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Dear Sen. Backus, Pay Your Taxes! 

Inside Track

As we all know, everybody makes mistakes. So much to do. So little time to do it all. We all know the feeling of missing a payment for our car, mortgage or cable television. Don’t you just hate late fees?

Hey, we’re only human, right? Most people don’t have to worry about their personal financial foibles becoming news. But for public figures who live in the fish bowl of politics, there’s another standard. And if there’s one thing you’d expect a politician running for statewide office to do, it’s to be damn sure they pay their taxes on time.

Think again. Seven Days has learned that Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jan Backus is a tax delinquent!

According to records at Winooski City Hall, Ms. Backus has missed four consecutive quarterly property-tax payments on her primary residence. Her property-tax bill became “delinquent” on May 15. Backus, a popular Chittenden County state senator, and her husband, Stephen Blodgett, an attorney, owe the Onion City $1975.60 in property taxes for the latest fiscal year. Their modest home at 168 North Street has an assessed value of $93,700. The matter has been referred to Winooski’s delinquent tax collector, Ray Clavelle, for further action. According to the Winooski city clerks office, Backus and her husband are also liable for late fees and penalties.

Contacted by Seven Days Sunday, Sen. Backus was at first unaware she was delinquent. Jan of Arc said her failure to pay her property taxes was related to “a busy workload.” It is, she explained, “an honest oversight.”

After a quick check of her computerized financial records, Backus said she had made an $800 payment to the city on June 7. “I had a dim recollection I had to pay some taxes,” she said, “and that’s why I wrote the check.” Sen. Backus told Seven Days her records indicated that the check had cleared her account, though a record of her payment was not on file at the city clerk’s office as of Friday afternoon.

During the Seven Days interview, Jan of Arc located an unopened letter from Mr. Clavelle, the delinquent-tax collector, postmarked June 28. She said her husband, Steve, was not responsible for the oversight because, she said, paying the household bills is her responsibility. Sen. Backus politely thanked us for bringing the matter to her attention.

Hey — we’re only here to help.

“I am glad to know I am delinquent,” Sen. Backus told Seven Days. “I will clear it up. I’m happy to pay my taxes.”

Indeed, true to her word, Backus contacted us the following morning to inform us that she had personally gone down to Winooski City Hall but found the clerk’s office closed Monday due to the Fourth of July holiday.

Ms. Backus was first elected to the Vermont Senate in 1988 by the voters of Windham County. In the senate, she met Stephen Blodgett, a one-term Chittenden County state senator. The pair fell in love and later married. Backus moved into Blodgett’s Winooski residence. In 1994, she ran for the U.S. Senate, defeating a well-heeled opponent in the Democratic Primary, but losing to Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Jeffords in the fall election. Backus received 41 percent of the vote. Jeffords won with 50 percent. In 1996 Jan of Arc was elected to the Vermont Senate by the voters of Chittenden County. She was reelected in 1998.

As for the impact of Sen. Backus’ little “oversight” upon her U.S. Senate campaign, one might think both her Democrat opponent, Ed Flanagan, and her Republican opponent, Jim Jeffords, would behave like perfect gentlemen and let the matter of Backus’ tax delinquency slide.

One might think elephants will learn to ride bicycles, too.

LaTulippe Lawsuit UpdateSeven Days has learned that five of the defendants in the UVM Hockey Hazing lawsuit brought by infamous UVM dropout Corey LaTulippe have reached an out-of-court settlement agreement with the plaintiff.

According to John Boylan, attorney for UVM hockey puck Joseph Flamia, five of the seven hockey team members sued by LaTulippe have agreed to cough up a “very small” amount of money to end the suit. The five are Flamia, Ryan Cox, Graham Mink, Donald Richardson and Andreas Moborg.

Mr. Boylan called the agreement reached last week “a nuisance settlement.” In the case of three of the defendants, he said, the settlement payments are covered under the homeowners’ insurance policies of the pucksters’ parents. Attorney Boylan said he could not disclose the exact amount of the settlement because “the plaintiff insists on confidentiality.”

However, there has been no settlement reached with two other former UVM players, Kevin Karlander, the team captain, and Matt Sanders, who has since turned pro. Nor is there any hint of a settlement with the other defendants: the University of Vermont, President Judith Ramaley, Coach Mike Gilligan and Athletic Director Richard Farnham.

LaTulippe filed suit in U.S. District Court on December 10, alleging he’d been the victim of cruel and persistent hazing by teammates on the UVM men’s ice hockey team. LaTulippe, a freshman from Williston, was one of four goalies competing for three spots on the puck squad. He was cut from the team in October and quickly dropped out of school to play junior hockey in Rochester, New York.

The allegations in the lawsuit prompted an investigation by Attorney General Bill Sorrell and brought unwanted national media attention to the university. The lawsuit included the rather spicy details of an October initiation party for freshmen team members held at Karlander’s Colchester Avenue residence. Eyebrows were raised over descriptions of rookies being forced to perform push-ups in the nude while dipping their wee-wees into glasses of beer. They were also required to perform a so-called “elephant walk,” in which they formed a chain by holding one another’s penises. Alcoholic beverages were consumed in bulk and there was much vomiting. Not a pretty picture of life at Groovy UV.

In January, President Ramaley canceled the remainder of the men’s ice hockey season after learning players had lied to university investigators. The university has admitted the “Big Night” party did occur, despite the fact such conduct is prohibited by both university and athletic department rules. However, LaTulippe admitted under oath in a May deposition that a number of his other allegations were untrue.

In addition to agreeing not to reveal the amount of the settlement, Mr. Boylan told Seven Days the five hockey pucks also signed a “covenant,” promising not to counter-sue LaTulippe.

Asked if the out-of-court settlement is an admission of wrongdoing by the five defendants, Boylan replied, “Absolutely not.” He said it is “simply a way to close this chapter.” The settlement, he said, “is really more of a reflection on the part of Corey LaTulippe that he should not have sued these kids in the first place.” All of the parties “have been hurt,” said Boylan. “The only people who have benefited,” he said, “are the lawyers.”

Speaking of LawyersThe Burlington Free Press, as you may recall, filed suit last fall against UVM in Washington Superior Court to have internal UVM documents on the hazing matter released. The university claimed they were bound by federal law requiring the school protect the privacy of its students.

Last December 15, a week after the hazing story erupted with LaTulippe’s lawsuit, Judge Alden Bryan ordered UVM to release some documents which, in the scheme of things, were of little significance. For their legal efforts, the Freeps won a Gannett Freedom of Information Award. But Scaldin’ Alden denied the request of Freeps attorney Phil White to have UVM pay the newspaper’s legal fees. The Freeps owes Wilson & White $7969.92. According to court records, those phone conversations Mr. White was having with Executive Editor Mickey Hirten and reporter Adam Lisberg were being billed at $175 an hour.

Judge Bryan ruled that UVM’s opposition to coughing up the internal documents was not without merit. “I conclude,” wrote Bryan, “that in the end the just result is to put the litigation down to the cost of doing business, and there should be no award of attorney’s fees.”

The Freeps isn’t buying it. The newspaper has appealed Scaldin’ Alden’s ruling to the Vermont Supreme Court.

Funny, but the Freeps hasn’t reported any of this.

Dean vs. Ayatollah Khomeini??? — Yours truly crashed last Thursday’s fundraiser for Democrat state senate candidates at the home of Phil and Crea Lintilhac, located on the grounds of Shelburne Farms. About 150 guests ponied up $100 each to eat, drink, be merry and hear Gov. Howard Dean trash the Republican opposition. We’ve already noted Ho-Ho has called Republican gubernatorial hopeful Ruth Dwyer an “extremist.” In his Fiery pep talk delivered in the Lincilhac’s spacious living room, Gov. Dean upped the ante. Ho-Ho compared Mrs. Dwyer to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The Vermont Republican Party, said Dean, is comprised of “flat tax, flat Earth people who say evolution can’t be taught in schools anymore... The other party is closer to Ayatollah Khomeini in terms of how government works.”

Think Vermont’s four-term governor is more than a little worried about this election?

In fact, with Dwyer attacking from the right and Anthony Pollina attacking from the left, Ho-Ho has plenty to worry about.

And just a month ago, the Lintilhacs hosted a fundraiser for, of all people, Ralph Nader and Anthony Pollina! Mrs. Lintilhac serves on the board of VPIRG. Guess who she’ll vote for in the governor’s race?

Also in attendance was Progressive Party state committee member Elizabeth Skarie. Ms. Skarie, wife of ice cream mogul Jerry Greenfield, said she’s running against Republican State Rep. George Schiavone, a staunch “traditional” marriage supporter. Skarie said she’ll run under the “Independent” label, since she was told by seasoned Progs “running as a Progressive won’t play in Shelburne.”

Ah, but a rose by any other name would smell as sweet!

Media Notes — Having recently become a regular fan of the BBC Web site (, yours truly was positively thrilled Sunday morning to bump into two ladies from London, England, on the Church Street Marketplace.

Claudia Milne and Sarah Montague, producer and reporter from BBC Television headquarters in London, flew in for the weekend to cover the Vermont civil-unions story for the world’s most respected news service. Amazing, isn’t it, how they look just like Americans, but when they start talking it’s like watching public television!

The BBC Babes, sorry, television journalists, had already interviewed Derby Line’s infamous Bible-toting divorcee, Republican State Rep. Nancy Sheltra. Vermont’s Queen of Intolerance made quite an impression on them. Imagine how Ol’ Nancy will play in Great Britain. Jeezum crow. Sure hope she doesn’t scare off the English tourists.

Media Notes II — The year 2000 has definitely been an award-winning year here at inside Track Central, and last week we picked up another quite prestigious award while covering the big Democrat fundraiser at the LintiIhac’s mansion at Shelburne Farms. We are truly blushing with pride to announce the reception of the Marathon Mary Kehoe Tongue Award.

You may remember Ms. Kehoe, a Burlington attorney, represented the famous UVM goalie drop-our Corey LaTulippe when he filed his hazing lawsuit last December. Many will recall how confidently Ms. Kehoe asserted at the time that all the allegations, every single one of them, were true. “Not a single exaggeration,” said Marathon Mary.

Today we all know different.

And Ms. Kehoe is no longer representing Mr. LaTulippe. The law firm, Saxer, Anderson, Wolinsky & Sunshine, that used to inhabit the entire top floor at Seven Burlington Square has experienced a nasty break-up. The firm dissolved with everyone going their own way. Ms. Kehoe formally withdrew from the LaTulippe lawsuit in May.

So guess who we see at the Democrat fundraiser at Shelburne Farms enjoying a beverage and the good cheer of lawyerly Democrat companions? None other than Marathon Mary herself. After all, her step-dad is former Democratic State Sen. Peter Welch, a gentleman who still fancies another shot at governor in the post-Howard Dean Era.

When Ms. Kehoe spied yours truly on the Lintilhac premises Thursday evening, she reacted instantaneously by extending the blob of moist flesh normally lodged behind her cheeks. That’s right, folks, Attorney Kehoe stuck her tongue out! So much for Irish women of passion.

Needless to say, yours truly was flattered. And in hopes of turning this particular “sow’s ear” into a “silk purse,” we hereby graciously accept with pride the First Annual Mary Kehoe Tongue Award. I’d like to thank my parents for having me. My first-grade teacher Sr. Mary Elizabeth for teaching me to read. And the publishers of this distinguished little Vermont weekly for giving me something to do to occupy my idle hours and keep me out of trouble. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

As she breezed by us at the fundraiser, Ms. Kehoe informed us the Tongue Award was not for our LaTulippe coverage, but rather for last week’s column highlighting her stepdad’s endorsement of Howard Dean over fellow leftist, Anthony Pollina.

Hey, frankly, we don’t care why we won the Mary Kehoe Tongue Award, we’re just proud to win. In fact, we hope to repeat next year. Into this business, awards like Kehoe’s Tongue make it all worthwhile.

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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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