Scott won’t commit to an investigation into child sex claims

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By  and , VTDigger.org

Gov. Phil Scott said he wouldn’t commit to an investigation of a claim made this week by attorney Russell Barr that a state official was arrested for having sex with a minor in China several years ago while promoting the state’s EB-5 center.

Instead, the governor said in an interview Wednesday that he’s asked Public Safety Commissioner Tom Anderson to research whether there were any relevant Vermont State Police records. Barr told reporters the sex crime occurred sometime between 2013 and 2014 but refused to identify the state official in question.

Scott said he wouldn’t call for an investigation into the alleged crime until there is “credible evidence,” echoing remarks made Tuesday by TJ Donovan, the Vermont attorney general.

“We reached out to Tom Anderson to find out if there was an investigation” at the time of the alleged arrest, Scott said Wednesday in an interview with VTDigger reporters.

The governor said he expected Anderson, the former U.S. attorney for Vermont, would look to see if there is any credible evidence to the allegation raised by Barr.

“I think we should take a look and see if there’s anything that was done and see where that leads,” Scott said. “If there was any credible evidence at that time of a criminal act, I would have thought that it would have been investigated.”

Scott said if Barr “had some evidence we should see it.”

“If we are aware of any criminal activity, we should be investigating,” he added.

Barr is suing the state on behalf of defrauded EB-5 investors. He claims that the state-run Vermont EB-5 Regional Center was complicit in a fraud in the Northeast Kingdom that spanned eight years, involved more than $200 million and harmed more than 800 foreign investors.

Barr raised his claim outside the Lamoille County Courthouse after a hearing this week in the case.

A day later, Donovan challenged Barr to turn over any evidence related to the claim immediately. The attorney general said in a statement that “any allegation of child sexual abuse by a state official should be investigated regardless of where it occurred.”

Barr has said he would submit evidence to the court the first week in April.

Previous public records requests have revealed no documentation of an investigation into an arrest. The AG said his office has twice responded to records requests, once in 2014 and again in November 2017, for information about the “arrest, detainment or holding of any state employee while traveling overseas in promotion of the Vermont Regional Center and its related projects.”

Donovan said he has “no evidence in our possession that this allegation occurred.”

The governor said he had never heard of the allegation before this week.

“I hadn’t heard anything about this anecdotally. I had to ask some of the others on the staff if they recalled anything of this nature,” Scott said. “One or two said that they’d heard rumors back a few years ago…. They thought they were just rumors and it didn’t go anywhere.”

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