Darcie Johnston, head of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom (VHCF), says Governor Peter Shumlin should immediately fire Health Care Reform Director Robin Lunge, the state official who supervised Jonathan Gruber’s contract with the state.
“Auditor Hoffer’s [recently released] report provides the smoking gun that demonstrates Robin Lunge’s utter failure to manage Gruber’s billing practices,” Johnston said in a statement.
“Lunge approved the payment of $80,000 to Gruber based on two invoices he submitted in which he claimed ‘research assistants’ worked 1,000 hours over a ten week period. But Lunge never bothered to ask for evidence of the work these ‘research assistants’ actually performed, nor did she even attempt to determine their employment status,” the VHCF press release said, citing evidence presented in Hoffer’s report.
“Were they [Gruber’s research assistants] independent contractors to Gruber, or were they employees?” the press release asked.
According to VHCF, “Lunge failed to ask these questions of the contractor she purportedly supervised even after State Auditor initiated his inquiry into Gruber’s billing practices on December 3.”
Johnston’s review of Hoffer’s report, which has been referred to Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell for further action, revealed a shocking detail.
“Lunge also passed on false information provided to her by Gruber to Auditor Hoffer as he conducted his inquiry,” the VHCF press release continued.
Gruber apparently attempted, at least initially, to intentionally mislead State Auditor Hoffer as he conducted his inquiry into Gruber’s billing practices. Lunge, it seems, either wittingly or unwittingly, played a role in that attempt.
“On January 19, Lunge obtained an email from Gruber in which he said his research assistant was an independent contractor. Lunge failed to ask Gruber to provide simple documentation of this claim—either a 1099, W-2, or cancelled paycheck, and passed this false claim on to Auditor Hoffer,” the VHCF statement said.
“It was not until February 4,” the VHCF statement said, “that Auditor Hoffer finally learned the truth from Gruber. Unable to provide the 1099 that would prove the veracity of his emailed statement to Lunge on January 19, Gruber grudgingly acknowledged that he had only one research assistant, and that assistant was an employee, not an independent contractor. Thereafter, he provided Hoffer with the research assistant’s W-2.”
“Lunge’s lack of fiduciary responsibility in the management of the Gruber contract has cost the State of Vermont dearly,” VHCF’s Johnston said.
Johnston noted that the state has a $113 million budget gap, and Lunge’s financial mismanagement of the Gruber contract is but one of many examples where state officials have wasted taxpayers’ money.
“Had she [Lunge] exercised the oversight required of her job, she would have learned in November after Gruber submitted his two invoice that Gruber did not have multiple research assistants, but instead had only one. She could have then challenged Gruber to provide evidence that a lone research assistant could not have worked 1,000 hours in ten weeks…that’s more than 14 hours a day for 70 consecutive days,” the VHCF statement said.
Johnston said that Governor Shumlin should also fire Michael Costa, Deputy Director of Health Care Reform and Lawrence Miller, Health Care Reform Chief.
“Vermont can simply no longer afford to employ Robin Lunge, or her complicit colleagues, Michael Costa and Lawrence Miller. Governor Shumlin should fire all three of them immediately, ” Johnston added.
“Each has had their hand in the multiple multi-million dollar contract that have been mismanaged and great expense to taxpayers. To continue their employment sets a bad example to every Secretary, Commission, Department Head and state employee that protecting the public purse is not a priority,” Johnston said.
Breitbart News contacted Vermont Secretary of Administration Justin Johnson, who supervises Lunge and Costa, for comment but has not received a response.