Peter Bragdon: "The state budget is doing less with more"
By SEN. PETER BRAGDON, Op-Ed, The NH Union Leader, July 10, 2009
Have you heard the latest spin by the tax-and-spenders who control state government these days? The Democrats say the new budget passed by the House and Senate and signed by Gov. John Lynch is "lean." They say we are doing more with less. And they say spending is reduced.
Don't believe a word of it!
At a time when 50,000 Granite Staters are out of work and paring their home budgets to fit declining incomes, government spending continues to grow at breakneck speed. Total spending in the new budget (including federal money) is up more than $1 billion -- that's billion, with a "b" -- according to the Legislature's nonpartisan Office of Legislative Budget Assistant, a 10.5 percent increase. I don't know many families that have increased their spending 10.5 percent in the last year or two, do you?
New Hampshire is certainly not immune from the nation's economic woes. For the first time in a long time, state revenues from fees and taxes actually decreased. For families, a cut in income means the family budget needs to be trimmed. Governments, though, can avoid that pesky responsibility stuff and just continue to spend. It's other people's money, after all, and if it's not coming in quickly enough then new taxes can be found so more pockets can be picked.
So how, with spending increasing by more than $1 billion, can the Democrats claim spending is going down?
First, the Democrats focus on only one part of the budget, known as the general fund. (Recall they didn't like it during the last budget cycle when attention was focused on the 17.5 percent increase they approved in general fund spending. Now that they've learned a few accounting tricks, they are more than happy to call attention to it again). Then they conveniently ignore the fact their wild spending plans for the last budget had to be cut by around $145 million due to economic conditions.
Finally, the big-spending Democrats take about $170 million in spending out of the general fund and move it to other funds. (They are still spending that $170 million; they're just calling it something else this year). This would be like a family that typically paid all its expenses from one checking account opening a brand new checking account just to pay for food and then claiming that spending is reduced by the amount moved into the new account.
So instead of comparing actual spending in the prior budget to actual spending in the new budget, Democrats compare approved spending in the last budget (before reality hit and they had to cut some of it) with what they spend this time, minus the big chunk moved to other accounts.
A straight apples-to-apples comparison of actual spending from the prior general fund budget to the new general fund budget, factoring in the accounting gimmicks, shows a spending increase of about 6.5 percent, or $300 million.
So total spending is up 10.5 percent (about $1 billion) and spending in the general fund is up 6.5 percent (about $300 million). This is no lean budget. Continued spending at this level can only lead to a state income or sales tax.
Sen. Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, is the Republican leader in the state Senate.
"NH has held on to more jobs".
Trying to rectify this with the doom and gloom of bragdon's rant.
I love how your 2 big points are presented "firstly" and "finally" here I was expecting a list after the firstly only to find 1 additional argument.
It is comforting to know that republicans would never do such tricky obfuscating things.
- Mark, Wilton
Sen Bragdon, thank you for putting bipartisanship aside to point the finger. Your analogy of the state government acting like a family is ridiculous. Last I checked the when a family wants to go out for dinner they don't vote for elected family members who they empower with voting on their behalf. If that family can't afford going out for pizza they can't raise taxes. BUT what if the state can't afford to fund education. I guess your solution is to simply not do it.
Or you'll probably suggest cutting something else to help fund it which is fine. I'm just curious why we didn't see those budgets when your party was in the majority. What happens when there is nothing left to cut in order to fund essential services and obligations including roads, bridges, schools, etc.?
Again, you give no solutions, just mud slinging. I'm sick of 2 party politics (although we all know it's single party with each half blaming the other half).
Please get to work. We didn't elect you to whine and complain but to bring forward solutions.
- Tom, Milford
You nailed it, Ditmar. Whenever you hear phrases like "tax fairness", "fair share" or "structural deficit", hold onto your wallets; the socialists aren't far behind.
One of (if not the) biggest increase results from the "Educational Adequacy" fraud perpetrated after the unconstitutional Claremont/Londonderry rulings. This budget alone wastes an additional $166 million for this purpose.
Unless the legislature grows a much needed spine and rejects the notion of court-imposed spending, the next budget will break the bank. The inevitable result will be an astroturf campaign for an income tax.
- Jim Peschke, Croydon
Vote 'em out, vote 'em out, vote 'em out!!!
- Sheana, Sandown
Continued spending at these rates will inevitably lead to a broad based sales- or income-tax.
The proposal, when it comes, will be sold as a program to reduce property taxes.
That will undoubtably be the political strategy. "Fairness" will come into the argument, as well as other rationalizations, but they will all amount to convincing a majority of people that "other people" will pay most of the new tax.
Experience in other states show that any reduction to property taxes from imposing a new, broad-based tax would, at best, be short lived. (Connecticut's income tax is the best nearby example.) And then, with a brand new taxing infrastructure in place, the easiest way to solve any future budget shortfalls would simply be to increase the rate. That would be sold as "small" and/or temporary. Experience in other states also shows that there are very, very few "temporary" tax increases. We only need to look at NY and Massachusetts as examples.
- Ditmar, Hollis
If anyone else is sick of reading politically biased interpretations of state spending levels like this column by Senate Republican leader Peter Bragdon, check out the article "How Much Will the Budget Grow?" by the non-partisan NH Center for Public Policy Studies. The article details growth levels in state budget spending from 1990 to present, and explains the effect on spending calculations when changes in school building aid and liquor appropriations are included/excluded.
- Dan, Manchester
The budget DOUBLED under J. Shaheen's terms (an average of 10% increase per year over 6 years). It looks like Gov Lynch does not want to be left behind.
- Tommy K, Hollis
This is a great article and very informing. Let's not blame only the Democrats as there are some Republicans also involved in the waste of our money.
Please remember that not only are some of our legislators trying to move the pea around under the shells to confuse us, but they also used $18 million out of the retirement account to help balance the budget in the last budget.
Then this year they tried to pass only this move on the backs of retirees by taxing them for health care, a benefit that they earned with their service over many many years. They took out $18 million that the retirees put in and then tried to get them to take another $4 million out of their pockets to pay it back! Thankfully the Senate was able to amend that part of the budget to limit the cost of the increase to what active employees pay, and not 11.5%.
This type of spending is insane and needs to stop.
Thank you Mr. Bragdon.
- Melvin, Keene
Well the toys are disappearing, jetskis, boats, atv's, snowmobiles, motorcycles.
Means less revenues. Im sure after the latest tax on camping campers and RV's will be the next to go. I know folks letting their 2nd cars go by the wayside.
I'm sure this is just going to wonders to add to revenues, they will just have to change the "Granite State" to the "Rock State".
- Jack Alex, Manchester
Senator Bragdon, thank you for giving us the real budget news. The spenders in our state government are out of touch with reality as they grow government at a rate far exceeding inflation. They have resorted to claiming money from the malpractice insurance fund as well - money that surely doesn't belong to state government. Our limp kneed Governor goes along for the ride as he does on all issues - never showing any leadership. Its time to throw the liberals out of New Hampshire governemnet and stop this nonesense.
- Pat Spooner, Windham
I find it pretty hard not to call the Meals & Rental a sales tax... nor the new gambling tax an income tax.
Let's be honest here... NH has income and sales taxes, and they aren't nickels and dimes... this is real money being thrown around.
- John Edward Mercier, Belmont
The Republican Senate Majority Committee plans a big fundraiser at a Fisher Cats game on Aug. 31. It's Ted Williams bobble-head night, committee chair Sen. Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, said. The Senate GOP fundraiser, at $100 a ticket, comes as the Red Sox' Eastern League affiliate, the Portland Sea Dogs, visit town.
Source: "State House Dome: Lottery panel faces angry allegations" (By TOM FAHEY,
NH State House Bureau Chief, NH Union Leader, August 23, 2009)
"Medicaid expansion vote worries state’s health care providers"
By ANNMARIE TIMMINS, Concord Monitor staff, Sunday, May 26, 2013
Senate President Peter Bragdon, a Milford Republican, sits for an editorial review board at the Monitor; Thursday, February 24, 2011. (Alexander Cohn/ Monitor staff)
Mental health centers and local hospitals that were encouraged earlier this year by the House’s vote to expand Medicaid are troubled that some Senate Republicans intend to halt that move.
Last week, the Senate Finance Committee voted, 4-2, along party lines to take expanded Medicaid out of the state budget and instead study expansion’s impact on the state. Senate President Peter Bragdon, a Milford Republican, proposed a $200,000 study commission in place of expansion, citing skepticism that the federal government will honor its promise to pay the bulk of the expense.
Jay Couture, president of the New Hampshire Community Behavioral Health Association, said expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act would provide the state’s 10 community mental health centers an additional $13.6 million over two years for the uncompensated care they must provide.
“We are working to outreach to senators to help them understand what the impact will be,” Couture said. “There hasn’t been a full Senate vote yet. There is always hope.”
Steve Anhen, president of the New Hampshire Hospital Association, described the move as a step in the wrong direction.
“We are disappointed,” he said. “We think (expanding Medicaid) is really, really important for families and patients and for hospitals. There is someone sitting in an emergency room right now who is uninsured and would be covered by the Medicaid expansion.”
Anhen, Couture and other health care providers said expanding Medicaid insurance to more people will allow them to seek preventive, less-expensive care they now put off because they can’t afford it. Instead, they said, the uninsured go to emergency rooms when they are too ill to put off care any longer, making treatment more costly and often less effective.
Both Anhen and Couture said they remained eager to work with senators, who both said have otherwise been supportive of increased state support for hospitals and mental health centers.
The vote by Senate finance prompted New Hampshire Citizens Alliance, a progressive political action group, to organize a protest rally at 4 p.m. Wednesday, outside O Steak and Seafood on South Main Street, to coincide with a fundraiser Bragdon is having inside the restaurant.
And Health and Human Services Commissioner Nick Toumpas, who favors expanding Medicaid, has asked Senators for a chance to speak with them further before the full Senate votes on its budget.
Bragdon could not be reached for comment Friday.
It’s estimated that expanding Medicaid, a major part of the federal health care overhaul, would extend health coverage to 22,300 people in New Hampshire who would otherwise remain uninsured under the Affordable Care Act.
Gov. Maggie Hassan and the House included expanded Medicaid in their budgets, citing the $2.5 billion offered by the federal government over the next seven years.
With expansion, the federal government is expected to pay 100 percent of the cost for three years, between 93 percent and 95 percent for the next three years and at least 90 percent in subsequent years.
Hassan and House Democrats have said that level of assistance and the ability to provide health coverage to more people is worth the anticipated $27 million to $85 million state officials and others have said expansion might cost the state over seven years.
Bragdon and his three Republican colleagues on Senate finance, Sen. Bob Odell, a Lempster Republican, Sen. Chuck Morse, a Salem Republican and Sen. Jeanie Forrester, a Meredith Republican, disagreed. They voted with Bragdon to study expansion instead, saying there is too little evidence that expansion will lower costs or improve health care outcomes.
In a written statement, Hassan said that vote would cost families health care and the state jobs.
“They are rejecting health coverage for tens of thousands of working families, rejecting 700 jobs, and rejecting more than $92 million in savings for our state,” she said in a written statement. “Uncompensated care at our hospitals’ emergency rooms and health centers increases costs for everyone.”
Hassan’s statement continued. “Senate Republicans have made the wrong decision for our families, our economy and the ongoing efforts to innovate and strengthen our health care system,” she said. “I urge New Hampshire’s senators to rise above ideology and move forward with accepting these critical dollars that will strengthen the health of our people and our economy.”
On Friday, Toumpas said he hopes additional meetings with the Senate will allow him to answer questions raised by Bragdon and the others last week.
“It’s just a matter of an opportunity to sit down and be able to provide what we perceive as the facts and have a dialogue about what is obviously a very significant issue.”
Sen. Sylvia Larsen, a Concord Democrat who sits on the Senate Finance Committee, voted against Bragdon’s proposal. She called it the “wrong choice” for the state’s economy and working families.
“Why would we reject $2.5 billion dollars in federal funds when we know we will see millions of dollars in savings to our state budget?” Larsen said. “Why turn down 100 percent federal funding when we know at the same time our citizens will benefit from critical preventative health care or mental health care in the community instead of relying on expensive and last-minute emergency room care that drives up all our costs?”
Sen. Molly Kelly, a Keene Democrat, said Friday that she fears mental health services, within the state budget and those that would be offered through Medicaid expansion, are in jeopardy. She noted that the House turned down the casino bill, eliminating that revenue source, and the Senate has killed increases to both the cigarette and gas taxes. Rejecting federal money to expand Medicaid, she said, would further hurt health care for those who cannot afford it now.
“The budget is still in flux and it’s not over,” she said. “I will do what I can to work with the finance committee and do what we were sent here to do.”
She said the Senate’s job is not to write a Senate budget but, rather, a “people’s budget.”
The state’s 10 community mental health centers try to cover costs of their uncompensated care with appeals to donors or fundraising. Under expanded Medicaid, the centers would receive money for the uncompensated care they are required by law to provide.
“Even if we don’t pay now, we pay later,” said Peter Janelle, executive director of the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester. People who seek treatment early for mental illnesses have a better chance of recovery and are less likely to require intervention from the police or criminal justice system, Janelle said.
Like other centers, the Manchester mental health center, seeks donations to cover the cost of uncompensated care. The center is holding its annual 5K road race June 20, and will use all proceeds to pay for uncompensated care. It also uses earnings from an endowment created 10 years ago for charity care.
Expanded Medicaid would allow the center to continue that charity care as donations and endowment earnings have taken a hit by the downturn in the economy.
But economic reasons aren’t Janelle’s only argument for expanding Medicaid coverage to more of New Hampshire’s residents. “It’s the right thing to do,” he said.
(Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)
"Gov. Hassan: Concerns Over Sen. Bragdon's LGC Job Should Be 'Thoroughly Addressed'"
By Michael Brindley, nhpr.org - August 14, 2013
Governor Maggie Hassan says concerns raised about Senate President Peter Bragdon heading the Local Government Center should be "carefully and thoroughly addressed."
Her office released a statement today, in which Hassan's spokesman called Bragdon's appointment "uncharted territory," given the numerous issues that come before the Legislature that deal with the LGC and its members.
Meanwhile, the state Democratic Party wants to know more about the LGC's hiring of Bragdon as its executive director.
The state party has filed a right to know request with the LGC, seeking any correspondence from the Milford Republican inquiring about the position over the past three months.
Bragdon started his new job today.
He says he plans on keeping his post as the head of the Senate, despite concerns from many, including the Democratic Party, about a potential conflict of interest.
The right to know request also seeks information about the hiring process, including postings for the job and any information provided by Bragdon about his qualifications.
Bragdon said earlier this week that LGC officials brought up the idea of him taking the position during a meeting in mid-July.
He will earn a salary of $180,000.
"LGC deal with Bragdon lowers New Hampshire’s ethical bar"
The Nashua Telegraph, Opinion: Editorial, August 16, 2013
We can see where New Hampshire Senate President Peter Bragdon would be a good hire to lead the Concord-based Local Government Center, even if he weren’t the state’s second most powerful elected official.
Bragdon, who also serves on the Milford School Board, is smart, respected, well-spoken and, until earlier this week anyway, known as a man of impeccable integrity. He also has experience in the insurance industry.
That said, we can’t see any way that the Senate won’t be tarnished – and perhaps badly – if Bragdon stays there after signing on with the LGC and its implicit entanglements with state government.
The LGC is a consortium of the state’s cities, towns and school districts that provides insurance risk pools for its members. It also has one of the biggest lobbying footprints in Concord. Several Concord law firms have provided lobbying on behalf of the LGC and its subsidiaries, most notably the New Hampshire Municipal Association.
But Bragdon says the LGC and NHMA will soon split into separate entities, leaving the LGC to operate the insurance pools without the lobbying component. That, he says, will clear the way for him to vote, conflict-free, on issues in which the NHMA has an interest. He makes it sound like he’ll have no conflicts beyond those encountered by the average citizen-legislator.
Unfortunately, that’s not how most people will see it. As Senate president, Bragdon can influence the direction and outcome of legislation through more than just his vote. He controls the Senate’s agenda, committee appointments and calendar, among other things. He’s in a position to steer legislation in whichever direction suits him – or his employer.
Former Senate Majority Leader Robert Clegg, a Hudson Republican, put it this way: “Even if he recuses himself, he’s in the ability, as presiding officer, to know where the votes are lining up, and that’s an advantage no one in a competitive business should have,” Clegg said. “He should take the job and resign the seat. I don’t have any animosity towards Peter, and think he’s done a good job as Senate president. I just don’t see how it’s sustainable for him to do both.”
Indeed, to suggest that even a technically sequestered LGC has no interest in what happens in the Statehouse is simply ludicrous.
Especially given the LGC’s ongoing battle with the state’s Bureau of Securities Regulation over insurance pools the LGC has operated on behalf of its members. The BSR argued – and a hearing officer agreed – that the LGC’s insurance operations hoarded millions more in reserves than it needed to meet potential claims. The LGC was ordered to repay $50 million to its members, a ruling it appealed to the state Supreme Court on Monday.
Bragdon’s hiring puts the state in the embarrassing position of having its most powerful legislator leading an organization that is suing the executive branch in a case that is going before the state’s highest court; that’s the kind of thing that can turn a state into a laughing stock.
Further thickening the plot is the question of which master Bragdon would be serving if he tried to do both. Here’s a hint: The LGC job will pay him $180,000 a year; he’ll earn $125 per year as Senate president.
The Bragdon hiring also says something about the LGC, and it might be this: They’ve decided to spend $180,000 to do their Senate lobbying from the inside. That, at least, is how it will look to some and will continue to appear so long as Bragdon stays on as the Senate’s leader.
We also wonder what the hiring says as a possible precedent: Will some of the other deep-pocketed trade organizations – those representing banking, real estate or health care industries, perhaps – start a bidding war to secure the “services” of other senators?
People will undoubtedly question whether Bragdon can legally serve in both capacities, and the answer, sadly, is probably “yes.” The legislature sets its own conflict-of-interest guidelines and employment is one of the exemptions. But not being illegal and being right are not the same thing.
This deal, borne in the state’s ethical vacuum, points out the need for passage of a tough, broad conflict-of-interest and ethics law to prevent arrangements such as this that undermine public confidence in our government institutions.
Maybe we in New Hampshire don’t have very high ethical expectations of our legislators, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have any. The LGC-Bragdon arrangement intuitively fails to meet – and vastly lowers – the principles behind the tepid standards we do have.
The LGC Board of Directors – chaired by Hollis-Brookline School Board Chairman Thomas Enright – also has an opportunity here. They could change the organization’s public perception – currently something akin to an ethically-bankrupt cartel – by asking Bragdon to step down from the Senate, or at least the presidency.
This is also the juncture, it seems, where we learn whether Bragdon is, after all, the man of unquestioned integrity that so many of his supporters thought he was.
"Morse rallies support to be next Senate president after Bragdon steps aside"
By Garry Rayno, NH State House Bureau, August 16, 2013
CONCORD - Senate President Peter Bragdon will relinquish that post in light of criticism that his new job as director of the Local Government Center (LGC) created a perception of conflict of interest, he told UnionLeader.com today.
Bragdon said he will be contacting the 23 other senators to set up a time when they can all meet to choose a new president, which he hopes will happen soon after Labor Day.
Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Morse, R-Salem, announced this afternoon he will seek the presidency.
Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said after Bragdon"s announcement "I think Sen. Bragdon is doing the right thing. He is protecting the integrity of the Senate and public officials throughout New Hampshire." Bradley said he will back Morse for the senate presidency if he announces he will run.
"I hope Sen. Morse announces this afternoon he is running for Senate president," Bradley said. "Chuck is highly qualified and has proven that time and time again, particularly with the 24-0 budget vote. He is a great leader and someone Republicans and Democrats can work with."
Bradley said Bragdon did not discuss the LGC position with him before Tuesday's announcement.
Bragdon, R-Milford, is serving his fifth term in the Senate and will retain his District 11 seat, but said he would step down as president because he was concerned about public perception of a lack of transparency or integrity in Senate dealings if he remained.
"I worked real hard the last three years as Senate President to bring openness and integrity to the Senate," Bragdon told UnionLeader.com, "and this would damage that and I did not want that to happen."
Bragdon said he made the decision sometime on Thursday. He had scheduled a meeting late that afternoon with Morse and Senate President Pro Tempore Bob Odell, R-Lempster, to discuss the situation, but told them when they sat down that he was resigning.
Bragdon said, he talked to Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, earlier Friday about possibly asking the Legislative Ethics Committee for an opinion.
Several former Senate Republicans had said Bragdon should resign as president if he took the LGC position. Democratic Party spokesmen were vocal in their criticism of Bragdon.
As president, Bragdon controls the Senate agenda, appoints committees, and controls the flow of proposed legislation and that could have a direct effect on the LGC organization, critics said.
Bragdon said Friday he first approached the new position, which was announced Monday, as any other senator or representative in a volunteer legislature who is employed in the private sector or in state government: he would recuse himself from issues with a potential conflict of interest.
"After hearing some of the rationale of those who raised concerns," Bragdon said Friday morning, "I realized there are other responsibilities and other challenges the Senate president has that raise the perception of (problems)."
He said he was not concerned about the public relations problems that taking the position caused, noting he has been in politics long enough to be able to take the heat.
"At some point yesterday I realized I should step aside," Bragdon said. "When you know it's the right thing to do, you had better do it."
The LGC has been in a protracted battle with state regulators over its handling of its self-insured risk pools for health, property liability and workers compensation insurance that covers many cities, towns, school districts and counties.
The organization is under a 2012 Bureau of Securities Regulations order to return $50 million in excess earnings to its member communities.
The organization is contesting the order, appealing it to the Supreme Court.
The bureau also found the LGC improperly organized under Delaware law. It has agreed to separate the New Hampshire Municipal Association from its insurance pools Sept. 1.
The NHMA is a major lobbying organization before the legislature, which had some question how Bragdon would take the position and be Senate president.
Bragdon, who began his new post Wednesday, said he has no oversight over the NHMA, which will be a separate entity beginning next month.
Bragdon replaces former Department of Resources and Economic Development Commissioner George Bald, who agreed to head the LGC for six months on an interim basis.
"Peter Bragdon calls NH Senate to session on September 3, 2013"
AP / August 21, 2013
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — New Hampshire Senate President Peter Bragdon, who recently accepted a job with the Local Government Center, is calling the Senate back into session next month so he can officially step down and give the body a chance to elect a new president.
The session has been scheduled for Tuesday, September 3, 2013 at 10 a.m.
Only a simple majority is required to elect a new president of the 24-member Senate.
Bragdon said he would step down to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.
The Milford Republican is serving his fifth term. He has been president since December 2010.
He is the new executive director of the Local Government Center, an umbrella organization overseeing a health care trust, a workers’ compensation trust and a liability and property trust for municipalities.
"Bragdon at LGC already takes heat for appointment"
By Dave Solomon, New Hampshire Union Leader, August 22, 2013
CONCORD — The appointment of former State Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, as executive director of the Local Government Center (LGC) is already reaping legislative benefits for the controversial organization that manages insurance pools for New Hampshire municipalities, according to state Democrats and LGC critics.
The New Hampshire Democratic Party in a statement Tuesday said Bragdon's appointment of State Sen. Jeanie Forrester, R-Meredith, to an LGC study committee raises "significant concerns about a breach of the state's ethics handbook" given the timing of the appointment and Forrester's perceived support for the LGC.
The letter from Bragdon notifying Forrester of her appointment to the study committee is dated July 19, while Bragdon acknowledged that he began to consider a position with the LGC on July 11.
"I can't dispute, the timing is there," said Bragdon in a telephone interview on Wednesday, even though he insisted he had decided on Forrester for the position on July 5, when he signed the bill creating the study committee and forwarded it to the governor for her signature. At the time, the LGC director position had not even come up, he said.
Bragdon took over as LGC executive director on Aug. 14 and resigned as Senate president on Aug. 16, but said he has no intention of giving up his Senate seat. The Senate has scheduled a special session on Sept. 3 to vote on a new president.
"I relinquished the job of Senate president, and this is a good example of why," he said. "People are going to be looking at every little thing, and even though I am certain I have the integrity to do the right thing, people outside look at it and say, 'What is going on there?' "
According to Harrell Kirstein, communications director for the state Democratic party, the appointment of Forrester under such circumstances is no little thing.
"Bragdon's official and legal appointment of Forrester is a clear conflict of interest," Kirstein said. "He used his position as Senate President to influence a decision that would directly benefit the LGC, while being considered for a $180,000 contract with the LGC."
Surpluses at issue
The Local Government Center, which began years ago as the New Hampshire Municipal Association, has collected millions in insurance premiums while retaining huge surpluses, according to critics like Dave Lang, president of the Professional Firefighters Association of New Hampshire.
Lang and others have fought the LGC in court for years, arguing that the surpluses should be returned to the municipal employees or the cities and towns they worked for.
The LGC recently appealed to the state Supreme Court in an effort to overturn an order by the state Bureau of Securities Regulation to return more than $50 million to LGC members and set benchmarks for how much it can keep in reserves.
The legislative study committee, consisting of four House members and one senator, was created to review the hearing officer's report with regard to the LGC and recommend legislative changes to the laws governing risk pools in the state.
"It's no secret that Senator Forrester has experience with municipalities and may be sympathetic to some of the (LGC) issues," said Lang.
Forrester served as town administrator in Tuftonboro and New Durham, and as the executive director for Main Street programs in Plymouth and Meredith. Lang claims the voting records of both Forrester and Bragdon often followed LGC recommendations on issues like reserve levels and non-profit versus for-profit status.
The study committee took testimony for the first time on Tuesday, and Lang, who was present for much of the hearing, said Forrester was not a tough questioner. "She asked questions that would bring out the best in the local government center," he said.
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Forrester said her municipal experience and her role as vice chair of the Public and Municipal Affairs Committee make her well-suited for the committee role.
"I think that I can be fair about the whole situation," she said. "For me, my number one priority is to protect my community. If that means the LGC did some things that weren't appropriate and money needs to be returned, I want my community to get that money back."
Ryan Williams, a senior advisor to the state Republican Party, said Forrester is an excellent appointment to the committee. "Senator Forrester is a principled and outstanding legislator who views every issue with an open mind," he said. "For Democrats to try to cast any dispersions on her record or her ability to evaluate issues is a desperate political move."
"Records: Five targeted by LGC for leadership post: Peter Bragdon first approached for role on July 11 (2013)"
By Lynne Tuohy, Associated Press, August 23, 2013
CONCORD — The quasi-public Local Government Center targeted five people to approach about becoming its executive director before picking New Hampshire Senate President Peter Bragdon, documents show.
The center did not identify the other four in 32 pages of papers it released late Wednesday night, mostly e-mail exchanges between Bragdon and Interim Director George Bald beginning July 11.
After continued criticism from Democrats about potential conflicts of interest, Bragdon, a Republican, agreed last week to give up his Senate leadership role but will remain a senator. He will officially step down during a Senate session Sept. 3 and his successor will be elected.
Bragdon, of Milford, has said he realized his new job with the LGC might cause some people to question the openness and integrity of the Senate.
The center is an umbrella organization overseeing a health care trust, a workers' compensation trust and a liability and property trust in which many municipalities participate. It is embroiled in litigation with numerous municipalities over $36 million in surplus funds it collected, and has an appeal pending before the state Supreme Court.
The documents raise several red flags, said Democratic Party spokesman Harrell Kirstein, who filed a right-to-know request for them. Paramount, Kirstein said, is an e-mail to Bald on July 16 in which he says he talked to Sen. Jeanie Forrester that day about potentially taking a job at the center and notes, "Her reaction could not have been more positive." Three days later, Bragdon appointed Forrester to the center's regulatory study committee.
"Jeanie Forrester is now neck-deep in the Peter Bragdon's scandal," Kirstein said Thursday. "How many more Republicans will be dragged in before this ends? No wonder she was silent about the massive and inherent conflicts of interest in Bragdon's new LGC job. She knew about it nearly a month in advance and said nothing."
Forrester and Bragdon did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Bragdon began his $180,000-a-year job at the center Aug. 14 (2013).
Bald first reached out to Bragdon as a potential job candidate July 11, the day after Gov. Maggie Hassan signed an LGC study committee bill into law, the documents indicate.
In a letter to Kirstein dated Wednesday, Bald outlined the hiring process used by the chairmen of the five boards that govern the center. Those include the New Hampshire Municipal Association, the lobbying and public information arm for cities and towns, which will become separate from the center Sept. 1.
He appears to give assurance to Bragdon's chances for the job by detailing what path the board was staying away from.
"The chairs were not looking for a lobbyist to serve as executive director," Bald wrote. "Lobbyist activities were not considered an integral part of the executive director functions nor was lobbying activities a topic of conversation with the candidates."
Bald e-mailed Bragdon after the chairmen met July 12 and told him, "There was also some concern that you might be criticized that there would be conflicts of interest."
"GOP says Democrats are hypocrites in LGC criticism"
By Dave Solomon, New Hampshire Union Leader, August 22, 2013
CONCORD — State Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Dalton, works for an advocacy group largely funded with taxpayer dollars and has testified and voted on legislation affecting the group.
So, Republicans want to know why Democrats are making so much noise about a decision by Sen. Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, to take the job as executive director of the Local Government Center.
Ryan Williams, a spokesman for the state Republican Party, said Democrats are trying to make political hay out of Bragdon's decision while ignoring potential conflicts of interest in their own ranks.
"The fact that they are not raising concerns about a Democratic senator in the same kind of situation is hypocritical and shows they are trying to shamelessly score political points," Williams said. "They're not being consistent and they're not holding Democratic senators to the same standard."
Woodburn has served as executive director of the Council for Children and Adolescents with Chronic Health Conditions since 2011. The council was created in 1997 by an act of the Legislature, is funded largely by the state, and is an advocacy organization for children with chronic illness that occasionally has business before lawmakers.
At a Senate hearing on March 13, Woodburn testified in support of a bill that changed the name of the council, added a youth member and changed annual reporting dates, and he presented an amendment to the bill.
The name-change legislation was not controversial, and no one spoke in opposition.
"We're not alleging that there's anything wrong with what Senator Woodburn is doing, as long he does recuse himself as Senator Bragdon has said he will do when there is a potential conflict," said Williams. "New Hampshire has a citizens' Legislature and legislators need to earn a living outside their service as elected officials."
New Hampshire Democratic Party spokesperson Harrell Kirstein said the two situations are not at all similar.
"We're not even talking apples and oranges," he said. "This is like night and day. Senator Woodburn works part-time at an organization that raises awareness for sick kids, which he has listed on his disclosure form. This is a position that he had before he was elected to the state Senate. Voters were aware of the fact that he works for sick kids before they voted for him last fall."
The potential for a conflict of interest with the LGC is much greater, Kirstein said.
"The LGC is a half-billion-dollar organization that's currently suing the state of New Hampshire and is connected to an entire team of registered lobbyists," he said. "They try to influence legislation every day."
The LGC, which controls a variety of insurance pools and trust funds for public and municipal employees, has been at the center of legal, regulatory and legislative controversies, prompting Bragdon to announce last week that he would step down as Senate president to reduce the potential for conflicts, but will retain his Senate seat.
The Democratic Party issued a statement on Tuesday questioning the timing of Bragdon's decision, while he was still Senate president, to appoint Sen. Jeanie Forrester, R-Meredith, to a panel looking into the LGC, saying the appointment "raises significant concerns about a breach of the state's ethics handbook."
"Milford resident disturbed by Bragdon hiring"
The Nashua Telegraph, Letter to the Editor, August 23, 2013
I’m really frightened. The Telegraph on Aug. 8 featured a front-page article saying Peter Bragdon was selected to be the new executive director of the Local Government Center. The LGC was accused of overcharging subscribers and using the money inappropriately, and I, for one, am looking forward to getting my money back. I also believe, as part of the reorganization, there will be a name change to Property-Liability Trust, so be sure to connect the two.
The agency had six months to conduct a nationwide search and the “best” they found was Bragdon? Did they really do a search? This reeks of a backdoor deal.
But why am I frightened? Bragdon claims there will be no conflict of interest between this new position and that of being a state senator, where bills are voted upon which affect the LGC/PLT. I don’t believe him. Let’s not forget the Milford School Board meeting where Bragdon stated, “I do not have to abide by the wishes of the voters.”
With that kind of mentality, how can we trust him not to participate in conflicts of interest or backdoor deals? We can’t.
Milford, New Hampshire
"Bragdon is being paid very well to be a senator"
By Daniel Dwyer, The Nashua Telegraph, September 15, 2013
It’s a funny thing about honor and integrity: You can have it for decades, and then it can vanish in a New York or Concord minute. That’s what I believe has happened to Sen. Peter Bragdon, R-Milford.
He now finds himself in the position of being a state senator who is paid by a business to be exactly that – a senator. Being paid very well indeed – $180,000 a year plus health care and expense account – as executive director of HealthTrust Inc., which sells insurance products to cities and towns within New Hampshire. (HealthTrust until recently was a subsidiary of the Local Government Center, the organization that originally hired the senator.)
Most normal businesses would find it ludicrous that their company’s highest-paid executive would take six months off out of the year and go work for somebody else three or four days a week. However, that is exactly what Sen. Bragdon is planning to do, and with the blessing of his new employer.
Why would a company pay someone big bucks if they weren’t expecting big things from them? During the interview process, it became clear that LGC directors wanted Bragdon to stay on as a senator; whether he remained as Senate president didn’t really matter or seem that important. What was important was for him to be able to cross the street from his office to the Statehouse and mingle with the other legislators and enter his new Senate office and keep being Sen. Bragdon. HealthTrust is perfectly fine with this arraignment, because they hired him knowing that he would not resign. He would not have been so desirable or valuable to them if he wasn’t a senator.
Even his selection process is filled with controversy, with unanswered or, better yet, unasked questions. Such as, where was interim LGC Director George Bald when all this was going on? Everyone knew Mr. Bald was leaving soon. Where was he during the selection process? “Hey, staff, where are all those resumes from the national search team from people who want this great job I am leaving?” What? No stack of resumes?”
Are we supposed to believe that Sen. Bragdon was picked out of the blue and the outgoing director had no clue? If that’s true, then George Bald was one heck of a hands-off manager.
It’s further madness when you discover that the Bureau of Securities Regulation, which oversees the selling of insurance products to municipalities throughout the state, is the agency that regulates HealthTrust. And who do you think is in charge of that regulatory agency’s budget? Why, the Senate, House and governor, of course. The Senate yields a lot of power and influence over all things political, and our state’s regulatory agencies come under the direct influence of our legislative bodies. It’s that simple. How does one man balance the influence that comes with being there for 10 years? I, for one, do not believe it is possible.
When paid big money, most people tend to devote all their time and energy to that company or business exclusively. So I ask why Sen. Bragdon can’t act like the rest of the people who have been given a great opportunity and be grateful for having such a fabulous job and work 12 months out of the year at it? Why is it so difficult to leave a job in politics that pays practically nothing? He should resign, get on with his life and let the people of District 11 choose a new leader before the next session begins in January. Then, and only then, will he reinstate the honor and integrity so many people believed he had, including me.
Daniel Dwyer is a town councilor in Merrimack. He ran unsuccessfully against Peter Bragdon in the 2012 Republican
"Bankruptcy denied in $17.1M repayment"
By Kevin Landrigan, Staff Writer, The Nashua Telegraph, September 17, 2013
CONCORD – HealthTrust Inc. Executive Director and state Sen. Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, denied he’s preparing to guide Property-Liability Trust into bankruptcy as it struggles to make a $17.1 million state-ordered repayment.
Bragdon said the Property-Liability Trust hired noted Boston bankruptcy lawyer Peter N. Baylor to explore “debt structuring and financial management” issues related to the repayment that sprang from a state hearing officer’s decision 13 months ago.
In a strongly worded letter Monday to local government members of this property-liability risk pool, Bragdon said he’s committed to a solution that “makes the most sense” to its customers and state regulators.
“Bankruptcy is not one of those solutions, and it is not being, nor will it be, considered.
Our No. 1 priority is maintaining sufficient reserves to pay for all claims,” Bragdon wrote.
But Andru Volinsky, legal adviser to the state Bureau of Securities Regulation, said the agency questioned that bankruptcy appeared to be a live option given the hiring of Baylor and an Aug. 23 letter in which HealthTrust officials referred to themselves as a “creditor” to the property-liability trust.
“I’ve not found a great deal of information forthcoming from the Local Government Center or its affiliates,” Volinsky said. “I think it’s prudent for the bureau to analyze bankruptcy issues in light of their actions and statements of late.”
Meanwhile, The Telegraph confirmed that potentially PLT officials have two other options to try to make this required $17 million repayment by a Dec. 1 deadline.
They could ask member communities for a special assessment to cover that cost of the hearing officer’s decision.
And they could offset much of the penalty by asking Labor Commissioner James Craig to remove a $11.4 million bond that state agency required PLT to post last December in light of this repayment obligation.
Volinsky said the former parent LGC and its affiliate boards of directors had to have acted much earlier if they want to make member governments pay for the state sanction.
“It doesn’t seem like a viable option, and LGC has given us no reason to believe that is the option they are considering,” Volinsky said.
The state’s position is the bond could only be removed if the parent New Hampshire Municipal Association decided to drop its worker’s compensation coverage. Bragdon and other officials have insisted that is not what they intend to do, Volinsky said.
“If they make the decision to get out of the worker’s comp business, some of that money may be available, but again, we’ve been given every indication that is not an option they want to pursue,” Volinsky said.
Bragdon called state agency references to bankruptcy reckless and harmful to his organization.
“I think it is irresponsible for our regulator to say that, and it calls into question their ability to fairly regulate our organization,” Bragdon said.
On Sept. 1, the health and property trusts were broken into separate, independent nonprofits.
Bragdon insists while he runs the two trusts, he has no role in the now-separate New Hampshire Municipal Association, the lobbying and public education resource for its member communities.
On Monday, Bragdon identified himself as the “interim executive director” of the PLT. The NHMA’s in-house legal counsel, David Frydman, told state officials last week he no longer represents the Property-Liability Trust but is still lawyer for the HealthTrust.
Should this $17 million repayment ever become the subject of a bankruptcy, financial reorganization or any kind of courtroom dispute, legal observers said Monday that Bragdon or Frydman would face a conflict if they held the dual roles of the CEO or legal counsel, respectively, of the HealthTrust and the PLT it owes money to.
In July 2012, Hearing Officer John Mitchell ruled the Property-Liability Trust from 2004-10 had improperly used $17 million in HealthTrust surplus to financially prop up LGC’s worker’s compensation risk pool offered to local governments.
Last month, the PLT sent refund checks to public employees and a credit for public employers for $3 million in excess surplus it had gotten from the HealthTrust to support the worker’s compensation program.
According to an Aug. 30 letter to state officials, lawyers for the HealthTrust said the group opposed receiving this money and asked Secretary of State Bill Gardner to delay the payment.
Baylor, the PLT’s new Boston lawyer, works for Nutter, McClennan and Fish, a firm that has a long history of legal battles with Gardner’s office.
In 2004, the firm represented Pennichuck Water Works, of Nashua, and engaged in a bitter public war of words after Gardner’s securities bureau agency accused Pennichuck’s former CEO of questionable spending.
Ultimately, federal authorities required Pennichuck pay back to shareholders $360,000, which represented the amount of the fraud Gardner’s agency had alleged.
In 2010, then-Attorney General Michael Delaney paid the same Boston firm $75,000 to help prepare a report for the governor and Executive Council on the state’s response to the Financial Resources Mortgage scandal.
The report concluded Gardner’s securities bureau was in part to blame for improper oversight of this Lakes Region Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors of more than $20 million.
Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or email@example.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@Klandrigan).
"The cost of doing the public’s business in NH"
The Nashua Telegraph, Editorial, September 18, 2013
It’s the price we pay for not paying the price.
Members of the New Hampshire House and Senate are paid $100 per year for their services, plus a mileage reimbursement for traveling to and from the Statehouse. That’s it. A measly hundred bucks. It’s a sum set right there in the state Constitution.
So what do taxpayers get for their money?
From January to June, the 400 House members and 24 senators usually convene once a week to consider legislation that has been voted out of one of the standing committees, which themselves usually meet once a week or so. The majority of lawmakers can count on being in Concord, at most, twice a week, though that varies somewhat, depending on the schedule set by leadership.
Suffice it to say that nobody serves for the money.
In fact, the legislative pay structure means most of us cannot afford to serve at all. As a result, the membership is made up of the well-to-do and retired in numbers disproportionate to the general population.
Those who don’t fall into one of those two categories require outside jobs that pay them a livable wage – assuming they prefer to eat on occasion and sleep indoors during the winter.
That’s where things can get a little sticky, as the recent case of Sen. Peter Bragdon illustrates.
The Milford Republican was hired for $180,000 a year by the Local Government Center and is now executive director of HealthTrust, an organization that oversees insurance products sold to towns and school districts around the state. It’s a quasi-public organization, regulated by the Bureau of Securities Regulation, which – like all state agencies – has a budget that has to be approved by Bragdon and other members of the New Hampshire General Court. That, in theory, gives the senator political leverage over the very agency that regulates his employer.
Not an ideal situation, perhaps, but there appears to be no state law that prohibits the arrangement, no matter how much it raises eyebrows.
A story in The Sunday Telegraph by Statehouse reporter Kevin Landrigan looked at how New Hampshire’s ethics laws compared to other states.
Long story short: They don’t. Lawmakers are given wide latitude in deciding whether they have a conflict of interest. It’s left almost entirely up to them, and it’s largely voluntary.
“When I talk about the influence of lobbyists in Concord and the fact our election and ethics laws are so weak, people are amazed I’m talking about New Hampshire, since we have this image of a large, voluntary, corrupt-free Legislature,” said former Securities Regulation Director Mark Connolly, who has written a book about his role with the BSR.
Others, however, think the system works just fine.
Fergus Cullen, a former Republican State Chairman, believes the Bragdon episode validated the current system. When Bragdon faced a barrage of criticism for his initial plan to remain as Senate president, he relinquished the leadership post but kept his Senate seat.
“Can it continue to be handled on a case-by-case basis like it has been? I believe so,” Cullen said. “The outcome here is pretty much one everyone can live with.”
Landrigan’s article also pointed out that there’s nothing on the books to prevent lawmakers or their family members from working for or contracting with the state, though many other states have that restriction.
Many states also prohibit their legislators from holding outside jobs. New Hampshire isn’t one of them and, given the pay scale of the job, we suspect the state wouldn’t have a lot of leverage in that area anyway.
But elected officials like to crow about how they and their brethren should be “held to a higher standard” when it comes to ethics, but that’s not what we do here in New Hampshire. We abide by something else, and Cullen’s can-we-live-with-it characterization comes pretty close to the mark.
Is that the best we can do?
Unless we want to change the Constitution and start paying lawmakers more than the sub-minimum wage they get now, it probably is.
It’s the price we pay for not paying the price.
"Granite State gets economics lesson"
The Nashua Telegraph, Editorial, October 9, 2013
Free-market advocates like to say that the market should decide which business entities survive and which don’t, though many sang a different tune in 2008 when some of their favorite financial institutions were about to go under and the federal government stepped in with bailout money.
Still, laissez faire capitalists tend to believe that the marketplace should pick winners and losers free from the pesky intrusion of government regulation.
New Hampshire may be about to get its own lesson in marketplace economics, as lawyers for the Property-Liability Trust Inc,. warned on Monday that the PLT will be financially insolvent unless the Supreme Court refuses to postpone a $17.1 million payment that the state has ordered be repayed to HealthTrust, one of PLT’s sister entities under the former Local Government Center umbrella.
HealthTrust, which operates a lucrative health insurance pool for cities, towns and school districts across the state, is owed the money because a state hearing officer ruled last year that it illegally subsidized PLT’s struggling worker’s compensation programs with money from the health insurance pool.
The state ordered PLT to repay HealthTrust, but PLT lawyers say the money’s just not there and a Dec. 1 deadline looms.
HealthTrust, meanwhile, has appealed the hearing officer’s ruling to the state Supreme Court, and PLT officials are hoping the court won’t force them to make the $17.1 million payment that’s due on Dec. 1.
One would think that PLT – being in the insurance business – would just do what most insurance companies would do in a similar situation and raise the rates they charge their customers – school districts and municipalities – for worker’s compensation insurance. PLT lawyers, however, argue that the law governing risk pools prevents that from happening in this instance.
State officials are skeptical.
PLT officials also say they can’t get a loan to cover the HealthTrust payment and are looking at insolvency if the deadline holds.
Wendy Parker, PLT’s executive director, said member cities and towns will not renew contracts and PLT would “cease to be a going concern.”
It’s hard to feel much sympathy for PLT, especially since the organization’s status as a going concern might have been called into question long before now, but for the fact that it was being subsidized by money from HealthTrust.
Under the umbrella of the former LGC, demand for its health insurance products made HealthTrust a financially robust entity, while demand for PLT’s worker’s compensation insurance was not as strong.
Faced with an underperforming entity, the LGC, according to state regulators, broke the law by using money that people paid for their health insurance premiums to support something those people didn’t pay for – worker’s compensation insurance.
The situation that PLT now finds itself in is simply the marketplace at work. If PLT goes under and the demand is there, another carrier will come along to fill the void in the worker’s compensation insurance market.
Meanwhile, cities, towns and school districts also ought to be asking themselves whether they should continue doing business with HealthTrust, given the ethical questions that have been raised about the hiring of CEO Peter Bragdon – a state senator – and the fact that, in its previous incarnation, the health insurance pool was also a party to the LGC’s machinations.
And therein lies the beauty of the markeplace: Those municipalities and school districts could pull their taxpayer-funded health insurance premiums out of HealthTrust by not renewing their policies. They could take their business elsewhere.
"Ethics panel finds Bragdon did not use his Senate post to get $180k LGC job"
By JOHN DiSTASO, Senior Political Reporter, The NH Union Leader, January 27, 2014
CONCORD -- The Legislative Ethics Committee decided Monday that state Sen. Peter Bragdon did not use his powerful legislative post to obtain a $180,000-a-year job heading the former Local Government Center, now the HealthTrust, Inc. risk pool.
The seven-member committee unanimously found a lack of “clear and convincing evidence” to warrant further investigation of three of five conflict-related allegations leveled against the Milford Republican.
The panel decided to seek “informal resolution” of the other two by demanding that Bragdon take some actions, yet to be specified in a letter to Bragdon that will be eventually made public.
The findings were announced by committee chairman Martin L. Gross, a Concord attorney, in public session after the panel deliberated behind closed doors for two-and-a-half hours on whether to proceed with a full-blown probe and hearing.
A “very relieved” Bragdon said he has always followed ethics rules and guidelines, said his position has been “vindicated” and said he will consider the action recommended by the committee when he receives its letter.
Bragdon resigned as Senate President shortly after taking the LGC executive director’s job last summer, but he still serves as a state senator.
Shortly after Bragdon took the job, state Rep. Rick Watrous, D-Concord, filed five allegations against Bragdon alleging he violated a state law and ethics guidelines.
Watrous charged that Bragdon “should not have used his public office to attain the job’s considerable personal benefits. Accepting such a thing of value from an organization with so much financial and legal business before the state is prohibited” by the guidelines and law.
“As long as Bragdon maintains both his Senate seat and his position as LGC Executive Director, Bragdon will violate the Ethics Guidelines’ Principal of Public Service by having conflicts of interests and real and apparent improper influences,” Watrous wrote. “Whenever any state business with the LGC (now HealthTrust, Inc.) occurs, citizens may rightfully wonder: is Bragdon acting for the public interest or for the interest of the LGC? Is Bragdon using his position in the Senate to advance the goals of the LGC?”
Watrous noted in his charges that while being considered for the LGC post, Bragdon appointed fellow Republican Sen. Jeanie Forrester to a committee to review a state Bureau of Securities Regulation hearing officer’s report regarding the LGC.
Earlier this month, the state Supreme Court ruled upheld the Bureau of Securities Regulations’ order last year that the LGC return to its members $33 million left over after it paid claims and administration costs.
The ethics committee voted 7-0 to dismiss and not proceed with a full-blown probe, due to “lack of clear and convincing evidence,” into allegations that Bragdon:
- knew or believed that the LGC’s purpose in recruiting him for the executive director’s post was to “influence” his “official activity” as a state senator.
- used his official position as a state senator “to obtain employment with LGC/HealthTrust.”
- and used his post as Senate President to “enhance his prospects of employment” by appointing Forrester to chair the special Senate committee reviewing the securities bureau report on LGC.
On the two other allegations, the committee found that if Bragdon committed violations, the evidence showed that it was “inadvertent” on his part, and he will be told to take corrective action through an official Ethics Committee option called “informal resolution.”
Those allegations were that Bragdon:
- knew or believed that LGC/Health Trust “was or was likely to become subject to or interested in any matter or action pending before or contemplated” by the Legislature, and that
- his salary from the LGC/HealthTrust “was not ‘unrelated’ to his position as a member of the Senate.”
Gross pointed out that the Procedural Rules of the Legislative Ethics Committee say that if the panel’s investigation “does not disclose sufficient cause to warrant further proceedings, the committee shall dismiss the complaint,” or, “In other cases not thought to merit the presentation of formal charges and hearing, the committee may informally resolve the matter with the consent of the legislator.
“Such informal resolution may take the form of written advice or admonishment, the requirement of remedial action, or the imposition of conditions, or any combination thereof,” according to the rule cited by Gross.
Gross said a written report on the committee’s investigation, describing the reason for each vote, will be issued in about a week.
He also said that on the two areas requiring informal resolution, “draft letters of caution,” which will be made public, will be sent to Bragdon “requiring certain steps on his part.”
Gross said Bragdon “will be invited to consent to informal resolution because his consent is necessary.”
Gross said that if Bragdon does not consent to the action demanded by the committee, then the panel will return to formal session and “deal with those allegations.”
He could not detail the timeline for that process, but said Bragdon will be given “some reasonable opportunity” to consider it.
Bragdon said the committee’s overall action “vindicated my position” and he was “very relieved that the subject is either closed or heading toward closure.”
He said he was “quite pleased at the unanimous dismissal of three of the counts,” and, “It seems like with the remaining counts, they said that if there was a violation, it was inadvertent and I will work to make sure those are addressed.
“I try my best to conform with all ethics laws and guidelines, which I must say are Byzantine,” Bragdon said. “They are a complex maze of rules and statutes, and sometimes they are contradictory to each other.”
On the informal resolution requests, Bragdon said, “We’ll certainly sit down and see what it is they are asking and how they are looking at things.”
He said he wants to know “specifically what they are concerned about. It is worth sitting down to see what that is, and I plan to comport with all rules and regulations.”
"Bragdon accepts ethics committee restrictions involving his Senate service, top HealthTrust job; but Senate lawyer questions panel's 'onerous' conditions"
Staff Report, NH Union Leader, February 14, 2014
FRIDAY, FEB. 14, AFTERNOON UPDATE:
CONCORD-- The state Senate's legal counsel Friday told the Legislative Ethics Committee the conditions it imposed on Sen. Peter Bragdon will set a precedent that could broadly "infringe" on the state's tradition of having part-time, citizen lawmakers who have outside jobs in a variety of fields.
Bragdon Friday accepted sweeping restrictions imposed by the ethics committee to prevent conflict between Bragdon's role as a state senator and his position as executive director of the HealthTrust public employee benefits poll (See story below.)
But at the same time, UnionLeader.com has learned, Senate counsel Richard J. Lehmann, wrote committee chairman Martin Gross Friday that the resolution to two outstanding potential areas of conflict Bragdon accepted on Friday "impose onerous conditions on the Senator's continue(d) service in the Senate."
Lehmann wrote that while he is not attempting to "intervene" directly in the Bragdon matter, "I do with to register my concerns about the impact and precedent that the Committee's proposed informal resolution might have in future complaints that may be brought against other Senators."
At the same time, Lehmann wrote that he hopes "the scope of the proposed conditions (directed at Bragdon) can be refined to more properly reflect the Committee's concerns."
He wrote that "it is particularly important that conditions proposed by the Committee be squarely within the Committee's proper jurisdiction and narrowly tailored to address the matter giving rise to the complaint."
The committee's condition banning Bragdon from participating in any activity that "would have any effect on your employer" is, Lehmann wrote, "exceptionally broad and likely to undermine his ability to represent his constituents effectively if accepted.
"The types of legislation that could have 'any effect" on any senator's employer are too numerous to mention," but could, Lehmann wrote, include bill addressing sex discrimination in the workplace, the minimum wage and employee free speech rights _ bills that could affect all businesses.
"(T)he Committee would effectively preclude (Bragdon) from acting on a large percentage of the business that comes before" the Legislature, Lehmann wrote.
And by proposing that Bragdon restructure his employment agreement with HealthTrust to ensure that he does not breach the conditions, "the Committee assumes the authority to reach out into the non-legislative activities of the Senator and control them."
Lehmann asks to discuss the issue with the committee "so that the ability of citizens now and in the future to serve in the legislature while also being employed is not unduly infringed."
(FRIDAY MORNING, FEB. 14:)
CONCORD -- State Sen. Peter Bragdon on Friday accepted restrictions placed on him by the Legislative Ethics Committee to prevent any conflicts between his role in the Senate and his job as executive director of the HealthTrust public employees risk pool.
Bragdon said the restrictions "mirror the practices I have already instituted and pledged to follow" when he took the job last summer.
The ethics committee, acting on a complaint by state Rep. Rick Watrous, D-Concord, cleared the Milford Republican and former Senate President of any intentional activity that resulted in conflicts between his $180,000-a-year post at HealthTrust and his role as a senator.
But the seven-member committee, acting unanimously, told Bragdon earlier this month that in the future he must "not take part in any official activity that concerns, involved or would have any effect on your employer."
The committee also told Bragdon that he should not participate in any HealthTrust consideration or decision-making process" on any matter that involves legislative consideration, and he should not participate in any HealthTrust "consideration, decision-making or communications with the state's regulatory officials who deal with the risk pool."
Bragdon's attorney, Russell Hilliard wrote to the panel last week that the conditions are "overbroad and unnecessary" and asked for clarifications. He wrote, for instance, that some legislation "applies generally to employers and nonprofits such as HealthTrust and not in any particular fashion to HealthTrust."
But ethics committee chairman Martin L. Gross, a prominent Concord attorney, wrote back on Monday, "If Senator Bragdon believes the conditions are unacceptable, and if chooses to remain a member of the Senate, the Committee will go forward by issuing written formal charges and scheduling a hearing to determine the merits of the allegations."
"The conditions were not offered as a starting point for further negotiations," Gross wrote to Hilliard, "but rather to afford Senator Bragdon the opportunity to avoid a formal proceeding to consider the two allegations that the Committee's Preliminary Investigation indicated would be supported by clear and convincing evidence."
Bragdon's initial reaction Monday to the sharply-worded letter was, "No comment at this time. I will be discussing this matter with attorney Hilliard and trying to figure out why I am being treated differently than other legislators who are employed."
Friday, however, Bragdon issued a statement that he has "accepted the 'informal resolution' proposal from the Legislative Ethics Committee" and said it "appears to mirror the practices I have already instituted and pledged to follow when I became the executive director of HealthTrust."
Bragdon continued, "It is important to point out that the Legislative Ethics Committee did not find there had been any ethics violation on my part.
"The committee's proposal serves only to reinforce those steps I have taken to separate myself from state matters involving my employer," he wrote.
Gross had noted that Bragdon recently filed an "incomplete" declaration under the ethics guidelines, "in which he identified the Medicaid bills as involving a conflict with his employment, but then participated in voting on them. He did this notwithstanding previous assurance to the Committee that he would not participate in any matter involving his employer."
Bragdon in his Friday statement, wrote, "I understand there was some confusion on my part about the role of the 'Declaration of Intent' form and the message it conveyed, and I apologize for any misunderstandings that may have caused."
"I thank Chairman Gross and the other committee members for their work to bring this matter to a close," Bragdon wrote. "I also thank my attorney, former Legislative Ethics Committee Chairman Russell Hilliard, for his invaluable assistance in understanding the process."
Bragdon, accepted the HealthTrust post last summer and then stepped down as state Senate President, but stayed on as a rank-and-file senator.
"People lost on Bragdon deal"
The Nashua Telegraph, Letter to the Editor, February 18, 2014
Wheeling and dealing Sen. Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, cops a plea bargain and cuts a deal taking representation away from his constituents so that he doesn’t have to face remaining ethics charges.
The fact that the ethics committee allowed Sen. Bragdon to throw his constituents under the bus and take away their representation instead of having him face a public hearing on whether it was inappropriate for him to take his $180,000 job makes me question the ethics panel as much as I question Sen. Bragdon.
Why the ethics panel would not hold a hearing if they thought the charges merited it makes me think that members on the committee care more about Sen. Bragdon’s ability to vote on future Medicaid legislation more then they care about ethics.
So we now have a partial senator representing our district, resulting in our district being unrepresented on many important votes. If he can’t do his job to its full capacity, he should take his $180,000 salary and leave the Senate. Another example of a politician putting himself over the people.
Bottom line: Bragdon 1; ethics committe 1; people of New Hampshire 0.
Merrimack, New Hampshire
"HealthTrust Inc. executive director Peter Bragdon steps down; political suitors abound"
By Dan Tuohy, New Hampshire Union Leader, September 22, 2015
CONCORD — The phone started ringing when word got out that Peter Bragdon had stepped aside as executive director of HealthTrust Inc., the risk pool that provides insurance for local public employers and employees.
Presidential campaigns were among the first callers, reaching out to see if the former New Hampshire Senate president would join their team.
Bragdon, an early John McCain supporter who endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012, is taking a step back after leading the former Local Government Center, which reorganized about two years ago into HealthTrust Inc.
“No plans right now,” he said in an phone interview.
That also goes for any potential future campaign for state office.
Bragdon said he is looking to take overdue vacation time before seeing what options 2016 might present. HealthTrust, on the other hand, is commencing a national search for Bragdon’s successor.
The board of directors has sent out requests for proposals for a search firm to help select candidates, and the hope is to have a name by Christmas, said Peter J. Curro, chairman of the board for HealthTrust.
The board and Bragdon came to a mutual decision, with his contract coming up, for the leadership succession, Curro said.
Bragdon, hired in August of 2013 with a salary of $180,000, will be paid through June 30, the end of that contract.
When he was first hired, the Local Government Center was going through a turbulent time, including legal action related to its use of premium surplus funds, and the reorganization into the separate HealthTrust.
Bragdon was brought aboard to help lead through that transition, and he was considered as someone who did not require a few months to know the issues and people involved, according to Curro.
“Peter did a nice job,” he said. “He knew the landscape. We joke about it, but we’re not on the front page of your paper.”
HealthTrust is looking for someone with more insurance background, possibly someone who has extensive experience at an insurance pool.
Bragdon said he found the work rewarding, including working with policy holders at the local level. “It’s a very satisfying feeling to know that you’re helping people,” he said.
Bragdon, 52, previously sat on the Milford School Board and served in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. In the interview, he said he still finds public policy and civic leadership inspiring.
“What’s that old saying?” he said. “Do what you love, and love what you do.”
- Jonathan Melle
- Amherst, NH, United States
- I am a citizen defending the people against corrupt Pols who only serve their Corporate Elite masters, not the people! / My 2 political enemies are Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., nicknamed "Luciforo" and former Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. / I have also pasted many of my political essays on "The Berkshire Blog": berkshireeagle.blogspot.com / I AM THE ANTI-FRANK GUINTA! / Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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