Vergennes police chief cleared in Attorney General’s investigation

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According to the Vermont Attorney General’s office, the police chief in Vergennes did not commit fraud. Chief George Merkel was being investigated following claims he charged the state for overtime hours that were never actually worked.

“People are human, people make mistakes, that doesn’t make them criminals,” AG TJ Donovan said Friday.

The top cop in Vermont’s smallest city was placed under a microscope After being accused of charging overtime pay to Vermont’s Highway Safety program for work he didn’t perform.
Donovan says his office has reviewed a Vermont State Police investigation into the matter.

“You’re really looking at if there was an intentional act to defraud or to conceal, and in this case there wasn’t,” Donovan said. “It seems like if anything it was a clerical mistake.”

15 hours, submitted by chief Merkel, came into question. Donovan says there was some discrepancy with paperwork. In one instance, the hours were, in fact, worked, but just logged on the wrong date.

In a statement Friday, chief Merkel apologized for his silence in recent months:

“I am sorry the city of Vergennes and the Vergennes Police Department has been the subject of such baseless, false, and scathing accusations. These attacks have caused me and my family an immense amount of pain, embarrassment, and humiliation. They also have caused undue concern to the people of Vergennes, my officers and fellow law enforcement.

Addison County Sheriff Peter Newton brought forth the original accusations. Chief Merkel labeled them a personal attack.

“These attacks were perpetrated because the vergennes police department received a federal highway safety grant, as well as a traffic enforcement contract with the town of Addison, as opposed to the originator of these false accusations, who had also applied for these opportunities.”

The AG’s office adds that its investigation is now closed.

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