NH congressional candidate cleared of wrongdoing in cash, job for intern after 2013 incidentBy DAVE SOLOMON
State House Bureau
June 05. 2018 9:41PM
CONCORD — The Attorney General’s office has cleared state senator and congressional candidate Andy Sanborn of any wrongdoing in connection with an inappropriate comment made to an intern who later got a part-time job in the Senate Clerk’s Office and an envelope with cash in it.
The Department of Justice announced on Tuesday that it had completed a criminal investigation and found no basis for allegations that the intern was later provided a job and the cash in return for his silence on the matter.
“The conclusion of the criminal investigation is that there is no credible evidence to substantiate these allegations,” according to Senior Assistant Attorney General Geoffrey Ward in a letter to Senate President Chuck Morse, who referred the matter to the attorney general and requested the investigation.
Ward’s letter reveals that the information was presented to a grand jury, which also decided not to proceed.
Sanborn has publicly admitted making the comment, calling it a crass joke. He noted at the time that no complaint was filed and that outside counsel hired to investigate the matter determined it did not violate any Senate policies.
Morse, however, requested the additional attorney general investigation, the results of which were released on Tuesday.
The comment was made in February of 2013 to an intern, who later was hired on a part-time and temporary basis in the Senate Clerk’s Office in May of 2013 into the fall of 2013.
Soon after the intern began working in the Senate Clerk’s office, he was given an envelope containing no more than $200 cash by former Senate Chief of Staff Jay Flanders.
The AG report points out that the matter was investigated by outside counsel in 2013 and there were no allegations at that time that the intern had been hired or given money in return for his silence.
“These allegations only surfaced recently,” according to Ward.
“Our investigation discovered no credible evidence that the job for which the intern was hired or the money he was given by Mr. Flanders were a reward for declining to file a complaint or an inducement to refrain from filing such a complaint.”
Sanborn issued a statement calling the matter “false, damaging rumors from five years ago.”
“I was not involved or questioned by the AG in this matter as these alleged actions had nothing to do with me. As expected, the AG’s office did a thorough job of fully investigating it and found that no one did anything wrong,” he said. “Sadly, this just shows the climate we are in today, where complete fiction and wild speculation leads to investigations solely for political purposes.”
Senate Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn had a different perspective.
“It is disturbing that a cash payment was made by Senate Republicans to an intern on the receiving end of sexual harassment, even if it doesn’t rise to the level of a criminal violation,” he said. “It is even more troubling that it took more than five years to look into this.”
According to the attorney general’s investigation, no party to the hiring of the intern stated that they received explicit or implicit direction to hire him because he had been on the receiving end of an inappropriate comment by Sanborn.
“To the contrary, the evidence established that a concerted effort was made to ensure that the intern was neither given an advantage in the hiring process nor penalized because of the incident,” the report states. The intern was later passed over for a full-time position.
As regards the cash, Flanders stated that he gave the intern no more than $200 as a loan from his personal funds that was repaid “as soon as (the intern) received his first paycheck.”
“While this account is contradicted by witnesses who stated that the intern said he was uncomfortable with the transaction, did not know why he had been given the money and returned it the following day, these inconsistencies do not establish that there was any connection to the incident with Senator Sanborn,” according to Ward.
Former Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, was Senate president at the time the payments took place, but it was Morse who later called for an investigation.
Bragdon said last December that he knew nothing about the payment to the state Senate intern in connection with Sanborn’s “crass joke” when asked about the matter by the New Hampshire Union Leader.
“If I recall, it was kind of a comment that was a little off color — something you hear from time to time,” Bragdon said at the time, claiming he didn’t even know Senate Legal Counsel Richard Lehmann had started an inquiry.
“Nobody felt offended; nobody felt harassed. I just chalked it up to somebody walking by, hearing something and fearing the worst, which was not at all the case. Once I fully looked into it, I kind of let it go,” Bragdon said.
firstname.lastname@example.org; Staff Writer Kevin Landrigan contributed to this report.