CONCORD, N.H. (CN) — Railing against political gamesmanship in a new lawsuit, New Hampshire Republicans say the governor's election concerns are keeping it in the dark about a $37 million contract.
Facing the end of her two-year term, Gov. Maggie Hassan is vying for a seat on the U.S. Senate against incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte.
The New Hampshire Republican State Committee claims in court that "political, not legal reasons," caused Hassan's office to heavily redact the documents she and other agencies released in connection to a request the group made under the state's Right-to-Know Law.
"Political games are not recognized by RSA 91-A as a reason to deny relevant information to the public," the complaint states, filed on Oct. 24 in Merrimack Superior Court.
The Republicans say they are interested in how the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center won a $37 million contract to provide psychiatric services at the New Hampshire Hospital, a state government agency.
On Sept. 9, Just two days after the contract was approved, Dartmouth-Hitchcock announced they layoffs of 270-460 staffers, local ABC News affiliate WMUR Channel 9 reported.
In its lawsuit, the GOP says the records it received had redactions blacking out "almost 100 pages of information that may reflect negatively on state government."
Since the state did not provide an index of what it redacted, the GOP says it also "has no idea what the scores of pages fully blocked out even relate to."
As one example of excessive redaction, the complaint notes the blacking-out of the email address of "Frank McDougall who was asking a 'favor' to get face and photo time with the governor."
McDougall, according to the complaint, is Dartmouth-Hitchcock's vice president of government relations and "their top lobbyist."
New Hampshire GOP Chair Jennifer Horn criticized the governor's office for not releasing more information sooner.
"It is clear that she is trying to hide these records until after the election so as not to cripple her flailing campaign for the United States Senate," Horn said in a statement. "Granite Staters have a right to know if the bidding process was rigged to benefit the governor's campaign donors. They have a right to know how much money they are being forced to spend to fund the governors out-of-state travel to political fundraisers. And they have a right to see these records before the election."
The governor's office dismissed the lawsuit as a political ploy.
"This is nothing more than a blatant political stunt, filed literally two weeks before the election," spokesman William Hinkle said in a statement. "The governor's office has been timely and responsive to right-to-know requests in accordance with the state constitution, and the governor voluntarily provides the media and the Republican Party with a list of her political travel on a monthly basis. This is merely a frivolous and obvious political ploy during the height of election season."
WMUR reported Judge Richard McNamara ordered Hassan's office and state agencies to produce the log of emails and other communications that were heavily redacted or withheld under executive privilege.
Production of that log on Nov. 4 caused Republicans to claim that Hassan had advance knowledge of the layoffs.
To prove otherwise, however, Hassan waived executive privilege on Saturday to produce an email and text message.
The revelation did little, however, to sway Charles Douglas, a former state Supreme Court justice and congressman, who represents the party in the litigation.
"It seems that we have our own email scandal going on here," Douglas told WMUR.com on Saturday. "We are bringing the Hillary Clinton scandal full circle to New Hampshire with the privilege log catching people in lies about what they knew and when they knew it."
Douglas is an attorney with Douglas, Leonard & Garvey.
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