Concerns Raised About Sununu Advisor Weeks Before He Was Placed On Leave

May 17, 2018

Marty Boldin speaks about Governor Sununu's Recovery Friendly Workplace initiative in mid-April.
Credit via Twitter

Marty Boldin, Gov. Chris Sununu’s top drug policy advisor, has been on paid administrative leave since the end of April.

But at least one month before that, concerns about Boldin’s behavior came to the attention of the state Department of Health and Human Services, according to interviews and an email obtained by NHPR.

Boldin — who was hired as Sununu’s Policy Advisor for Substance Misuse Prevention, Treatment and Recovery in early 2017 — was placed on leave April 26 due to what Sununu’s chief of staff described as a “potential personnel issue.”

The governor’s office also said it "immediately asked the Attorney General’s office to conduct a review" based on that potential issue. Neither the governor’s office nor the attorney general has specified the nature of the concerns that prompted that review.

In interviews with NHPR, multiple people in the state’s drug treatment and prevention field described a pattern of unwelcome, sometimes aggressive, communication from Boldin. And they said such behavior was particularly troubling given Boldin’s influence on drug policy in the state.

These sources agreed to speak to NHPR on the condition that their names not be published, as they said they fear jeopardizing their relationship with the governor’s office and other state agencies because of Boldin’s prominent position.

Boldin did not respond to a phone call and email seeking comment.

'Safety plan'

On March 22, a staffer within the Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services sent an email to senior DHHS officials reporting an incident in which Boldin allegedly “became angry” with one person who works in drug prevention for not returning his phone calls on nights and weekends. The email says the person on the receiving end of Boldin’s calls had "'volunteered' to assist with the Governor’s Recovery Friendly Workplace Initiative."

"[This person] asked Marty to remove her number from his phone and to stop calling her," the DHHS staffer wrote in the email. "When she returned to work on Monday she established a safety plan concerning Marty with her supervisor."

In the same email, the DHHS staffer reported that other providers were also "developing their own safety plans either based on current experience with Marty or fears for future experiences with him."

Boldin has been active in the state's drug prevention and recovery community for years. Before joining Sununu’s office, Boldin served on the Governor’s Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Recovery.

Boldin has served on numerous boards within the field — including Hope for New Hampshire Recovery and New Futures — and also previously worked as the Director of Youth Services for the City of Manchester.

Officials with the state health department declined to comment on the email or any concerns they’ve fielded about Boldin. NHPR has independently verified the email’s authenticity. Additionally, a provider who was at a meeting where the incident was discussed also confirmed the details described in the email.

In his first public comments about the situation, Sununu acknowledged that he had seen an email that raised concerns about Boldin’s handling of the workplace initiative. Yet it wasn't clear if it was the same email reviewed by NHPR or when those concerns came to Sununu's attention.

“The only concern that I’ve been made aware of was, as we move forward in one of our programs, Marty was having folks volunteer a little bit to help with our Recovery Friendly Workplaces, and there were some issues just in terms of the hours of that those folks that were participating in that program,” Sununu said in an interview on Wednesday. “We don’t want them, you know, burning the candle at both ends, so to say, because they had other responsibilities. That's really the only issue that I've been made aware of.”

For the governor, 'a great asset'

Representatives from three separate organizations in the prevention and recovery field also told NHPR they have instructed their staff to avoid meeting alone with Boldin — not because they feared for anyone’s physical safety, but because of other interactions with him that made staffers feel uncomfortable.

Two of those organizations said they imposed those rules in part because Boldin repeatedly called young staffers on their cell phones after work hours. One individual said she once received a string of eight calls from Boldin in one night and later blocked his number from her phone.

In an interview with NHPR on Wednesday, Sununu declined to get into details about the nature of the concerns that led his office to place Boldin on leave or to ask for a review by the attorney general.

“I’m not trying to be evasive, other than to say I think we just need to see the results of the review because there could be a lot of things out there or not out there that we know of or don’t know of,” Sununu said. “All we know is that there were concerns, and so we did the right thing, we brought it to the attorney general’s office and asked them to do a review.”

In recent weeks, an investigator with the attorney general’s office has been conducting interviews with professionals in the prevention, treatment and recovery field about their interactions with Boldin. Several people with direct knowledge of those interviews told NHPR the attorney general’s inquiry has focused in part on allegations that Boldin has engaged in intimidating and bullying behavior in his role as Sununu’s policy advisor.

While Sununu said he would reserve judgment on the pending investigation until it’s complete, he praised Boldin’s "passion for looking at outcomes and getting the best results for the people of New Hampshire on one of the most severe health crises we’ve ever had." 

"To date he’s just been a great asset in that endeavor," Sununu said Wednesday.