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AG Asked to Review Craig’s Handling of RTK Request in Harmony Montgomery Case

A Manchester alderman has asked the state’s attorney general to look into Mayor Joyce Craig’s office and its handling of a request for emails from the mother of Harmony Montgomery, the seven-year-old girl allegedly murdered by her father.

Now Gov. Chris Sununu has gotten involved, contacting the AG’s Office regarding the matter and decrying Craig’s lack of accountability.

“It is about leadership. You have to be able to be transparent, be responsible, be accountable. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a lot of accountability out of the mayor’s office,” Sununu told NHJournal Thursday.

Sununu contacted Attorney General John Formella’s office after hearing complaints from Manchester Alderman Joseph Kelly Levasseur about Craig’s questionable handling of a Right to Know request.

“I received a message from local leadership in Manchester. I brought it to the attention of the attorney general and asked if they were looking at it,” Sununu said.

Michael Garrity, communications director for Formella’s office, said the matter is under review.

“We are aware of the matter. We have not made a determination regarding any potential next steps,” Garrity said.

NHJournal filed its Right to Know request with Craig’s office last month soon after the affidavit detailing Harmony’s gruesome murder was unsealed. It was the first time the public learned what police said happened to the little girl. Additionally, the affidavit also sheds light on the failures of the Division of Children, Youth and Families to keep tabs on a child known to be in an abusive home, as well as the response of other officials, like Craig.

NHJournal requested any emails sent to Craig by Harmony’s mother, Crystal Sorey, as well as any response from the mayor’s office. Craig’s office ignored the request, made under the state’s RSA 91-A, and did not respond until contacted by an attorney well after the statutory deadline had passed.

The eventual response from the City of Manchester’s IT Department claimed there were no emails between Sorey and Craig’s office.

In reality, there were at least two: A Dec. 29, 2021, email from Sorey to Craig pleading for help finding her child; and a response from a member of Craig’s staff to Sorey declining to offer any aid and informing Sorey to call 911 if she felt her daughter was in danger.

At that point, Harmony Montgomery was already dead.

Craig’s mishandling of the matter is symptomatic of her failed leadership in Manchester across the board, from housing to education to the opioid crisis, Sununu said.

“Unfortunately, Manchester has had a leadership problem for quite some time. Joyce Craig’s leadership style is to hide under the desk and blame everyone else. And it’s a shame because with the unprecedented amount of money and support around schools and mental health and the opioid crisis, the rest of the state is redesigning their systems and providing opportunities for their citizens,” Sununu said.

“The people of Manchester should be furious that they’re being left behind.”

Craig isn’t seeking re-election, instead launching an exploratory committee for a bid for governor in 2024.

One candidate hoping to replace Craig in the mayor’s office, Republican Jay Ruais, said Craig and her staff should have done more for a desperate mother.

“When a person reaches out in crisis, every effort should be made to address their concerns, follow up, and assist in making appropriate connections while using the power of the office to make a difference,” Ruais said.

Ruais also faulted Craig and her team for ignoring a Right to Know request, saying it creates an atmosphere of distrust between the elected representatives and the public they are supposed to serve. 

“The mayor’s office needs to be accountable, transparent. and swift in its actions when working with the public. The failure to release these records contributes to the already growing distrust of our elected officials in Manchester,” Ruais said. “A good leader making good decisions should have no problem being open to the people who elected them. Manchester has a right, and the mayor’s office has an obligation, to communicate what is going on in City Hall. Anything less than full transparency is completely unacceptable.”

Levasseur is angry with the way Craig and her office seem to be covering up the emails. His email to Sununu, sent Wednesday night, demands some form of accountability.

“I would appreciate (an) AG’s Office investigation into the city of Manchester’s IT Department. Couldn’t find the email? How many other RTK requests has that department covered up for Craig?” Levasseur wrote.

Shannon MacLeod, Craig’s chief of staff, did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday. MacLeod is also the staffer who initially ignored NHJournal’s Right to Know request for the emails.

“When an extremely important email sent to the mayor’s office goes missing- (could not be found after a FOIA request by the IT Department), it leads one to question the level of trust we can have in our city officials,” said Lavasseur. “I believe the attorney general of this state should be investigating the city’s IT Department and the mayor’s office to find the actual reason a specific email from Harmony’s mother could not be found. The answer from our IT Department raises more questions and concerns. The citizens of Manchester deserve answers.”

The puzzling aspect regarding Craig’s actions is the fact Sorey’s email to her office has already been reported in the press and is a matter of public knowledge. NHJournal sought a copy of the email as well as any response after the unsealing of the murder affidavit filed against Harmony’s father, Adam Montgomery. 

That affidavit, written by Manchester Police Detective John Dunleavy, states the investigation into Harmony’s disappearance started when representatives with the Division of Children, Youth and Families reported they could not find the girl on Dec. 27, 2021. 

Sorey had already called Manchester police on Nov. 18, 2021. The affidavit does not indicate police received any communication from Craig’s office following Sorey’s email to the mayor’s office.

Barrington Gun Store Owner Gathering Signatures to Get Town Officials Fired

Robert Russell, the Barrington gunsmith whose business survived being targeted by a town official, wants payback. 

Russell kicked off a petition drive this week to hold a special town meeting to fire Town Administrator Conner MacIver and Town Treasurer Peter Royce.

“They don’t want me to do this, but that just encourages me even more,” Russell said.

Russell also filed a complaint with the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office alleging 91-A (Right to Know) violations, as well as violations of ethics rules and conflict of interest laws. Russell said he was forced into the actions after years of what he called unfair treatment by the town.

“I don’t hide behind anything,” Russell said.

The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office declined to comment.

Russell’s 2A Tactical gunsmithing shop has been a target of town government for years. Russell originally opened it as a home business, and as it grew, so did the traffic in his residential neighborhood.

Russell soon found himself embroiled in a lawsuit as the town alleged zoning ordinance violations. However, after Russell prevailed during two zoning board of adjustment hearings, the town dropped the lawsuit this spring.

Dan Mannschreck, chairman of the select board, said he has not seen the special town meeting petition yet, but added the town is ready to hold the meeting once Russell gets at least 50 signatures from registered town voters.

“We didn’t budget for it, but that’s alright we can pay,” Mannschreck said.

While Russell claimed he was singled out because of the nature of his business, Mannschreck said that was not the case. What Russell went through is simply Barrington’s zoning enforcement process, he said.

“This is the way we do it. We don’t do it very often, and most people comply,” Mannschreck said.

Russell is a military veteran and a former police officer. His shop is staffed by other veterans and the business has a community of loyal customers. Customers come to his store on the residential Tolend Road for classes as well as events.

What is unusual about Russell’s case, according to documents shared with NHJournal, is that Royce, the part-time town treasurer, used his position and knowledge of town operations to actively lobby against Russell’s business. At one point, Royce used his town email to communicate with MacIver about the matter. MacIver told Royce people were encouraged to file complaints against Russell if they have concerns, according to the emails.

According to a letter from the town’s law firm to McIver, Royce’s use of his official town email crossed a line.

“Mr. Royce is the town’s appointed treasurer. Of course, he does not lose his rights as a citizen by assuming such a position. He may contact code enforcement with concerns just as any other citizen may, and code enforcement treats his complaints no differently than those of other citizens. I agree that Mr. Royce should not be using his town email for any communications in his personal capacity, and he has been so counseled,” wrote attorney Laura Spector-Morgan to town officials.

MacIver said last week Royce was talked to about his email use, but it is not clear if there are any other serious consequences. Royce does not manage the town’s day-to-day finances.

Russell plans to get all the signatures by the end of the month. He will then bring them to the selectmen. Mannschreck said once the signatures are verified by the town clerk, it will take anywhere from six to eight weeks to organize the special town meeting. The cost could run anywhere from $5,000 to $7,000, Mannschreck said.

“They’ve cost my business potentially a couple of million dollars,” Russell said.

The biggest question about the special town meeting, according to both Russell and Mannschreck, is what it will mean. Mannschreck maintains that any vote at the special town meeting to fire MacIver and Royce won’t mean they have to start packing boxes.

“The vote is advisory. I’ve run that through the attorney several times,” Mannschreck said.

Russell said he is not convinced the special town meeting vote can’t compel the town to fire the two officials.

“There’s a lot of disinformation out there,” Russell said.

Mannschreck is hopeful the town and Russell can walk away from the dispute, especially since the lawsuit has been dropped.

“I think it’s gotten difficult. I don’t like it at all,” Mannschreck said. “I like Rob, but it’s getting difficult.”

Russell is planning to move the business out of his home and into a building in a commercial part of town.