Concord - A review of Republican gubernatorial candidate John Stephen's tenure as Commissioner of Health and Human Services (HHS) by the Concord Monitor found members of Stephen's own party raising questions about his record, and challenging his ethical decisions.
At the very beginning of his time at HHS, Stephen proposed slashing important services and programs that funded "hospitals, mental health centers, and alcohol and drug abuse treatment programs." But even fellow Republicans had serious questions about Stephen's idea. Then state Senator Dick Green said, "Nobody knows for sure how many people are ultimately going to be affected by these decisions."
In addition, Stephen also tried to restrict the eligibility of a Medicaid program for severely disabled children. He was ultimately stopped by legislators from both parties who didn't want to see Stephen's secretive plan to eliminate services for disabled children passed.
"Just like the lifelong bureaucrat he is, Stephen tried to slash funding for essential programs without any regard for the impact it would have on New Hampshire's most vulnerable citizens," said Harrell Kirstein, press secretary for the New Hampshire Democratic Party. "Stephen clearly didn't care who his policies hurt, all he wanted was to be able to claim he cut spending, but even that didn't happen."
According to Monitor, many people affected by Stephen's cuts, including County administrators, said he didn't actually cut costs at HHS, but merely down shifted them to other areas. Ellen-Ann Robinson, director of human services for Hillsborough County, added that "with previous commissioners, you just didn't see that sort of agenda being pushed."
"Stephen's claims to have cut spending are more than questionable," continued Kirstein. "Not only don't the people Stephen was working with at the time corroborate his story, but his only evidence is one flimsily sheet of computer paper with a spreadsheet on it. And that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to questions about Stephen's bureaucratic record."
During his tenure at HHS, Stephen's ethics were a topic of concern for lawmakers from both parties on several occasions. One of the first was his decision to create a new position for a staffer from his recent failed congressional campaign, Gregg Moore. The hiring seemed dubious even to Republicans. State Rep. Elizabeth Hager said that Moore's hiring "was a standing joke in the State House."
"John Stephen's tenure as Commissioner of Health and Human Services was more than problematic. But still he expects voters to hand him the keys to the corner office? Is he serious?" asked Kirstein. "This article makes is clear that Stephen cut services not spending, and that members of both parties had serious concerns about his questionable ethics."
The full text of the Concord Monitor article can be found here.