Brock to Ready: Step aside
MONTPELIER — Republican Randy Brock on Monday called on his election opponent, State Auditor Elizabeth Ready, to cease overseeing state audits until she can explain why several biographies credit her with college degrees she does not possess.
Ready, a two-term Democrat from Lincoln seeking re-election on Nov. 2, said she has no intention of recusing herself.
"I have a contract with Vermonters," she said Monday. "And I'm going to keep that contract."
A biographical sketch book published by the Vermont secretary of state from 1988 to 1996 reported that Ready holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Vermont. Editions after 1997 say she has a master's degree from Norwich University.
Neither claim is correct. Ready's only college degree is a bachelor of arts from Burlington College.
Two national publications, Marquis Who's Who in American Politics and The State Yellow Book, have also carried inaccurate information about Ready's education.
Ready last week called these claims a "mistake" and said she is unaware how the publications got their information. She said she has never tried to "inflate" her achievements.
Brock, a Swanton Republican seeking to defeat Ready and take her job as state auditor, is unsatisfied with that response.
Officials at all three publications said they received their information from either Ready or her office. Brock wants to know why they were not given accurate information.
"She has yet to answer the question clearly as to what happened and why did it happen," Brock said at a press conference Monday at the Statehouse.
"Her responses have been conflicting and incomplete…" he said. "She owes us an explanation. I'm calling on her to recuse herself, to step aside from overseeing state audits until she has given that clear and forthright explanation that the people of Vermont deserve."
Ready met with reporters in her office within an hour of Brock's demand. She answered questions for 50 minutes, but said nothing that satisfied her opponent, a retired top executive with Fidelity Investments.
Asked several times by reporters whether she falsified her academic credentials in published biographies, Ready, a former state senator from Addison County, was ambiguous.
"When I served in the Senate during the 1980s and 1990s there were inaccuracies in my biography." Ready told reporters. "Those errors I take responsibility for. They are my fault, mea culpa, I apologize for those errors. It is also my responsibility to correct them, which I have done."
Ready was asked if she was trying to inflate her academic achievements.
"I'm saying there were errors, and I'm taking responsibility for those errors," she responded. "I don't have what I wrote in those days. But the buck stops with me, so there is no blame to go anywhere else but right here."
Ready was pressed on whether she had lied, or if it was intentional.
"I don't think I ever intentionally lied," Ready said. "Clearly I have put out information that was not accurate, it was confusing and it resulted in mistakes in the biographies. I take responsibility for those mistakes. … My intention was not to mislead people."
Reporters asked for a yes or no answer: Did she lie when she filled out the secretary of state's biography forms?
"There were errors in my background," Ready said. "But I did not willfully misrepresent the situation. You are going to have to go with that."
Reporters asked how she could not know whether she'd received a degree, how she could make an error about that.
"I did," Ready said. "You are just going to have to go with the fact that there it is, it's wrong, I take responsibility for it and I apologize."
Brock called these answers a "no-denial denial" that was akin to pleading no contest in court. He said they were not an acceptance of responsibility, and that he would continue to call for Ready to recuse herself until she is more forthcoming with voters.
"It is an evasion of responsibility," Brock said. "It is inexcusable that (she called) this an error. That is not a satisfactory answer. … People will come away from this still not understanding what happened and what she did or did not do."
Later Monday in a forum before a class at Johnson State College, the two candidates discussed what they see are the duties of the office and how they are qualified for the job. The issue of Ready's biographies did not arise.
Ready touted her office's audits and special reviews and her years as an Addison County state senator and in town government.
She said her office has earned top marks from the National Association of State Auditors. Brock described that review as narrow, conducted by peers.
He questioned the methods used in Ready's reports and said the office had an adversarial relationship with many agencies.
Contact John Zicconi at email@example.com.
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