Sununu withdraws pick for Dept. of Environmental Services commissioner

  • Name hereGov. Chris Sununu talks to members of the press the afternoon after the House Finance Committee's proposed budget failed to pass at the State House in Concord on April 5, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

Monitor staff
Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu announced Monday he withdrew his pick for commissioner of the Department of Environmental Services, citing “concerns” from the state’s Executive Council.

Both Democrat Andru Volinsky and Republican Russell Prescott said they couldn’t back the nominee, Bedford businessman Peter Kujawski, citing his lack of experience.

“I wanted someone more familiar with our state structure,” Prescott said. “It’s no reflection on (Kujawski’s) great resume; it’s my comfort level of having some experience with the department.”

A former Sig Sauer executive, Kujawski was short on environmental credentials. The businessman told councilors at a public hearing last week that his background managing hazardous materials in the military, business experience and time spent in the Boy Scouts were reasons he would be a good pick for the job. He told councilors he did not have enough information to take a stance on hot-button environmental issues like Northern Pass or the federal Clean Power Plan.

Volinsky of Concord called Sununu’s choice to withdraw Kujawski “prudent.”

“I hope we will be given a nominee with deep experience in the environmental area,” he said.

Sununu’s chief of staff Jayne Millerick released a one-sentence statement Monday, saying, “After speaking with the Executive Councilors and hearing their concerns, Governor Sununu will not bring forward Peter Kujawski for confirmation as Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Services.”

Sununu has not yet indicated when a new nominee for DES commissioner will be put forward. Former commissioner Tom Burack announced his plans to retire last year and Assistant Commissioner Clark Freise is the acting department head.

At a public hearing last Wednesday, councilors questioned Kujawski’s lack of environmental experience. The nominee needs approval from the five-member council. During his hearing, Kujawski also said that Sununu had offered him a position at a private company that is planning to move to New Hampshire.

“I said ‘Governor, I admire your selflessness but why would you be willing to give me up to a private company when I came here looking for a job within your administration,’ ” Kujawski said at his hearing.

A Sununu spokesman later said Kujawski had “misspoke.”

“The Governor has had several broad conversations about whether Mr. Kujawski’s talents are best utilized in the public or private sectors in a variety of different roles,” former Sununu spokesman Dave Abrams wrote in a statement. “Ultimately, the Governor decided that Mr. Kujawski’s skills best serve the Department of Environmental Services.”

Kujawski did not return a request for comment.

(Allie Morris contributed to this report. Ella Nilsen can be reached at 369-3322, enilsen@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @ella_nilsen.)