Key Point: "[Ethics committee chairman] Gross wrote that the conditions were purposely broadly worded 'to assure that as long as Sen. Bragdon remains in the Senate, his position cannot in any way be used to benefit his employer.'... Gross wrote that Bragdon must accept or reject the committee’s restrictions by 12 noon on Friday."
Union Leader: Legislative ethics panel rejects Bragdon's claim of 'overbroad' restrictions
CONCORD — The Legislative Ethics Committee has rejected state Sen. Peter Bragdon’s assertion that the panel imposed “overbroad and unnecessary” restrictions on him to avoid potential conflict between his role as an elected official and his job as executive director of the HealthTrust public employees benefits pool.
“The conditions were not offered as a starting point for further negotiations,” ethics committee chairman Martin L. Gross wrote to Bragdon’s attorney, Russell Hilliard, in a letter on Monday that was obtained by the New Hampshire Union Leader on Tuesday, “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 reaction 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.”
The committee, after clearing Bragdon of any intentional behavior that violated legislative ethics guidelines, told Bragdon that he must agree to “not take part in any official activity that concerns, involves or would have any effect on your employer.”
Bragdon, a Milford Republican, accepted the $180,000-a-year post last summer and then stepped down as state Senate President, but stayed on as a rank-and-file senator.
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.”
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 Gross 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.”
Gross wrote that the conditions were purposely broadly worded “to assure that as long as Sen. Bragdon remains in the Senate, his position cannot in any way be used to benefit his employer.”
He wrote that the restrictions “are intended to isolate Senator Bragdon from his employer’s relations with the state.”
Gross 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.”
Gross wrote that Bragdon is allowed to perform “purely ministerial activities” in assisting HealthTrust to comply with proposed legislation or regulations, but may not become involved in meaningful, “prudential decisions concerning its relations with the state.”
Gross wrote that Bragdon must accept or reject the committee’s restrictions by 12 noon on Friday.