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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.”

Sununu Taps Bedford ‘Ballot Fiasco’ Lawyer for Circuit Court Judgeship

“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.