Grand jury in Jane Sanders's Burlington College case hears testimony
A grand jury looking into charges that Jane Sanders, former president of Burlington College and wife of Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, misrepresented the amount of money donors gave to the school on loan applications in order to purchase a large tract of land. The school went belly-up in 2016 because of the huge debt load.
At least one witness has already been called to testify before the grand jury.
Burlington College borrowed heavily to finance the purchase of 33 acres of lakefront property from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington. The deal relied on pledged donations and projections of increased enrollment. In 2015, VTDigger reported that Jane Sanders overstated pledged donations in the loan document. Two donors listed in the document told VTDigger at that time that their listed pledges were greater than what their personal financial records showed they gave.
VTDigger also interviewed the largest confirmed donor listed in the loan application. Corinne Bove Maietta, a member of the renowned Burlington Bove's Restaurant family, disputed the manner in which her pledge was represented by Sanders in the loan agreement.
Maietta said she agreed to give the college an unspecified amount upon her death as a bequest. Documents show, however, [that] Sanders stated in a loan application that Maietta would contribute a series of cash payments totaling $1 million. The payments were to be completed over a period of time, according to records obtained by VTDigger.
Maietta said she also never signed a formal pledge agreement with the college. A former vice president at the college disputes that claim.
Lloyd said de Graaf questioned her about the Maietta pledge during the grand jury testimony, but she declined to go into specific detail.
Burlington College closed in May 2016. The college sold most of the property to developer Eric Farrell for a large housing project before the school went bankrupt, but the sale wasn't enough to save the school. The outgoing president of the college, Carol Moore, cited the debt load from the land purchase as the proximate cause of the school's closure.
Did Jane Sanders fraudulently represent the amount of donations the school would receive for the land deal on a loan application? Or did she innocently misunderstand what the donors were willing to give? Well, that's what pledge agreements are for. That one large donor can't remember signing a pledge agreement at all is significant. That others claim that their pledge agreements were altered or misrepresent the amounts they were willing to give is also telling.
Shortly after the loan fiasco, Sanders was asked to resign by the college board. She left the small school in a financial hole it was unable to fix.
So is Sanders an idiot or a crook? She was probably crazy to purchase the land in the first place, expecting student enrollment to soar just because the school would be on the waterfront. But how she got the loan money is the issue, and that's where crimes may have been committed.
Needless to say, an indictment of his wife for fraud would not help Bernie Sanders's presidential campaign in 2020. It probably wouldn't sink it. After all, media darling Sanders can count on the press running interference for him. But in a race a dozen and a half Democrats are expected to enter, the scandal would almost certainly cost him votes that he could ill afford to lose.