CONCORD – House Speaker William O’Brien today offered the following comments regarding responses from state agency heads and their deputies/assistants regarding if they had family members working in their agencies. The Speaker asked all department heads to indicate if they had family members working in their agencies, as defined by RSA 21-G:26-a, in the wake of the scandal at the Department of Employment Security in which both the Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner were identified as having daughters working for the agency who were then terminated and given unemployment benefits. The Speaker sent letter to agency leaders on July 16th, giving them two weeks to respond by July 30.
Of the agency heads who responded, only one had a family member who worked for the agency – Assistant Safety Commissioner Earl Sweeney indicated that he has a son who serves as a trooper for the State Police. However, the following agency leaders chose not to respond the Speaker’s request for information:
Fish and Game Executive Director Glenn Normandeau
Health & Human Services Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas
Health & Human Services Deputy Commissioner Mary Ann Cooney
Resources & Economic Development Commissioner George Bald
House Speaker William O’Brien
“I do appreciate that so many of our department heads responded promptly to our request to find out if nepotism is a problem with our state agency leadership. Certainly, from what we’ve learned, it appears that the situation at Employment Security appears to be isolated. However, the House remains concerned that several agency leaders did not respond, which suggests the conclusion that there may be incidents of nepotism in their departments. Our Executive Departments and Administration (ED&A) Committee will now work to find out if these four remaining state leaders have engaged in nepotism in their agencies.”
“What has been more enlightening through this process has been the unsolicited letters I have received from state employees and others who have pointed out what they believe to be violations of the nepotism statute throughout state government. Clearly, this is an issue that needs far greater oversight across all departments and it is an area that needs more legislative involvement. I will be working with several committees to identify ways to ensure that our government is clean and not avoiding the appearance or the reality of cronyism. Our citizens and taxpayers certainly deserve that much and we will make sure they get it.”
UPDATE: Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas and Deputy Commissioner Mary Ann Cooney today responded to inform the Speaker they have no relatives working for them.