MONTPELIER, Vt. – Republican Gov.-elect Phil Scott said on Monday he expects to sell his share of his business, a construction company that has won millions of dollars in state contracts, before he takes office in January.
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But Scott said he expects to act like a bank in financing the deal, which would give him a continuing interest in the company.
Scott, a part-time lieutenant governor who won election to the top job in November, is co-owner of Dubois Construction, a Middlesex-based heavy construction firm.
The Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus reported in July 2015 that the company had won $3.785 million in state contracts since 2001, when Scott became a state senator from Washington County. Most of that, $2.657 million, was after he became lieutenant governor in 2011.
During the campaign, Scott said he would avoid any appearance of impropriety by selling his share of the company if elected governor before taking office.
On Monday, he said that he still planned to close that sale "before the end of the year" but that his financing the deal would be "part of the discussion."
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"It'd be like being a bank," he said.
Asked if that gave him a continuing stake in the success of the business, Scott said, "No more than a bank would. ... They just want to protect their interests, but they don't advocate for your business. They don't make sure the business prospers. They're just there as the bank and make sure that they're paid in the end."
Scott's remarks drew criticism from Conor Casey, executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party, and Paul Ryan, vice president of the Washington-based government ethics group Common Cause.
"He would have a direct financial interest in the company going forward," Casey said. "I don't think that's how it was advertised on the campaign trail."
Scott acknowledged it would be a cleaner break if the company got bank or other commercial financing to buy him out.
"If they could get one, sure," he said. "I don't know if you've been out in the business climate to get, to secure a loan of this nature."
Ryan said Scott had not solved the ethical problem he promised to solve during the campaign. He said Scott "has an ongoing conflict" by financing "a private business that's doing business with his government."
Ryan said he feared Scott may have been "emboldened" by the approach being taken by Republican President-elect Donald Trump to his own "massive conflicts of interest."
Trump, a New York real estate mogul, has said he'll step away from managing his business empire while he's in office but isn't going to sell it. If he follows through, he'll shatter a presidential precedent on conflicts of interest, and ethics experts say he'll open the door to investigations and lawsuits that could hobble his administration.
Scott reiterated he had not supported Trump during the campaign and disagreed with him on many issues.
Ryan, told of Scott's stance, said, "Though the governor may disagree with Trump on many issues, he seems to agree that conflicts of interest are no big deal."