House rep says Bettencourt resigning over fabricated internship reports
"When I saw the reports, I was blown away," said state Rep. J. Brandon Giuda. "It's a novel of fiction and it just blew me away."
On Friday, Bettencourt, R-Salem, announced he would step down on June 6 and would not run again because he is getting married and starting a new job.
But Giuda, a Chichester attorney and business owner, told the New Hampshire Sunday News that's not the real reason.
"D.J. Bettencourt needs to be honest," he said. "He needs to admit that he's lied all along, that he falsified these records, that he dishonored the House. He needs to apologize to the House and the citizens of New Hampshire and he needs to step down now."
In a telephone interview Saturday, Bettencourt refused to comment directly on the allegation that he made up the internship reports he submitted to the law school. "There is a dispute involving my independent studies," he said.
"I have been forthcoming and self-reported these concerns to the university and will abide by the process the university has in place to resolve that matter."
Giuda, who has his own law firm, said he had agreed to take on Bettencourt, a third-year student at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, for a spring-semester internship that Bettencourt told him he needed in order to graduate. But he said Bettencourt only showed up at his office for one day, "where he did approximately one hour of legal work."
He later discovered that Bettencourt had submitted "extremely detailed" reports about that internship, including court hearings he supposedly attended, cases he worked on and interviews with clients.
When he confronted Bettencourt, Giuda said, "he confessed to me that he made up these reports."
And according to Giuda, in a meeting Friday with House Speaker William O'Brien and Giuda, Bettencourt agreed he would report to the law school what he had done and announce that he was resigning because of "some personal problems that he had to deal with."
Instead, in announcing his decision later that day, Bettencourt cited his marriage next Saturday to Shannon Shutts, who works in O'Brien's office, and his new job as executive director of the New Hampshire Legal Rights Foundation, a conservative organization founded by O'Brien. He said the job would be a potential conflict of interest with his House role and said, "... It is time for me to move on to the next exciting phase of my life."
Bettencourt on Saturday refused to elaborate on the "dispute" he reported to the UNH School of Law. "I'm going to follow the process the university has in place," he said. "I'm not going to go into the details."
But Giuda said there is no dispute. And he said if Bettencourt refuses to accept responsibility for what he did, he'll make the internship documents public.
"I tried to shield him so we could focus on our committees of conference this week," Giuda said. "But at this point, I would ask him to step down immediately."
Giuda said it was his "decision"to have Bettencourt resign quietly and O'Brien "honored my decision."
Asked whether O'Brien asked him to step down, Bettencourt said, "No."
He said he "voluntarily made the decision not to run for reelection and announced I would be leaving the House early next month for the reasons I have already stated."
"It's a shame that others are making personal attacks instead of focusing on moving this state forward," he said.
Asked to identify the "others," Bettencourt said, "I'm not going to get into that."
O'Brien could not be reached for comment Saturday.
The controversy began when Giuda saw a photo Bettencourt posted on his Facebook page of himself in cap and gown at the May 19 commencement at UNH Law School.
After Bettencourt had repeatedly failed to show up at his law office and then stopped talking to him about it, Giuda said he figured the majority leader had "probably abandoned the internship because he's just too busy."
But after he saw the Facebook photo, Giuda contacted the law school and learned that Bettencourt had submitted reports detailing "9 to 11 weeks" of an internship with him, he said. He asked Bettencourt for the reports and said that's when the majority leader "confessed."
Bettencourt also posted this on Facebook on May 19: "Graduating from the University of New Hampshire School of Law this afternoon. Sincere thanks to my friends, classmates and family who helped me soldier through it. God speed class of 2012."
Bettencourt acknowledged Saturday he did not graduate from the law school.
At commencement, where Bettencourt had his photo taken with U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, who was receiving an honorary degree, he received a black tube that would typically hold a degree. Nothing was inside it, he said Saturday.
"Like many institutions, the University of New Hampshire School of Law allows students to attend commencement ceremonies while still needing to secure the full number of credits to graduate," he said. "I am still in the process of earning a remaining few credits to graduate. I am in the process of working with the university to meet the full requirements to finish my studies. There is absolutely nothing unusual about that."
UNH Law School Dean John Broderick, the former chief justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, said through a spokesman Saturday that he could not comment on the case because it involves a student's records.