Embattled Strafford County Sheriff Mark Brave, who is already the subject of a criminal investigation for alleged theft and abuse of office, could face another investigation into his tenure.
Brave denies any wrongdoing related to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s criminal investigation, which began last month. It is the second investigation into Brave’s conduct as sheriff this year after the Strafford County Commission hired an outside firm for an inquiry in January.
Now a well-placed source tells NHJournal that members of Strafford County’s State House delegation are considering getting involved. There is an effort to organize a delegation meeting to discuss and possibly vote to begin its own investigation.
“(They are) in the process of organizing a request for a delegation meeting to discuss opening a statutorily authorized investigation into any potential misdoings by elected or employed county officials,” the source said.
Under New Hampshire law, county delegations made up of state lawmakers have the authority to investigate the conduct of county officials. Under the provisions of RSA 24:17, the delegation can create an investigative committee that can summon witnesses and have them testify under oath.
Even without the headache of multiple investigations, Brave’s leadership as Strafford County Sheriff is running into difficulties. According to his department’s most recent budget report, Brave spent nearly 60 percent of his total $3.3 million annual budget in the first six months of the fiscal year. Brave has spent close to $2 million of his total in the first six months.
That included $244,000 for overtime pay, or 94 percent of the budget, in the first half of the year alone. The department is budgeted for $260,000 annually, leaving Brave with about $15,000 for the next six months.
Brave has also spent 84 percent, or $388,000, of his budgeted $475,000 for retirement and $1,300 of $2,000 for unemployment, using 67 percent of the budget. Those expenses point to trouble keeping staff on the job.
In recent weeks, Brave made the criminal investigation public by telling reporters it is part of an escalation on the part of Commissioners George Maglaras, Robert Watson, and Deanna Rollo. Brave accused the trio of bullying him for political reasons. Brave even accused Maglaras of calling him a “token.”
Brave is reportedly under investigation by the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Unit for taking a female employee who is not his wife on a trip to Florida using taxpayer funds. Brave denied the accusation.
“They say I am abusing the travel budget, also not true,” Brave told the Foster’s Daily Democrat. “I have $18,000 a year for travel in the budget, and I have been using it to travel to other states where the sheriff’s departments are more progressive than here, to learn how to better involve us in the community.”
Commissioners hired Municipal Resources Inc. in January, a few weeks after Brave’s wife, Jamie Brave, was arrested for DUI in Portsmouth in December. The MRI report has not been made public, though Brave has used it to attack the commissioners, saying it was evidence his fellow Democrats were out to get him.
The commissioners pushed back in recent days, accusing Brave of leaking confidential information from the MRI in an effort to mislead the public.
“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,” the commissioners said in a letter.