Sen. Bernie Sanders’s wife has been accused of heartlessly trying to boot disabled group home residents when she was president of a Vermont college and closed on a real estate deal now under FBI scrutiny.
The home with 16 residents was on property Jane O’Meara Sanders purchased for Burlington College in 2010 as part of an expansion project, the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch claimed Thursday.
Reports this week say Sanders is under FBI investigation in connection with her role in securing financing for the project which didn’t pan out and led to the college’s closure.
Judicial Watch says Mrs. Sanders sent a letter to an attorney representing the HowardCenter group home in January 2011, saying she was having trouble evicting the 16 residents.
“It is simply not fair to expect the College to continue to carry the burden of the expenses associated with housing both you population and ours until February 2012,” she said in the letter Judicial Watch obtained under a public records request.
“The home for the disabled was being leased from the diocese and Jane was supposed to help relocate the residents, not evict them,” Judicial Watch reported. The group contended the comments showed Mrs. Sanders’ heartlessness.
The office of Sen. Sanders, I-Vt., did not return a request for comment.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Vermont initiated eviction proceedings against HowardCenter after selling the 32-acre property to Burlington College, Vermont’s alternative weekly Seven Days reported in March, 2011.
The eviction notice gave HowardCenter until November 2010 to leave.
But the diocese extended the notice after HowardCenter said it needed more time to find another home, the paper reported.
Mrs. Sanders was chagrined to be caught up in what amounted to an eviction of mentally disabled tenants, according to the paper.
“We are not trying to be the bad guys here,” she was quoted as saying. “We have always said that we’d be helpful and we’d try to help them as they found a new home — and we have. At first, we agreed to delay for one semester, and even that was pushing it for us. Six months beyond that is not realistic.”
Sanders told the weekly that Burlington and the diocese had made financial sacrifices to allow HowardCenter to stay past the eviction date.
“We thought a year’s time was appropriate, and it’s worrisome that they haven’t found a place yet, but there is really no choice any longer,” she was quoted as saying.