Letter to Speaker O’Brien from Democratic Leadership

Speaker William O’Brien
New Hampshire House of Representatives
State House
107 N. Main St.
Concord, NH 03301

Monday, May 30, 2012

Dear Mr. Speaker:

As you know, the image of the New Hampshire House has been tarnished by recent events.  Our legislative ethics guidelines state that legislators should treat their office as a public trust, acting “openly, equitably and honorably in a manner that permits the citizenry…to hold government officials accountable.”  Furthermore, as you wrote to the Republican caucus, you insisted on “honesty, integrity and ethical behavior” from your leadership team and said you would have “no tolerance for any leader who departs from that foundational standard.”

Surely the public has a right to expect those standards would also apply to the Speaker. Answers to legitimate questions raised by members of the public and state-wide media surrounding the resignation of Bob Mead should have been a priority.  Instead you proclaimed House leadership is “too busy” to discuss the extent to which taxpayer money was funding a staff person to primarily perform Republican political activities. While Bob Mead may have re-paid mileage costs after the Concord Monitor reported on this, we still do not know whether he was charging taxpayers for his time on these Republican political activities; whether he received comp time, as well as mileage, for recruiting Republican candidates on nights and weekends; or whether he was specifically directed to perform political duties and by whom.

As DJ Bettencourt resigned last Friday, he announced he was leaving to move into a position in your foundation. Given recent revelations, including your participation in a meeting on these serious issues prior to Bettencourt’s announcement, the people of New Hampshire deserve to know whether the Speaker’s office collaborated in efforts to cover up, conceal and excuse the former Majority Leader’s alleged fraud.

In your email to your caucus, you stated that you met with Rep. Bettencourt and Rep. Guida on Friday morning and that you found Rep. Guida’s claims had substance.  You stated, “it was agreed that DJ would immediately announce his resignation as Majority Leader and House member effective at the end of the June 6 session and he would cite personal problems as the reason for his resignation.”

This statement and your continued refusal to answer questions regarding Mr. Mead raise the following additional questions:

  1. Why did you agree to allow Rep. Bettencourt to cover up the reasons for his resignation?
  2. Why, if you felt his actions required him to resign, did you not request his resignation immediately instead of allowing him to serve through the end of the session?
  3. Why didn’t you take action when you heard Rep. Bettencourt’s original explanation for his resignation, stating that he was resigning because he was getting married and taking a job working for you?
  4. Was Rep. Bettencourt’s job with your legal advocacy group arranged before or after you learned of Rep. Guida’s claims?
  5. Prior to the disclosure by the Concord Monitor that Bob Mead was charging mileage for campaign activities, did you or anyone on your staff or your leadership team know that Bob Mead was being paid a salary by the state for the same hours that he was performing campaign activities for the Republican Party?

The people of New Hampshire deserve answers to legitimate questions – questions asked not only by the minority in this body, but by the media, by members of the Republican caucus, and members of the public. This is not the time to “close ranks.” This is the time to come clean with the people of this great state.

Given the refusal of the Speaker’s office to deal with these issues forthrightly, for the sake of the House’s reputation, we have no choice but to urgently request an independent review that will provide to the public a full accounting of both of these scandals.

We take great pride in the reputation for doing the people’s business with the highest ethical standards. That reputation stands tarnished today. Only an independent, full, and honest accounting can help the House regain the trust of New Hampshire’s citizens.

Sincerely,

Representative Terie Norelli               Representative Mary Jane Wallner

Representative Gary Richardson        Representative Stephen Shurtleff

Representative Cindy Rosenwald      Representative Lucy Weber

Representative Benjamin Baroody     Representative Bernard Benn

Representative David Cote                 Representative Sharon Nordgren