Update July 29, 2014: Earlier this year, while
Council of Censors Founder, Gary Flomenhoft, was unsuccessfully floating a public bank proposal before the Vermont Senate, the website for the by now defunct
CofC was shut down. Go figure. The two screencaps below are from the original
It seems that inconvenient, troublesome things like elections are not going to be an obstacle to the ambitions of the folks at Thomas Naylor's Second Vermont Republic
For more than three and a half years I've reported on associations, positions and, frankly, the outright wackiness of the Vermont secession movement. In recent weeks I've located a large number of disturbing web postings at the Free Vermont Framework listserv (archives of the list serve can be found here
) and there are more of those that I'll be posting about in the coming weeks.
Yesterday there was a particularly interesting and headache inducing post at Green Mountain Daily about the Freeman's Oath
and how there may be a conflict in voting for secession candidates and the oath. Today's post here will explore actions by the seceshers that may fall somewhere between seditious
This post will disclose facts and actions that grew from a retreat organized by the "Vermont Commons"
editorial board and other SVR
members in May of 2009.
Let me start at their beginning.
At the May 2009 retreat, the Second Vermont Republic
crowd held a three-day, weekend retreat at Goddard College in Plainfield, VT that was headlined as "Dreaming Vermont's Destiny". 
As I've said, the retreat was sponsored by the editorial board of VTCommons
The working groups assembled and were tasked to "explore key questions (and)... specific problems... in order to take the first meaningful steps towards independence."
One such working group tackled governance and the law.
Here's where things got funky. One member kinda remembered
the Council of Censors that existed from 1777 until 1870.
You might want to, at this point, see the Vermont Secretary of State's website for a more accurate history of Vermont Council of Censors here
. Sure, it's the Sec. of State's Kid's Page but this is where this probably should have all ended. A second briefer description of the scope of duties of the then Council of Censors
"Until 1870, Vermont had a Council of Censors which met decennially at the beginning of the decade to suggest potential constitutional amendments and other governmental reforms." 
I'm not even going to try to explain their rationale but what happened next is that they decided
that the very legally dissolved entity that served a distinct role in the governance of Vermont during ths state's first century needed to be reborn, and rather than reconstitute this body as it had been, by election of the people of Vermont, they'd cut-to-the-chase and resolve that oh-so-pesky plebiscite obstacle by "self-select(ing)"
a renewed Council of Censors
. Fact is, the election of the members of the Council of Censors
was historically essential to the public acceptance of it actions on the public's behalf.
I got my first inkling of the beginnings of a shadowy or hidden, stealth governmental agency in comments that I found had been made at the Free Vermont listserv by Robert Wagner in October of 2009, presently a state Senate candidate and, then, a self-described "participa(nt) in the Council of Censors
". It was Wagner's view that the legally elected legislators of Vermont had "created an immense... body of legislation," and that
"(i)t's the job of the (newly re-constituted, "self-selected" Council of) Censors to strip that away."
Some listserv participants have also called it the Council of Sensors. Potato, potahto, you might say, but still a pretty breathtaking presumption, nonetheless, by this group.
In a mid-December, 2009, post at the listserv, Wagner advised,
"Legislation, both existing and proposed, shall be reviewed by a reconsitituted Council of Censors, for its adherance to the Vermont Constitution. Each government agency shall not exceed its stated mandates.
Legislation that converts rights to privileges shall be nullified."
Perhaps he's also been thinking of the other council powers, described as,
"... (P)rincipally the authority to censure officers of government and to inquire whether public taxes had been fairly laid." 
Again, a pretty sweeping recommendation of powers from and for an unelected, self-selected group that had previously been formally and legally
dissolved in 1870.
Okay. Here's the the Vermont Council of Censors website
that is the first overt act by SVR's
Thomas Naylor's and VTCommon's
Rob Williams' team to establish a governmening body that they've invested authority into as "The 14th Council of Censors"
. This sort of stuff usually is taken down fast when I've posted about it but, as with the Free Vermont Framework listserv, the material there has been saved to memorialize this bit of SVR/VTCommons
Here's how they describe themselves today:
The Council of Censors: An Idea
Whose Time has Come… Again !
Ten of us sat around a table at Goddard College in May of 2009, surrounded by chart paper upon which we had written ideas which we felt should be a part of Vermont’s future governing structures. We were Dreaming Vermont’s Destiny, (coincidentally the title of the retreat that brought us together) and recognizing that some of the present laws that govern Vermont were not in keeping with the high ideals of The Vermont Constitution. It was Gary Flomenhoft who remembered the now abolished section of the Vermont Constitution of 1777, Section 43, which called for the creation of a Council of Censors, whose duties it would be to determine, “whether the legislative and executive branches of government have performed their duty as guardians of the people; or assumed to themselves, or exercised, other or greater powers, than they are entitled to by the constitution. They are also to enquire whether the public taxes have been justly laid and collected, in all parts of this Commonwealth- in what manner the public monies have been disposed of, and whether the laws have been duly executed.” In 1786, they gained the additional mandate, “to enquire whether the constitution has been preserved inviolate, in every part.”
They were to be convened every 7 years for a period of one year. In order to accomplish these functions, the Council was given certain powers: “to send for persons, papers and records; they shall have authority to pass public censures- to order impeachments, and to recommend to the legislature the repealing such laws as appear to them to have been enacted contrary to the principles of the constitution.” Further, “the said Council of Censors shall have the power to call a Convention, to meet within two years after their sitting, if there appears to them an absolute necessity of amending any article of this constitution which may be defective-explaining such as may be thought not clearly expressed, and of adding such as are necessary for the preservation of the rights and happiness of the people…”
We lamented the fact that the Council was abolished in 1870 and thus, the Council’s work had gone undone for 140 years. With a little quick math, we realized that were the Council of Censors to have continued, the 13 members of the 33rd septenary would be due to convene in 2009, “on the first Wednesday of June”. We decided that day, that the Council of Censors had much to do and that we would reconstitute that body to do the necessary work. Rather than “elected by statewide election” as were the original Censors, we would be “self-selected”. A core group formed that day with plans to recruit others to round out the body to 13 members.
With members across the state with families and busy schedules, we took advantage of modern technology to convene as called for on June 4th. via email. A slate of questions was drawn up to decide how we would operate. We elected Rick Scharf of Duxbury to be the Chair. We decided that we would seek consensus but would rely on majority vote (2/3 majority if calling a Convention) as did the first 13 Councils. We voted to include only current Vermont residents as Censors and that in addition to transgressions of Vermont’s Constitution by the State’s legislative and executive branches, we would also be investigating transgressions by the Federal government. Finally, we decided to add the word “provisional” to our name, to be clear that we are not statewide elected as were past Councils.
The first face-to-face meeting of the 14th Provisional Council of Censors took place on October 3rd in Montpelier with 7 Censors attending. At this meeting it was decided that like past Councils we would present a written Address- possibly to be issued incrementally. While the Council of Censors has traditionally had much to say to the legislature (and it was clear that the legislature was listening), they direct their Address “To the Freemen of the State of Vermont”. We wished to operate in the public eye and have kept minutes of our meetings. We endeavored to create a repeatable process which could guide a 15th Council of Censors. Due to the fact that we would be doing 140 years worth of work, we relieved ourselves of the 1 year time limit that past Councils have operated under and recognized that it would likely take us a bit longer to accomplish our task to our satisfaction. We hope at this point to complete our work by the end of 2010.
A list of possible Constitutional violations were compiled and we began to form committees based on the interest and expertise of the Censors. Committees currently exist to investigate:
· Federal deployment of Vermont’s National Guard troopsWe acknowledge that there are more potential violations than we have the time and energy to investigate and welcome the involvement of others willing to assist us.
· “Corporate Personhood”
· State tax collection and use of public monies
· Enclosure of the commons
· The relationship between Federal and State authority with specific regards to Education and Nuclear Power
· The relationship between State and local authority
· Vermont’s Constitutional amendment process
· The keeping of standing armies
· Participatory democracy
Membership in the Council has fluctuated as Censors have needed to step down due to other commitments, moving out of state, or to pursue a seat in the Senate. Others have stepped up, and as of this writing, we currently have 11 members.
We expect to be forthcoming with the first portion of our Address in time for the next issue of Vermont Commons. In the meantime, keep abreast of our activities via our website, www.VermontCouncilofCensors.org If you have questions and comments or would like to become involved with our work, contact Rick Scharf at Contact Us. 
Fascinating! And we're to first hear from the reconstituted 14th Council of Censors
in December of this year, one month after
Thomas Naylor's hand-picked candidate for governor, Connecticut native Dennis Steele, was a regular participant at the Free Vermont Framework listserv when discussions about the Council of Censors
occurred, so he certainly must have known all about it.
Perhaps the seceshers at SVR
will now say that they were only funnin' around, doing their usual comic opera play acting about their republic idea and it's not really the first step toward goverment takeover.
It's time for Dennis Steele to come clean about his knowledge and involvement with this group set up by VTCommons
that can only be described as something seditious, bordering on treason.
Labels: Council of Censors, crackpots, Gary Flomenhoft, GMD, listserv, Rob Williams, Robert Wagner, secesher wingnuttery, SVR, Thomas Naylor