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Green Mountain Care Board Appointment At Risk Due To Paperwork

Vermont Governor Phil Scott (left), Secretary of Human Services Al Gobeille (center) and legal counsel Jaye Pershing Johnson (right)
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Vermont Governor Phil Scott (left), Secretary of Human Services Al Gobeille (center) and legal counsel Jaye Pershing Johnson (right)

A paperwork glitch is threatening the appointment of a regulator by Vermont’s previous governor to the state’s health care regulating board.
Before he left office, then-Governor Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, appointed Robin Lunge to the Green Mountain Care Board, which regulates Vermont's $5 billion health care industry.  The appointment must be approved by the state Senate, which was not in session at the time of the appointment.

The Senate Health and Welfare committee is now reviewing Lunge’s appointment, but the appropriate paperwork cannot be found.  During Republican Governor Phil Scott’s weekly press conference he called it an unfortunate situation.   “We haven't been able to find any of the paperwork to back that up. We've asked the Secretary of State. We've asked the Senate. We've written a letter to the Green Mountain Care Board at this point to see if they've got any, uh, any language. And again I don't want this to turn into a partisan political fight. But we have to respect the process and if they can't produce the paperwork and if the Senate says we don't have the paperwork to confirm you can't just make it so.”

Scott says he cannot just approve what his predecessor may have intended.  The current governor says Lunge would have to go through the nominating process again if the documents cannot be found.   “That's a previous administration. It’s an action taken before. She could go through the nominating process again. She has to get through the nominating process and then come before me and I could interview her along with anybody else and select who I think is best to be on the Green Mountain Care Board. Which I would be willing to do.”

The five-member Green Mountain Care Board still lacks two members even with Lunge on the board.  Governor Scott’s legal counsel Jaye Pershing Johnson says there are quorum issues and the improper filing or lack of paperwork puts Lunge’s legal status on the board in question.   “If you look at the Constitution it provides for an interim appointment. That's the kind of status that she has right now. It’s the kind of status that she had when she was first appointed.  Now the question becomes what happens when there's a new governor who doesn't really have the authority to confirm or ratify that appointment because there's a new governor there's a new nominating board there are no records from the prior appointment? Right now I mean you know sort of like Schrodinger's cat until the Senate acts we don't know if there's paperwork or not paperwork. We would argue that there is some question about her status and I think it does jeopardize the proceedings of the Green Mountain Care Board.”

Former Green Mountain Care Board Chair Al Gobeille, who is now Governor Scott’s Secretary of Human Services, explains that the Board has no role in the appointment process while illustrating how convoluted the problem is.   “If you think about it in terms of parties the prior governor is one party to this. The former Senate is another party. The new administration is a whole ‘nother party and the new Senate is another party. The institution of the Green Mountain Care Board is the fifth party in the dance but the Green Mountain Care Board is not a part of the appointing or confirming process.”

Vermont Lieutenant Governor Progressive/Democrat David Zuckerman, the presiding officer of the Senate says, in an interview that will air this weekend on WAMC, it’s a disconcerting situation.  “It's frustrating to hear that the governor's office may be taking advantage of this either lost piece of paper or non-filed piece of paper to make a big political shift when I think it's far more appropriate to say if that was the appointment of that governor done duly you know clearly made while he was governor as he should have that the governor could gain a lot of goodwill by following through on that. But it looks like it's going to become political.”

Zuckerman’s aide showed him a signed affidavit from former Governor Shumlin detailing his intent to send the paperwork at the time of Lunge’s appointment.   Governor Scott’s Chief of Staff says they have a notarized oath of office and a salary document from Lunge but there appears to be no record of documents verifying her appointment to the Green Mountain Care Board.

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