October 27, 2004 – Midday Report

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(Host) In about an hour, Superior Court Judge Richard Norton will hold a hearing on the Democrats’ request for an injunction to stop the Republicans from broadcasting ads in Vermont’s gubernatorial campaign.

Governor Jim Douglas and his Democratic challenger Peter Clavelle are at odds over the pro-Douglas TV ads sponsored by the Republican Governor’s Association.

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell says the ads are in violation of the state’s campaign finance law, and in a debate heard on VPR last night Clavelle said Douglas should take a stand against them:

(Clavelle) “This is an outrageous example to influence with out of state money, coming from tobacco interests, from insurance companies, from the major special interests in this country, pharmaceutical businesses, this is an outrageous attempt to influence this election governor, you should say to your friends in the Republican Governor’s Association, that we do not want to see campaign finance laws in the state of Vermont eroded, that the governor’s office in the state of Vermont is not for sale and say right here right now this evening that those ads should be pulled.

(Douglas) “Well, as I’ve said before Pete there are laws against coordination and I see you going out campaigning with people who have formed some progressive political action committees, supposedly making independent expenditures, but you’re out going all around the state campaigning with them that’s obviously coordination to me. I believe that the attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer in our state has the responsibility to enforce the law if he concludes these ads do not conform to the law of our state he should act and I will support him.”

(Host) The hearing on the advertisements is scheduled for one o’clock. own officials in Rockingham say they’re very close to unveiling a plan to buy the Bellows Falls hydroelectric dam.

VPR’s Susan Keese has more on that story.

(Keese) Negotiations were still underway this morning with the town’s unnamed partner in the $72 million dollar purchase.

But Rockingham Town Manager Shane O’Keefe says he expects a deal will be ready to present to citizens at a public hearing warned for Thursday.

(O’Keefe) “ll things are really looking positive at this point and the hope is that it will be able to be developed and completed within the next two days or so.”

(Keese) Earlier this month Rockingham entered a three-week exclusive negotiating period with an undisclosed investor for the dam project.

The prospect was a last hope after an anticipated partnership with the Vermont Public Power Supply Authority fell through earlier this fall.

The town can only use 15 percent of the power the dam produces. It needs a long term partner to provide financing and to sell the rest of the electricity.

Rockingham has until December first to buy the dam from its owner, the bankrupt U.S. Gen New England. Working against a tight deadline, the town has already scheduled a townwide ballot on the purchase for November 23rd. Shane O’Keefe:

(O’Keefe) “Things are working well – we’ve got a good group of folks we’re working with and we’re certainly confident that at least we can bring things to a town vote and it’ll be up to the voters to decide.”

(Keese) The dam is part of a larger hydro system on the Connecticut and Deerfield rivers owned by U.S. Gen.. The entire system goes up for auction in December, with or without the Bellows Falls Dam.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

The family of a Vermont inmate who killed himself last year is suing the state and several prison employees. A complaint filed yesterday at U.S. District Court alleges that James Quigley was badly mistreated at the prison in St. Albans and that he did not receive adequate treatment for his mental illness.

It says Quigley was placed in solitary confinement for 118 days before he died, and that the placement was not for disciplinary reasons, but in retailiation for grievances Quigley had filed. Quigley’s death was the seventh in an 18-month period of people under the supervision of the Corrections Department.
It sparked internal and external investigations, and the replacement of two prison superintendents.

Former Governor Howard Dean is coming to the defense of Auditor Elizabeth Ready, someone he often clashed with as governor.

Dean says that Ready has been the subject of unfair attacks from Republican candidate Randy Brock. The challenger has aired TV ads that question Ready’s honesty because state publications list her as having college degrees she never earned.

(Dean) “Frankly, I’m really disturbed by the idea that you can take 100-thousand dollars and try to buy the auditors office with sleazy ads. I think that’s wrong. I don’t think we should be behaving like in this state. God knows there’s enough trouble with that around the country.”

(Host) Dean says he would not endorse ready if he had any doubts about her integrity. He pointed out that newspaper profiles of Ready dating back to the 1980s show that she gave the correction information about her academic background.

Dean says Ready has done a good job as auditor, including producing reports that sometimes challenged his administration’s performance.

Elsewhere in Vermont: in less than an hour, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz joins Vermont Protection and Advocacy in Barre to discuss access to polling sites in Vermont. The group has been working with the state and with town clerks in surveying polling sites in an effort to improve accessibility for people with physical disabilities and various health concerns

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