The Vermont State Senate will vote Wednesday on whether or not to suspend one of its members, Sen. Norm McAllister, R-Franklin County. The vote follows criminal charges filed in 2015 against McAllister for allegedly sexually assaulting three women, including a former statehouse intern.
"Everybody treated me cordially," McAllister told necn, describing his first day back at the Statehouse for the start of the 2016 session.
McAllister, a farmer, has repeatedly said he did not do anything illegal with the women who accused him of sex crimes. He is free on bail and rebuffed calls for his resignation last year.
"I have maintained my innocence from day one," McAllister reiterated Tuesday.
Trial is not expected until later this year.
In the meantime, McAllister's colleagues will decide Wednesday whether to suspend him with pay.
McAllister has already been stripped of his committee assignments, and even members of his own caucus are divided on a suspension.
"I believe so strongly in the presumption of innocence," said Sen. Peg Flory, R-Rutland County, who has said a suspension is problematic because it would leave Franklin County voters without one of their voices in the Senate. "It deprives the people of Franklin County to part of their representation."
"I fully intend to vote to suspend tomorrow," said Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia County, who noted he would have preferred to see McAllister resign his seat and be replaced. "We have a responsibility to maintain the integrity of the institution."
Sen. John Campbell, D-Windsor County, the Senate President Pro Tempore, urged civility among his colleagues as a controversial and personal vote about one of their own approaches.
"I don't know what tomorrow will bring," McAllister said Tuesday. "Nobody can tell you what's going to happen, I don't believe."
Because McAllister is still a sitting senator, he will get to vote on his own political future, according to colleagues. It may be the final vote of his career in the Vermont State Senate.