(NECN: Jack Thurston, Middlesex, Vt.) - The Vt. State Archives and Records Administration in Middlesex houses more than 100,000 boxes of old documents from Vermont state government. Thursday, about 80 of them became public for the first time.
"Cabinet-level records; the internal communications," said Vt. State Archivist Tanya Marshall, describing the content of newly-released papers from the administration of former Vt. Gov. Howard Dean.
Under an agreement with the Vt. Secretary of State, some of Dean's records were sealed under executive privilege for 10 years.
"That's really done not for the benefit of the governor," Gov. Dean said. "That's done for the benefit of people who talk to the governor."
In January 2003, the Democrat drove away from the Vermont statehouse hoping to become U.S. President. If political operatives or journalists had hoped to mine the storage boxes containing records of Dean's more than 11 years as Vermont’s chief executive for some smoking gun on the candidate, they would have had to wait until now.
"I'm sure there will be little tidbits that are interesting," Dean said.
New England Cable News reviewed only a few of the 80 boxes in storage, and found countless letters both supporting Dean and criticizing him for his stance on Civil Unions. The landmark 2000 law was met with big protests but paved the way for same-sex marriage today. Some folks from faraway states called him "Dean Howard" in their correspondence. However, Vermont's Catholic Bishop at the time, Kenneth Angell, got the governor's name right when the two exchanged notes disagreeing on Civil Unions, but pledging to work toward peace and respect during a very tense time in Vermont.
"The wide array of issues that are being brought to his attention and the things he comments on," are what archivist Scott Reilly said he noticed going through a handful of the files Thursday.
Reporters turned up a 1991 memorandum from Gov. Dean warning Vermont may have to sue the federal government over relicensing rule changes for the state's still-controversial nuclear power plant, Vermont Yankee in Vernon.
Another document that stood out was a hand-written promise that Dean would veto the 1994 capital bill if a state senator included in it a plan to fill in the infamous Huntington Gorge. That is a swimming hole not far from Burlington, Vt. where many visitors have drowned or needed rescuing over the decades. Dean apparently thought plugging the gorge could have set a bad environmental precedent.
Through finds like these, archivists hope the document releases give researchers an insider's glimpse into how the executive branch of state government works.
"If it's not in those records, there isn't any more evidence of what happened available," Marshall said.
The records are available for on-site research Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Vt. State Archives and Records Administration's reference room in Middlesex, according to a press release from the Vt. Secretary of State's office. An online index of the Dean records can be found on this website.