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May 31. 2014 9:23PM

Activists upset with plans for Hassan's trade trip to Turkey

CONCORD - A conservative policy group is not satisfied with answers it received Friday from the state regarding upcoming plans for travel to Turkey by Gov. Maggie Hassan and other state officials in the wake of the governor's freeze on out-of-state travel.

Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire submitted a Right-to-Know Law request to the governor's office asking for more details on the June 20-27 trip to Turkey, which Division of Economic Development and Resources Commissioner Jeffrey Rose said is the state's 12th-largest trade partner.

The trip was announced in March, before state revenue shortfalls reported in April led to a travel freeze.

Hassan's office has said canceling the trip would be a "significant" cost to participating businesses without saving the state money.

According to Rose's response to the group, the state has already spent about $10,000 booking travel arrangements.Matthew Murphy, executive director of Citizens for a Strong New Hampshire, said the governor's decision to continue with her travel plans is "hypocritical," noting that other state officials likewise previously had travel plans that now have been canceled."Why is it OK to freeze other travel ... but not her travel?" he said Saturday. "Now we have a situation where it comes to her travel and she's still going to go ahead with it."

William Hinkle, the governor's spokesman, said agencies were only required to cancel travel plans if they could be reimbursed any money already spent.

"The State answered the questions and provided all of the requested information," he said in an email. "Agencies were not asked to cancel anything that was previously paid for where the money could not be recouped, as that would be fiscally irresponsible."

According to Rose's response to Murphy, Hassan and Rose are two of seven state officials and employees going on the trip. The others are Liani Balasuriya, of the governor's staff; State Police Officers Scott Frye and Sherry Vestal; Tina Kasim, program manager for the state Office of International Commerce; and Laura Mayo, international trade officer for the state Office of International Commerce.

Rose also wrote that Hassan's daughter, Meg, would be on the trip.

"Governor Hassan is paying all costs for her daughter to accompany her, but she is not an official part of the trade mission," Rose wrote.

tbuckland@unionleader.com


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