By Guy Page
Will Addison County choose a deputy sheriff, a former high bailiff, or a pro-legal marijuana lawyer to hold the office empowered to remove and then serve as the county sheriff?
Addison County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Elmore, former high bailiff and unsuccessful candidate for sheriff Ron Holmes, and David Silberman, a Middlebury lawyer known for commercial cannabis advocacy, all want to be Addison County’s next High Bailiff.
The sparkplug for the three-way race for what is usually a sleepy, uncontested election is Middlebury lawyer David Silberman, a highly visible advocate for marijuana legalization. He says so on his website: “Since 2015, I’ve been one of the leading voices in Vermont for legalizing and regulating cannabis, volunteering hundreds of hours both in Montpelier’s halls of power and back home in Addison County, helping make Vermont the first state in the nation to legalize cannabis through its legislature.”
He’s waging war on the War on Drugs, which he says “has destroyed countless lives, wasted billions of dollars, and created widespread, systemic injustice — all while utterly failing to reduce problematic drug use or enhance public safety….I’m running for High Bailiff because the position was designed to put the sheriff’s office under independent, civilian oversight.” He has also organized criminal record expungement clinics and helped rewrite the 2018 Democratic Public Safety platform “to place greater focus on justice.”
After Silberman defeated former high bailiff Ron Holmes in the August Democratic primary, Holmes promptly filed as an independent, securing his name on the November 3 ballot. Deputy Sgt. Mike Elmore also has joined the race as an independent.
What exactly does a high bailiff do, anyway?
State law (including Title 24, Chapter 5, Subchapter 6:333) says a high bailiff may serve papers the sheriff is incapable of serving, and may assist in the removal of a sheriff, and fill the vacancy: “A high bailiff by virtue of a writ or other process directed to him or her against the sheriff may commit the sheriff to the Commissioner of Corrections. While the sheriff remains in confinement, or in case of vacancy in the office, the functions of the sheriff shall be exercised by the high bailiff, who shall have the powers and be subject to the liabilities of a sheriff until the sheriff is released from confinement or one is appointed and sworn into office.”
It’s the part about arresting the sheriff that seems to appeal to Silberman, according to his Dave Silberman for High Bailiff Facebook Page. Its opening sentences read: “What is a high bailiff, anyway? The High Bailiff is the one person in each county authorized to arrest the sheriff on state warrants.”
A Facebook reader, identified as Annie Denny, took issue with Silberman’s emphasis on arrest powers and questioned his ability to lead the sheriff’s department. “I find it concerning that of all the responsibilities the one you choose to use as your platform is the “authorization to arrest the sheriff”????? Really? That seems pretty negative and non-constructive,” Denny said. “Doesn’t seem to me like you have any interest in working together with the sheriff or his department.”
Silberman responded that state law doesn’t require the sheriff to be a police officer. His lengthy answer concludes: “We have seen, throughout the nation and in Vermont as well, what happens when law enforcement officers know that they will not face consequence for their misdeeds; the office of high bailiff may be mostly symbolic, but symbolism matters — we must demand civilian oversight over police powers, at every level, in every state, county, and town.”
Silberman isn’t the only high bailiff candidate crusading for more police oversight and fighting the war on drugs. Former Windsor County State’s Attorney Robert Sand, like Silberman a proponent of drug decriminalization and legalization, is running for Windsor County High Bailiff.
Read more of Guy Page’s reports. Vermont Daily is sponsored by True North Media.