Yesterday the “Top Story” on caledonianrecord.com was a wire report titled “Thorn in Side of Powerful Faces Criminal Probe.”
The “thorn” is Annette Smith, founder of Vermonters for a Clean Environment, who sometimes helps small communities oppose industrial energy projects in front of Vermont’s Public Service Board.
The “powerful,” according to the story, seems to be David Blittersdorf – a notorious developer and manufacturer of renewable energy systems who has had a hand in writing many of the rules and laws that benefit his companies directly.
The “criminal probe” is by the Vermont Attorney General who is investigating “whether her efforts constitute unlicensed legal work.”
For her part, Smith is widely lauded by people trying to find their voice in an expensive, technical energy-siting process that heavily favors developers and their lawyers. She neither claims to be an attorney nor takes money for her guidance. Everyone she helps appears to be deeply grateful for her sound advice.
Blittersdorf, meanwhile, has gotten filthy rich on renewable energy subsidies and mandates and knows, better than most, how to play the system to get what he wants.
The Attorney General, who has a history of shady deals and hasn’t prosecuted an “unlicensed legal work” case in a gazillion years, acknowledges it’s not really a crime at all.
Without question, this is a nakedly political attack intended to intimidate and harass Smith. As local attorney Deb Bucknam explains in an op-ed we ran, “even though this is a preposterous charge, and will likely be thrown out, its purpose will be fulfilled: to chill anyone’s free speech rights who dares to question the powerful in Montpelier.”
The punishment for “unlicensed legal work” is a contempt of court charge. We hope a judge will take a look at this case and refer the attorney general for sanctions and an ethics violation.
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