Vermont's governor is blasting the alleged actions of three former state troopers as foolish and against the spirit of helping others during the pandemic.
The reaction came after the announcement from Vermont State Police that the men resigned under a cloud of suspicion that they had various roles in making phony COVID-19 vaccination cards.
"It's just a dumb thing to do," Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, said Wednesday of the alleged actions of Raymond Witkowski, Shawn Sommers and David Pfindel.
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Scott added Wednesday that the accusations are not reflective, in his eyes, of the reputation of members of the Vermont State Police as a whole.
Col. Matt Birmingham, the VSP commander, wrote in a statement Tuesday that vaccines are critical to community safety during the pandemic.
"It's just such a simple thing to do," Scott said of getting vaccinated against COVID-19. "Get vaccinated and you get your card. You don't have to fabricate something."
The Republican said he believes the use of phony vaccination cards is a widespread problem in Vermont — which has consistently led the nation in its vaccine uptake.
The feds have not yet released details of the alleged scheme, so we don't know how many bogus cards might have been made, who they were for, or what the motivation to produce them was.
A spokeswoman for the FBI district that covers Vermont could not provide additional information about the case Wednesday when asked by NECN and NBC10 Boston.
"In accordance with DOJ policy, I'm not able to comment on an ongoing investigation," Sarah Ruane responded.
Jared Carter, a professor at Vermont Law School, said the accusations fly in the face of public trust.
"Their credibility and commitment to the rule of law should be flawless," said of Witkowski, Sommers, Pfindel, and all members of law enforcement.
Carter said possible federal charges could come if the probe determines the men violated rules against misusing government seals. Seals for the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services appear in the corner of your real vaccine card.
Other possible federal charges could be brought for conspiracy, Carter noted.
State-level impacts could also be felt if the troopers were to be key witnesses in criminal trials, the professor added.
"Their credibility could be called into question in any instance where their credibility was part of the case in terms of convicting a defendant," Carter said.
Rep. Laura Sibilia, I-Dover, serves several towns the suspects policed at various times over the years.
"I was pretty concerned — really disappointed," the Independent said of her first reaction to hearing the news of the alleged bogus vaccination cards.
Sibilia said she appreciated hearing from VSP that the case came to light thanks to another trooper — a whistleblower who reported concerns about their colleagues' behavior to a supervisor.
Vermont State Police said Tuesday those concerns were acted on swiftly, and brought to the attention of the FBI.
"We have to keep having faith in one another," Sibilia said of the actions of the whistleblower. "Our system worked. Our systems still work. And [the case] is unfortunate, but I'm deeply grateful that it was handled appropriately and quickly."
Vermont's public safety commissioner, Mike Schirling, told reporters Wednesday that at this point, there are no indications any other state employees were involved in making phony vaccine cards.
Scott announced Wednesday that his administration notified the state employees' union that starting Sept. 15, all of Vermont's executive branch workers — a group which includes troopers — will be required to attest that they are vaccinated against COVID-19.
Otherwise, those employees will be subject to COVID-19 testing no less than once per week, and must wear a mask at work, the governor said.
For information on getting your free COVID-19 vaccine in Vermont without an appointment, visit this health department website.