July 12. 2018 3:19PM

AG transcripts from Sanborn probe raise new questions about conduct

By DAVE SOLOMON
New Hampshire Union Leader


CONCORD — New allegations have emerged regarding inappropriate conduct by Republican state senator and congressional candidate Andy Sanborn, thanks to the release of documents associated with the Department of Justice investigation.

Last month, the Attorney General’s office cleared Sanborn of any wrongdoing in connection with an inappropriate comment made in 2013 to an intern who later got a part-time job in the Senate Clerk’s Office and an envelope with cash in it.

But the story just won’t go away.

Transcripts of interviews with former Senate Chief of Staff Jay Flanders, Senate President Chuck Morse and Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley conducted earlier this year reveal that investigators were concerned about a second incident involving Sanborn and a female Senate staffer around the same time in 2013.

In that case, Sanborn is alleged to have made an inappropriate comment about the female staffer to another male staff member.

Sanborn’s conduct was investigated by Senate counsel, outside counsel, and more recently by the Attorney General. At one point, according to the recently released transcripts, Sanborn was denied any staff assistance until he agreed to complete sexual harassment training.

The transcripts were initially released after a Right-to-Know request was filed in June by Manchester political activist Andy Martin, one of five other Republicans on the primary ballot with Sanborn. The Union Leader submitted a request of its own for the same material.

The DOJ is expected to release additional documents associated with the investigation in the weeks ahead, in response to the Right-to-Know requests.

The transcripts released on Wednesday support the DOJ conclusion that there was no effort to buy the intern’s silence with cash or a job offer, while showing the depth of concern over the matter among attorneys at the DOJ and leadership in the Senate.

Sanborn said his political enemies will not let the issue die.

“While the AG’s office is releasing transcripts of interviews, from people who by their own admission have ‘fuzzy’ memories, my memory is clear,” he said in a statement. “I have never violated any policy, never had a complaint brought against me, and never knowingly offended anyone.”

Investigation complete

The Department of Justice announced on June 5 that it had completed a criminal investigation and found no basis for allegations that the intern was provided a job and cash in return for his silence.

“The conclusion of the criminal investigation is that there is no credible evidence to substantiate these allegations,” according to Senior Assistant Attorney General Geoffrey Ward in a letter to Senate President Chuck Morse, who referred the matter to the attorney general and requested the investigation.

Ward’s letter reveals that the information was presented to a grand jury, which also decided not to proceed.

Sanborn has publicly admitted making the comment, calling it a crass joke

The comment was made in February 2013 to an intern, who later was hired on a part-time and temporary basis in the Senate Clerk’s Office in May 2013 into the fall of 2013.

Soon after the intern began working in the Senate Clerk’s office, he was given an envelope containing no more than $200, according to Flanders, although the transcripts reveal that others thought much more money changed hands.

Flanders interview

Flanders, now a political and business consultant in Sunapee, was interviewed by DOJ investigator Scott Gilbert along with Ward and Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young on March 6 of this year.

At one point, Gilbert asks Flanders, “During your tenure at the State House, how many incidents would you say that you were aware of or you experienced involving Sen. Sanborn saying or doing something that one would, should, could deem as being inappropriate in the workplace?

Flanders replies, “I have a recollection, but it’s not clear, that he made a comment to another staffer at one point that was inappropriate, but the details are fuzzy.”

Gilbert: Do you know male, female?

Flanders: Female. I believe she was a committee secretary or a legislative aide ... Her desk was up on the third floor and I don’t recall if he said something passing by her desk or said something near her desk ...It was an incident that was an inappropriate comment, but that was it and nothing went beyond that.

Ward asked if an investigation into the matter by outside counsel included the alleged incident with the female employee, to which Flanders replied: “Not to my knowledge. It was just the other comment that he made.”

Ward also questioned Flanders on “a period of time when Sen. Sanborn doesn’t have staff or isn’t assigned staff ... And what was that all about.”

Flanders responds that then-Senate President Peter Bragdon made that decision.

Denied Senate staff

Ward then refers to correspondence and emails going back and forth regarding Sanborn being required to undergo sexual harassment training, and asks, “Do you recall him getting staffers back once he had completed the requirements.”

Flanders: I don’t know about completing requirements. I remember being told to assign staff to him.

Jane Young: Isn’t that something you’d ask though. Like wait a minute, why was this guy on a staff timeout ... That’s an anomaly, that a senator doesn’t have staff.

Flanders: It was very much an anomaly.

Young said she was baffled that Flanders would not pursue the question.

Flanders: I think given this particular case and the incident and the investigation and then the review of the investigation afterward, I think I could probably connect the dots myself ... I didn’t need to have a conversation.”

Young: So you knew — you had a sense — that he wasn’t having staff because he was inappropriate with at least two members, an intern and a staff member?

Flanders: Correct

Sanborn says minor incidents from five years ago are being blown out of proportion by political enemies.

“It’s a witch-hunt, plain and simple, as is all too common in today’s world ... I understand people like to play political games, but this is plain ridiculous. I’m focused on my campaign for the people of the 1st District and that’s where I’ll stay.”

dsolomon@unionleader.com



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