black, brown, yellow or red Vermonter.

In response, the Senate Appropriations Committee has attached an amendment to the state budget bill requiring at least one Vermonter from a racial minority sit on the panel that investigates complaints of racism.

State Sen. Matt Dunne (D-Windsor) told "Inside Track," "Many people in Vermont were very surprised when the governor chose not to appoint the one racial-minority member of the Human Rights Commission. We were equally surprised that when he was asked about it he was unaware that was something that would be a priority as we evaluate human-rights issues in Vermont."

In response, Sen. Dunne, along with State Sen. Diane Snelling (R-Chittenden), attached an amendment adding "clarity on the intention and scope" of the Human Rights Commission.

"We decided, unfortunately," said Dunne, "that it was necessary to include in the appropriation bill the requirement that at least one member represent a racial minority."

Asked if he had a problem with the amendment, Douglas replied, "No. I indicated in the past I understand the concern. I'm sensitive to it," said Gov. Douglas. "If the senators want to insist on that, I certainly don't have a problem with it."

Douglas had gotten the message. And the message was: Shut up and take it.

Informed of the Guv's miraculous conversion to racial sensitivity, Dunne said it shows that "the educational process still works."

"I think he is someone who can clearly learn from past mistakes," Dunne said of Douglas, "and I'm delighted that he's on board with our amendment."

P.S. Originally there was some confusion over which committee member had made the motion to amend the budget with the Human Rights Commission requirement. Most eyewitnesses thought it was Sen. Snelling and were surprised to hear Sen. Dunne taking credit.

Dunne explained to us the committee operates in a very "fluid" fashion and he thought he had been the sponsor.

Snelling remembered differently. But Snelling is not running for Congress in 2006 like Young Matt.

Last word is that all's been patched up. No hard feelings. Collegiality has broken out.

Pass that joint!