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Smith needs to clear the air

Shap Smith, who is stepping down as speaker of the Vermont House, now wants to be lieutenant governor.

If Smith wants to continue in high office, he first owes the people an explanation of the appearance of a conflict of interest relating to his role as speaker, his law firm’s representation of David Blittersdorf and allegations of improperly practicing law made by a lawyer in his firm against Annette Smith.

David Blittersdorf, perhaps the largest industrial wind and solar developer in the state, is represented by Smith’s law firm. Over the past six years, numerous bills relating to the regulation of industrial wind and solar have failed or been significantly watered down in the House under Smith’s leadership, while bills providing benefits to the renewable energy industry sailed through. Actions of this nature have been of substantial benefit to Blittersdorf over the years.

The most recent example of watering down legislation by the House is S.230, a bill related to industrial wind and solar siting and operating standards.

Annette Smith is the executive director of Vermonters for a Clean Environment. Over the years, she has assisted families and communities adversely impacted by essentially unregulated industrial wind and solar development.

Ms. Smith’s work has irked Blittersdorf, as it has involved some of his projects, and he has made his ire toward Ms. Smith publicly known.

Recently, Blittersdorf’s attorney, Ritchie Berger, a lawyer in Shap Smith’s law firm, made allegations against Ms. Smith to the attorney general that she was improperly practicing law. The allegations were quickly thrown out by the AG. Many believe these allegations were intended to halt Ms. Smith’s efforts to assist others in dealing with large wind and solar projects.

The relationship among Speaker Shap Smith, his law firm and Blittersdorf, coupled with the failure of the Vermont House to do anything of consequence with industrial wind and solar siting and operating standards, creates a perception of, if not a real, conflict of interest and thus a potentially serious ethical issue. This looks bad and cannot be ignored.

If Shap Smith wants to be lieutenant governor, he must provide Vermonters with a full explanation of the above relationship and the failure of the House to pass meaningful industrial wind and solar regulation over the past six years. He must clear the air of the perception of conflict of interest now hanging over his head.


Rutland Town