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DPS Commissioner Says No Evidence Of An Official's Arrest In China

The sign outside the Vermont Department of Public Safety headquarters.
Amy Kolb Noyes
VPR File
Thomas Anderson, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, said in a written statement Tuesday that a Vermont State Police investigation back in 2014 didn't find evidence of a state official's arrest while on government business in China.

Commissioner of Public Safety Thomas Anderson says a 2014 investigation by the Vermont State Police’s Internal Affairs Unit found no evidence that a state official was arrested while on government business in China, as an attorney involved in a lawsuit against the state alleged.

Last week, surrounded by reporters outside a court room in Lamoille County, Stowe attorney Russell Barr said he has information that a Vermont government official was arrested for sexual misconduct while traveling on official business in China.

More from VPR — Sex, Bribery And EB-5: Lawyers Drop Bombshell Allegations In Case Against State [March 19]

Anderson said the state fielded a similar complaint back in 2014, and that a subsequent investigation yielded no “information about any state employee being arrested or engaging in criminal conduct while on this trip.”

Anderson said the then-director of the Internal Affairs Unit, Ingrid Jonas, interviewed members of then-Gov. Peter Shumlin’s security detail, as well as another state official on the trip. 

“[Jonas] … determined that no member of the security unit was arrested during this trip nor did they have any information about any state employee being arrested or engaging in criminal conduct while on this trip,” Anderson said in written statement Tuesday afternoon. “Lieutenant Jonas also spoke with a non-DPS employee who was on this trip and that individual likewise provided no information substantiating [the] complaint.”

Anderson said the investigation was related to a 2013 trip to Asia, by Shumlin and employees of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, to promote Vermont EB-5 projects to prospective foreign investors.

Anderson said that because the internal investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing, there was no reason to open a criminal investigation.

More From VPR — After Allegation, State Officials Say No Record Of Sex Crime By Government Employee [March 20]

According to Anderson, the 2014 investigation was prompted by a complaint from Brady Toensing, who now serves as vice chairman of the Vermont Republican Party. Anderson said Toensing’s complaint was “vague” and “non-specific,” and that Toensing at the time “declined to identify the source of his information and he provided no additional information on the nature of the crime."

Russell Barr is suing the state on behalf of a group of foreign investors defrauded by a massive EB-5 Ponzi scheme in the Northeast Kingdom. The suit alleges the state was negligent in its oversight of the program, and Barr says the allegations of sexual misconduct spotlight the scope of the state’s malfeasance. 

More from VPR — Who Is Russell Barr? A Look At The Lawyer Representing EB-5 Investors [March 23] 

Barr, however, has provided no evidence to support the claim. If Barr has evidence, Anderson said he should turn it over to the state immediately.

“To the extent Mr. Barr or any other individual has evidence of criminal activity or misconduct by Vermont employees during this trip, DPS joins the Governor and the Attorney General in calling on that person to provide it to law enforcement,” Anderson said in a statement.

Anderson said his department has “a fundamental constitutional and ethical obligation not to launch criminal investigations of Vermont citizens based on rumor, innuendo, or which are solely politically or financially motivated.”

“The Department of Public Safety and the Vermont State Police will investigate all allegations of violations of Vermont law which are credible and supported by evidence,” Anderson said. “Should such information and evidence be provided in this matter, the Vermont State Police will carefully review it and take whatever investigative steps are appropriate and necessary.”

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