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Vt. Supreme Court to address Vekos’s law license

ADDISON COUNTY — The disciplinary counsel for a panel overseeing lawyers in Vermont is seeking a suspension of Addison County State’s Attorney Eva Vekos’s  ability to practice law after she refused to provide information about her recent medical leave following her arrest for driving under the influence.

The Vermont Supreme Court is set to take up the matter at a hearing on March 20. 

The petition for Vekos’s “interim suspension” was filed Feb. 29 by Jon Alexander, disciplinary counsel for the Vermont Professional Responsibility Board, a branch of the Vermont Judiciary.

Vekos’s “knowing failure to comply” with “reasonable and lawful demands for information and documents is a clear violation of her duty of cooperation,” Alexander wrote in the 14-page filing. Her decision not to provide information about her leave, which lasted just over three weeks, “poses, in itself, a present and substantial threat of serious harm to the public that warrants her immediate interim suspension,” he wrote.

David Sleigh, an attorney representing Vekos, submitted a response disputing that Alexander is entitled to the information he is seeking. 

Sleigh wrote in the response filed Tuesday that Alexander hasn’t made a reasonable showing that Vekos’s conduct “demonstrates a substantial threat of serious harm to the public or that she suffers from a disability which impacts her ability to practice law.”

Sleigh argued that the request that his client be suspended from the practice of law “based on her decision to take a brief medical leave is counter to the goals of this profession’s efforts to destigmatize recognizing and acting upon one’s medical and/or mental health needs.” 

Vekos had gone on paid medical leave on Feb. 9, just over two weeks after she was arrested on the drunken driving charge for allegedly showing up impaired to the scene of a suspicious death investigation in Bridport on the evening of Jan. 25.

In the days after her arrest, Vekos engaged in an email exchange with law enforcement leaders in Addison County in which she wrote that she no longer felt safe around law enforcement and would not meet with them in person, only on video. 

In that same email exchange, Vekos also mockingly disparaged police’s grammatical skills.

Vekos pleaded not guilty to the driving under the influence charge on Feb. 12 and was released on her own recognizance.

On Feb. 14, Sleigh distributed an email to Vermont media announcing that Vekos had started paid medical leave on Feb. 9 and would resume her position “once fully grounded and up to the task.”

Alexander, the disciplinary counsel, wrote in his filing for Vekos’s suspension that he “repeatedly” requested from Sleigh “a disclosure of the ‘medical’ reasons for this ‘medical leave,’ its expected duration” and any relevant health records.

He has not been provided that information, Alexander wrote.

Without that information or records on the “nature of her claimed medical disability, its treatment, or prognosis,” he wrote, he cannot assess whether Vekos’s return to work would be in the “public interest.” 

Vekos announced in an email March 3 to Vermont media, just days after Alexander’s filing for her interim suspension, that she would return to work the following day.

She described her leave as her having “stepped back from my work to reflect upon this major event, its impact on me personally and professionally, and its impact upon the community.”

In that same email, Vekos wrote that she had “deep regret” for the email that she had sent weeks earlier to law enforcement leaders in Addison County, terming it “insulting, hurtful and unkind.”

Sleigh, Vekos’s attorney, wrote in his Tuesday filing that he had “assured” Alexander that after Vekos went on medical leave that she planned to return to work soon, writing that “there was no reason for Disciplinary Counsel to examine (Vekos’s) health records or speak to her treaters, and (Vekos) has no mental or physical issues that would impede her ability to practice law.”

Sleigh added in an interview Tuesday that there has been no formal complaint lodged against his client regarding her practice of law. 

The next court hearing in the drunken driving case is set for May 8. 

The case will be heard in Chittenden County Superior criminal court in Burlington to avoid any potential conflicts of interest and is being prosecuted by the state Attorney General’s Office. 

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