Embattled Strafford County Sheriff Mark Brave is accusing County Commission Chair George Maglaras of being a racist for allegedly calling the state’s first African American sheriff a “token.”
Brave told the Rochester Voice Maglaras called him “the token Black guy, and the token’s gonna be up soon.”
Brave is under investigation by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office Public Integrity Unit for allegedly using public money to pay for a Florida trip with a female employee who is not his wife. Brave took the unusual step of revealing news of the investigation to the press, something typically not done unless and until charges are filed.
Brave insists the investigation is a result of political bullying by Maglaras and the other commissioners, Robert Watson and Deanna Rollo. Brave and the three commissioners are all Democrats. Brave insists he is a victim of the commission’s political persecution because he will not give in to their pressure.
Reading the public commission meeting minutes sheds some light on the tension between the commissioners and Brave, and the “political bullying” revolves around money. The commission, led by Maglaras, initially blocked Brave’s attempts to buy a Harley Davidson motorcycle for his department this spring. The reason given: Brave’s poor financial management.
Brave’s department has an annual budget of more than $3 million, and Brave’s spending of taxpayer dollars is already outpacing his approved allocation, according to Maglaras’s comments during the May 4 meeting.
“Chairman Maglaras acknowledged (the motorcycle) was listed in the 2023 budget, but is unsure how to justify the expense when the Sheriff’s Office budget is already over expended again,” the meeting minutes stated.
Though the board initially balked at the expense, the motorcycle purchase was approved last month on the condition Brave gets his financial house in order. If he doesn’t, the commission promised they would.
“(T)he Commissioners agreed to the purchase and that if the Sheriff’s budget is not brought in line with the approved budget, they would look for other items to make up the difference,” the June 8 meeting minutes stated.
Until recently, Brave had additional income from a lucrative contract between his department and Frisbee Memorial Hospital, where Brave’s wife, Jamie, was Frisbie’s former Chief Nursing Officer at the time.
According to Brave, the commission’s probe into his department started soon after his wife was arrested for DUI in December. NHJournal uncovered the fact Brave was in the car at the time of the arrest and was too intoxicated to drive himself.
“After her arrest, the commissioners took it upon themselves to hire MRI to do a private probe,” Brave told the Rochester Voice. “They tried to say I used my office to get her off, and I was driving and switched (seats) with her. There were rumors I was PC’d, that I was arrested.”
Brave denied he was driving the night of his wife’s arrest. A police report obtained by NHJournal indicated a police officer drove him to a friend’s house and released him to the friend’s custody, given his level of intoxication.
Maglaras is reportedly a witness to the MRI probe and, presumably, the criminal investigation. Brave is now claiming Maglaras spread a false story that Brave lied about his whereabouts on the night of the arrest. Brave told the Rochester Voice he never claimed to be home with his children while his wife was driving drunk, even though he says that is the story Maglaras told.
Brave also has the advantage of some powerful political allies. He is represented by the influential and well-connected Democratic law firm of Shaheen and Gordon — the “Shaheen” being Billy Shaheen, husband of U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
And despite the open investigation, Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington still lists Brave on the endorsements page of her Warmington for Governor website.
Rep. Aidan Ankarberg (R-Rochester) said he and other members of the Strafford County delegation are being kept in the dark about Brave and the investigations, as is the public. Given the fact that three elected members of the county commission are involved in investigating the elected sheriff, people have a right to know what is going on, Ankarberg argued.
“I certainly have many doubts about the integrity of the elected officials in Strafford County and their behavior, and I imagine many other residents feel the same way. We need transparency and fast,” Anakberg said.
Anakberg is also troubled by the allegation that Maglaras called Brave a “token,” and people need to know the truth about what was said or not said.
“The matter involving the alleged use of the phrase ‘token Black guy’ harkens back to Andru Volinsky referring to Ryan Terrell using the same phrase when he dared to enter the public policy arena and join the Board of Education. Same words, why would there be a different outcome?” Anakberg said.
Volinsky was then running in the Democratic primary for governor and saw his support crater following that incident. The state’s NAACP chastised Volinsky for the comments. He soon issued a public apology before going on to lose the primary to Dan Feltes.