“I like Chris Sununu. I’ve donated money to him. But this makes absolutely no sense.”
That was the reaction of a Bedford GOP donor to news the Republican governor has tapped Bedford assistant moderator Brian Shaughnessy to become a Circuit Court judge.
Shaughnessy made headlines across the state — and critics say, a laughingstock of Bedford — with his mishandling of misplaced ballots during the 2020 election. And, critics note, the town is still under investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office after the revelation of a second batch of mishandled ballots.
NHJournal first broke the news of 190 absentee ballots that were misplaced and left uncounted during the 2020 general election, and the decision of town officials to keep them secret for nearly a year. The town sent a letter to the 190 disenfranchised voters claiming they kept their failure to count all the ballots a secret from the town council and voters at the instruction of the Attorney General’s Office.
That claim turned out to be false. It was in fact Shaughnessy himself who advised his fellow town officials to leave voters and their elected representatives in the dark. The Attorney General’s Office took the unusual step of releasing a letter of its own disputing claims made by Bedford town officials.
“I would never say that an elected official lied,” Attorney General’s general counsel Anne Edwards told NHJournal at the time.“We felt it was important to issue a clarification because we were concerned about the accuracy of some of the statements.”
During a contentious meeting in November, Shaugnessy told the Town Council “we don’t work for you,” in response to their complaints. And he acknowledged the town had sent out false information and that he was the source of the call for secrecy.
“I gave out haphazard legal advice,” Shaughnessy told councilors. “I did not check with the town attorney.”
During that same meeting, he made the false claim that, if Bedford town officials had been transparent about their mishandling of ballots, they “could be subject to criminal penalties, including a felony.”
Under questioning by a town councilor, Shaughnessy conceded he did not know of any law or statute town officials could have violated by telling voters the truth.
Town Manager Rick Sawyer, Town Clerk Sally Kellar, Town Moderator William Klein, and Shaughnessy all narrowly survived a 4-3 vote on a “no-confidence” resolution before the council.
The news of Shaughnessy’s oversight of town elections went from bad to worse when a second batch of mishandled ballots was discovered during the September 2021 special recount but kept secret — again– from town officials until November.
“I don’t know why notification was not made immediately in September,” Bedford Town Manager Rick Sawyer wrote in an email to the town council at the time.
Meanwhile, Shaughnessy continues to insist he has handled the issues properly and that voters and their elected representatives have no right to transparency when it comes to the handling of their ballots by town officials like himself.
“No one has pointed to any law, rule, or other legal authority that states that the moderator or town clerk, also elected officials, had an obligation to inform anyone other than the secretary of state’s office,” Shaughnessy told NHJournal in November.
Shaughnessy is running for the job of town moderator in the March 8 elections. Despite an effort by several local Republican leaders to recruit another candidate, he is on the ballot unopposed. (At least one candidate, Hanan Wiseman, is mounting a write-in campaign.)
Many of those same Republicans were livid when they learned of Sununu’s choice, though they were reluctant to speak out against the governor on the record.
Off the record, they complain Shaughnessy’s pick will reignite the issue of ballot security and the #StopTheSteal narrative many believe is hurting Republicans with moderate voters.
“Mike Lindell finally leaves town and now he [Sununu] does this?” one Bedford Republican complained.
The GOP donor added, “Ballot security is a big issue with Republican voters, and the [Executive Council] has already been through a lot for Sununu. I’m not sure they’re going to go along with this.”
Sununu declined to respond to a request for comment. Shaughnessy’s nomination goes before the Executive Council next month.
EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story mistakenly reported Shaughnessy is being considered for a judgeship on the Superior Court. It is the Circuit Court. NHJournal regrets the error.