BURLINGTON, Vt. – A former trustee at the college where U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' wife was president when a $10 million real estate deal was struck said she testified before a federal grand jury in October about the deal considered a major factor in the demise of the tiny Vermont school.
Former Burlington College Trustee Robin Lloyd said she was asked about fundraising that would be used to pay back a bank loan used to help buy the property from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington when Jane O'Meara Sanders was president.
"They're trying to pull together where did the money come from to enable Burlington College to convince (People's United Bank) and the diocese to go ahead with the deal," Lloyd told the Burlington Free Press .
Lloyd said two FBI agents approached her in October, but she refused to speak with them without an attorney. Two weeks later, she was subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury.
The current status of any grand jury investigation into Burlington College is unclear. A spokesman for the Vermont office of the U.S. Attorney did not immediately return calls Monday seeking comment.
The college closed in 2016 after struggling under the weight of its purchase of land and buildings in 2010 from the diocese during the presidency of Sanders.
Jeff Weaver, who has served as a spokesman for the Sanders family about the land deal, released a statement saying there's nothing new in recent reports, first made by the news website VtDigger, that Lloyd had been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury.
"We have absolutely no reason to believe that there is a grand jury empanelled to examine Burlington College, Dr. Jane Sanders, or any aspect of Dr. Sanders's service as president of Burlington College," Weaver said. "As best we can tell, the current news reports are simply recycling an account of a government interview of a witness from several months ago."
It's unclear if any other college officials have appeared before a grand jury.
Jane Sanders brokered the deal for the college to buy the last undeveloped parcel of land in Burlington on the Lake Champlain waterfront — 32 acres overlooking the lake and the 77,000-square-foot former orphanage and administrative offices of Vermont's Roman Catholic Church.
Lloyd is the former chairwoman of the school's development committee. She said she was primarily asked timeline questions during her grand jury testimony, specifically from 2010 to 2011.
The board of trustees supported the land deal at the time, she said.
"Perhaps it was overreach, looking back on it, but at the time, it seemed to me it was the perfect place for a small college," Lloyd said.
Information from: The Burlington Free Press, http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com