Investigation Finds No Criminal Wrongdoing Around Sanborn's Comment To Intern

Jun 5, 2018

State senator and congressional candidate Andy Sanborn at Governor Sununu's State of the State address in January
Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The New Hampshire Attorney General's office revealed on Tuesday that a grand jury had been convened to look into whether a former state Senate intern received a cash payment and a job “in exchange for the intern’s silence regarding an inappropriate comment” made by Sen. Andy Sanborn.

The investigation found no criminal wrongdoing, though it did confirm that Sanborn, who is running for Congress in the state’s 1st Congressional District, made an "inappropriate comment" to an intern working for the Senate in February 2013, according to a letter outlining the state's findings. 

The investigation also confirmed that the same intern later received a cash payment from former Senate Chief of Staff Jay Flanders, as well as a “part-time, temporary” job with the Senate Clerk’s Office several months after the incident involving Sanborn.

But the investigation found “no credible evidence that there was any connection between the inappropriate comment made to the intern and the later job and cash that were provided to the intern.”

“Our investigation discovered no credible evidence that the job for which the intern was hired in the Senate Clerk’s Office or the money he was given by Mr. Flanders were a reward for declining to file a complaint against Senator Sanborn or an inducement to refrain from filing such a complaint in the future,” the letter from the attorney general's office reads.

Scroll down to read the full text of the letter outlining the investigation's findings.

Instead, state investigators were told the money paid to the intern - estimated to be less than $200 in total - was meant to help cover short-term expenses like food and gas, and that it was later paid back to Flanders.

The letter from the attorney general’s office states that “financial records were examined and there is no evidence that the money came from any public funds or from any source other than Mr. Flanders.”

Flanders declined to comment when reached by phone on Tuesday: “I have nothing more to add to this story,” he said.

The investigation also determined that the job offered to the intern was not an effort to placate him after the incident involving Sanborn.

“In addition, the evidence established that the intern later applied for a full-time position in the Senate Clerk’s Office but was not hired,” the letter reads. “Were the employment of the intern truly in exchange for his silence concerning the comment made by Senator Sanborn, it would logically follow that he would be hired to the full-time position, thus assuring his continued silence.”

An investigator with the attorney general’s office would not elaborate on the nature of Sanborn's “inappropriate comment” to the intern. Sanborn previously acknowledged that he used “crass language” toward someone in his office in early 2013 but has also declined to specify what kind of language that was.

In a statement provided by his Congressional campaign on Tuesday, Sanborn said he was not questioned as part of the investigation. The full statement reads:

"I received notice this morning that the Attorney General's office had concluded an investigation on Chief of Staff Jay Flanders and the Senate President's office on false, damaging rumors from 5 years ago. I was not involved or questioned by the AG in this matter as these alleged actions had nothing to do with me.  As expected the AG’s office did a thorough job of fully investigating it and found that no one did anything wrong. 

Sadly, this just shows the climate we are in today, where complete fiction and wild speculation leads to investigations solely for political purposes. I am pleased to see that after several attempts by my political enemies to discredit me and others, we now can finally put this issue to rest that no one involved has ever done anything wrong, violated any policy or had any complaint filed."

The attorney general’s office declined to elaborate on the scope or timing of the grand jury investigation, citing confidentiality laws.

The attorney general's office said they initiated their investigation at the request of Senate President Chuck Morse. In a statement, Morse said he and Senate Chief of Staff Kristy Merrill forwarded relevant information to the attorney general's office "as soon as" they received it. He did not specify how or when the information came to their attention. 

"We are reassured by the AG’s findings and we are confident that the process in place is effective in creating a safe environment where anyone voicing a concern will be taken seriously and treated with respect," Morse said. "It has been and will continue to be a priority to ensure that the State House is free of harassment and discrimination and that all legislators, staff, lobbyists and the public are able to focus on important issues facing our State."

Read the full text of the letter from the New Hampshire Attorney General's office:

<