New Hampshire Views: In New London, heads in the sand
Associate Attorney General Jane Young and Selectboard Chairwoman Christina Helm agree that allegations of sexual misconduct against former New London police chief David Seastrand are “disturbing” – just not disturbing enough to warrant either criminal prosecution or public discussion. One wonders just how egregious an apparent abuse of power must be before it is taken seriously by either the attorney general’s office or the town.
Evidently, more egregious than allegations that Seastrand offered favors to women in return for being allowed to photograph them nude. We reach this conclusion based on a recent release of documents by the attorney general’s office and the official reaction in New London to their disclosure.
Seastrand resigned last April and permanently surrendered his police credentials after a freshman at Colby-Sawyer College alleged that he had offered to drop an underage drinking charge against her if she would pose nude. She declined and brought a complaint. The attorney general’s office said it accepted the chief’s resignation and did not bring charges because it was the quickest and cleanest way to resolve the situation and protect the public. (Seastrand has not commented publicly, but the documents indicate that he characterized the woman’s account as “bull----” at the time the complaint was made.)
Thereafter, three other women came forward with similar complaints, which were detailed in a trove of documents released to the news media earlier this month by the state. The tenor of these allegations can be discerned from the account of one woman who said Seastrand suggested she could become a model if she would pose for pictures. After initially brushing off the comment, she said, she finally agreed and was taken to a secluded spot by Seastrand, who was in uniform and driving a police vehicle, where he induced her to undress and then have a sexual encounter with him.
Young announced in December that these incidents, while disturbing, did not merit prosecution because they did not “rise to the level of criminal conduct” and because they “involved actions by Seastrand in his personal capacity, and did not purport to be acts of his office.” Perhaps the decision would have been different if Seastrand had put the proposition in writing on town letterhead, but, then again, maybe not.
In an interview last week, Helm, the selectwoman, agreed with the disturbing part, but said the selectmen were intent on moving on and probably would not discuss the matter again.
Town Administrator Kimberly Hallquist joined the crowd intent on burying their heads in the sand, saying that she had not read news accounts of the allegations contained in the documents and had no intention of reading the attorney general’s report itself. “I’m not interested in it. I don’t have to read it,” she said.
Fair enough. We certainly wouldn’t want to subject her to any unpleasantness. It’s only that basic familiarity with what is alleged might prepare her to answer this question: whether any lapses in oversight of the police department permitted conditions to arise that might be implicated in official misconduct.
We’re just thinking New London’s political and administrative officers might want to review that question before they find themselves obliged to answer it, say, in the course of defending a lawsuit.