MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Fourteen of state Sen. Norm McAllister’s 29 Senate colleagues say they would vote to expel him from that body based on what they know now about the criminal sex charges he is facing, an Associated Press survey of senators found.
Five senators said they would not vote to expel McAllister, nine were undecided and one could not be reached.
McAllister was arrested May 7 outside the Statehouse and pleaded not guilty the next day in the criminal court for Franklin County to charges of sexual assault and prohibited acts accusing him of demanding sex in exchange for rent and sexually assaulting an employee.
Since then, there have been repeated calls for McAllister’s resignation, from Gov. Peter Shumlin, Lt. Gov. Phil Scott and his fellow senators. Also in the works are discussions of a Senate investigation and vote, likely when lawmakers return in January, on McAllister’s fitness to serve. The 63-year-old Franklin County Republican is in his second two-year term and previously served 10 years in the House.
Five of McAllister’s eight fellow Republicans said they likely would vote to oust him if circumstances remain as they are now when lawmakers return in January.
“If circumstances remain the same in the current posture with this hanging over him, I would vote to remove him,” said Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia and the Senate minority leader.
McAllister, who is free on bail, did not immediately return a message left at his home Friday. He did not appear at the Statehouse between his arrest and lawmakers’ May 16 adjournment.
A move to expel a sitting senator is believed to be unprecedented in Vermont, said Senate Secretary John Bloomer, and there has been uncertainty about how such an action would unfold.
Bloomer, a lawyer whose job frequently involves offering advice to senators about the state Constitution, laws and parliamentary rules, pointed to the guidebook used by Vermont lawmakers, Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure.
Mason’s refers to expulsion of a lawmaker by a vote of his or her colleagues after “adequate notice, formal charges and a public hearing with the right to cross-examine witnesses.”
Bloomer said the procedure likely would not be as thorough as a criminal court process in which crime victims and police are brought in as witnesses and forensic evidence is examined. “It’s somewhere between there and nothing, but you have to have a hearing,” he said.
Bloomer said he expected the Senate rules committee likely would determine whether to send the matter to the Judiciary or Government Operations Committee or create a special committee.
Senators offered a range of views on how they would respond to a vote coming to the floor to expel McAllister, with several of those indicating they would vote yes, though they would first want there to be some formal process in which they could hear from the embattled senator.
“I would probably vote yes. However, just like any kind of court, I would at least want to hear his version, to try to get a better understanding,” said Sen. David Zuckerman, a Chittenden County Progressive.
Most of those who declined to answer or said they would vote against expulsion said they wanted to see the criminal court process play out before any action by the Senate.
“What would those same people (supporters of expulsion) feel If tomorrow the state dismissed all the charges?” asked Sen. Margaret “Peg” Flory, a Rutland County Republican. If the vote came up before the criminal case were resolved, “I’d not only say no, I’d say hell no,” she said.
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