Gubernatorial Paranoia Prompts Douglas Damage-Control Session | Freyne Land

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Thursday, February 1, 2007

Gubernatorial Paranoia Prompts Douglas Damage-Control Session

Posted By on Thu, Feb 1, 2007 at 7:14 PM

With problems erupting on several fronts from a recent security breach of a state computer data base to continued delays in removing state employees from a contaminated state office building in Bennington, Gov. Jim Douglas got unusually defensive at his weekly press conference at the state capitol on Thursday when asked how he’s dealing with recent crises.

Replied King James:

Well, that’s the nature of this business. I’ve been in Montpelier, as you know, for a third of a century. It’s very, very challenging. There are obviously people who are not interested in my political success and they’re certainly exercising every opportunity to try to act on that belief this year.”   

HOWEVER, as he gets out and around the state, noted Gov. Douglas, the Republican winner by 15 points over Democrat Scudder Parker in November - he finds the people of Vermont “very supportive and appreciative” of the hard work he does.

But in a follow up question, a reporter asked the governor if he really thinks sarcoidosis problems at the Bennington state office building and problems with the computer security breach are actually the work of the Democrats?

Replied Vermont's chief executive:

Well, I’ll be perfectly honest, some of the questions I get from the media sound an awful lot like some of the emails that come out of the other party headquarters. So, I don’t think it’s a coincidence.


Asked if he was charging the media with "carrying the water" of the opposition party, Douglas sarcastically replied he would “never make that assertion.”

The testy back and forth with reporters came after Gov. Douglas acknowledged that one of the companies that provided replacement trailers for the Bennington office bldg - trailers that turned out to be contaminated with mold - came from Facteau Residential, a company owned by a Douglas campaign contributor.


After the presser, yours truly hopped in the car and drove home to Burlap to cut up a radio story for WDEV.

Turns out the Guv calmed down and went into serious damage control mode as reported by Ross Sneyd of the Associated Press.

On the defensive, Governor Blames Dean, Democrats, media

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) _ Buffeted by a week's worth of bad news on several different fronts, Gov. Jim Douglas lashed out Thursday at the Dean administration, legislative Democrats and the media, suggesting they were responsible for some of his challenges.

Within an hour of delivering his defensive appraisal of the week's news, Douglas' staff was ushering reporters back into his office so he could apologize and say he didn't really mean it.

It was a remarkable and unusual display by a politician who seldom loses his cool.

"First of all, let me apologize to you for the comments at the end of the press conference,'' Douglas said to the five reporters who were still in the Statehouse an hour later. It's not characteristic, as I think all of you know. I've worked with all of you for many, many years. I reacted to a question earlier in the press conference that frankly questioned my integrity and something I resent strongly and that I think affected my answers throughout the balance of the press conference today.''

Douglas was especially prickly throughout his weekly meeting with the media. Questioned repeatedly about why it has taken so long to move workers out of a state office building in Bennington where at least six people have come down with a rare disease, he suggested at one point that former Gov. Howard Dean hadn't done anything about it.

'"The first diagnosis was in 1994 and this is the first administration that's dealt with it,'' Douglas said.

His staff later corrected him. The first case of sarcoidosis was diagnosed in 1992, said spokesman Jason Gibbs. Subsequent diagnoses were in 1998, 2000, 2005 and two in 2006. The outbreak was not identified as a cluster worthy of further investigation until last summer, Douglas said.

In his subsequent meeting with reporters, Douglas backed off on blaming the Dean administration. "I'm not blaming my predecessor for any inaction,'' he said. "I simply wanted to point out to all of you that I took action.'


But those poor state workers are still having to go to work everyday in that sick building, Governor.

What's taking you so long?

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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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