Despite overseeing the 2020 Bedford ballot fiasco and declaring he does not work for the voters, assistant Town Moderator Brian Shaughnessy is going to ask those same voters to elect him to the Town Moderator’s job.
He is the only candidate filed to appear on the March 8 ballot.
Bedford’s election officials, including Shaughnessy, current Moderator Bill Kline, and Town Clerk Sally Kellar all came under investigation from the Attorney General’s Office over their mishandling of the 2020 election ballots.
On Shaughnessy’s legal advice, town officials kept the existence of 190 uncounted absentee ballots a secret from both the Town Council and the public for nearly a year. After NHJournal broke the story, town officials tried to blame the Attorney General’s Office and the New Hampshire Secretary of State for leaving voters in the dark. They sent a letter to voters falsely claiming they were ordered to remain silent by state officials.
The Attorney General’s Office responded with a letter contradicting the claim and putting the burden back on Bedford’s town officials.
“Bedford election officials raised concerns with this notification and asked (us) not to notify voters,” Senior Assistant Attorney General Anne Edwards told NHJournal.
Asked if Shaughnessy, Kline, and Kellar were telling the truth, Edwards replied, “I would never say that an elected official lied. We felt it was important to issue a clarification because we were concerned about the accuracy of some of the statements.”
When confronted at a Town Council meeting in October, Shaughnessy admitted he was the person who recommended town officials keep their failure a secret. He also doubled down on the decision.
“We don’t work for you,” Shaughnessy told the council.
Town Moderator Bill Klein acknowledged those voters “were disenfranchised,” but he stood by the decision not to inform them. “We believe we did the right thing,” Klein said. “We report to the secretary of state. We do not report to the Town Council.”
According to the secretary of state’s office, that is untrue.
In November, town officials became aware of more ballot snafus. This time, an unknown number of uncast 2020 ballots were found inside a voting box in September 2021. The ballots were not reported until November, and town officials tried to keep that news from leaking. The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office responded by opening an investigation and seizing the town’s ballot boxes.
Town officials are still refusing to confirm the existence of those additional mishandled ballots.
Shaughnessy has previously served as Bedford Town Moderator. Asked about seeking the office amid the current controversies, he remained unrepentant.
“Which recent controversies are you referring to? The AG’s office interviewed me and other Bedford election officials last month in connection with a renewed interest in the 190 absentee ballots, and the ballots found in a ballot container. I do not consider these events controversies, they are facts,” he said in an email to NHJournal.
“I understand that, at the request of the Town Manager, the Town Moderator and Town Clerk met with the Town Attorney who advised that they should not talk about the issues while the AG is investigating, which coincidentally is the same ‘half-cocked legal advice’ I was accused of providing when I appeared before the Town Council.
“I will follow the advice of the Town Attorney and not discuss those matters until the AG has finished its investigation.”
Sources inside state government tell NHJournal Bedford’s handling of the 2020 ballots is still under review by state officials.