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Ethics committee questions Bragdon’s Medicaid votes

The Legislative Ethics Committee yesterday asked Sen. Peter Bragdon for additional information about his November votes on Medicaid expansion given his role as executive director of the Local Government Center, which handles insurance for municipalities.

Bragdon, a Milford Republican, has until Jan. 22 to explain why he acknowledged a potential conflict of interest with the Medicaid expansion bills but voted on them anyway given that he has previously told the committee he would not vote on matters concerning LGC insurance matters.

Reached yesterday evening, Bragdon said he does not believe there is a conflict of interest between his professional work and his legislative duties but flagged the matter because his dual role is the subject of an ethics committee investigation.

“Medicaid expansion was a bill to provide medical insurance coverage for people lacking (coverage),” Bragdon said. “My company provides medical insurance coverage. There is no conflict with people who don’t have (coverage) because my customers do have (coverage.)”

The ethics committee has been investigating Bragdon since October, after Rep. Rick Watrous, a Concord Democrat, filed a complaint against Bragdon. At the time, Bragdon was president of the state Senate, and Watrous alleged Bragdon had violated state law and ethics rules by taking a job at the LGC when the LGC had “so much financial and legal business before the state.”

Bragdon stepped down as president but held onto his Senate seat. In November, before voting on Medicaid expansion, Bragdon filed a “Declaration of Intent” with the Senate clerk’s office saying he would be voting on Medicaid expansion even though he had a financial interest in “a company involved in the medical insurance field.”

During the Senate session that day, Bragdon followed Senate rules by flagging his potential conflict of interest before taking each vote.

Watrous learned of those votes and Bragdon’s Declaration of Intent on Friday and brought both to the attention of the Legislative Ethics Committee yesterday. Bragdon said he filed that paperwork “just to be super safe” as the ethics committee investigates Watrous’s complaint. “I didn’t think it was conflict but since there are going to be those who accuse me of violating ethic rules every time something happens, I thought I should file it.”

Reached yesterday, Watrous said he could not articulate a connection between Medicaid expansion and Bragdon’s work at the LGC. But he said it was enough that Bragdon filed an affidavit with the ethics committee before those November votes saying he would recuse himself from matters related specifically to LGC’s Health Trust or insurance risk pools.

In a letter to Bragdon and his attorney yesterday, Ethics Committee Chairman Martin Gross asked Bragdon to explain how his votes “square” with his affidavit vowing to recuse himself from Health Trust and insurance pools.

Gross also asked Bragdon to explain why he didn’t fill out the entire Declaration of Intent form. Bragdon left blank sections asking about “public or private entities affected,” “nature of benefit to the legislator” and “nature of relationship between legislator and any affected person or entity.”

Bragdon said he filled out the form the way other senators have – filling in the spaces that were appropriate. He said he looked at close to 100 other forms before filling out his and almost none had every section filled in. And the form did not say all sections had to be filled in, he said.

“To the best of my knowledge, the form was filled out correctly.”

In its letter to Bragdon, the ethics committee also indicated for the first time that it would meet Jan. 27 to consider “what procedural course should be followed based on its preliminary investigation.”

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