Democrats Raise Ethics Questions Over O’Brien Mileage Spending

Brian Ng / Flickr

Is it an ethical violation for the Speaker of the House to break a mileage policy he set?

A spot of ethical controversy is brewing at the statehouse over austerity measures designed to curb politicians’ spending.  Kevin Landrigan at reports:

“State Democratic leaders were livid Tuesday at learning House Republican lawmakers got paid mileage to see behind-closed-doors proposals for redistricting the entire, 400-person House of Representatives.

The Lobby confirmed that House Speaker William O’Brien offered mileage to members who attended redistricting sessions Friday and Monday despite a House policy against paying mileage on the first and last day of the work week to save money.”

And, Landrigan reports, the controversy is tied, at least in part, to taxpayer money:

“Harrell Kirstein, spokesman for the NH Democratic Party, said the mileage could have cost as much as $20,000 and could even represent breaking an ethics rule.

‘Once again we see how out of touch Speaker O’Brien really is, using public money to fund a private political meeting in Concord,” Kirstein said. ‘This is a reckless and ethically questionable waste of $20,000 in taxpayer money and the people of New Hampshire deserve a refund.'”

But Landrigan writes House Information Officer Shannon Shutts has a different take:

“[She] stressed the edict on mileage is the speaker’s own policy and this instance does not represent the violation of any binding rule or regulation

‘I wouldn’t say so since the austerity measure was the Speaker’s decision in the first place…it wasn’t a rule or regulation per se, so I don’t think he could be said to be in ‘violation’ of anything,’ Shutts said. ‘The Speaker felt it was important for Committee Chairman Paul Mirski to be able to hold those caucuses to get input from the members, and Friday and Monday were the only days that worked scheduling wise.'”

Landrigan’s report wraps-up with a note about another layer of controversy surrounding this issue–the redistricting itself:

“State Democratic leaders were upset to learn Tuesday that the House GOP redistricting plan was still subject to change and would not be revealed in advance of a subcommittee meeting this Thursday.

‘Democrats on the committee expected the Republican leadership plan to be presented today. Instead, we are told the plan still is not ready. That gives the public only 24 hours to analyze the plan, see how it affects them, and prepare comments for public testimony the next day,’ said Barrington Democratic Rep. Bob Perry.”

The whole piece goes into greater depth and is well worth the read.  You can check it out here.



About StateImpact

StateImpact seeks to inform and engage local communities with broadcast and online news focused on how state government decisions affect your lives.
Learn More »