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Dave Solomon's State House Dome: Morse fires back at Sanborn

August 25. 2018 11:36PM

You can add Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, to the list of senators taking issue with Sen. Andy Sanborn's allegation that investigations into his inappropriate behavior at the State House have been politically motivated.

Sanborn has been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing and no one has ever filed a formal complaint against the senator, who's now running in the Republican primary for the 1st District Congressional seat.

When asked in a recent interview why a fellow Republican like Morse would initiate two separate investigations, Sanborn said, "When you stand up to people and get in the way of them getting what they want, there is often retaliation. I fought against Medicaid expansion; I fought against the budget . all these things they wanted and advocated for that I didn't want. That's politics."

Former state Sen. Jeanie Forrester, who recently stepped down as head of the state Republican Party, said last week that the investigations had nothing to do with politics and everything to do with Sanborn's behavior, and his unwillingness to admit it was wrong.

Morse said he initiated the first investigation by outside attorneys into Sanborn's off-color comment to an intern soon after the incident was brought to his attention in 2013, and conferred with the attorney general on the matter when new information came to light earlier this year.

"The reality is that the incident was reported to us about money changing hands," said Morse in an interview with the Union Leader. "When that happened, it was certainly something we didn't believe that we could pursue within our office. So we asked the Department of Justice for their opinion and they believed it should be investigated, and that's exactly what happened."

The investigation determined there was no conspiracy to buy the intern's silence through money or job offers, but it continues to plague Sanborn's campaign as transcripts from the investigative interviews are released in dribs and drabs. There have been three releases so far, as part of multiple Right-to-Know requests, and more may be coming.

While the controversy hasn't helped Sanborn's campaign, it has improved conditions for reporting sexual harassment at the State House, according to Morse.

Policies were changed as a result of the first investigation in 2013, which Morse believes contributed to the new information coming forward in 2018.

"The reality of the whole thing is it made for a better system for reporting, and made everyone aware of what's acceptable and not acceptable," he said. "It was just recently that it was brought to our attention that money changed hands, and I think it's because employees feel comfortable coming forward now."

Forrester's new gig

The former GOP chair was in the news for another reason last week - her appointment on Thursday night by Tilton selectmen as the town's new administrator.

She plans to continue living in Meredith as she takes the reins at Tilton Town Hall.

"I'm coming full circle to where I started from," says the former gubernatorial candidate and chair of the Senate Finance Committee, who was an administrator in New Durham and Tuftonboro before beginning her Senate career in 2011.

As a state senator, Forrester says she regularly visited select boards in each of the 27 communities in her district, which include Tilton. "So I got to know the town very well," she said.

Premature promotion?

Vail Resorts has already begun to promote the Mount Sunapee Ski Resort as part of its Vail Epic Pass, which offers four days of skiing at any one of the companies 11 resorts. That doesn't sit well with New Hampshire officials, who have yet to sign off on the lease for the state-owned property.

Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, D-Concord, pointed that out to Sarah Stewart, commissioner of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, at Wednesday's council meeting.

Stewart said she would raise the matter immediately with Vail officials. "It's a little concerning to me, because we are doing the due diligence to make a decision," she said. "It's a process we are taking very seriously."

Liz Biebl, director of communications for Vail Resorts, said all the necessary disclosures are in the fine print. "It's important to note that with any acquisition, we always caveat materials, websites, etc. to note that full access is contingent upon acquisition closing," she said.

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