Ethics Panel Dismisses Complaint Against Sununu Over Waterville Twitter Selfie

May 10, 2017

Credit @GovChrisSununu

A state ethics panel says it's possible Governor Chris Sununu violated ethics rules when he promoted his family’s ski resort from his gubernatorial Twitter account. But the committee says it won’t investigate the issue further — and is taking issue with the New Hampshire Democratic Party for making its complaint about Sununu’s tweet public in the first place.

The Democrats' complaint stemmed from a selfie posted to Sununu’s Twitter account (@GovChris Sununu), which read: “Best ski day! Great to be back at @waterville enjoying the best snow NH has to offer. Everyone should be in the white mountains this weekend.”

The Executive Branch Ethics Committee, in a closed-door meeting on April 24, decided any violation that might have taken place was inadvertent or minimal in nature, and that the issue was “addressed by informal methods.”

Neither the committee nor the governor's office is elaborating on what those “informal methods” entailed.

"The Governor takes the Ethics Code very seriously, and both he and his staff have and will continue to maintain the highest ethical standards while working to preserve, promote and grow New Hampshire’s tourism industry," gubernatorial spokesman Michael Todd said in an email Thursday.

Much of the committee's response to the Democratic party's complaint was spent rebuking the party for publicizing its complaint with the media before the committee could review it.

“If the Committee determines that the complaint is within its jurisdiction and may have merit, the complaint will become public,” writes committee Chairman Joseph DiBrigida, “but the statute allows for an initial confidential screening process to weed out complaints that are ‘frivolous, scurrilous, retaliatory in nature’ or clearly without merit.”

Most of the ethics committee’s work is kept secret, because of the confidentiality provisions written into the law and because the committee has almost always opted to dismiss complaints at the first stage of its review.

Of the 46 complaints filed since the ethics committee launched in 2006, all but two have been dismissed without any additional investigation. The two complaints that did proceed were ultimately dismissed before reaching the phase of a public hearing.