The New Hampshire Republican Party filed a lawsuit in Merrimack Superior Court on Monday, largely in response to Governor Maggie Hassan’s office redacting and withholding portions of documents regarding details of the state’s 3-year, $36.5 million contract with Dartmouth-Hitchcock to manage New Hampshire Hospital.
“At issue are Right-To-Know requests the NHGOP has made seeking information on several scandals plaguing Hassan, including the governor’s use of taxpayer dollars for her security detail when she attends out-of-state fundraisers and the apparent collusion and bid-rigging involving the recent Dartmouth-Hitchcock contract,” reads the statement from the NH GOP.
As previously reported, the multi-million dollar contract, approved by the New Hampshire Executive Council in September, has become subjected to increasing scrutiny including reported concerns about Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s ability to properly manage the hospital: when Dartmouth College handed control of New Hampshire Hospital to Dartmouth-Hitchcock, a labor disagreement between New Hampshire Hospital practitioners and Dartmouth-Hitchcock ensued which led to 12 of the practitioners leaving New Hampshire Hospital, adding to stability concerns.
The NH GOP later filed a 91-A right-to-know request of documents related to the contract’s details. Among the records released were emails indicating that David Folks, the chief medical officer of New Hampshire Hospital as well as a Dartmouth College employee, provided input to employees of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services while the agency was creating its draft proposal. Earlier this year, members of the Concerned Psychiatric Professionals of New Hampshire Hospital alleged to the Executive Council that Folks and New Hampshire Hospital’s Assistant Medical Officer Alex de Nesnera worked on the request for proposal (RFP) as well as Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s bid.
One email in particular from January 28 shows Folks informing two NH HHS employees that he had made additions to the RFP.
Regardless of Folks’ or de Nesnera’s level of involvement in the process, HHS Commissioner Jeffrey Meyers declared to the Executive Council that no such involvement took place and that the proposal drafting process was entirely internal. “It was not written by anybody outside the department. I want to state emphatically at no time do we let anybody outside the department (of Health and Human Services) write an RFP that we then issue. That’s not accepted practice and business is not done that way,” Meyers said to the Council.
The NH GOP is at odds with the governor’s office over document redactions and omissions. While the Department of Health and Human Services and governor’s office handed over a substantial number of records, many of them were redacted and some records were simply withheld due to “executive privilege.”
While it’s well-known that the governor receives exemption from right-to-know requests, the NH GOP believes that the redactions and omissions are not justified or sufficiently explained. “With an election only a few days away, the petitioner believes that the redacted or blocked out pages were made for political, not legal reasons. In fact, no privilege log or Vaughan index was ever provided, so the petitioner has no idea what the scores of pages fully blocked out even relate to,” read the lawsuit.
According to the Concord Monitor, Hassan’s spokesperson, William Hinkle, maintained that “The governor’s office has been timely and responsive to right-to-know requests in accordance with the state Constitution.”
The NH GOP’s lawsuit requests the disclosure of the omissions made by the governor’s office. To see more details of the suit, click here.