Bragdon clears ethics hurdle, remains state Senator and keeps $180K LGC job

CONCORD – On Monday, Jan. 27, the Legislative Ethics Committee cleared Sen. Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, of any intentional wrongdoing in accepting the $180,000-a-year job leading the former Local Government Center, including actions he took before getting the post.

The panel voted to dismiss three of the five allegations from Concord Democratic State Rep. Rik Watrous.

They voted to settle “by informal resolution” two charges that the salary as CEO of HealthTrust amounted to an illegal gift and that Bragdon knew there would be legislative issues coming up that would affect his new job.

In both those charges, the commission action states that any violation by Bragdon if one even existed at worst was “inadvertent.”

Chairman Martin Gross said an offer letter spelling out the conditions the panel will place on resolving the two pending charges will be sent to Bragdon in a week.

“There will be conditions or requirements on his part,” Gross told reporters.

“If he doesn’t voluntarily consent to those, then the next step is to go to a formal hearing process.”

On each of the five actions, the vote of the committee was unanimous, 7-0.

The votes followed roughly two hours of deliberation the panel had behind closed doors and were accompanied by no public debate.

In late October, the committee had unanimously voted to open a preliminary investigation because Chairman Gross said the group needed to receive more information from Bragdon and his lawyer, Russell Hilliard.

From the outset, Bragdon denied the accusations and insisted any inquiry would result in dismissal of the charges.

“I think the record will show I was hired to show organizational leadership and not to influence legislation,” Bragdon said last fall.

“Though anyone can file an ethics complaint against a legislator, I am confident that I have followed the pertinent laws in this matter.”

Initially, Bragdon said he would remain as Senate president while accepting this job to run an insurance risk pool that manages health care insurance coverage for local and county governments.

On Aug. 16, three days after taking the job, Bragdon changed his mind and announced he would step down as Senate president to avoid the any appearance of a conflict of interest.

The Senate replaced Bragdon as president with Salem Republican Sen. Chuck Morse.

A few weeks later on Sept. 1, the LGC completed a reorganization splitting off into three, not-for-profit corporations.

Bragdon runs the most financially lucrative one, HealthTrust Inc., that with more than $400 million in assets is one of the five, biggest risk pools for public employee health insurance in the country.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashua Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@Klandrigan).