What to make of the scandal involving newly resigned Commissioner Tara Reardon and the Department of Employment Security? As more facts tumble out, opinions may be further refined. But a couple of observations won’t change.
First: An oft-repeated complaint about the structure of New Hampshire’s executive branch is that it is too bad that the governor doesn’t always get to pick the person he or she would like to have run a particular agency and implement the governor’s agenda. We remain skeptical of this concern. New Hampshire has done reasonably well with its relatively “weak governor’’ system.
A governor must stand for reelection every two years, which is a powerful check for the people. But if he or she passes muster, more terms are granted and the governor eventually gets to make most selections.
In the case of DES boss Reardon, this was Gov. John Lynch’s choice from the get-go. We don’t know how closely the Executive Council looked at this one, but it was Lynch’s nomination to make, and he has repeatedly chosen to publicly associate himself with her. How did he make this choice? How was she vetted? What was her experience for the job, other than her political ties to Lynch?
Which leads to a second observation.
Gov. Lynch has served longer than any other governor. His reputation is that of a likeable, if lackluster executive who is good at fairs and floods and not rocking the boat. Fellow Democrats, including wannabe successors to him, have always been happy to stand in his shadow.
But his reputation was already significantly harmed by his abject failure to deliver even a few Democratic legislative votes so that the people might vote on a constitutional amendment question concerning education control and funding.
That failure underscored Lynch’s lack of leadership.
And now this scandal involving state government favoritism, nepotism and perhaps law-breaking further tarnishes Lynch’s image as he prepares to leave office.
The governor did move quickly to name a replacement for Commissioner Reardon. We are given to understand that Labor Commissioner George Copadis will serve only until a new governor and council take office. Considering all that has gone on with this job, Copadis is a good choice and interim status is a good idea.