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Executive Council tables Edelblut confirmation vote

State House Bureau

February 01. 2017 11:13AM
Nominee for education commissioner Frank Edelblut reads a statement at a public hearing on Tuesday at the State House in Concord. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

CONCORD — Former state Rep. Frank Edelblut will have to wait at least another two weeks to be confirmed as commissioner of education.

The Executive Council tabled the controversial nomination Wednesday, after Democratic Councilor Andru Volinsky of Concord raised a procedural issue.

The motion to confirm Edleblut had been seconded, when Volinsky asked if Gov. Chris Sununu had consulted with the state Board of Education prior to the nomination as required by state statute.

After Attorney General Joseph Foster agreed with Volinsky’s interpretation of the law, Sununu recessed the meeting and returned to say the vote should be tabled.

“After reviewing Councilor Volinsky’s request and on advice of the Attorney General, it would be prudent to table the vote,” he said.

The vote was anticipated after a lengthy and contentious public hearing on Tuesday.

The outcome is no longer in question, as the three Republicans on the five-member council stated they will vote to confirm Edelblut when the matter comes before them again, most likely at their next meeting on Feb. 15.

All three commended the successful businessman and gubernatorial candidate for how he conducted himself at the public hearing.

“There was a divide between the providers of the education and the consumers of education,” said Wheeler. “Those who were consumers wanted Frank Edelblut, and those who were providers of education clearly did not. I represent the customer as well as the provider, but I think the customer comes first.”

Volinsky said he assumed that Sununu had met with the Board of Education prior to the nomination as required by statute, and only learned on Tuesday Sununu had met with the chairman of the board, but not with any members.

“I had to confirm that before moving forward,” he said.

Former Education Commissioner Virginia Barry’s resignation took effect on Monday, Jan. 30, so the council had to improvise, voting to appoint Deputy Commissioner Paul Leather as acting interim commissioner.

At a press conference after the meeting, Sununu said he was aware of the law raised by Volinsky, and thought he had complied by consulting with the chairman of the state Board of Education.

The statute says “will meet in consultation with the board” prior to submitting a nomination to the Executive Council.

“The Attorney General had some questions, so we just want to make sure we do everything above board and we will abide by his recommendation just to cover our bases,” said Sununu. “In the coming days, I’ll meet with the full Board of Education and we’ll go from there.”

When asked how he felt about the issue being raised at the last minute, Sununu declined to speculate on Volinsky’s motives.

“I always prefer that we have an open line of communication and discuss any issues that could crop up, and not just take a political stance or try to grab a headline,” he said. “I’m not necessarily saying that’s what Councilor Volinsky did, but it would have been nice to know he had these concerns ahead of time. My door is always open. He’s got my cell number.”

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Thank you, Sununu