In this week's edition of The Hippo (Manchester's popular arts and entertainment weekly which also dabbles into politics), former NH Department of Administrative Services Commissioner (he served under Republican Steve Merrill back in the 90s) weighs in with a scathing attack on New Hampshire House leadership in what has become the talk of the state, powers of the grievance panel.
Never to be confused with a liberal or a Democrat, Duffy states, "The motivation of our elected officials comes into question when we witness the over-reach on matters that, of necessity, are properly handled by our state agencies and/or courts. The Legislature should not interfere with the welfare of our children under the guises of accountable government."
Duffy, one of the most respected of Manchester elders, previously served as Chairman of the Airport Authority and on the most recent Charter Commission.
He pens on op-ed piece for The Hippo once a month or so.
He points out that his past experience also includes more than ten years as a CASA/guardian ad litem.
"A particularly serious legislative matter concerns the House Redress of Grievances Committed, formed by the Speaker shortly after taking office, which as recently demanded that the Division of Children, Youth, and Families respond to questions on cases regarding child custody and guardian issues. When objections were raised by the Attorney General, the committee chair took the initiative to expand the committee's authority to issue subpoenas to the DCYF staff so that they can be interrogated by the committee. What, you ask is behind all of this? You need to make that inquiry of your duly elected official representing you in Concord."
In other words, here we have yet another well respected Republican castigating (albeit not be name) Speaker Bill O'Brien.
Duffy does not detail how O'Brien recently coerced a majority of House Republicans to allow the Rules Committee (stacked with O'Brien favorites) to approve subpoena power without a full vote of the House. Along with less than two dozen other Republicans, I joined Democrats in opposing this blatant increase of power, never before seen in more than 250 years of New Hampshire history.
What we have basically, and these are my words not Patrick Duffy, is legislative tyranny, a committee which belongs back in the days of Salem witch hunts, not 21st century New England (again my words, not Duffy's). This is a committee which should never have come into existence and which most likely will be gone with O'Brien come November.
Quoting Patrick Duffy again, "I can assure you that children are never removed from their homes by DCYF without cause, and in fact it is done only as a last resort. I can also assure you that confidentiality for children in neglect and abuse case is paramount."
For a legislative committee to serve as judge and jury is clearly stretching the separation of powers doctrine, but such a stretch or grasp for power has never stopped Bill O'Brien, and Patrick Duffy's words (or mine) are certainly not about to stop him now.
Think how angry the legislature gets when the court dares weigh in on legislative matters (such as redistricting), yet the legislature with this committee, as Patrick Duffy points out, is interfering in judicial and executive matters
Hypocrisy, thy name is O'Brien.
Duffy again: "It appears that the committee is attempting to absurdly interject itself into situations on behalf of parents whose children have been removed from the home for abuse or neglect, an area in which committee members have no knowledge, no expertise, nor any legitimate business. The matters are routinely adjudicated through the courts where all parties have an opportunity to address their positions."
As we've learned this year in the House, rarely is there a case when all parties are allowed to address issues fairly. Rather, Republicans as in the sorry case of this committee (poorly attended by the way!) are simply expected to do as O'Brien tells them to.
Patrick Duffy has hit a nail on the head in The Hippo (Chill Out photo on the cover).