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Lawsuit: State Broke Rules Removing Communist ‘Rebel Girl’ Marker

Progressive activists who pushed for a state marker honoring a Granite State Stalinist are suing, claiming the Sununu administration did not follow procedure when it took down the historic plaque.

State officials changed the rules, then broke them, in the scramble to remove the sign honoring notorious Communist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, according to the lawsuit filed this week.

The Historic Highways marker for Flynn, the former U.S. Communist Party Chair convicted of advocating the violent overthrow of the U.S. government, was removed from its Concord location on May 15, less than two weeks after it was unveiled. The marker is currently in the possession of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.

Now, liberal activists Arnie Alpert and Mary Lee Sargent, represented by lawyer and former Executive Counselor Andru Volinsky, accuse Gov. Chris Sununu and others of breaking the law to get rid of the Flynn marker in the face of community backlash.

‘The State has the unequivocal legal duty to follow its own duly adopted laws and not to act by the fiat of the Governor and members of the Executive Council,” Volinsky wrote.

Alpert and Sarget want a judge to order the marker to be erected once again at its original Concord location.

The marker was unveiled on May 1, and the state’s Department of Natural and Cultural Resources promoted Flynn’s tribute. That did not sit well with Executive Councilor Joe Kenney, who lodged a complaint at the May 3 Executive Council meeting.

“Well, I’m going to say that this particular person has no historic value here in Concord. And this person, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, was a profound Communist who died a Soviet, who was anti-American,” Kenney said. “I am dead set against this. And I think it’s an embarrassment that we have a program that allows us to put Communists on historical markers and then say, ‘Oh, that’s part of our history.’ It’s not part of my history.”

In the days that followed, Flynn’s record as an unrepentant Stalinist who supported the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War and received a Red Square burial came to light. As members of the public began to speak out,  Sununu vowed to get rid of the marker and blamed Concord City Council members for approving its placement.

Concord officials rejected that argument, pointing out that the marker is a state sign for a state program approved and funded by the state.

The marker was removed on May 15 and is currently in the possession of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.

In a statement regarding the lawsuit, Sununu welcomed Alpert and Sargent’s court case, saying criticizing the government is an important part of the American Way.

“America is a free country, and we appreciate their ability to sue the government for a decision they might disagree with — a privilege not afforded to citizens in communist countries. An avowed Communist who benefited from a state funeral in Moscow’s Red Square should not be celebrated in New Hampshire. All policies were followed when removing this Anti-American sign, and it will not be coming back under my watch,” Sununu said.

The Department of Natural and Cultural Resources changed the rules for removing Historic Highway Markers after that May 3 meeting, allowing for removing markers that could be deemed inappropriate. However, according to the lawsuit, the new rules still required that the decision go to the Historical Resources Council.

According to the lawsuit, Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Commissioner Sarah Stewart ignored the rules and, on May 12, ordered that the sign be removed. 

“Commissioner Stewart did not consult the State Historical Resources Council as required by the newly amended policy,” Volinsky wrote. “Nor was the reason for retirement officially recorded in the minutes of the State Historical Resources Council also as required by the newly amended policy.”

Flynn was born in 1890 in Concord and became a socialist activist in her teens. She was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union and, in 1936, joined the Community Party, becoming the U.S. party chair in 1961.

She joined the Communist Party during Josef Stalin’s deadly purge and high-profile show trials, facts known to the public at the time. When Flynn joined in 1936, the Soviets had already murdered nearly 9 million people in Ukraine and other territories in what is now known as the Holodomor. Another 1.2 million were about to be killed in Stalin’s great purge. 

Her membership in the party got her expelled from the ACLU in 1940 when the civil rights groups formally denounced Communism. A decade later, she was found guilty under the Smith Act of advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government by force and violence. 

The Soviet government gave Flynn a state funeral in Red Square, with more than 25,000 people attending.

Goodbye Rebel Girl! Concord’s Communist Marker Removed

The historic marker in Concord commemorating unrepentant Communist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn got sent to the ash heap of history as the Sununu administration finally stepped up and removed it from state property.

Now the progressive activists who pushed for the marker are complaining about its removal.

The New Hampshire Historical Highway Marker was unveiled on May 1 (May Day). It celebrated Concord-born Gurley Flynn as an early labor activist, a civil rights pioneer, a supporter of women’s access to birth control, and the former head of the Communist Party in America (CPUSA).

Gov. Chris Sununu first promised to get the marker removed after learning about it from irate executive councilors Joe Kenney (R-District 1) and Dave Wheeler (R-District 5) during a Governor’s Council meeting two days later.

“This is a devout communist. We are the ‘Live Free or Die’ state,” Kenney said. “How can we possibly promote her propaganda, which still exists now through this sign in downtown Concord?”

Sununu, however, did not immediately take the marker down. Instead, he and his administration blamed Concord city officials for the marker’s placement.

“Why Concord would want to put this in the first place, God knows,” Sununu said on Good Morning NH with Jack Health. “Just tell us to take it down we’ll take it down. I’d love to take it down.”

However, Concord City Attorney James Kennedy responded, making it clear in a letter to Department of Cultural and Natural Resources Commissioner Sarah Stewart that the state could do whatever it wanted with the marker it installed.

“To the extent that the State seeks removal of (the Flynn marker) a marker that it approved (title and text) created and installed, bearing the State seal and located on State property, the City takes no position on this issue,” Kennedy wrote.

On Monday, the Gurley Flynn monument was gone.

“Through their public statements, the City of Concord made clear they were not advocating to keep the marker up,” Ben Vihstadt, Sununu’s spokesman, said Monday. “In their communications with the state, it was learned that the marker was located on state property, not city property as previously believed, and therefore the marker was removed this morning.”

Far-left supporters of the marker and Flynn’s legacy cried foul.

“The policies of the Division of Historical Resources specify the conditions under which markers can be retired,” said Arnie Alpert, who, with Mary Lee Sargent, initiated the proposal for the Flynn marker. “Even under the policy’s latest revision, there is no provision for markers to be retired because of objections to their content.”

The pair continue to defend the marker saying Flynn is a historically significant person born in New Hampshire and should be recognized. “We still say that under the department’s own guidelines, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn’s birthplace in Concord is a fitting location for a historical marker,” Sargent said.

Flynn was an outspoken member of the American left who helped found the American Civil Liberties Union, which she was later kicked out of because she chose to join the Communist Party. In fact, Flynn joined in 1936, during the infamous purges under Soviet leader Josef Stalin that drove many other Westerners out of the party.

Flynn made no apologies for her Communism. In a May 6, 1940 speech, Flynn praised the USSR.

“On May Day, we salute the Soviet Union, land of socialism, land of peace and plenty, the great ideal of labor since time immemorial, the cooperative commonwealth of all who toil,” Flynn said.

Flynn was convicted in 1951 for fomenting the overthrow of the United States, later became head of the Communist Party USA, and was given a state funeral in Moscow’s Red Square by a grateful Soviet Union when she died in 1964.

Alpert and Sargent continue to insist the marker should have remained and that Sununu lacked the authority to remove it as he did. They say that, under the state’s guidelines, markers are only removed if they are in disrepair or contain text with factual errors. The state also requires a public hearing before any marker is removed.

“None of the conditions for the marker’s removal have been met,” Alpert said. 

Vihstadt, however, said the state acted correctly in taking down the sign.

All policies and guidelines were followed in removing this controversial marker,” Vihstadt said.

Concord Officials To Sununu: Stop Pushing Your Marker Mess on Us

If Gov. Chris Sununu wants to do something about the Historical Highway Marker honoring notorious Communist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, he is free to do it himself, according to the Concord City Council.

Concord Mayor James Bouley said Monday night he was confused by the letter he got last week from Sarah Stewart, commissioner for the New Hampshire Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, asking the city to request that the state remove the Flynn marker.

“We did not approve any marker, we don’t have that authority; we don’t approve the marker’s text, we don’t have that authority; and lastly, we can’t remove something that is not our responsibility from your property,” Bouley said.

The Flynn marker angered Republican members of the state’s Executive Council, prompting Sununu to blame Concord leadership and demand that it be removed. 

“Why Concord would want to put this in the first place, God knows,” Sununu said Friday on WGIR radio. “Just tell us to take it down, and we’ll take it down. I’d love to take it down.”

The problem for Sununu — or perhaps the solution — is that the marker is the state’s responsibility from beginning to end, according to Concord City Attorney James Kennedy. He said the marker was placed in the city by the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and sits on state land. The marker features text about Flynn’s life and Communist affiliation that was approved by the state and additionally includes a seal of the State of New Hampshire. The fact that now Sununu and Stewart are asking the city to request its removal makes little sense, Kennedy said.

“That’s a curious concept to me,” Kennedy said.

According to Kennedy, if the state wants to remove the marker, it is free to follow the state law governing that process. 

Executive Councilor Janet Stevens (R-Rye) also places the responsibility at the feet of state government.

“The disgraceful placement of a historic highway marker in Concord, honoring Communist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a devout Stalinist and prominent organizer in the Communist Party, has elevated the need for an overhaul of the process for awarding historic markers in our state,” Stevens said in an editorial for NHJournal.

“There was a clear lack of common sense in allowing this new marker to be approved,” Steven added.

The state did seek Concord’s approval to install the sign, which went up on May 1. But Bouley and the councilors said that was a courtesy and had more to do with checking traffic visibility and general construction safety. That has not stopped Sununu from hammering Concord over the state marker.

“I don’t think it should ever have been put up; I don’t think Concord should have been advocating for it,” Sununu said.

According to available public records, the City of Concord never advocated for the Flynn marker. Liberal activists Arnie Alpert and Mary Lee Sargent petitioned the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources for the Flynn maker based on her historical significance. Flynn was an early labor activist, a civil rights pioneer, and a supporter of women’s access to birth control as well as the head of the Communist Party in America. 

Flynn was kicked out of the ACLU, which she helped found, because of her membership in the Community Party. She joined in 1936, three years after the USSR murdered close to 9 million people in a genocidal famine known as the Holodomor, and was about to start killing millions more. When she died in 1964, Flynn received a state funeral in Moscow’s Red Square with 25,000 people attending.

While Sununu has blamed Concord for the whole mess, and Stewart has claimed her department had no input in the text, records obtained Monday by NHJournal show otherwise. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources employee Amy Dixon worked on researching and editing the proposed text for the Flynn marker, even adding that Flynn was a supporter of women’s suffrage. Dixon then presented the marker proposal to Concord officials and explained all expenses would be the state’s responsibility. 

Kennedy said that under U.S. Supreme Court rulings protecting the First Amendment, cities are unable to regulate the content of signs put up in their jurisdictions. 

City Councilor Amanda Grady Sexton said if the state is upset about the sign, it can take it down anytime. “If the state wants to remove the sign, they can do so.”

City Councilor Zandra Rice Hawkins suggested Concord may still put up its own marker to commemorate Flynn, in which case the state would be actually powerless as opposed to engaging in the current game of blame-shifting.

“I’d be disappointed if the state removed the marker and tried to whitewash history,” Hawkins said.

State Puts Blame For Marker Honoring Concord Communist On City

Fallout from the state’s historic marker honoring a notorious Communist continues as the Sununu administration invites Concord to remove the monument, and the city insists it never requested the placard in the first place.

“If the City Council objected to the placement of the marker on city property, the application would have been denied,” New Hampshire Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Commissioner Sarah Stewart wrote to Concord’s mayor Thursday.

“It’s their sign, not ours,” Ward 3 Concord City Councilor Jennifer Kretovic told NHJournal. “And if they want to say differently, they can go pound sand.”

The controversy began in Wednesday’s Governor’s Council meeting when Executive Councilors Dave Wheeler and Joe Kenney raised questions about the marker, unveiled on May Day, honoring Concord native Elizabeth Gurley Flynn. Flynn was an unapologetic Stalinist who joined the Communist Party during the purges, led the CPUSA during the Cold War, and received a state funeral in Red Square from a grateful Soviet Union.

Flynn’s marker took members of the Executive Council by surprise this week, unhappy the state is seemingly celebrating an anti-American Communist. Gov. Chris Sununu promised to investigate how the sign got approved and the possibility of getting it removed. 

Stewart, who oversees the Division of Historical Resources (DHR), told NHJournal she “never reviewed this request. The process that is in place doesn’t include an approval from me. This is something I am discussing with the governor.”

On Wednesday, she told the executive councilors her office was not responsible for the marker, stating the application came from the City of Concord.

“Our agency is not in the business of approving or denying the markers,” Stewart said. “We check for factual accuracy, and we help make sure that the text fits on the space allocated on the marker.”

But Tony Schinella at The Patch reported Thursday morning that “the request for the marker was made to the Concord City Council by a state employee — Amy Dixon, a community preservation coordinator in Stewart’s department, on Sept. 12, 2022.”

“According to the timeline of records by the city, the council approved forwarding the request at its October 2022 meeting to the city’s Heritage Commission,” The Patch reported.

A few hours after the report was published, Stewart released a letter to the city of Concord urging them to request that the Flynn marker be taken down.

“I am reaching out to inform the City of the opportunity to reevaluate your approval of this marker,” Stewart wrote to Concord Mayor James Bouley. Her letter squarely places the blame for the Flynn marker on Concord officials.

“There was a public hearing conducted by the Concord Heritage Commission, and then (the marker) was approved at a Concord City Council meeting,” Stewart wrote. “If the City Council objected to the placement of the marker on city property, the application would have been denied.”

But city records show that application for the Flynn marker was brought into the city by DHR’s Amy Dixon, a community preservation specialist.

“The New Hampshire Historical Highway Marker Program is respectfully requesting City Council approval to install Marker #278, which honors former Concord resident Elizabeth Gurley Flynn for her accomplishments in leading America’s early 20th-century labor movement and for her support of civil liberties and women’s rights,” Dixon wrote in a September letter to the City Council.

Dixon assured the Council the state would pick up the costs of the marker. 

“The City would be under no financial obligation. We only seek City Council approval for its location, which is proposed near the southeast corner of Court and Montgomery streets near the county courthouse,” Dixon wrote to Concord officials.

Kretovic told NHJournal Stewart’s version of events is simply not true. While Concord did approve the marker, that process was merely a formality, she said. The state controls the whole process from start to finish, she said.

“It’s a courtesy that the state reaches out to the city and says, ‘Hey, we’re putting a sign in your city,’” Kretovic said. “We don’t bless that wording; we have nothing to do with that,” Kretovic said.

Arnie Alpert, a retired liberal activist, and Mary Lee Sargent, another left-learning activist, got the original ball rolling by sending DHR an application for Flynn’s marker. Alpert told NHJournal Flynn deserves to be recognized for her trailblazing work as a labor activist, civil rights leader, and feminist. 

“Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was a significant figure in American history,” Alpert said.

Alpert and Sargent’s application included signatures from 30 residents and proposed wording for the marker. Their text appears unchanged on the sign that went up on May 1. Dixon took that application and text to Concord and walked it through the process to get the city’s approval.

Kretovic said it is important that the marker recognizes Flynn’s membership in the Communist Party and her conviction in 1951 for fomenting the violent overthrow of the government. Kretovic would have preferred if the state included an option for people to learn more about Flynn and Communism, such as a QR code people could scan into their phones for relevant factual links.

Flynn was born in 1890 in Concord and became a socialist activist in her teens. She was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union and, in 1936, joined the Community Party, becoming the U.S. Party Chair in 1961.

Her decision to join the Communist Party during the period of Josef Stalin’s deadly purge and high-profile show trials is particularly disturbing. In fact, her membership in the party got her expelled from the ACLU in 1940. A decade later, she was found guilty under the Smith Act of advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government by force and violence. The Soviet government gave Flynn a state funeral in Red Square, with more than 25,000 people attending.

When Flynn joined the Communist Party in 1936, the Soviets had already murdered close to 9 million people in Ukraine and other territories in what is now known as the Holodomor. Another 1.2 million were about to be killed in Stalin’s great purge.

If the Sununu administration or the City of Concord does not act, the New Hampshire legislature is standing by.

“If the department does not remove this sign, I will sponsor legislation to do so,” said Rep. Ross Berry (R-Manchester). “We don’t honor Communists in New Hampshire.”

Why Did NH Approve A Historic Marker Honoring A Concord Communist?

The Sununu administration approved a new Historical Highway Marker honoring a committed Communist from Concord who received a state funeral in Moscow’s Red Square. Now state officials are asking how it happened.

On Monday, May 1 — May Day for the international Socialist movement — the New Hampshire Department of Natural & Cultural Resources unveiled the marker honoring Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who once led the Communist Party USA.

Flynn was born in 1890 in Concord and became a socialist activist in her teens. She was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union and, in 1936, joined the Community Party, becoming the U.S. Party Chair in 1961.

Her decision to join the Communist Party during the period of Josef Stalin’s deadly purge and high-profile show trials is particularly disturbing. In fact, her membership in the party got her expelled from the ACLU in 1940. A decade later, she was found guilty under the Smith Act of advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government by force and violence.

The Soviet government gave Flynn a state funeral in Red Square, with more than 25,000 people attending.

Executive Councilor Dave Wheeler (R-Milford) brought up the marker during Wednesday’s Executive Council meeting, expressing his outrage that the state would approve a memorial to an enemy of the United States.

Wheeler said Flynn’s maker in Concord is an insult to every Granite Stater who ever served in the military, including the veteran who led the council’s Pledge of Allegiance before the meeting. “I’m just totally offended by that. I think it’s a slap in the face to the veteran who did our Pledge of Allegiance this morning,” Wheeler said.

Fellow Republican Joe Kenney also voiced his opposition.

“This is a devout Communist. We are the ‘Live Free or Die’ state,” Kenney said. “How can we possibly promote her propaganda, which still exists now through this sign in downtown Concord?”

Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, the lone Democrat on the five-member committee, represents the city of Concord, whose Heritage Commission requested the marker. Warmington didn’t comment during the discussion. She also declined to respond to requests for comment from NHJournal.

Gov. Chris Sununu learned of the marker Wednesday morning and was not happy with what he heard during the Governor’s Council meeting.

“I completely agree with the sentiment here,” Sununu said, and he pledged to “dig into” how it happened. He also grilled Sarah Stewart, commissioner for the New Hampshire Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, whose agency oversees the historic marker program.

Stewart claimed her office wasn’t responsible for Flynn’s marker, telling the governor the application came through the city of Concord. “Our agency is not in the business of approving or denying the markers,” Stewart said. “We check for factual accuracy, and we help make sure that the text fits on the space allocated on the marker.”

Sununu was not satisfied with his commissioner’s answer.

“Who at the state level says ‘yes or no,’ regardless of what a town wants?” Sununu asked. “Who at the state level says, ‘We are going to do this, or we’re not going to do that?’”

“There is a criterion that is evaluated by the Division of Historical Resources staff and the State Historical Resources Council,” Stewart acknowledged.

“I’ll tell you what: We’re going to review the whole process,” Sununu said. “The state obviously has authority here, and responsibility — it’s a state marker.”

The state’s rules for the Historical Highway Marker program clearly give Stewart and her agency the power to vet applications and approve or deny them as she sees fit. The rules have been in effect since 1958.

“The DHR shall have the function, including but not limited to, ‘Considering proposals to erect highway historical markers under RSA 236:41. No such marker shall be put in place without division approval,’” the rules state.

Michael Bruno literally wrote the book on the state’s Historical Highway Markers. The author of “Cruising New Hampshire History,” Bruno told NHJournal he was disturbed by the state’s decision to remember Flynn.

“I’m a veteran, and I served in the Cold War,” Bruno said. “I don’t see why we’re commemorating this person.”

Most disappointing for Bruno is the fact that each Historical Highway Marker includes the state seal of New Hampshire. “It looks like an endorsement from the state,” he said.

Arnie Alpert

Arnie Alpert, a New Hampshire activist who was a leader in the left-leaning American Friends Service Committee, defended the marker and Flynn, though he said he couldn’t defend all of her choices.

“She was a significant figure in American history,” Alpert said.

Alpert said Flynn was visiting the Soviet Union in 1964 to work on her memoirs when she died. The state funeral with honors in Red Square can’t be held against her.

“She was dead; she didn’t order up any state funeral,” Alper said.

Alpert said that her 1951 conviction had more to do with the McCarthy-era anti-Communist witch hunts than any threats of violent revolution. Flynn was convicted for believing in Communism, not trying to overthrow the country, he said.

“If she was guilty of anything, she was guilty of her beliefs,” Alpert said.

Still, the timing of her Communist allegiance raises questions. When Smith joined in 1936, the Soviets had already murdered close to 9 million people in Ukraine and other territories in what is now known as the Holodomor. Another 1.2 million were about to be killed in Stalin’s great purge. When she became the head of the American Communist Party, dissident writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn was just a few years removed from serving a decade in the Soviet gulags and internal exile.

“I’m not here to defend every step in the life of Elizabeth Gurley Flynn,” Alpert said.

Flynn had no problem speaking for herself. In a May 6, 1940 speech, she praised the USSR.

“On May Day, we salute the Soviet Union – land of socialism – land of peace and plenty, the great ideal of labor since time immemorial, the cooperative commonwealth of all who toil,” Flynn said.

NH gets $5 Million for Crime Victim Programs

New Hampshire is getting $5 million in federal funding for critical crime victim services as the needs across the state increase. 

“Without these funds, many of the services available to victims of crime would be reduced dramatically or cease to exist,” said Attorney General John Formella.

The Executive Council approved the funding, which allows the Department of Justice to make sure the victim service programs can continue helping Granite Staters in sometimes dire circumstances. 

“These approvals will allow the Department of Justice to continue to address the need for crime victim services across New Hampshire by sub-granting funds to the amazing organizations that provide these services throughout our state.”

New Hampshire uses the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant to fund the needed services, but the VOCA has been losing its regular source of funding—fines paid by those convicted of federal crimes.

Fines are getting reduced at the federal level, and the United States Department of Justice3 is pursuing non-prosecution agreements with some people which has resulted in the money not getting deposited into VOCA.

According to Formella’s office, it is happening at the same time more people are becoming crime victims. Last year in New Hampshire, calls to domestic violence and sexual assault crisis lines increased by approximately 63 percent, and the need for emergency shelters for domestic violence victims increased by approximately 30 percent from 2019.

VOCA funds are used to support services for victims through direct service organizations such as domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, and child abuse treatment programs. In New Hampshire, more than 40 victim services organizations receive VOCA funds including the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (NHCADSV) as well as the state’s 13 Crisis Centers, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Granite State Children’s Alliance (OSCA) and New Hampshire Legal Assistance (NHLA). VOCA funding is also used to fund advocates at the state’s County Attorney Offices, several Police Departments, Granite State Child Advocacy Centers, the Granite United Way, and Victims, Inc.

Some of these organizations would not be able to continue without the VOCA funding, the Attorney General’s Office said Wednesday.


AG: Protesters Who Shut Down Exec Council Meeting Won’t Face Charges

Granite Staters watched in confusion and embarrassment last September 29 as a handful of rowdy anti-vaccination protesters shut down a meeting of the state’s Executive Council, taunting the crowd, threatening state employees, and ignoring the law enforcement officers gathered at St. Anselm College.

Eight months later, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office has finally finished its investigation of the event. It says there will be no prosecutions. 

“Given the specific facts of this case and the state’s inability to prove any potential criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt, the state will not bring criminal charges against any individual as a result of their conduct on September 29, 2021. The Attorney General’s Office is closing its review and will take no further action on this matter,” Attorney General John Formella and State Police Colonel Nathan Noyes said in a statement.

They acknowledged there was evidence the protestors committed the crimes of obstructing government administration and disorderly conduct. But, they said, it was not enough for the state to bring charges.

The dozen or so protestors effectively took over the meeting, roaming among the attendees for close to an hour shouting complaints about access to Ivermectin for COVID-19 treatment, repeating false claims of “thousands of deaths” from the vaccine, and warning vaccination supporters they would be treated the way Nazis were treated after World War II.

“You’re going to be held accountable,” one woman cried. “Maybe not now, but years from now — Nuremberg trials!”


“FEMA camps!” shouted a man wearing a Karen Testerman for Governor t-shirt, referencing a conspiracy theory about government roundups of non-compliant citizens first circulated by progressives against President George W. Bush.

Dozens of police officers were on-site from State Police and Goffstown. But they never intervened to stop the protestors. Instead, they escorted employees from the Department of Health and Human Services employees to their cars, employees who said they felt threatened by the protesters.

Without those employees on hand to testify, councilors claimed the meeting could not go forward.

As video of the police standing by amid the chaos hit New Hampshire TV screens, some citizens began questioning why the trained law enforcement officers did not act. Asked if there had been a review of the officer’s inaction, attorney general spokesperson Michael Garrity told NHJournal,  “Any review of the actions of any involved law enforcement officers would be handled administratively by their respective agencies and would not involve this office.”

The issue of police refusing to act is particularly sensitive in the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

Gov. Chris Sununu’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. He also skipped out of the meeting in September, leaving Councilor Dave Wheeler (R-Milford) to announce to the worked-up crowd the meeting was being canceled.

Wheeler said at the time several state employees felt unsafe at the meeting and left. Since those employees were needed to answer questions from the council members, the meeting could not take place.

“Mission accomplished,” one protester shouted at the news.

Councilor Cinde Warmington (D-Concord) said at the time New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette made the decision to have her staff leave as the protesters grew increasingly agitated. Staffers were escorted to their cars by New Hampshire State Police troopers.

When the DHHS employees left the auditorium, the situation in the room got worse.

“Once that happened, we got reports from State Police and the commissioner of safety that the room had become more disruptive and they felt it had become unsafe,” Warmington said.

Despite police deeming the situation unsafe, none of the protestors will be charged. New Hampshire does arrest and prosecute protestors frequently, according to Pat Sullivan with the New Hampshire Chiefs of Police Association. 

“They’ve charged them at Seabrook protesting the nuclear power plant,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan declined to comment on the Executive Council protestors. The town of Newfields wrote an anti-picketing ordinance specifically so it could arrest protesters upsetting the governor’s family by protesting near his house. The Newfields police even arrested the New Hampshire Journal reporter who was covering the protest.

That reporter is scheduled to appear in court July 7.

Many of the same protestors were arrested at the October meeting for their disruption. Michael Garrity, Director of Communication for the Attorney General’s Office, said none of the prosecutions of those arrested in October will be impacted by Tuesday’s decision. Asked why protesters engaged in the same behavior were not charged with a crime in both cases, Garrity said the office could not comment.

“Because the cases that arose out of the 10/13 meeting remain ongoing, we cannot comment on those matters,” Garrity said.

The New Hampshire Department of Safety has refused to even say how many police officers were at the meeting.

“(T)he Department of Safety does not publicly discuss operational details or tactics,” Paul Raymond with the Department of Safety said in September when asked by NH Journal.

Raymond claimed at the time the failure to arrest the protesters in September was due to concern for their constitutional rights.

“Decisions on whether to effect an arrest require officers to carefully consider the fundamental rights granted to protesters by the First Amendment, the text of the criminal code, as well as the safety and security of other bystanders and attendees,” Raymond said.

That concern was apparently resolved when police arrested many of the same protestors for the same behavior a month later.

Shaughnessy Grilled by Executive Councilors Over Bedford Ballots 

CONCORD — Judicial nominee Brian Shaughnessy recited the Serenity Prayer early in his testimony before the Executive Council on Wednesday, an apt sentiment given the rough day he had answering questions about the Bedford 2020 election snafu.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference,” he said, explaining his life philosophy. “I try to live by those rules; they guide my life.”

Several executive councilors were less than serene about Shaughnessy’s nomination.

Councilors Cinde Warmington (D-District 2), Janet Stevens (R-District 3), and Dave Wheeler (R-District 5) hammered Shaughnessy over his role in the investigation and coverup of 190 uncast ballots found after the 2020 presidential election. Shaughnessy was a volunteer assistant town moderator during that election, having previously served six years as the town moderator.

The most contentious issue was Shaughnessy’s strategy, which he presented as legal advice, for his fellow election officials to keep the fact they had bungled the absentee ballots secret from both the public and the elected town council.

Shaughnessy told Warmington under questioning he advised Town Clerk Sally Keller and Town Moderator Bill Klein not to talk about the matter until the Attorney General’s Office completed its investigation. However, when asked, Shaughnessy told council members no one from the Attorney General’s Office told him it was a criminal investigation.

That echoes another falsehood Shaughnessy acknowledged during a town hall meeting in November when he confirmed he had told town employees they could face criminal charges themselves — perhaps even felony charges — if they told the public about the election snafu. When questioned by the town council, Shaughnessy was unable to identify any such law.

Shaughnessy’s desire to keep the election fiasco secret was so strong, he told Warmington one reason he wanted Bedford election officials to keep the details from town council members was that it could create records that could be obtained by the public through the state’s Right to Know Law. 

“Anything told to the town council becomes public record,” he said.

Shaughnessy said he thought the investigation would be completed in a matter of weeks, and that would be the appropriate time to make public disclosures.

“We did not imagine it would be 11 months later that the Attorney General’s Office would complete their investigation,” he said. However, he didn’t explain why he and the other election officials continued to remain silent for nearly a year. 

Warmington took Shaughnessy to task for acting as Klein and Kellar’s de facto attorney, not making any public disclosure, and not contacting the town’s attorney about the matter. The ballot problems were not made public until NH Journal broke the story.

“Did you ever have concerns that keeping this secret would undermine Bedford voters’ confidence about elections?” Warmington asked.

Stevens wanted to know why Shaughnessy, or anyone involved, didn’t at least check with the Attorney General’s Office to see if it could make some kind of statement as the weeks and months passed. Shaughnessy conceded that could have been done, but he did not want to cast blame on others.

“Had I been moderator, would it have been different? More than likely, yes. But I’m not going to put that clickbait out there. That serves no purpose,” he said. “I’m not going to throw anybody under the bus.”

According to Anne Edwards of the Attorney General’s Office, its staff “had follow-up conversations with Bedford election officials, during August and September, about the need to provide notification to the 190 voters that their absentee ballots had not been counted during the 2020 General Election.

Bedford election officials raised concerns with this notification and asked not to notify voters,” Edwards said.

Klein testified in Shaughnessy’s favor, saying his assistant town moderator was not part of the problem, nor was he a subject of the investigation.

“He had nothing to do with any of that stuff,” Klein said.

Councilor Joe Kenney (R-District 1) did n0t mention the Bedford issue but instead asked Shaughnessy about tenant law and his resume. Councilor Ted Gatsas (R-District 4), who represents Bedford, asked no questions.

While Shaughnessy fielded some tough questions from the council members, several supporters testified on his behalf, including New Hampshire Supreme Court Associate Justice Jim Bassett.

“Having somebody like Brian on the bench would be an incredible asset,” Bassett said.

The council will now likely take up Shaughnessy’s nomination at its April meeting for a vote. In the meantime, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office has opened a second investigation into Bedford’s ballots. In September, 10 ballots from 2020 were found in a ballot box, and that information was kept from the public until NH Journal reported the story.

The Attorney General’s Office is investigating the circumstances surrounding the handling of those 10 ballots and has reopened the investigation into the 190 ballots. Shaughnessy said he is not a subject in either investigation.

“I think that with the immediacy of how things happen, I understand how you can make the decisions that are not the best in the moment,” Warmington told Shaughnessy as she wrapped up her questions. “But keeping that secret really did a disservice to the (town) council and the public.”

As Criticism Mounts, Bedford’s Shaughnessy Takes His Defense Public

Brian Shaughnessy took to Facebook to defend his actions during Bedford’s recent ballot fiascos, high-profile missteps that prompted two state investigations and gave the affluent community’s reputation a black eye.

Shaughnessy took the unusual move of posting an extended explanation on social media, a possible sign both his candidacy for town moderator in March and his nomination to the bench are both in trouble.

“What’s the old saying? ‘When you’re explaining, you’re losing?'” one NHGOP political operative told NHJournal.

Shaughnessy is the town official behind the decision to leave voters in the dark regarding 190 ballots from the 2020 election that were never counted due to election worker errors. No member of the public knew about those ballots for close to a year when New Hampshire Journal broke the story in October. 

Now, he is facing a write-in challenge for the town moderator position, and his nomination to the Circuit Court is being scrutinized ahead of a public hearing before the Executive Council.

In his lengthy statement to a private Facebook group this week, Shaughnessy claims there was no intentional cover-up of the ballots. He maintains he advised town officials not to discuss the situation in good faith.

“There was no effort to hide the ball or intention to cover this matter up. I would never be a party to that type of behavior,” Shaughnessy wrote.

Shaughnessy states that since the investigation into the 190 ballots carried the possibility of criminal charges, he recommended that Town Moderator Bill Klein, Town Clerk Sally Kellar, and others keep quiet until the investigation was complete.

“The Secretary of State’s Office was notified within 30 minutes of the discovery which was the appropriate chain of command. During a meeting after the discovery was made, I recommended, and everyone agreed, that we would notify the 190 voters and apologize that they were disenfranchised through an honest mistake. That would only be done, however, once we received permission from the Attorney General’s Office,” he wrote.

The town eventually did send out that letter, falsely claiming the Attorney General’s Office had ordered it to remain silent. Shaughnessy did not dispute the town’s claim at the time.

“I firmly believe every Bedford official acted in good faith, fully cooperated with the investigation, and did what he/she believed was in the best interests of election integrity as a whole,” he wrote on Friday.

Shaughnessy has taken heat for stating during a public hearing in November that he and Klein do not answer to the elected town council or the voters of Bedford. Instead, he argued, they answer to the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s Office. Hanan Wiseman, who is mounting a write-in campaign against Shaughnessy, is making the idea of accountability to voters a central part of his candidacy.

“We MUST have a town moderator who holds himself accountable to the voters. There is no way for the public to trust the integrity of the elections if the people who oversee the elections aren’t trustworthy and transparent,” Wiseman wrote on his website.

Last November, Klein and Kellar sent a letter to voters blaming their silence on the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, a claim that office refuted. Shaughnessy admitted providing the advice to remain silent, saying it was “haphazard legal advice.”

Anger over Shaughnessy’s actions is widespread in Bedford, with multiple calls for Shaughnessy’s resignation. Shaughnessy dismissed those demands by saying he has no office to resign from.

“I was not an elected official and only serve at each election at the discretion of the moderator that appoints me. There was no office for me to resign from since I am simply a volunteer who does not get paid and is not elected,” he wrote.

Town Council Chair Dave Gilbert said Friday that he agreed, saying that there is nothing for Shaughnessy to resign from as a volunteer. When pushed on whether or not Shaughnessy had a choice to keep a volunteer position or resign, Gilbert said, “I guess he could. The town council has nothing to do with that.”

When asked if he then agrees that Klein and Shaughnessy do not report to the town council, Gilbert got angry.

“This is why I don’t like to talk to you guys, you make stuff up,” he said before hanging up the phone.

Shaughnessy’s nomination to become a Superior Court judge will need the approval of the state’s Executive Council, which is taking up the matter on March 9 — the day after Bedford’s town elections.

Councilor Dave Wheeler (R-District 5) has come out against Sharughnessy’s appointment. Councilor Joseph Kenney (R-District 1) said he needs to know more before making a decision.

“At this point, I reserve all opinions until the public hearing,” Kenney said.

The other three councilors, Cinde Warmington (D-District 2), Ted Gatsas (R-District 4), and Janet Stevens (R-District 3) did not respond to requests for comment.

Their handling of Shaughnessy’s nomination is likely to be an issue in this year’s elections, particularly for GOP primary voters concerned about election integrity.

“The issue of election irregularities is proving to be a potent one,” said Windham Selectman Bruce Breton, a GOP activist and longtime Trump ally. Breton says Republicans concerned about ballot security are watching the Shaughnessy matter closely. And, he says, it is not just the GOP. “This issue reaches beyond just Republican voters.”

Bedford Republicans and political leaders are reluctant to criticize a Sununu nominee. However, they tell NHJournal off the record they fear the public hearing will reflect poorly on their local politics and raise embarrassing questions about why Sununu would nominate such a problematic pick.

“It’s going to be terrible for the town and everyone involved,” one GOP source told NHJournal.

The Attorney General’s Office completed its review of the town’s first ballot mishandling issue and is now conducting an investigation into the second case. It involves an undisclosed number of 2020 ballots discovered inside a ballot box in September and, like the first batch, kept secret. These ballots were counted during the 2020 election but left out of the recount.

Town officials were not notified about these ballots until November, and Gilbert warned town council members not to speak about the issue. 


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.


Unpacking the Dartmouth-Hitchcock, NH Hospital Contract Debacle

In a controversy that led to the resignation of the New Hampshire Hospital CEO, it’s been revealed Wednesday that Dartmouth-Hitchcock has been in violation of a $36 million contract to staff the state’s psychiatric facilities.

Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers broke the news to Gov. Chris Sununu on Wednesday morning that Dartmouth-Hitchcock has only been regularly providing between eight to 10 psychiatrists, instead of the 11 required by the contract. The position of geriatric psychiatrist has also not been filled since January. The $36 million contract for Dartmouth-Hitchcock to provide services at NH Hospital, the state-run hospital for mental health services, was signed by the Executive Council last fall.

Sununu told the Executive Council during their regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday that he asked NH Hospital CEO Robert MacLeod to “step aside.” He also asked former HHS Commissioner Donald Shumway to run the hospital on an interim basis.

“We’ve been paying for psychiatrists that have not necessarily been there,” Sununu said during a news conference. “It’s troubling, it’s disappointing.”

Meyers sent Dartmouth-Hitchcock a letter Tuesday asking the hospital for a “corrective action plan” to be submitted by May 9. He discovered the violations after Executive Councilor Chris Pappas, D-Manchester, raised questions about the hospital’s staffing during the Executive Council’s meeting last month.

Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, D-Concord, called for an outside evaluation of the quality of care at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. Sununu wanted a review of the contract for other compliance issues by the state’s attorney general. He would also be seeking reimbursement from the state psychiatric hospital for payments based on full staffing.

Sununu and state health officials said it doesn’t appear that quality of care has been affected, and Meyers said he plans on monitoring contract compliance on a weekly basis.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying state officials were already aware of the staffing levels.

“Throughout the course of this contract, the state agreed that the staffing levels have been appropriate and the patient care is high quality,” according to a statement from the hospital. “From the inception of this contract to provide clinical psychiatric services at New Hampshire Hospital, Dartmouth-Hitchcock has provided the state, including through weekly reports, current and projected staffing levels and any projected deficiencies.”

Dartmouth-Hitchcock also said it has “only been paid by the state through January of this year.”

“In light of questions raised regarding compensation for Dartmouth-Hitchcock, it is critically important to note that the agreement with the state is a ‘fixed price’ contract, and Dartmouth-Hitchcock has only been paid by the state through January of this year,” according to the statement. “Any suggestion that Dartmouth-Hitchcock has not been completely forthcoming with the state is factually incorrect and reflects a misunderstanding that requires clarification.”

The hospital said it is “deeply troubled” by criticisms from Sununu and Meyers and requested a meeting with them.

“Consequently, we have requested a meeting with Governor Sununu and Commissioner Meyers to discuss our mutual concerns and forge a path forward,” the statement reads. “Dartmouth-Hitchcock has been, and will remain, fully committed to the care of the State’s most vulnerable citizens, and we look forward to working with interim CEO Donald Shumway in continuing to provide that care at New Hampshire Hospital.”

Yet, the controversy comes on the heels of several news reports about concerns that the state doesn’t provide enough mental health services and that waiting list times for treatment beds has also increased.

“That’s what you don’t want to happen, a discontinuation in services or a loss in quality of care,” Sununu said. “We can’t go forward trusting the word of an organization that at this point isn’t trustworthy.”

The contract with Dartmouth-Hitchcock was controversial from the start when it was signed in September 2016 and became a significant issue during the election.

Last year, Dartmouth-Hitchcock transferred from Dartmouth College’s medical school to the private hospital and a group of psychiatrists quit amid a labor contract dispute.

The Executive Council approved the contract on September 7 and two days later, Dartmouth-Hitchcock announced its intention to lay off between 270 and 460 employees. The layoff announcement took then-Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan by surprise, she said. It became a talking point for the New Hampshire Republican Party in their battle to reelect former Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte.

The NHGOP also filed right-to-know requests charging that Hassan knew about the layoff announcement before the Executive Council voted on the contract.

At the time, Sununu, who was an executive councilor and gubernatorial candidate, called to cancel the contract and rebid it. However, he was outvoted and has since not called for the contract to be rebid.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock CEO James Weinstein also announced in December that he would retire from Dartmouth-Hitchcock on June 30.

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