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New documents deepen harassment accusations against Sanborn

  • Eddie Edwards, a Republican candidate for New Hampshire's Congressional District 1, points to a stack of transcripts released by the Attorney General's office that include accusations of harassment against his opponent, Andy Sanborn, Aug. 29, 2018. Ethan DeWitt—Ethan DeWitt

  • Sen. Andy Sanborn listens as Sen. Kelly discusses a bill; Wednesday, May 16, 2012. Sanborn says he will seek election from Bedford, where he has moved. Alexander Cohn



Monitor staff
Wednesday, August 29, 2018

A new batch of interview transcripts released by the attorney general’s office have amplified accusations of harassment by state Sen. Andy Sanborn, prompting further attacks Wednesday from his opponent in his Congressional race.

Released on Monday, the latest documents unveiled new perspectives from a number of people who worked with Sanborn in the senate, including former state senator Bob Clegg, senate clerk Tammy Wright and an unnamed aide who witnessed one of Sanborn’s comments first-hand.

The documents stem from an investigation into allegations that Senate leadership paid off an intern to coverup an inappropriate comment made by Sanborn in 2013. Earlier this year, the attorney general’s office said it had found no substantial evidence of a coverup after interviewing 18 subjects both within and outside the State House.

But a wave of redacted transcripts released in the face of media requests have shifted the spotlight to Sanborn’s conduct in the State House.

In one pivotal incident, Sanborn is said to have made crass comments about oral sex to an intern from the University of New Hampshire in 2013, an event corroborated by multiple witnesses. A female aide who worked under Sanborn has described a pattern of near-daily unwelcome comments about her appearance. And other aides made reference to an offhand sexual comment to a male aide about a female colleague.

Sanborn, a Bedford Republican, has strongly rejected the accusations of harassment, calling it a “witch hunt,” and “fake news,” borrowing lines from President Donald Trump, but has admitted to past crass behavior.

In the latest batch of transcripts, a male senate aide present for the comment about oral sex said it appeared to cross a line. While Sanborn had engaged in insensitive commentary in the past, the comment to the intern veered into a direct proposition, the aide said.

“I’ve heard joking around and just kind of inappropriate comments for sure,” the aide, whose name was redacted, said of Sanborn. “Never in the context of ‘what can I do for you, well you can do this for me.’ ”

At dispute, however, is a key detail: whether the intern was bothered by the comments.

In a newly-released interview, former Senate Journal Clerk Jessica Eskeland said the intern had told her directly about the experience shortly after the fact.

“It was not characterized as being in a joking manner,” Eskeland said of Sanborn’s comment.

But the male aide saw it differently.

“I can’t speak for (the intern) obviously, but I got the impression that he took it as a joke,” he said in his interview.

A Sanborn spokesman declined to speak at length on the latest round of documents.

“As the transcripts show, there are numerous contradictory statements and we think those contradictions speak for themselves and that no further comment is necessary at this time,” he said.

The new transcripts also reveal a years-long effort by Clegg to bring to light harassment complaints. In an interview, Clegg said he had been encouraged to file records requests after hearing accounts of staffers and senators.

“This guy’s just a – it’s a common practice for him to sexually harass people or harass people, and this one went too far,” Clegg said.

Clegg’s effort to obtain documents and bring the accusations forward were consistently denied by Rick Lehmann, senate counsel, who has cited state employee privacy exemptions, he said.

“I think what he does is a black eye upon the institution,” Clegg said of Sanborn. “So we have tried ever since we found out about it to get him out.”

The transcripts fueled fresh attack lines from Eddie Edwards, Sanborn’s Republican opponent in the race for New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District. At a press conference Wednesday, Edwards assailed Sanborn for “predatory behavior” in the State House, gesturing to a thick, printed stack of the transcripts for effect.

“Sen. Sanborn has trouble understanding that his pattern of behavior of preying on young people, female workers, young interns, is something that we reject here in New Hampshire,” Edwards said.

He added: “I’m not sure which is more embarrassing, that we have to spend thousands of dollars to rewrite a state senate sexual harassment policy because of one senator, or that you’d have to tell a state senator that that behavior is inappropriate in a workplace.”

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at edewitt@cmonitor.com, at (603) 369-3307, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)