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September 30, 2010

State Troopers in Trouble for Trying to Fix a Senator's Traffic Ticket

2073m * updated *

Two state police troopers are allegedly in hot water for trying to void a speeding ticket issued to Sen. Peter Shumlin earlier this summer.

News of the attempted fix comes months after the original traffic stop became public, one week after the Vermont State Troopers union endorsed Shumlin over his Republican rival Brian Dubie, and just weeks before Election Day.

The speeding ticket was originally issued June 17, a traffic stop made public by WCAX-TV. The station aired portions of Shumlin's roadside traffic stop recorded by an in-cruiser camera on the 6 p.m. news. It also posted the entire video of Shumlin's stop on his the WCAX website.

At the time, the station said it was interested in the story because they believed Shumlin tried to use his Senate identification card as a way to weasel out of a ticket.

During the stop he also joked that he hoped the trooper would be “driving him” next year when he was governor. The sweet talk didn’t help: Shumlin got two points on his license and a $152 speeding ticket.

Shumlin was nabbed heading south on Interstate 91 at around 11:30 at night on June 17. He was headed home to Putney after a campaign debate in Craftsbury. He was clocked going 81 miles an hour.

About the same time as Shumlin paid the fine, two troopers tried to void the ticket. News of that ticket didn't surface until this week.

The ticket fix story on WCAX-TV prompted Department of Public Safety Commissioner Thomas Tremblay to issue a public statement to the media about both the ticket voiding and the department's internal response.

"During a review of administrative processing of Senator Shumlin's ticket by the Vermont State Police, it appeared that the ticket had been voided improperly," Tremblay noted in his written statement. "An internal affairs investigation was conducted that determined a Vermont State Trooper contacted Senator Shumlin and offered to see if the Trooper could void the ticket for Senator Shumlin. In response, a Vermont State Police supervisor wrote 'void' across the ticket intending to void the ticket. The ticket was subsequently corrected and processed as a valid ticket."

WCAX reported that the troopers had been disciplined, but Tremblay didn't make such a claim in his public statement.

"Under the circumstances of this case the ticket should not have been voided. We have determined that the actions of these two members of the Vermont State Police are unacceptable and not in line with our high standards of conduct, nor our efforts to deliver equal protection and enforcement," Tremblay wrote.

Tremblay said the rookie trooper who issued the traffic ticket was not involved.

In its statement, DPS didn't say when it launched its investigation, how long it lasted or when it might be fully resolved.

For his part, Shumlin said he had no idea that troopers had tried to void the ticket until he received a call in early July from Commissioner Tremblay. At the time, DPS had officially launched an investigation into the void attempt — just days after the June 28 traffic-stop story aired on WCAX.

By the time the story aired, Shumlin claims he mailed a check to pay the $152 speeding ticket.

"I got a ticket. I paid it on June 24 and mailed the check from my campaign headquarters," Shumlin told Seven Days. "Sometime after that [the traffic stop and before I paid the ticket*] I did get a phone call from someone in the state police about something entirely different. He razzed me about the ticket and my driving and then made what I thought was a joke about fixing it for me. I said, 'Oh, yeah, that'd really help me in my run for governor.'"

Shumlin and the trooper continued their discussion about other matters, and the senator didn't think anything else of the chat until he later talked to Tremblay.

Tremblay told Shumlin that an attempt had been made to void the ticket. That was news to Shumlin.

"I never requested or condoned the voiding of a ticket," Shumlin said. "A trooper made a joke and I laughed about it."

Shumlin might not be laughing now, especially given news of this ticket fix coincides with the near daily advertising blitz by the Republican Governors Association that calls into question Shumlin's ethics.

Read the Department of Public Safety's complete statement: DPS Statement

* Update *

Commissioner Tremblay told Seven Days this afternoon that the two troopers in question have not yet been disciplined for their actions, despite some media reports. Tremblay would not say exactly when the state police began its internal investigation.

Tremblay also said his department did not release a copy of Shumlin's speeding ticket to WCAX-TV. "We don't release tickets to the public because they do contain personal information," said Tremblay.

Also, in a follow-up interview, Shumlin clarified that the conversation between himself and the trooper who offered to void the ticket occurred before he paid the ticket. That timeline may not have been clear in the initial post. Shumlin also said that he paid for the ticket on June 22, not June 24 as he had earlier believed. He received a copy of the voided check from his bank today.

Well, glad we cleared that up.

His website or WCAX's?

This helps Shumlin. Even "Friends of Brian Dubie" admits Peter Shumilin is "far out." This is just a reminder of how he can't drive 55. Keeping your name in the paper for a non-issue is either neutral or a small net-poisitive for a campaign.

Does this really matter? Of course he tried to get out of a ticket, who wouldn't? They actually taught us how to try to get out of tickets in Driver's Ed (no, I'm not making that up) Granted he shouldn't have been speeding, but almost everyone does it, he accepted responsibility for paying it.

In terms of the governor's race, this is about as significant a story as that foolishness last week over whether Dubie "dodged" a commander's order on 9/11. I'd rather read about something that matters, like their stands on issues.

This does call into light, Peters well discussed ethic issues.
While he tried to spin a funny into the original ticket and use it to his advantage, his spinning has now finally backfired.
While Peter may not be responsible for anything the two troopers participated in, that were not involved in the original ticket, it calls up the trooper union endorsement of Peter. What did the union know, and what did Peter know when the union endorsed him. It sounds like this was already out their and maybe the troopers union was trying to cover their asses.
I am a strong supporter of our State Police but if any wrongdoing comes out of this investigation, the troopers, if reports are accurate must be firmly dealt with. Resignation or forced early retirement on their part would not be out of the question.
Any further laughing on this subject should also call into question Mr. Shumlins ethics even further, and could call for his withdrawal from the race.
The laughing matter has ended and no more spinning by Shumlin shall be acceptable.
Commissioner Tremblay I am sure will deal with this in a firm manner. He is a stand up guy and will not accept such conduct.

I love all of the above apologies for Scumlin!

"For his part, Shumlin said he had no idea that troopers had tried to void the ticket until he received a call in early July from Commissioner Tremblay."

Maybe, but Scumlin did everything he could possibly do to signal to the Trooper during the stop that he didn't WANT to get a ticket.

And then the rookie Trooper goes back to command and tells people, I just stopped Peter Shumlin for speeding, and you know what he said to me?

Couldn't Scumlin have predicted that his encounter with the officer would get talked about and reported to higher-ups within the state police, hopefully resulting in a happy ending?

And then the supervisors begin the fixing scheme.

And notice how, when he got a call from the State Police, as described above, and says that the person made a "joke about fixing it for me," he doesn't say that he responded, "I expect no special treatment. Do not drop the ticket." No, he admits he made a response that was ambiguous. A response that could be interpreted as condoning the caller's offer to fix the ticket.

Gee, when you hand a rookie Trooper your Senate ID card and tell him, "I hope you'll be driving me next year," shouldn't you expect that maybe someone higher up in the chain of command will find out about the encounter and maybe find a way drop the ticket? You mean to tell me that someone as slick as Shumlin didn't consider that possibility when he was handling the encounter? The whole thing is disgraceful. Is this what we want for our Governor?

Don't let far out Peter Shumlin go fast, and too far out again, man. Far out.

Yes Webber. Disgraceful indeed! Humph!



Don't do drugs and type.

Far out, Webber. Sage advice.

I was making fun of the ad that calls him "far out Peter Shumlin." I happen to think it's quite funny he's being attacked with a phrase that, you know, in the parlance of our times means "cool" or "awesome." Far out.

Also I think it would have been a seemed a bit wooden, and/or been easily misconstrued as facetious if he has said what you're suggesting. "I expect no special treatment. Do not drop the ticket?" I'm sure you'll agree Webber, that the message that comes across is more about how something is said, than what.

If the cop fixed the ticket, or tried to, that his own fault not Shumlin's.

You might have a better chance at convincing readers of this blog of your point of view if you didn't include the word "Scumlin" right up there in your lead sentence.
It appears that you could learn a bit from the mystic Senator Shumlin about the mind bending power of ambiguous statements instead of relying on the well worn method of creating fallacious attacks based on one's personal ideology. Next time, try burying the invective deeper down in the post. I think you'll discover that most of us lazy, gubmint welfare check stealing, cigarette smoking, stoned, liberal dodohead readers don't have the capacity to stay focused on...

Want substance? Shumlin's nose is imposing and likes getting all the attention. How can Dubie counter that?!

"If the cop fixed the ticket, or tried to, that his own fault not Shumlin's."

But the speeding, and the handing over of the Senate ID card, and the stupid/ingratiating "I hope you'll be working for me" remark, are all Shumlin's fault.

And if you don't think Shumlin was trying to use his position to get out of getting a ticket, there's a bridge I'd like to sell ya.

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