Editorial: Shoo-in for 'Dumb and dumber'?
<p>Note to voters: Vermont State Auditor Tom Salmon has a hot temper, is crude, doesn’t think doing things that are illegal is any big deal, and is not very smart. </p><p>But don’t take my word for it. </p><p>You be the judge. </p><p><strong>About his hot temper: </strong> Last week, the Burlington-based <em>Seven Days</em> newspaper columnist Shay Totten asked Salmon about his use of the state email to respond to news that Sen. Edward Flanagan, D-Chittenden, was running for state auditor, a job he had held previously. Salmon used his state computer (and presumably his time in his office as auditor) to respond as a candidate running for re-election. That’s illegal because there is a law against it; but it’s also wrong because Vermont taxpayers should not be paying a state office-holder for the time he spends campaigning or for use of state equipment or materials in that campaign. It is not only unfair to opponents, but taxpayers don’t want to be funding Salmon’s campaign efforts when he should be doing his job.</p><p>When caught and pressed on his mistake, Salmon had two choices: to be contrite, apologize and say he slipped up; or blast the messenger. He chose the latter. “F — off,” he emailed Totten. “I’m wasting more state time on your political bulls--,” than … what? Working?</p><p>Now, that’s taking a relatively straightforward question and blowing it into a smoking Eyjafjallajökull — Iceland’s fuming volcano.</p><p><strong>Crude? </strong>To each his own, and very few of us are saints, but is that how we want our public officials to respond?</p><p><strong>Illegal? </strong>Salmon later apologized to the public for using the state email and his time in office to respond to something that was wholly related to his campaign and had nothing to do with his work as auditor, so there is no doubt he knew he was in the wrong. And is it illegal? Absolutely, and the state auditor should be among the first to know that.</p><p><strong>And just how dumb was he? </strong>Well, that’s up to the observer, but consider this: Salmon didn’t say these things, he wrote them in an email. </p><p>Now, everyone knows that emails from public officials are bound to become public. And he knew what he did was illegal, so to react belligerently toward his questioner about his illegal action wasn’t the brightest thing to do. Moreover, to say such things in an outburst of frustration on the phone might be one thing, but to think about it, take the time to write it and, then, send it? Man, that’s not smart.</p><p>But then <em>he took it a step further</em>. When his outburst became a media issue, he tried to defend his response to other state media. In an interview with Vermont Press Bureau reporter Daniel Barlow, he explained his response to being questioned about his illegal action this way: “Sometimes you have to be real direct with the enemy,” Salmon wrote in an email to Barlow. “This reporter wastes taxpayer dollars to fulfill his political columnist agenda, disregarding substance and innovation happening in state government along the way.”</p><p>No kidding. Here’s a public official, who is using the state’s newspapers and media every day of the week, calling those very people “the enemy,” and then trying to divert attention away from his mistake by suggesting that Totten doesn’t focus on substance while he (Mr. Illegal campaigner) does.</p><p>In Salmon’s convoluted thinking, he has the Seven Days’ columnist being the villain because Totten asked him why he was violating the law. And then Salmon actually took the time to suggest that the columnist — not himself — was wasting state taxpayer dollars by questioning the state auditor’s illegal action! <em>Wow. That’s really distorted thinking. </em></p><p>Nor is it Salmon’s first time to get himself into hot water. Earlier, Totten had reported that Salmon had been arrested for drunk driving in Montpelier in November 2009 (when the state knew it was neck-deep in debt and just two months after he had switched to the Republican Party) after being at a party with fellow employees to celebrate pay raises in his office. Salmon pleaded guilty to the DUI charge.</p><p>So, you decide. </p><p>Is Salmon a bit of a hot head? Is he a little crude and too cavalier with the law? And is he not a leading candidate for the next Dumb and Dumber movie? If you answered yes to any of those questions, make a note to self and think about it at the next election. It’s not that these infractions are deal-killers for Salmon as state auditor, but they certainly ought to make us think about his leadership skills — and right now those are near rock bottom.</p><p>Angelo S. Lynn</p>