NHDP - ICYMI: Fmr GOP Senator on Bragdon "My Head Exploded," "It Sure Doesn't Feel Right"

Key point: “My head exploded,” [Former State Senator Ray] White said was his reaction to learning Bragdon’s role at LGC. “I am just beside myself. You have to wonder about all the conflicts.” White said Bragdon made “a very courteous call” to him Tuesday morning to tell him.  “It sure doesn’t feel right,” White said. “It didn’t feel right then and it doesn’t feel right today.” 
 
Union Leader:  Senate chief: New job no conflict
August 14, 2013
By GARRY RAYNO and TIM BUCKLAND
Appeared in print version only
CONCORD — New Hampshire Senate President Peter Bragdon, newly appointed executive director of the New Hampshire Local Government Center, said Tuesday he does not view the two roles as any unusual conflict of interest.
 
Bragdon, R-Milford, who begins his new job today at a salary of $180,000, said he has no plans to resign from the Senate or its top post.
 
“There are always the usual conflicts with volunteer legislators with a variety of appointments,” he said.
 
The LGC, which includes most of the state’s municipalities, ran into legal difficulty several years ago over its handling of its separate trusts and their incorporation under Delaware’s corporate laws. About a year ago, a Secretary of State hearings officer found the LGC had violated several state laws, starting in 2003 and continuing through 2010.
 
The officer found the LGC failed to distribute excess earnings and surpluses to member towns, cities, school districts, counties, and local special districts on an annual basis; improperly transfers money from the Health Care Trust and Property Liability Trust to the Workers Compensation Trust, and transferred the Health Care Trust’s and Property Liability Trust’s interests in real estate to the Local Government Center Real Estate Inc., without compensation. 
 
The order compels LGC to return more than $50 million to its member political subdivisions. 
 
According to his contract, Bragdon’s appointment will “initially” be one year, but may be renewed for one-year terms. 
 
Bragdon replaces interim executive director George Bald, the former long-time Department of Resources and Economic Development Commissioner who served as LGC head for six months. 
 
“(Bragdon’s) strong management, organizational and people skills will be instrumental in guiding the LGC and its risk pools into the future,” Tom Enright, LGC Board chairman, said Tuesday. “Senator Bragdon will be able to build on the strong foundation that George Bald set in motion during his tenure here.” 
 
Bragdon has some history supporting LGC positions on legislation affecting the public insurance administrator. 
 
In 2010, Bragdon unsuccessfully proposed an amendment that would have had the state Insurance Department oversee LGC — a move opposed by the Secretary of State’s Office. The amendment failed and LGC continues to be regulated by the Bureau of Securities Regulation, which is overseen by the Secretary of State’s Office. 
 
Last year, Bragdon was involved in a dispute over two bills that sought to reform RSA 5-b. A House version would have enacted stricter controls of LGC and other public risk pools and defined how much the pools could keep in reserves. Bragdon and other Senate leaders preferred a Senate version that wasn’t as strict and did not define reserve amounts. 
 
Because the Senate and House could not agree to compromise versions, the bills died The prime sponsor of one of the bills, former Sen. Raymond White, R-Bedford, decided not to seek re-election after the bills died and he had a very public dust-up with Bragdon. 
 
White was removed from a conference committee by Bragdon after saying he preferred the House version and was accused of lobbying then-House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon, to kill the Senate bill. 
 
“My head exploded,” White said was his reaction to learning Bragdon’s role at LGC. “I am just beside myself. You have to wonder about all the conflicts.” 
 
White said Bragdon made “a very courteous call” to him Tuesday morning to tell him. 
 
“It sure doesn’t feel right,” White said. “It didn’t feel right then and it doesn’t feel right today.” 
 
Bragdon said like other lawmakers he will disclose any potential conflict of interests and will not vote on any issue that could be related to his position. 
 
Last session, lawmakers voted to establish a committee to oversee the hearings officer’s report, which ordered LGC to return more than $50 million to member political subdivisions and set guidelines for how much LGC could keep in reserves. 
 
Bragdon appointed Sen. Jeanie Forrester, R-Meredith, to be the Senate member of the committee before he was named executive director. The committee’s hearings begin Aug. 21. 
 
“I have not talked to her and have not interacted with the committee,” Bragdon said. 
 
Andru Volinsky, special counsel to the Bureau of Securities Regulations which investigated the LGC, questioned the appointment of Forrester before Bragdon began negotiating with the LGC for its top spot. 
 
“Was he doing the LGC’s bidding or the people’s bidding?” Volinsky asked. 
 
tbuckland@unionleader.com grayno@unionleader.com