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Bye, Bye Louise 

Inside Track

The chairman of the board of Vermont's largest hospital is about to start a new job in Utah!

Seven Days has learned that Louise McCarren, board chairman at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, has been appointed CEO of the Western Electricity Coordinating Council based in Salt Lake City, Utah. She will start her new job on October 13.

The WECC's mission is to oversee the Western Grid to maintain electric reliability through 14 states, two Canadian provinces and part of Mexico.

Piece of cake for our Louise, eh?

Earlier this year, McCarren rejected a request from Gov. Jim Douglas to resign along with the other discredited Mary Fanny trustees in the wake of revelations concerning the gazillion-dollar Renaissance Project Scandal. We're told Louise intends to finish out her term on the hospital board, which ends in December.

Readers may recall that last April, Chairman McCarren was caught lying to Seven Days about the reasons Chittenden Bank President Paul Perrault withdrew his nomination to the Fletcher Allen board. Louise said Mr. Perrault resigned for personal reasons. The decision was his, said McCarren.

In reality, we reported, Perrault withdrew at McCarren's request. When confronted about it, Louise admitted she had been untruthful.

In the 1980s, McCarren served as Chairman of the Public Service Board, which regulates utilities, and was an unsuccessful Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in 1990. She then went on to head up Verizon Inc.'s Vermont operation.

Ms. McCarren was out of town Tuesday and unavailable for comment. Her husband, Republican State Rep. Ed Amidon, told Seven Days the couple will maintain their current residence in Charlotte and a new one in Utah. Amidon, a retired lawyer, said he intends to continue serving in the Vermont House.

"We're keeping the house," he said. "We've been here too long and love Vermont too much to give it up."

Amidon called his wife's new CEO position a "stunning opportunity." He said it is "something Louise couldn't pass up."

Congratulations, Louise!

Judicial Beat -- Speaking of new jobs, Gov. Jim Douglas finally made his long-awaited pick last week for the Vermont Supreme Court vacancy. The lucky dude is Paul Reiber, 56, a Rutland attorney whose practice consists mainly of representing insurance companies.

What the distinguished Reiber brings to the table that his competitors lacked is hard to assess. He did say he's a bicycle rider, which we think is just great. Wonder if Jimmy D knew that?

"The philosophy of any good jurist is middle-of-the-road," said the soon-to-be Black Robe. "I have no agenda."

But who is Reiber's "all-time judicial hero?"

When the Rutland lawyer gave his answer, we thought Gov. Douglas would need smelling salts.

"Of all time?" Reiber responded with a chuckle. "I'll tell you," he said, "Frank Mahady was one of the greatest guys I ever met. He's the first name that comes to mind."

The late Frank Mahady is remembered by many for two very courageous and controversial moves.

In 1984 Mahady overruled another judge and threw out the search warrants in the state raid on the Island Pond Church. Mahady called Gov. Richard Snelling's state police roundup of church children an "illegal kidnapping."

That same year, the chain-smoking jurist with the long hair allowed the protesters in the Winooski 44 trial to use the "necessity defense." The demonstrators had staged a sit-in in U.S. Sen. Robert Stafford's office to protest U.S. support for the right-wing Nicaraguan Contras.

This Reiber fellow has good taste in heroes, eh?

Nice pick, Jimmy D!

Buzz of the Week -- The inside-baseball political buzz of the week had the phone lines blazing Monday. Word leaked out from a GOP source that Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie was thinking about stepping up a few notches and challenging Democratic Sen. Patrick J. Leahy in 2004.


Sounds like a lost cause for the rookie Gov-Lite, but interesting nonetheless. At the moment all the GOP has is the little bald guy with the dark mustache, Jack McMillions, er, McMullen. If Ol' Jack would only slap on a bowler hat he'd pass for Charlie Chaplin.

Six years ago the Massachusetts newcomer got the shock of his life when retired Tunbridge dairy farmer Fred Tuttle defeated him in the GOP primary.

This time around we've heard another famous Vermont actor, Rusty DeWees, a.k.a. The Logger, is considering filling in for Fred and challenging McMuffin, er, McMullen in the Republican U.S. Senate primary.

But if Doobie-Doo jumped into the race, the comedy would abruptly end. Brian's a pretty solid citizen and the most successful true social conservative the state's seen in decades.

Is Dubie really thinking about taking on St. Patrick?

Just last week the American Airlines pilot reappeared over the left shoulder of Gov. Jim Douglas at the Gov's weekly press conference. Brian stood silently by the flag pole and in the camera shot for the entire hour without saying a word. Great exposure, eh?

Doobie-Doo couldn't be reached for comment on the political rumor of the week. He's flying a Western loop, we're told, from Dallas to Seattle to Vancouver. But a source close to Doobie-Doo tells Seven Days the "buzz" about a Leahy challenge is "without merit."

Stay tuned. Dubie should be back in Vermont in time to assume the official position at this week's gubernatorial press conference.

One would have to be on drugs to imagine anyone knocking off St. Patrick. But a McMullen-DeWees GOP primary would certainly liven things up. Imagine if, instead of taking questions in a debate, they arm-wrestled and split wood.


Voodoo Eye Doc Update -- Federal and state investigators continue their probe of Burlington eye surgeon David Chase. Chase's medical license was yanked in July after state officials discovered he'd been performing unnecessary surgery at his downtown Burlington clinic. The Medical Practice Board declared Dr. Voodoo Eyes, "a clear danger to public health, safety and welfare."

Now, Seven Days has learned that two former patients of Chase have filed a lawsuit in Chittenden Superior Court. The suit names David Chase, his wife Brianne Chase and their medical practice as defendants.

According to court documents, Joseph and Judith Salatino of South Hero were Dr. Voodoo Eyes' patients since 1978. They trusted him.

When in 2001 Chase told Mr. Salatino he had cataracts that needed surgery, Salatino believed him. And when Chase told Mrs. Salatino the same thing last June, she believed him, too.

Chase operated on her right eye on July 15. She was scheduled for cataract surgery on her left eye on July 22. But in the interval, state and federal law enforcement officials raided Dr. Voodoo Eyes' St. Paul Street clinic armed with a search warrant.

The day before her second operation, Mrs. Salatino got a call from Chase's office to reschedule. She was told Chase was having a problem with the air-conditioning.


Mrs. Salatino then sought a second opinion and was startled to hear "that her remaining eye did not suffer from any condition that would require surgery."

According to the Salatinos' complaint, greed was the motivation for Dr. Voodoo Eyes. They cite a January 2003 Vermont Business People profile in which Chase complained that, "The cost of business keeps going up and the amount of reimbursement continues to go down."

The Salatinos' are suing Dr. Voodoo Eyes for malpractice, consumer fraud, negligent misrepresentation, assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The Salatinos attorney Jacob Perkinson tells Seven Days, "There are some real concerns about how quickly the state moved" on Dr. Voodoo Eyes, since there's evidence he'd been practicing this way for years.

The Chases have been granted an extension in naming who their defense attorney will be. Perkinson said he expects their insurance carrier will assign an attorney to represent them.

DeanWatch 2004 -- A wise man once said that to successfully run for president, one must be willing to jump off the roof of an 18-story building every day and believe that the American people will catch you.

Howard Dean started out that way last winter. It worked. But now he's getting cautious and, if it keeps up, it'll kill him. And the Dean flip-flops have been coming fast and furious of late. The worst one of all happened this week.

Dean had a big Boston rally scheduled for Tuesday. But the Kerry Campaign put the word out to the Washington Post and Boston Herald ahead of time that Ho-Ho is a New York Yankees fan. Their evidence was a copy of the January 8 "Inside Track," in which Dean waxed eloquently about his beloved 1961 Yankees.

Dr. Dean then pulled an instant flip-flop and declared he had quietly switched his allegiance from the Bronx Bombers to the Boston Red Sox in 2000. (Funny, we don't remember the press release.)

All things to all people, eh, Ho-Ho? Success going to your head?

On behalf of millions of true-blue Yankee fans of the Mickey Mantle era, yours truly would like to be the first to say, "Howard, don't be such a bloody coward!"

And don't ever show your face in Yankee Stadium again!

The Dean Luck -- Over the 20 years of Howard Dean's Vermont political experience, our favorite presidential hopeful was the beneficiary of many simple twists of fate and perfect timing. Just take last week's entry into the race by Gen. Wesley Clark.

For a week, Ho-Ho had been getting gang-tackled by his chief rivals: John Kerry, Dick Gephardt, Joe Lieberman and John Edwards. But as soon as Ol' Wes announced his candidacy, the story changed and Dean was let off the hook.

To succeed in politics one must be both smart and lucky, and examples of the Dean Luck are too numerous to mention here. One, however, stands out.

The year was 1986. Madeleine Kunin was governor. Her chocolate-eating years as ambassador to Switzerland were but a gleam in Bill Clinton's eye.

Republican Peter Smith was lieutenant governor. No one imagined he would one day move to California and start a university.

Ralph Wright, the Bennington legend, was house speaker. Paul Poirier was the Democrat leader and Rep. Howard Dean was the whip.

The problem was, Rep. Dean had bought a house in the South Cove area, outside his Old North End district. His new district already had two Democratic reps. Dr. Dean needed a new job.

Never known for being shy, Ho-Ho let it be known that he'd step up to the plate and challenge Preppy Peter, the incumbent Gov-Lite. It would be an uphill fight.

According to Poirier, Ho-Ho had also been thinking of running for Congress against the Repub-lican incumbent, Jim Jeffords. Another long-shot race.

In February 1986, Howard Dean was far from a household word in Vermont. He knew that the road map to the top dictated that a newcomer be willing to lose his first statewide bid in order to gain name recognition.

Dr. Dean also knew that Poirier, a former high-school hockey coach, was also contemplating a run for Gov-Lite. Paul the Puck, as we called him back then, had seniority. So Dr. Dean declared Poirier had first dibs.

Then came the shockeroo. A week after Ho-Ho went public with his interest, Smith announced he wouldn't seek reelection. Instead, he declared for governor.

According to Ralphie's wonderful memoir All Politics Is Personal, the Speaker went all out to hang onto Poirier, his top lieutenant and partner in "crime." Together the dynamic Democratic duo had taken over the Speaker's office despite being from the minority party.

"I went for the groin," wrote King Ralph, "and preyed on Poirier's soul by questioning his loyalty to me, his dearest friend."

One oral-history version has Ralph taking Paul up to a Stowe watering hole to do the preying over a few brewskies. Poirier told Seven Days the showdown actually took place in the Speaker's office.

"Ralph said," according to Paul the Puck, ‘Why give up being majority leader when we're just starting to move our agenda? Besides, the lieutenant governor's job goes nowhere.'

Poirier was persuaded. He stayed in the House with Ralphie for another term, then ran for Congress in 1988.

Howard hopped in his little blue pickup truck and campaigned all over the state. Dr. Dean easily defeated Republican Susan Auld for Gov-Lite in 1986. The rest is history.

"His stars have been lined up from the beginning," said Poirier. "Sometimes, you've got to believe in fate."

P.S. In 1988, Paul the Puck won a highly contested Demo-cratic congressional primary over state Sen. Peter Welch and Jim Guest (remember him?). Then Poirier faced his old friend Peter Smith and Mayor Bernie Sanders in the general election.

Paul finished third, as he and Bernie split the left. Smith won with 41 percent (just like Dubie did in last year's Gov-Lite race with Democrat Peter Shumlin and Sanders wannabe Anthony Pollina), and went to Washing-ton. Today Poirier is the public advocate for Vermont Protection and Advocacy, a statewide mental health watchdog group.

But if Paul had resisted Speaker Wright's persuasion back in 1986, he surely would have won the Gov-Lite race. And Howard Dean would have been creamed by Jim Jeffords.

Who knows, maybe today Paul Poirier would be running for president?

And Howard Dean would be spending his time in small rooms examining naked people?

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More by Peter Freyne

About The Author

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne

Peter Freyne, 1949-2009, wrote the weekly political column "Inside Track," which originated in the Vanguard Press in the mid 1980s; he brought it to Seven Days in 1995. He retired it shortly before his death in January, 2009. We all miss him.


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