What Did He Say? NH State Senator's 'Crass' Joke No Criminal Matter
CONCORD (AP) — The attorney general's office said Tuesday there is no credible evidence that a New Hampshire Senate intern was paid to keep quiet about an inappropriate comment a senator made to him.
Senate President Chuck Morse asked the attorney general's office in January to investigate allegations that an intern was given a job in the Senate clerk's office and an envelope of cash from former Senate Chief of Staff Jay Flanders in 2013 in exchange for not reporting a comment made by Sen. Andy Sanborn, a Bedford Republican now running for Congress.
On Tuesday, Senior Assistant Attorney General Geoffrey Ward said the investigation, which included 18 interviews and a review of Senate records, found no connection between Sanborn's comment, the job and the money, which Flanders said was a personal loan of about $200 for food and gas that was quickly paid back once the intern got his first paycheck.
"While this account is contracted by witnesses who stated the intern expressed that he was uncomfortable with the transaction and did not know why he had been given the money and therefore returned it to Mr. Flanders the following day, these inconsistencies do not establish that there was any connection to the incident with Senator Sanborn," Ward wrote in a letter to Morse. "There is no evidence here that any criminal acts were committed."
In December, when public records showed the Senate had consulted with a law firm specializing in harassment about the incident, Sanborn issued a statement saying he had used "crass language in response to an absurd statement made by someone" in his office. He said his wife, state Rep. Laurie Sanborn, was present at the time, and that a Senate staffer heard the comment and told then-Senate President Peter Bragdon.
"(Bragdon) and legal counsel fully explored it and determined it did not violate any Senate policy and no one in the room was offended by the joke. No complaint was filed," Andy Sanborn said. "At a time when women across this land are being harassed and disrespected, it is disgusting that anyone is trying to equate a crass joke to all the real challenges women are facing today."
On Tuesday, he said he was not questioned during the investigation because the allegations had nothing to do with him.
"Sadly, this just shows the climate we are in today, where complete fiction and wild speculation leads to investigations solely for political purposes," Sanborn said in a statement. "I am pleased to see that after several attempts by my political enemies to discredit me and others, we now can finally put this issue to rest that no one involved has ever done anything wrong, violated any policy or had any complaint filed."
Neither the investigation nor Sanborn gave further details on the content of the joke.
Senate Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn, D-Whitefield, said the payment to the intern was troubling even if it wasn't criminal.
"It is even more troubling that it took more than five years to look into this. This is yet another reason Republicans should be voted out of office this fall, and that change is needed to provide for transparency and independent oversight of these allegations at the State House, regardless of which party is in the majority," he said.
Sanborn is seeking the Republican nomination for the 1st Congressional District seat being vacated by Democrat Carol Shea-Porter.
Read the attorney general's letter to Morse here.