MANCHESTER — Attorney General Gordon MacDonald showed up at the Hillsborough County Attorney Office Monday morning, towing along several assistants who will oversee the prosecutorial duties of the office.
MacDonald left after a brief discussion with County Attorney Michael Conlon and MacDonald’s top deputy, Jane Young. He spoke briefly to a Union Leader reporter and said he planned to visit around noon to speak to the entire staff.
“Our job right now is to work cooperatively and collaboratively with the county attorney’s office and move forward for the people of Hillsborough County,” MacDonald said.
Last week, MacDonald took the unprecedented step of announcing that his office would take over responsibility for the law enforcement duties of the county office, citing “systematic failures in the leadership of the prosecutorial function of your office.”
Conlon, a first-term Democrat in the office for nine months, said he met with Young and MacDonald. He said they assured him they were not trying to get in the way, slow down or obstruct the office.
He said he welcomed the collaboration. He said MacDonald’s office in the past had not provided the help nor specificity he sought to help the troubled office.
“They didn’t have to write letters and exercise statutory language to come down and help us,” Conlon said.
On Monday morning, stone-faced Hillsborough County prosecutors, administrative assistants and victim-witness advocates appeared businesslike and quickly went off to meetings and hearings.
Conlon said it would be unfair for MacDonald’s staff to second-guess every plea bargain and every decision to drop a case.
“Strong arms won’t be successful here,” Conlon said.
Former Manchester police chief David Mara has been chosen to oversee the county attorney’s office. His appointment as an assistant attorney general must go through the Executive Council.
In the Friday letter, MacDonald said his office will assume control, direction and supervision of the day-to-day criminal law enforcement functions of Conlon’s office. On Monday, MacDonald said Conlon will remain responsible for administrative tasks, such as hiring and firing.
Conlon said he plans to run for reelection next year. It would be unreasonable to expect him to turn the office around in eight months.
“The people elected me because they wanted someone to step in and turn things around,” he said.
Arriving with MacDonald were Young, homicide prosecutors Ben Agati and Erin Fitzgerald, and his office’s director of victim-witness advocacy, Lynda Ruel.