The feud between Strafford County Sheriff Mark Brave, who is currently under criminal investigation, and his fellow Democrats on the County Commission took a turn Friday with the three commissioners accusing Brave of leaking confidential information and misleading the public.
Brave is facing allegations of theft and abuse of office which are being investigated by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Public Integrity Unit. Brave broke news of that investigation, and also revealed he has already been investigated by outside firm Municipal Resources Inc. in a separate matter initiated by the commissioners.
Brave said he is being investigated for taking a female employee on a trip to Florida using county money, and for allegedly paying the woman’s housing expenses also with county money. Brave is denying any wrongdoing.
Additionally, Brave claims the dispute is a case of political bullying. Brave and all three elected commissioners are Democrats.
Now, Commissioners George Maglaras, Robert Watson, and Deanna Rollo are pushing back, issuing a letter accusing Brave of “misleading the public.”
“For whatever reason, Sheriff Brave has made the choice to disclose parts of the MRI report while answering questions about the separate Attorney General criminal investigation. It is unfortunate that Sheriff Brave has chosen to release only portions of the MRI report to the public, portions that when taken out of context are helpful to himself, but misleading to the public,” the letter states.
In January, MRI was hired to look into Brave. The report from MRI is not being released to the public, and County Attorney Tom Verlardi denied NHJournal’s Right to Know request. Velardi stated in his response to NHJournal that the MRI report is considered a personnel record, and therefore exempt from the Right to Know law, 91-A.
Financial records obtained by NHJournal show the county paid more than $2,500 for the investigation and report. In other words, even though Strafford County taxpayers paid for the MRI report, they are not allowed to see it.
The commissioners stated that while they want to release the full report, they are unable to do so under New Hampshire law. They also argued Brave is using the MRI investigation to muddy the waters around the unrelated inquiry by the Attorney General’s Office.
“We are disheartened that Sheriff Brave would choose to go on a publicity tour using parts of the MRI report to defend himself in the totally separate Attorney General criminal investigation. We would very much like to have the contents of the MRI report made public so that confidence is restored in those county officials trying to hold all county employees responsible for their noncriminal actions, even an elected sheriff. Our wish for disclosure of the report, however, does not change our statutory obligation to maintain the confidentiality of the report as a confidential disciplinary record,” their letter stated.
The MRI investigation was initiated weeks after Brave’s wife, Jamie Brave, was arrested for DUI in Portsmouth. NHJournal learned Brave was a passenger in the car at the time of the arrest and that he was too intoxicated to drive, according to police reports. A police officer brought the sheriff to the house of a friend and placed him in the friend’s custody, raising questions about whether Brave received special treatment.
Brave has claimed in the media that he was investigated for allegedly not telling the truth to the commissioners about the arrest. He also accused Maglaras of using a racial slur. Brave told the Rochester Voice that Maglaras called him “the token Black guy and the token’s gonna be up soon.”
Jimenez’s letter to Brave recommends that Brave place himself on the state’s Laurie List, or EES, for police officers with known credibility problems.
Brave’s name is not on the most recent public EES released on July 6 by the New Hampshire Department of Justice. Under state law, police officers placed on the list have the opportunity to keep their identities secret pending appeal.