Analysis: Under threat from AG Donovan, outdoor gym owner throws in the towel

By Guy Page

The news out of Rutland last night is chilling. The state has won and a small business owner has lost.

As this report about the heavy use of police powers is being written this morning, the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee is considering a bill that would give the state of Vermont immense new authority to mandate carbon emissions reduction. We can only hope the following story will not be prophetic.

If you’ve been reading the news, you know that Attorney General TJ Donovan sued a Rutland gym for operating his indoor gym in violation of pandemic-related executive orders. “Unfortunate but necessary,” we may think. “Everyone should follow the same rules.”

But what happened next troubles me. After gym owner Sean Manovill moved equipment outside, our AG then sent Manovill a stiff letter requiring four pages’ worth of bullet-pointed compliance. Violations carry the threat of fines and jail time.

Guy Page

Here’s how Donovan justifies his actions, as reported on WCAX: “The idea that he is just going to leave his equipment out in his parking lot and people could come and use it is just unacceptable. That just makes no sense. And so, at the end of the day, this needs to stop. He needs to follow the order. He needs to shut down or there are going to be some possible consequences.”

That’s how the state of Vermont’s senior law enforcement officer treats a small business owner who actually tried to compromise, comply and stay open.

Faced with unsupportable financial legal costs and loss of his personal freedom, Manovill threw in the towel. He quit. He’s shut down. Probably knew he was punching above his weight all along. But standing alone inside his vacant gym, the 2004 Castleton graduate and lifelong fitness industry executive recorded a video message on Facebook of interest to Vermonters concerned about overuse of the police power of the state.

“Today is a sad day in America,” Manovill begins. “Club Fitness has been sued and fined into submission. … Contempt of court carries a threat of jail time, and I cannot do that to my wife and two young children. The state of Vermont has taken the rights of free people to make us comply with their agenda. God bless us all.”

Those of us who work in “essential industries” should, I suppose, feel grateful. Or at least relieved. Because if all we did to feed our families was to help people stay fit and healthy and live longer, more enjoyable lives, we’d always be looking over our shoulders to see if Big Brother Donovan was running up to us, waving his big stick.

This act has awful implications for Vermont’s economic recovery. Why would anyone open a “non-essential” business in Vermont during the next two years, knowing that a hyper-vigilant State could treat you the way it has treated Sean Manovill? Vermont was already a tough place to build a small business due to high taxation and regulation. But this is a whole new level of unworkable intolerance.

We accept the need for social distancing and public health enforcement. We can’t accept an AG threatening a small businessman who really tried to comply. We can’t accept the image of yellow crime scene tape surrounding an exercise bike in a parking lot.

Which brings us back to today’s Senate review of the Global Warming Solutions Act. Surely none of these fine elected representatives would give the State unreasonable, intrusive police powers over something like carbon emissions reduction, right? It’s just unthinkable that in five or 10 years a Vermont Attorney General will fume about that inconsiderate home owner who “needs to follow the order” to not burn scrap wood in his backyard. Right?

Because, to quote TJ Donovan, “that just makes no sense. And so, at the end of the day, this needs to stop.”

Read more of Guy Page’s reports. Vermont Daily is sponsored by True North Media.

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15 thoughts on “Analysis: Under threat from AG Donovan, outdoor gym owner throws in the towel

  1. This is tantamount to private business seized by government – Tj and sidekick Benedict Scott – where’s the outrage.

  2. This is total deep state coming to a business owner near you this is what happens when commies are elected to office then they dictate their own set of rules and our civil rights are trampled on . Vote dem out

  3. This is what happens when petulant moral narcissists like TJ start generating their own interpretations of their authority and make enforcement personal. Scott should send him packing for this offensive overreach before any other small businesses try to feed their families and end up in his sights.

  4. I’m sure that most people already know that the government at both state and local levels have robbed the general public of their rights. In the town which I live in, the so called town officials re-write zoning laws constantly and no one knows what the so called regulations are except being more and more restrictive. The American people have allowed this to happen by looking the other way and in many cases having to work to support their families thus leaving no time to fight this takeover by government.

    • Sadly many Vermonters whip say they will stand up, sadly don’t. This will be another case example, same as seen when they took our 2a rights away.

      In any other state this mans go find page would be closed because so many people donated to defend him and he would have passed his goal 10x already,

      No in Vermont, so being used to living off the teet and completely broke/appothetic, he’s had 500 shares and 50 something donations. These people I office are counting on just this type of response.

      It’s why we are in the current predicament.

  5. I don’t know this gym owner nor did I go to his club but I think what has happened to him is wrong. If the government ran all our businesses we would all be out of business.

    We are all to see you go. Another nail in Vermont’s coffin.

  6. Drug dealers roam free, without restrictions or convictions,

    But legitimate business owners, lock’em up, tax them and fine them till they are broke.

    Brown shirts….everywhere.

    • All we’re missing are the yellow stars pinned to our jackets.

      Please read my missive on the susequent TNR story relating to this issue.

      • Jay, all of what you say is accurate.

        These people are seriously misguided. They don’t know history. They have not been taught civics in school. They don’t know science. They have no basis from which to get wisdom either. A lot of this is in part due to the response we give them.

        If for example I have a young man come to my restaurant and tell me he wants to be a chef, but he has never, never worked in a kitchen the family only ate take out.

        So do I berate him because he knows nothing? Do I call him names because he doesn’t know the least amount, despite being overly confident and knowing nothing? This is where we find ourselves in Vermont.

        We can’t change our state until we have respect, understanding and demonstration of love on our side. They don’t know what they don’t know. Calling them names and not giving them a space to learn and not be ridiculed will never allow them to understand basic truths. Our schools don’t teach critical thinking. Our churches have totally failed, they were the original source of critical thinking, which is why it’s banned in North Korea and other “freedom loving countries”.

        All of this didn’t happen in a vacuum. There is some responsibility all around. We need to be a bit more self reflective of how we got in our current situation.

        • I’m past tired of blaming the victims and cuddling those working hand in glove to destroy our state like poor misguided innocent communists. How is this unlike the Germans who said ‘we never knew’?

          • I have love for truth and justice – those who reject these principles should be left to reap as they sow – they are most commonly known as ‘our enemies’. Love is standing for the truth – not backing down. What did Reagan say – if they won’t listen to reason let them feel the heat? Sorry but not sorry – refuse to be led by the blind.

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