By MIKE DONOGHUE
Vermont News First
Veteran prosecutor Bram W. Kranichfeld, who was passed over to head the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office in 2017 by Gov. Phil Scott, has been tapped by the chief executive to take command of the troubled Franklin County State’s Attorney’s office.
Scott moved quickly to swear in Kranichfeld on the Statehouse steps this morning as the Interim Franklin County State’s Attorney to replace embattled prosecutor John Lavoie, who was facing an impeachment inquiry by a special House Committee until he resigned last month.
One of Kranichfeld’s primary tasks will be restoring peace and civility to the Franklin County State’s Attorney’s Office, which had some employees actively opposing Lavoie’s campaign last year when longtime boss Jim Hughes announced he was retiring.
“I see my job as a mission — as starting the healing process and restoring public trust,” he told Vermont News First. “It is clearly an office that has gone through a lot over the six months or more. There has been some real harm and trauma.” He said he wants to create a space for healing within the office, which includes about a dozen employees, mostly women, who serve as prosecutors, victim advocates, and administrative assistants. Gov. Scott, in making the announcement on Labor Day, said it will be an important transition. “Given the difficult nature of this vacancy at the state’s attorney’s office, I believe it’s important to provide stability and certainty through this transition until a permanent replacement is identified,” Scott said. “Bram has demonstrated his commitment to community and his significant experience practicing law makes him a good fit to serve in this interim role.”
The interim appointment will last until the Franklin County Democratic Committee can offer nominations this fall for a permanent appointment and the Governor can do interviews and background checks. That appointment will last until the General Election in 2026.
Kranichfeld said he is interested in the permanent appointment.
John Campbell, executive director of the Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs, said his office
was pleased with the appointment.
“Bram’s personal and professional experience will have a healing effect and bring closure to the recent unfortunate events. I believe the people of Franklin County will be well-served by this appointment and the Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs remains committed to assisting with a smooth and successful transition.”
For Kranichfeld, he is coming full circle. His first Vermont job in the legal profession was in Franklin County as a judicial law clerk for the trial court judges in 2006 after moving from New York.
He said serving as a law clerk for the presiding judges, including Ben Joseph, Linda Levitt, and Alden Bryan, got him really excited about the law and wanted to become a prosecutor.
Kranichfeld had stepped away from being a lawyer in the past few years to be an Episcopalian priest serving in both South Burlington and Vergennes but now is coming back. He told his congregations at All Saints Church on Swift Street in South Burlington and St. Paul’s Church, on Vermont 22A in Vergennes on Sunday, he was resigning as their full-time priest in charge.
Kranichfeld, 43, said he is looking forward to the new assignment.
He was hired as a deputy state’s attorney in Chittenden County in July 2007 under T. J. Donovan and left in January 2013 for a two-year stint as Executive Director of the Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs in Montpelier.
Kranichfeld returned to Donovan’s office as chief deputy in January 2015. When Donovan was elected Vermont Attorney General in November 2016, the Chittenden County Democratic Committee interviewed possible replacements and made Kranichfeld its favored choice to take over.
Scott eventually bypassed Kranichfeld — and also the second-place vote-getter Ted Kenney of Williston. Scott opted for the third-place finisher — Sarah George of Monkton — one of his most controversial appointments as governor.
It was about that time that Kranichfeld’s father passed away. Kranichfeld took about eight months to settle his father’s business and estate issues in New York and Connecticut.
Donovan then asked Kranichfeld in December 2017 to return to public service and to serve as the chief of the statewide criminal division for the Attorney General’s Office, where he became the point man on many high-profile cases. Kranichfeld served until June 2019 when he took a different turn in the road to focus full-time on church ministry work.
His parish priest had told him in 2017 that she thought he would make a great priest and Kranichfeld figured it was time to give it a try. After considerable discernment, Kranichfeld enrolled in the seminary in Montreal in September 2019. He said most of his studies were done remotely due to COVID and he eventually graduated in May 2022.
He served as a deacon for six months and was ordained as a priest in December 2022. He turned the two part-time posts into a full-time job.
Kranichfeld said he hopes to remain active in the church in any way he can help. He said he is willing to fill in as needed. He remains an ordained priest.
Kranichfeld, who has a long history of community service, also did a stint on the Burlington City Council and was an unsuccessful mayoral candidate. His wife, Erin, is an English teacher at Essex High School and they have two children.
After Lavoie was sworn in on February 1, a few office employees in St. Albans began filing complaints against him claiming he had made inappropriate remarks and gestures. It is still unclear what, if any, complaints were filed about Lavoie over the previous two decades when he worked as a deputy with many of the same people in Franklin County. Earlier he had served as a deputy State’s Attorney in Windham and Bennington Counties and with the Southern Vermont Drug Task Force.
The Department of State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs commissioned an outside investigation by Paul, Frank & Collins, a Burlington law firm, which determined there was a basis for some of the employee complaints.
A House Committee, which was appointed to investigate, held about a dozen sessions almost all of the time behind closed doors so the public was unable to understand the basis or the seriousness of the claims.
The House Committee said it heard from 31 witnesses, including Lavoie.
The Committee plans to turn its attention to the possible impeachment of Franklin County Sheriff John Grismore. The focus is his treatment of a shackled, intoxicated prisoner and some financial concerns when he was the chief deputy.
Grismore has denied any wrongdoing in the prisoner case and has said investigators have yet to approach him about any questions on finances while serving under former Sheriff Roger Langevin.