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My Turn: Attorney general refuses to take responsibility

Do the words responsibility, accountability or integrity have any place in state government anymore? It appears not, at least with regard to the attorney general. The latest black eye to that office comes from a recent report investigating the Greenland shootings. Despite detailed criticism, Attorney General Michael Delaney once again refused to acknowledge any fault of himself or his agency.

Delaney said the Greenland report wasn’t to assess responsibility or blame. Really? The shooter is ultimately responsible, but this office’s pattern of sculpting the truth or refusing to take meaningful responsibility for its own management mistakes is a repeated fault, and it’s time for a change in leadership.

As in the Financial Resources Mortgage scandal, the attorney general’s office was more concerned with covering up its own shortcomings than in getting at the truth or holding anyone accountable. In the FRM case, hundreds fell prey to the largest Ponzi type scheme in New Hampshire history. As an FRM victim, I saw firsthand the consequences of colossal government failure: bankruptcies, divorces, even two suicides. Scott Farah, now in federal prison, bears ultimate responsibility for this crime, yet he was able to operate with impunity for decades thanks to the attorney general’s office, which ignored numerous complaints over that period. This information was kept from the public, as well as six audits conducted and ignored by the Banking Department, which uncovered more than 70 violations of state and federal law over the years.

Two years ago, Delaney hired a Boston-based law firm for more than $75,000 to review state agency responsibility concerning FRM. However, his office and its legal counsel did not review any FRM loan documents or meet with any victims but proceeded to assign blame in the matter. Without assuming any real responsibility, the AG found a scapegoat in the New Hampshire Securities Bureau when it refused to be part of a cover-up of the AG and Banking Department failings. A bankruptcy court later ruled that FRM had nothing to do with securities. It would appear from a close examination of all the now-known facts about FRM that Delaney’s sole mission was to shore up any political blow-back to himself, former governor John Lynch, and U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, the former attorney general.

We can only hope Gov. Maggie Hassan moves beyond the Greenland and FRM debacles by appointing an attorney general who views him- or herself as the chief law enforcement official of all of New Hampshire and not just as an extension of the office of the governor so as to manage and control the political damage of the moment. Delaney recently labeled many of those seeking information concerning the inner workings of state government as “mavericks and gadflies.” People deserve to know the truth about government, which goes beyond the sound bites of an office with political overtones. Is that too much to ask?

(Peter Martino lives in Epsom.)

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