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Governor Addresses Investigation Of Vermont State Troopers During Weekly Briefing

Vermont Statehouse  (file photo)
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Vermont Statehouse (file)

Late Tuesday the Vermont State Police announced the resignation of three troopers after they allegedly were involved in creating and distributing fake vaccination cards. Asked about the investigation during his weekly briefing on Wednesday, the governor called it an embarrassing and dumb development.

The Vermont State Police say troopers Shawn Sommers and Raymond Witkowski resigned on August 10th one day after another trooper reported them to their supervisors. A third, David Pfindel, quit effective September 3rd following additional investigation.

State police say the trio are suspected of creating fake COVID-19 vaccine cards, a violation of federal law. In a statement Vermont State Police director Col. Matthew Birmingham says if proven “…it is reprehensible that state troopers would manipulate vaccination cards in the midst of a pandemic…” and added “I’m embarrassed that this situation has occurred and know that it has tarnished the reputation of the Vermont State Police…”

During his weekly briefing Wednesday, Governor Phil Scott said he was incredibly disappointed. “I don’t think it’s reflective of the entire Vermont State Police organization. It’s just a dumb thing to do to be perfectly frank. It just makes no sense to me whatsoever. There’ll be an investigation, outside investigation, and we’ll learn more details. But my first question is why? It’s just a simple thing to do. Get vaccinated and you get your card. You don’t have to fabricate something.”

Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling says there is currently no indication anyone else was involved in the fake card scheme.

“No indication at this point that there are any other state employees involved. But the FBI is leading the investigation on a parallel and separate track from the Department of Public Safety," Schirling said. "In terms of the timing the decision to release yesterday was actually in response to a media question. Otherwise we would not have released the information even at this stage because as is typical in any federal investigation the government has an interest in preserving the continuity of the investigation by not having it be public until it’s concluded.”

Last month Governor Scott announced a vaccine requirement effective September 1st for state employees working in certain sectors. Wednesday, he announced an expansion of the state worker vaccine mandate.

“We have now notified the state employees’ union that effective September 15th all state of Vermont executive branch employees will be required to attest they are vaccinated or be subject to at least weekly testing and mandatory masking at work," the Governor said. "As I’ve said we want as many people as possible to get the vaccine because we know they work and we feel it’s the best way to put this pandemic behind us. And I continue to urge other employers to follow suit.”

The Scott administration is extending its advisory to schools that all students wear masks at the beginning of the school year until October 4th. The Agency of Education is also creating a vaccination incentive program that will distribute $2 million in grant funds to schools that attain high vaccination rates.

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