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Frustrated by delay, Windsor County prosecutor names victims’ advocate as temporary successor

  • Windsor County State's Attorney David Cahill in in West Lebanon, N.H., on Thursday, March 23, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/20/2020 11:50:10 AM
Modified: 1/22/2020 12:52:02 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill said he will leave office on Wednesday and appoint a non-lawyer in his office as his interim successor while also voicing frustration that Gov. Phil Scott had yet to formally appoint a replacement.

In a letter to the governor Sunday, Cahill said that he is appointing Windsor County victims’ advocate Meghan Place as interim state’s attorney. According to her LinkedIn page, Place, who does not have a law degree, has been a victims’ advocate for the state of Vermont since 2008. 

Cahill, a Democrat in the elected position, also lambasted Scott’s office for failing to make a decision in the months since Cahill’s original resignation announcement in October. 

“Here we are on January 19, 2020, and no appointment decision has been made. There is no orderly transition plan. Serious cases are about to fall through the cracks. One is left wondering: ‘why?’” Cahill wrote in the letter. He added that the lack of decision means he and other attorneys in the office aren’t able to explain to victims who will be handling their cases going forward, and that they can’t tell the court who will be prosecuting upcoming homicide trials. 

“I ask that you please reflect on the practice of allowing key vacancies to linger. It has a deleterious effect on the administration of justice, on the office that has been vacated, and on the constituents served by that office.”

Messages to Rebecca Kelley, a spokeswoman for the governor’s office, were not immediately returned on Monday. 

In an email Jan 8, Kelley said that the office has completed interviews and that Scott was finalizing his decision. In another email, she said that the process of choosing a replacement was tied up because Cahill rescinded his resignation at one point. 

“The Governor cannot fill a vacancy that doesn’t exist, so Mr. Cahill’s actions have complicated and delayed the process,” she wrote in the email. 

Windsor County Democrats recommended three possible successors to Scott in November: Heidi Remick, Ward Goodenough, and Karen Oelschlaeger. All three are currently deputy state’s attorneys in Cahill’s office.  Scott, a Republican, is not required to appoint a Democrat, but by protocol in the state, successors from the same party are usually chosen.

Cahill said in his Sunday letter that he’s decided to appoint Place rather than one of the deputy state’s attorneys as his interim replacement, because the doesn’t want to cause an “unnecessary emotional rollercoaster,” in the office. 

“Ms. Place is more than capable, and I trust she will be an effective administrator of the office. Recognizing that she cannot appear in court, I ask that you promptly appoint a permanent successor,” he wrote to Scott. 

He also included a footnote in his letter that noted there is “no legal requirement” that the state’s attorney be a licensed attorney.

Anna Merriman can be reached at amerriman@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.

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