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Vermont Sheriff Locked Out of National Crime Database, Facing Impeachment

by Chuck Sharman

Troubles mounted for Sheriff John Grismore of Vermont’s Franklin County on May 11, 2023, when state lawmakers took a significant step toward his impeachment. The same day, Grismore lost access to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), a crucial criminal records database used in policing.

Because his NCIC access was revoked, Grismore was also locked out of the Vermont Crime Information Center and its records system, Valcour. Although other authorized users at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department can continue using the national database and Valcour, they are prohibited from sharing information with Grismore.

His problems predate his November 2022 election, when then-Cpt. Grismore was accused by two fellow deputies of kicking a detainee and charged with assault on August 7, 2022. He pleaded not guilty and then won election. But his prosecution is ongoing.

The impact of Grismore’s restricted access to these critical systems on his day-to-day work as a law enforcement official and the extent to which members of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department are aware of these restrictions remains unclear. The databases contain valuable information such as wanted and missing persons, stolen property records, and domestic violence protection orders.

In December 2022, while Grismore was sheriff-elect, Franklin County State’s Attorney John Lavoie issued him a Brady letter, which flags law enforcement officers with credibility issues. Lavoie stated he acted based on conflicting statements Grismore made regarding his assault charge, which contradicted sworn statements from the two law enforcement officers who witnessed the alleged detainee assault.

On May 11, 2023, Vermont House Speaker Jill Krowinski (D-Burlington), said leadership would pursue impeachment by introducing a resolution to form a seven-member, bipartisan committee responsible for investigating both Grismore and Lavoie. The announcement followed allegations of harassment and discrimination against Lavoie, as well as the assault charges against Grismore.

The impeachment process in Vermont is lengthy and complex, with little historical precedent. If articles of impeachment were introduced against either official by a House committee and received a majority vote, removal from office would still require a trial and conviction overseen by the state Senate.

Lavoie expressed surprise upon hearing the news. But just minutes before the lawmakers’ announcement, a redacted summary of the investigation into his conduct was released, detailing allegations of discriminatory language and inappropriate physical contact towards colleagues, as well as offensive mimicry targeting individuals with disabilities. Lavoie categorically denied some of the allegations but apologized for any harm caused by his crude sense of humor and “locker room talk.”

For his part, Sheriff Grismore expressed disappointment and suggested that his impeachment was purely political, for his affiliation with the Republican party, which holds the governor’s office but a minority of seats in the state legislature.

Gov. Phil Scott (R) can call a special session for the House to vote on impeachment, but Krowinski said she plans to introduce a resolution before the legislative session ends, calling for a special session on impeachment to be held before January 2024.

Source: Vermont Digger