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Fogel's Not-So-Fond Farewell 

Fair Game

Published July 20, 2011 at 8:33 a.m.

Fair Game is Seven Days’ weekly political column.

University of Vermont President Dan Fogel is leaving the University of Vermont at month’s end, seemingly prompted by the anticipated results of an internal investigation into a relationship between his wife, Rachel Kahn-Fogel, and a university official.

In March, Fogel announced he would leave UVM in July 2012. The next month, Seven Days filed a series of public records requests that uncovered a six-plus-year amorous connection between Kahn-Fogel, who is a volunteer fundraiser for the university, and a high-ranking colleague in the development office. The Seven Days story prompted UVM trustees to launch an internal investigation into the relationship to determine whether Kahn-Fogel violated UVM workplace policies.

According to individuals familiar with the investigation, the results of which are expected in early August, the final report is likely to recommend that UVM trustees take a more active role in overseeing the president and executive operations. That includes the role of presidential spouses in fundraising and alumni relations.

“Fair Game” has also learned that the internal investigation is trying to determine if Kahn-Fogel’s actions placed the university at legal risk of being sued — either by current or former employees. Tension between Kahn-Fogel and other top university officials may have forced some individuals to leave UVM prematurely. Friction also occurred between Kahn-Fogel and individual trustees. She was so upset when one former trustee received an honorary degree, she responded by boycotting all trustee-sponsored events. Investigators interviewed several former development-office employees who left the university with separation packages.

UVM also investigated whether Kahn-Fogel had undue influence over the doctoral dissertation of her love interest, Michael Schultz, an associate vice president of development in UVM’s office of Development and Alumni Relations. It was titled “Elucidating the Role of the University CEO’s Spouse in Development, Alumni Relations and Fund Raising.” A review found Schultz’s dissertation file “in order” and “unremarkable.”

Schultz remains on paid administrative leave pending the results of the internal investigation.

Fogel’s tenure will be remembered as one of tremendous growth — in bricks and mortar, budgets, and top executives. He also helped UVM set new fundraising records and reestablish its stance as a “public Ivy.” But his premature departure suggests that he and his wife don’t come off well in the investigation’s final analysis. Why else would the president leave a year early in the midst of a major move to privatize the school’s fundraising operations, hire a new president and continue to bolster its bottom line?

On Tuesday, July 19, Fogel broke the news of his accelerated departure to various Vermont politicos, UVM trustees and boosters, and personal supporters.

On Wednesday, July 20, at noon, the UVM Board of Trustees is holding an emergency, hourlong meeting, after which board chairman Robert Cioffi will take questions about Fogel’s departure. UVM has launched an official search for a new president but will likely name an interim president in the coming weeks. Provost Jane Knodell and former dean, provost and onetime acting president John Bramley are rumored to be on the short list. Historically, UVM has gone outside its ranks after tumultuous presidencies to find an interim president — Gov. Tom Salmon and business exec Ed Colodny come to mind. Perhaps the university will take the same approach this time.

Fogel’s plans have clearly changed from what he announced in March. He intended to return to UVM in 2013 and take up teaching in the English department. That’s now in doubt.

In an email last fall, Kahn-Fogel intimated that her husband’s departure from UVM was not voluntary, though Fogel denies that he was pushed out of office.

Just before Seven Days published its initial story, Fogel issued a statement revealing that his wife had “long been in treatment for serious mental health issues with which she has struggled throughout her life.” There was no reference to mental illness in the 900 pages of documents provided to “Fair Game” in response to the records request.

Ironically, Fogel’s arrival at UVM was controversial. He and Kahn-Fogel refused to live on campus, opting to build a lakeside home in Colchester instead. That black cloud quickly dissipated, but now he’s under another one that is likely to temper praise of his accomplishments over the past decade.

What should have been a yearlong swan song for Fogel has turned into a swan dive.

How He Rolls

Gov. Peter Shumlin loves to champion climate change. And fiscal restraint. So his official “wheels” should reflect his inner, penny-pinching Al Gore, right?

Get ready for an inconvenient truth: Shumlin’s gubernatorial fleet consists of not one but two Ford Expedition EXP Limited Extended 4x4s.

The vehicles retail for more than $50,000 apiece, but the gov is leasing them for just $12,240 each per year, according to Shumlin’s chief of staff Bill Lofy. Tires and maintenance are included in Ford’s special executive lease program. Taxpayers just pay for the fuel — gulp.

And what do these tinted hulks get for gas mileage? Thirteen miles per gallon in the city; 18 miles on the highway. Those numbers reflect fuel efficiency in ideal driving conditions. Good luck finding those in Vermont. In the winter.

The two Expeditions replace most of Gov. Jim Douglas’ vehicular fleet, which consisted of one Ford Crown Victoria, two Chevrolet Impalas and a Mercury Grand Marquis. They aren’t exactly Priuses, but the Marquis gets 17 city and 27 highway miles per gallon.

The Crown Vic and Impalas are going back to the Department of Public Safety, which purchased those three vehicles in the past few years for a total cost of $61,250.

What motivated the vehicular switcheroo? A survey. The DPS’ Executive Protection Unit called its counterparts and discovered every other New England governor rides around in an SUV.

In the interest of delivering Shumlin safely around the state, especially on icy winter roads, the EPU decided on the SUV because it outperforms the sedan when it comes to off-road and evasive maneuvers.

Those features come in handy, especially when you’re constantly pulling over for gas.

Dubie on Defense

Gov. Peter Shumlin’s reelection campaign wasn’t the only political machine firing off last-minute fundraising pleas in advance of last week’s filing deadline.

A GOP power trio sent out a snail-mail letter raising money for … Brian Dubie. That’s right — former Gov. Jim Douglas, former U.S. Ambassador to Slovakia Rodolphe “Skip” Vallee and Barre Mayor Thom Lauzon issued a two-page fundraising missive on behalf of Dubie’s legal defense fund.

“Brian needs your financial support today to continue the fight for our common vision of a stronger Vermont,” states the letter. “Can you please join us today by writing a check to show your support for Brian and his fight on your behalf for a more prosperous Vermont?”

Gee, sounds like they’re testing the waters for a 2012 gubernatorial rematch. Unlike political contributions, however, donations to Dubie’s legal fund are not governed by state contribution limits — nor do they have to be reported to the secretary of state. Sweet!

Dubie is still under investigation by Attorney General Bill Sorrell as part of an inquiry launched in the final weeks of the 2010 campaign.

Sorrell is trying to determine whether Dubie’s campaign and the Republican Governors Association broke state law by sharing details of Dubie’s internal polls. State law bans outside groups and campaigns from coordinating activities, or even from “facilitating” each other’s efforts. The alleged poll info may have helped the RGA script an ad featuring pro-choice women supporting Dubie.

“We have been responding to questions and responding to questions, and at some point I have to deal with the financial consequences,” Dubie told “Fair Game.” “The attorney general has the taxpayers of the state of Vermont to cover his legal fees, but I don’t. And, when you get asked a question by the attorney general, you have to take it serious.”

To date, Dubie estimates he’s racked up roughly $70,000 in legal fees.

“The campaign’s done, but it’s not done,” said Dubie. “I’m very grateful that the governor, ambassador and mayor have stepped in to help out. I’m very grateful.”

Green in the Mountains

Earlier this year, Republicans and Democrats traded accusations that top pols from each party solicited, and possibly accepted, donations from lobbyists during the legislative session — a practice that is illegal under Vermont law.

Well, guess what? Despite the ban on lawmakers accepting individual contributions, House and Senate Democrats raised more than $70,000 from lobbyists and their employers as well as businesses that contract with the state.

How’d they do it? While state law prohibits lawmakers from soliciting, or receiving, donations from lobbyists or businesses that employ lobbyists, there is no restriction on what pols can raise through political action committees (PACs).

House Democrats have the Democratic House Leadership PAC and the Vermont Democratic House Campaign. Together, the two groups raised more than $50,000.

Thousands of dollars came in from insurance companies and businesses, business groups and lobbyists representing auto dealers, realtors, telecom firms, pharmaceutical companies and Entergy Vermont Yankee, among others.

Senate Democrats collected more than $20,000 via three separate PACs — Senate Circle, Vermont Senate Victory and the Senate Leadership Committee. The last of those was the real powerhouse, taking in money from Omya, AstraZeneca, MVP Health Care, realtors, insurance companies and trash haulers.

House and Senate Republicans raised significantly less — no surprise, given Democrats are the ones with the super-duper majority. To wit, the GOP raised a paltry $16,250 combined.

The Rs raised their cash from the same set of lobbyists, business groups and trade associations, which just goes to prove that some folks can’t afford to play only one side of the aisle — no matter how few seats are on the “other” side.

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About The Author

Shay Totten

Shay Totten

Shay Totten wrote "Fair Game," a weekly political column, from April 2008-December 2011.


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