Shumlin taps Wygmans to replace Fenster as county state’s attorney

MONTPELIER — After announcing the appointment of Dennis Wygmans as Addison County State’s Attorney on Tuesday, Gov. Peter Shumlin was due to swear in Wygmans as the county’s top prosecutor on Wednesday afternoon — Shumlin’s last full day in office.
Wygmans fills an opening created last month when Shumlin appointed then-Addison County State’s Attorney David Fenster to the Vermont Superior Court. Fenster took his oath as a judge a week ago.
Wygmans has served as a deputy state’s attorney in both Chittenden and Addison counties since 2013. Before that he had his own practice with offices in Brattleboro and Winooski. Wygmans is a graduate of the University of Vermont and Seton Hall University School of Law.
“I’m proud to be able to appoint Dennis to this important position,” Gov. Shumlin said in a press release. “I am especially impressed by his willingness to think innovatively about criminal justice reform in Vermont, something I feel strongly about. I have no doubt that Dennis will serve the people of Addison County well, working to administer justice fairly and with compassion.”
Wygmans said he was both excited and honored to serve the people of Addison County as state’s attorney.
“Fairness and opportunity are the hallmarks of any great system of criminal justice,” he said. “By accepting Gov. Shumlin’s appointment I am committing to strive for a system that is fair, and to bring opportunity to a system that has sometimes lacked it.”
Shumlin interviewed three candidates for the Addison County prosecutor’s job, including longtime Addison County Deputy State’s Attorney Chris Perkett, according to Shumlin spokesman Scott Coriell; he did not identify the third candidate.
He said Shumlin “reached out to prosecutors and others from around the state. In the end, although there were many qualified candidates, the governor felt Mr. Wygmans would be the best fit.
“The governor was very impressed by Mr. Wygmans’ willingness to think outside the box when it comes to criminal justice reform,” Coriell continued. “That is something the governor thinks is incredibly important.”
Perkett said he likes and respects Wygmans, but after serving 13 years as a deputy in the Addison County prosecutor’s office, he was a little confused.
“I felt I had a strong and positive interview with Gov. Shumlin, and I have the support of local police, members of the bar, (Department for Children and Families) social workers, local business owners, and community leaders,” Perkett said in an email to the Independent. “I really thought after 13 years of commitment to Addison County, a community I live in and am raising my family in, someone like the governor would see in me someone who is dedicated to Addison County and the State’s Attorney’s Office and appoint me. I simply cannot understand his reasoning. I guess politics trumps experience and capability.”
Shumlin announced his appointment of Fenster as a judge on Dec. 22 and swore him in on Dec. 28. Coriell was under the assumption that Shumlin did not consult with Gov.-elect Phil Scott before appointing Wygmans.
Coriell pointed out that Shumlin was within his rights to appoint the Addison County state’s attorney.
“There was a vacancy following the swearing in of David Fenster,” he said. “The law is clear that when that happens, the governor has the responsibility to appoint someone to fill the seat.”

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