Dartmouth-Hitchcock Layoffs Spark Blame Game in Governor's Race

Sep 12, 2016

Credit Allison Quantz for NHPR

Two Republican candidates for governor are calling on the state to tear up a recently-approved, $36.5 million contract with Dartmouth Hitchcock, following the hospital's announcement it will lay off hundreds of workers.

Manchester May Ted Gatsas and Executive Councilor Chris Sununu say the state should cancel the contract and put it out for another bid.

"It's clear that the staffing deal with Dartmouth Hitchcock is a bad bet for New Hampshire, and the governor and Executive Council should immediately give notice of their intention to cancel it and rebid the contract," Gatsas said in a statement.

"The job of the Executive Council is to serve as a watchdog and thoroughly scrutinize all state contracts. Councilors Chris Sununu and Colin Van Ostern clearly failed to provide appropriate oversight and let New Hampshire by caving into pressure from Governor Hassan to rubber stamp this disastrous contract," Gatsas added.

Sununu and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Colin Van Ostern were two of five councilors last week who voted unanimously in favor of the contract for Dartmouth Hitchcock to manage the state's psychiatric hospital over the next three years.

Two days later, the hospital announced plans to lay off up to 460 employees.

Sununu says that information was withheld when the council took its vote last week, and, in a statement, reiterated his "strong concerns about the state doing business with any organization that withholds such important information over a public contract."

"Counilor Sununu has called for a rebid of the contract since June and continues that call today," according to the statement. 

Republican gubernatorial candidates Jeannie Forrester and Frank Edelblut also expressed concern about the deal. 

"I would call all parties to the governor's office immediately and determine if there was any wrongdoing in the contract process," Forrester said in a statement. "Regardless, Gov. Hassan and councilors Sununu and Van Ostern didn't do their homework."

"This is no way to govern," Edelblut added in a statement. "The announced layoffs by Dartmouth-Hitchcock will be an economic hardship on many New Hampshire families, and friends and neighbors should rally to help those affected."

Van Ostern called news of the layoffs troubling, but said Dartmouth-Hitchcock must still meet the obligations of its contract with the state.

A spokesperson for Governor Maggie Hassan released a statement, saying, "The upcoming layoffs are troubling news, but Dartmouth-Hitchcock has said it won't impact the state contract, and the state will make sure that's the case."

The state has 30 days to cancel the contract for any reason.