MANCHESTER – Did Andrew Hemingway accuse opponent Walt Havenstein of committing fraud when he led a Fortune 500 company?
The two Republican candidates for New Hampshire governor were sparring during a debate on WGIR-AM Wednesday when moderator Jack Heath interjected to clarify the accusation he thought he had just heard.
Hemingway walked it back a step. He responded "no," but that a U.S. district attorney in New York described a scandal at Science Applications International Corp. – during Havenstein’s watch as CEO there – as a “colossal fraud.”
The scandal involving SAIC work on an automated payroll system for New York City was settled in 2012.
SAIC reached a $500 million agreement to resolve claims it conspired to defraud taxpayers.
Havenstein, a former chief executive officer at SAIC, has previously noted that the scandal began before his time as CEO.
"I came to SAIC, uncovered a mess, worked diligently with the U.S. district attorney to fix it, and that's exactly what I did, and then we moved on," Havenstein said in the debate. "That situation posed a death threat to SAIC. The reason there's an SAIC today is the work that I, along with the board of directors and the senior executives, did to correct that situation. And to insinuate that there was any fraud on my part is irresponsible and, frankly, is the double talk that makes citizens so disrespectful of politics."
Havenstein blasted Hemingway for attacking his character. He said Hemingway knew he was implying that he was involved in the fraud at SAIC - and not just quoting the U.S. district attorney in the case.
"That is very disturbing," Havenstein said. "I'm so disappointed in you in doing that."
Hemingway fired back: “Before you said you were called in to fix it. Now you’re saying you uncovered it. Which is it?”
The New Hampshire Democratic Party raised the SAIC case when Havenstein launched his campaign in June.
The winner of the Republican primary on Sept. 9 will face Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat from Exeter, in the general election.
The SAIC accusation was one of a couple of feisty exchanges between Havenstein and Hemingway during the WGIR debate.
Hemingway, an entrepreneur and political activist from Bristol, accused Havenstein of inconsistent positions on the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “what you’re hearing is political double-speak.”
Havenstein, who also is a former CEO at BAE Systems, said he has consistently opposed “Obamacare,” but said people need to recognize that it is unlikely that the health care law will be repealed as long as President Obama is in the White House.
The two panned the other’s plan to create jobs in New Hampshire. Havenstein proposes lowering the overall business profits tax to create an estimated 25,000 jobs by 2017. Hemingway called his plan’s goal “ludicrous.”
Hemingway has proposed a flat tax as part of a reform package proposing to lower business taxes. Havenstein said of that proposed flat tax: “It’s a job killer.’