By: Jasper Craven for VTDigger, December 14, 2018
Vermont lawmakers are discussing how to bring increased accountability and transparency to the Vermont National Guard in the wake of a six-month VTDigger investigation that revealed a toxic culture within the military organization.
The lawmakers say constituents have expressed alarm over the reports, which outlined cases of misconduct stemming from a culture of excessive drinking and sexual harassment. In the series, VTDigger describes how several Guard leaders have been punished for misconduct ranging from alcohol abuse to sexual assault. Vermont’s congressional delegation has also expressed concern.
Some Vermont lawmakers were disappointed with comments made by Republican Gov. Phil Scott, the commander in chief of the Guard, who said after publication of the seven-part series that his support of the Guard was “unwavering.” Scott blamed a “few bad apples” and declined to open an independent investigation into the organization.
“Several constituents have said to me that they don’t understand why the governor would not formally ask for an independent investigation, especially given that he’s conceded that he hadn’t heard some of the allegations until the Digger series came out,” said Sen. Becca Balint, D-Windham, the Senate Majority Leader.
“These are very serious allegations for any workplace, and they’re made all the more concerning by the nature of the job in the Guard. Our servicemen and women do dangerous work, and they need to know that there are safe avenues through which they can report potential violations. Lives literally depend on protocol being followed,” Balint said.