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October 07, 2010

Lawyer Sues State to Release Politician's DUI Video

Traffic_Unit_EQs908 A Burlington attorney is suing the state Department of Public Safety for refusing to release the roadside video of state Auditor Tom Salmon's drunk driving arrest.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in federal court by attorney John Franco, names DPS Commissioner Thomas Tremblay and Salmon as co-defendants. Franco believes Salmon's roadside video is a public record because it identifies his "initial arrest" while Tremblay refuses to release the video because it involves the "detection and investigation of a crime."

U.S. District Court Judge Christina Reiss will hear arguments in the case on October 15 at the federal courthouse in Burlington. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.

Questions have been raised in recent days whether Tremblay is playing political favorites when it comes to releasing roadside videos. Franco, who is an longtime Progressive and supporter of Democrat Doug Hoffer — Salmon's rival in the fall election — said he is acting on his own.

Earlier this summer, Tremblay released the video of a roadside stop involving Sen. Peter Shumlin, who was pulled over after he was caught speeding on Interstate 91. The DPS released Shumlin's video within one business day of a request from WCAX-TV.

In September, Franco asked for Salmon's roadside video from his November 2009 roadside stop where he was arrested for driving under the influence. Tremblay has refused to give out the video.

Franco claimed in this week's "Fair Game": “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why one video was released easily to the media when it involved a Democrat and why the other is being withheld when the person involved is a Republican."

Salmon was pulled over in November 2009 for failing to use a turn signal. He admitted to having had drinks that evening while out celebrating raises and promotions given to several office staff. An hour later he blew a .086 and was processed for driving under the influence.

Franco argues that Commissioner Tremblay is playing political favorites by releasing the video of Democrat Peter Shumlin and not the video of Salmon.

"Commissioner Tremblay's reasoning distinguishing the Shumlin stop as being 'civil' rather than 'criminal' is erroneous. The stop of Sen. Shumlin was no less the 'detection and investigation of a crime' than that of Auditor Salmon. Speeding supplies the factual basis for the investigation of a number possible crimes, including DUI," Franco argues.

"Indeed, according to press reports, Mr. Salmon was stopped for failure to use a directional signal when executing a turn. Disclosure of the record of the 'investigation' does not turn on what the investigating revealed or what the officer elected to charge as the offense. Nor does the right to release of the video turn on whether one public official (Mr. Shumlin) consented to the release while the other (Mr. Salmon) did not,"  Franco adds.

Franco argues there are no legitimate reasons the video shouldn't be released given the roadside stop occurred "in public view on a public highway, involving routine, statutorily-prescribed screening procedures" not secret investigative techniques.

Given the case has long since been adjudicated, there's no information that can interfere with an ongoing investigation, Franco noted in his complaint.

Read the full complaint here: Franco Complaint

Few interesting things about this:

- You're so eager to get this non-story out there that you wrote two nearly identical pieces about it. Workin' that search engine optimization on behalf of the Hoffer campaign I guess.
- You failed to note in both pieces that Franco is working for Hoffer's campaign.
- You failed to ask Hoffer why, since he doesn't want to make this campaign about "personal issues," he did nothing to stop a member of his campaign staff from making such a desperate move to dredge up a personal issue.
- You failed to ask Franco the most obvious question in this whole thing - why he wants the tape.

The Vermont GOP stands for transparency ... unless it means revealing something that will make them look bad ... in that case, why are you asking so many questions??!!??

This is the lowest of the low. The Democrats involved with this like Peter Shumlin should be ashamed of themselves. I do not even want to vote now.

@ One-Vermonter:

This is not a "Vermont GOP" issue. The law says that files regarding the investigation of a crime shall not be disclosed. Shumlin's violation was a civil matter, while Salmon's was a criminal matter. Now, I understand that there may be some gray area in the law, as Franco argues. But does that mean that Tremblay was struggling with interpreting the law, in good faith, or simply being a partisan, as you seem to simplistically believe.

You got any evidence that Tremblay is a partisan hack, as opposed to a diligent civil servant?

You are blinded by partisanship. And, as Jimmy asks, why does Doug Hoffer's campaign manager even want this tape?

"You failed to ask Franco the most obvious question in this whole thing - why he wants the tape."

Ay caramba, the irony is just dripping here.... Question back at ya, Jimmy: Why did WCAX want the tape of Shumlin? Will you be so bold to tell us that was newsworthy and this is not?

Also, what proof do you have that Franco works for Hoffer's campaign? Do you have pay stubs? Or did you just hire a private investigator and he saw them shake hands one day? Please enlighten us with your brilliance.

"Why did WCAX want the tape of Shumlin?"

Because they're a news outlet and the Shumlin story was news. It's fairly obvious why a television station with a news program wants a video about a newsworthy event that just happened. Franco is not a news outlet, and the Salmon story hasn't been news for a long time. No one - including you - seems to have any idea why he wants the tape. Is the difference clear enough for you now?

"John Franco, a Burlington lawyer involved in the campaign of Doug Hoffer" - BFP, 10/5/10

"Attorney John Franco is involved in the campaign of the Democrat trying to unseat the Republican state auditor." - AP

Ah! It's funny to see the right wingers twisting in their own distortions!

"During my conversation with Sen. Shumlin, Sen. Shumlin strongly encouraged me to release the video to the media so the record of the stop was clear," said Tremblay

So what's Tom Salmon have to hide? If he believes in government transparency, why not encourage Tromblay to release the tape, like Shumlin did??

The only thing transparent about the GOP is their double standard!

"why not encourage Tromblay to release the tape"

Release the tape to his opponent's campaign?

Shumlin's tape was news and it was legally releasable, it was going to come out anyway so "encouraging" Tremblay was meaningless.

@ Holy Overreaction:

Ay caramba right back at ya, you nitwit! When you don't even know what everyone else already knows and is a matter of public record -- that Franco works for the Hoffer campaign -- then anything you say has no credibility whatsoever. If you're going to try to be a smartass, please at least try to keep up with the local news. At least a bit, ok?

Also, what you erroneously seem to think is a double-standard (which it isn't, because the two situations are different) is not an example of "irony." Look up the definition of irony. It doesn't mean double-standard.

And neither you nor your pal One_Partisan has answered the question of why Hoffer's campaign aid wants the tape. Unlike WCAX, Franco is not a news outlet, last I heard.

It's anger-maniacs like "Sean" and "Jimmy" who give the internet a bad name.

They'll spit at anyone with a different opinion and say they have "no credibility", yet write tirelessly in response. The window to their tiny lives are revealed by relegating their arguments to name calling and unsubstantiated "facts".

What everyone outside the Jimmy-Sean bubble sees is a double-standard. Franco has proferred cogent arguments to the court over why the tapes should be released. The reasons do not matter. It's pursuit of equity in the law, something with which Trembley (like his boss Douglas) appears to struggle.

Perhaps the real story is why WCAX, an alleged news organization, did not file this lawsuit themselves. Nothing to do with their conservative ties, I'm sure....

By the way, Franco's "involve(ment) in the campaign" is a far cry from "campaign aid". Technically, wearing a button makes a person involved in a campaign - doesn't mean their suddenly the spokesperson. Technically, Sean is "involved" in Tom Salmon's campaign too by posting angrily to bulletin boards. So what does the Salmon campaign have to say about its anger issues, Sean?

"The reasons do not matter."

Not to the legal case, but they matter to Hoffer's campaign and pretty much everyone paying attention to this nonsense. This is clearly being perceived as mudslinging with Hoffer's implicit blessing. Candidates call on their supporters to back off all the time, Hoffer saying that he hasn't tried to do the same with Franco because he "can't" is utterly ridiculous.

"Franco may not a paid member, but he did tell me today that he has conducted some unpaid research for Hoffer & other candidates." - Shay Totten

He's the head of Hoffer's (Prog) party and he's done work for his campaign. He's acting on Hoffer's behalf.

Anyway, it doesn't matter what you or I think. This has backfired on these schmucks; the damage is done. This kind of crap never works.

John Franco contributes money to Doug Hoffers campaign. They work together.

"They'll spit at anyone with a different opinion and say they have "no credibility", yet write tirelessly in response. The window to their tiny lives are revealed by relegating their arguments to name calling and unsubstantiated "facts"."

Um . . . you're the one who made the stupid-uninformed-smartass remark about Jimmy having no proof that Franco worked for Hoffer . . . Run some Windex over that mirror, dude.

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