By BEN LEUBSDORF,
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
State Senate President Peter Bragdon is taking over the Local Government Center, which has been locked in a years-long legal battle with state regulators that’s now pending before the Supreme Court.
The Concord-based LGC, which operates public risk pools that provide insurance coverage to New Hampshire governments, announced this morning that Bragdon, a Milford Republican, will be hired today as the group’s executive director on a one-year contract.
“We are truly excited that Mr. Bragdon has agreed to join our team. His strong management, organizational and people skills will be instrumental in guiding the LGC and its risk pools into the future,” said Tom Enright, chairman of the LGC’s board, in a statement.
Bragdon said he starts his new job tomorrow, but doesn’t plan to resign from the Senate or step down as its president. He said he sees “no conflict” in the two roles “above and beyond the typical conflicts you have with volunteer senators who are employed elsewhere.”
Bragdon, 50, is serving his fifth term in the Senate. He worked from 2004 to 2006 in the insurance industry as operations manager at Comp-Sigma Limited in Concord, a third-party administrator for self-insured workers’ compensation trusts.
Bragdon said he began talking to the LGC about the job less than a month ago; “It kind of came out of the blue. . . . They didn’t plan it. I didn’t plan it. We just happened to bump into each other.”
He replaces George Bald, the former state commissioner of resources and economic development, who took over in February as interim executive director after the LGC’s board ousted Executive Director Maura Carroll.
The LGC has been at odds for years with its regulator, the Bureau of Securities Regulation. Bald announced yesterday that the LGC, after failing to reach a settlement with the bureau, will continue its appeal to the Supreme Court of an August 2012 administrative hearing order that required it to reorganize and return improperly retained surplus money to its members.
A legislative study committee was appointed this summer to review potential changes to the state law that regulates the LGC, RSA 5-B. Bragdon said he appointed Sen. Jeanie Forrester, a Meredith Republican, to that panel before he began talking to the LGC about the executive director job.
“Obviously I would stay away from that,” Bragdon said, “and most likely if there were legislation that came from that, I would recuse myself from voting.”
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News of Bragdon’s hiring wasn’t well received at the Bureau of Securities Regulation, the state agency that regulates the LGC.
“The idea that the executive director of the largest health insurer in the state would also be the Senate president, who controls the agenda and docket for the New Hampshire Senate, shows disrespect both for the institution of the Senate and the members of the LGC,” said Andru Volinsky, the bureau’s special counsel, in an interview. “It’s problematic in any number of ways. …George Bald worked mightily to introduce the concept of transparency to the LGC, and with this single announcement the LGC makes clear that they absolutely reject that and intentionally have been opaque in their selection process, in their nomination process of Mr. Bragdon. They had six months during Mr. Bald’s interim executive directorship to conduct a national search, find somebody who could lead a half-billion-dollar health insurer based on that persons’ ability … and the best they could do was the Senate president?”
Volinsky added, “I think it’s in the category of ‘same old, same old.’”