David Scanlan: Claims about secretary of state’s office ‘misleading and reckless’

  • Bill Gardner AP

For the Monitor
Published: 10/2/2018 12:04:20 AM

In a Sept. 22 column in the Concord Monitor, Colin Van Ostern cites a thoroughly vetted and discredited audit of the Department of State that is more than a decade old to justify his latest criticism. He goes on to make the ridiculous claim that, “New Hampshire’s secretary of state has traditionally resisted accountability to legislators and the public.”

That statement is simply not true, and Van Ostern should know it.

He has repeatedly been making misleading and reckless claims about the Department of State, and then immediately following up with fundraising requests. That fact says a lot about his motivation.

In terms of accountability, the secretary of state is elected by ballot, as the constitution requires, by the members of the House and Senate in Joint Convention every two years. All department heads in state government who are appointed and confirmed by the governor and council serve four- or five-year terms. The members of the House and Senate can replace the secretary of state at the end of a two-year term. Secretary of State Gardner has been elected to the position 21 times, which is a strong testament to his performance on the job and his integrity.

Like all state agencies, the Department of State operates within a two-year budget that is approved and passed by the state Legislature. It uses the state financial system to report its revenue and expenses, and this information can be viewed online on the state of New Hampshire transparency website known as “Transparent N.H.”

Within the last year and a half, an audit was conducted of the department’s use of federal Help America Vote Act funds, and the result determined proper administration of the funds with only four minor findings.

Additionally, the Department of State during the current biennium has fielded dozens of requests made under the right-to-know law along with hundreds of informal requests for information. All of these requests are answered in compliance with state statutes. The only time the department withholds information is upon the advice of state attorneys, and is typically done to protect the personal and private information of New Hampshire citizens

Secretary of State Bill Gardner has an open-door policy in his office, and the level of access for legislators and others is unprecedented in state government. The office is run without regard to party affiliation, and every person, whether it be a member of the general public or a legislator, who walks through the door of the office is treated with the same level of respect and service.

To suggest the current secretary of state believes, in any way, that he is not accountable to the Legislature or the public is just not based in reality.

(David Scanlan of Bow serves as deputy secretary of state.)

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