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Released transcript details Sanborn's 'crass joke' to former senate intern in 2013

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 05. 2018 10:45AM


CONCORD — The released transcript of a state Senate staffer details for the first time the “crass joke” state Sen. and Republican congressional candidate Andy Sanborn of Bedford made in February 2013 to a former intern. The documents were released late Friday by Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald’s office.

Senate Legal Counsel Rich Lehmann recounted what he heard that Sanborn said to the ex-intern in reference to an oral sex act while in the presence of his wife, State Rep. Laurie Sanborn, R-Bedford, and another Senate staffer.

The context was Mrs. Sanborn might not be joining her husband on a trip to Florida, Lehmann began.

“And one — the person who was the UNH intern, said, ‘Well if she can’t go. I’ll go to Florida.’ “ According to Lehmann, the senator at that point made a lewd reference to a sex act.

Lehmann heard the comment because his office is adjacent to Sanborn’s.

After talking with then-Senate Chief of Staff Jay Flanders, Lehmann said he spoke with the intern and the Senate staffer. He asked them if either felt sexually harassed and wanted to have assignments changed to have less contact with Sanborn.

“Everybody, both of them took it when I heard it, as a sort of foolish comment. A poor attempt at a joke that, you know, probably was not the kind of joke that should be made in that environment, but that’s it,” Lehmann said.

Later, he summed up, “They didn’t want to go forward with anything. Nobody wanted an investigation made of it. So I didn’t.”

That ended the matter until Senate President Chuck Morse took over later in 2013, heard about the controversy and called for an independent law firm’s review of it.

Sanborn has said the comments and earlier transcripts prove his account that the comment was a joke and nobody felt harassed or brought forward any complaint about it.

“While the AG’s office is releasing transcripts of interviews, from people who by their own admission have ‘fuzzy’ memories, my memory is clear,” he said in a statement last month. “I have never violated any policy, never had a complaint brought against me, and never knowingly offended anyone.”

Lehmann said he didn’t know until a few months ago that Flanders had given the ex-intern a few hundred dollars in cash some time after the incident.

Flanders has insisted the payment was to cover travel costs until the intern’s next paycheck and had nothing to do with the Sanborn comment.

The Department of Justice announced in June that it had completed a criminal investigation and found no basis for allegations that the intern was provided a job and cash in return for his silence.

Lehmann said the incident was unusual and he only had a sketchy memory of one other instance of an off-color comment.

“I don’t remember ever being involved in another similar incident,” Lehmann said.

Sanborn was displeased at being talked to by staff about the matter, Lehmann told investigator and current Deputy Attorney General Jane Young.

“I don’t think he was happy about being confronted by two staff members, and I think he believed we were blowing things out of proportion and that it was just a joke, and that it didn’t warrant any response,” Lehmann said.

During the interview with investigators last January, Lehmann described his relationship with Sanborn as “very strained” and said there was a “lot of tension” between Flanders and Sanborn as a result of the controversy.


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