Official won’t be punished in Heed case

CONCORD – Gov. Craig Benson and the Executive Council signed a letter Tuesday concluding Safety Commissioner Dick Flynn should face no punishment for his behind-the-scenes part in convincing then-Attorney General Peter Heed to resign.

Benson’s office released the letter Wednesday night after councilors had left the Statehouse for the Thanksgiving holiday.

“In fairness, however, we must recognize that you spoke to Peter Heed at the behest of the governor and that there is no policy in place that would have apprised you that there was anything potentially improper about your conduct,” they wrote.

“Although hindsight suggests you should have perhaps considered the governor’s request in light of the potential effects on your official duties, we cannot conclude under the circumstances that you should face discipline for complying with that request.”

Deputy Attorney General Michael Delaney had recommended that Flynn be suspended for 30 days.

A primary reason for the sanction was that Flynn revealed to Heed some details about a criminal investigation into whether Heed had groped a female state worker on the dance floor at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods.

Delaney also found Flynn wasn’t credible in claiming he never ordered the investigation put on hold so he could urge Heed to quietly step aside.

Ultimately, Sullivan County Attorney Marc Hathaway concluded Heed committed no crime but said touching the woman on the hips was unwanted and “inappropriate.”

“Flynn’s direct involvement in a personnel matter while he also supervised a related, criminal investigation has undermined the public’s confidence in the handling of Heed’s resignation and the criminal investigation,” Delaney wrote in a report to the council last month.

The council and Benson decided Flynn’s behavior may have created the appearance of improper intrusion into the probe, but in reality it was not.

“We are convinced that the Heed investigation was conducted in the best tradition of New Hampshire law enforcement, but we are deeply concerned if the public has the slightest, reasonable doubt about the integrity of the investigation,” the councilors concluded.

Flynn’s lawyer, former Attorney General Tom Rath, said he spoke to Flynn, who was on vacation in Florida and was happy the matter was resolved.

“The action of the governor and council speaks for itself. We are pleased the matter is resolved, and Commissioner Flynn looks forward to continued service with the people of New Hampshire,’’ Rath said.

“He’s pleased it is over.”

The letter does say that Flynn made a mistake by meeting with Heed at a Northwood restaurant to strongly suggest Heed should step down in the midst of the criminal probe.

“Because of your involvement in the criminal investigation, however, your delivery of the message from the governor risked creating the impression that the criminal investigation has been politicized,” the councilors and Benson wrote.

“The risk was magnified because, at least to some degree, you relied upon your knowledge of the investigation to make your case to Peter Heed that he should resign.”

Benson left the building two hours before release of the letter and after he met with councilors in his office behind closed doors to review it in detail with the council’s privately hired lawyer for this matter, Bryan Gould.

Executive Councilor David Wheeler, a Milford Republican, said the council concluded Hathaway was incorrect in finding Flynn stopped the investigation of Heed so he could get him to resign.

State police Director Frederick Booth told Delaney that Flynn never issued any such order.

Flynn claimed he didn’t delay the probe but expressed concern to his subordinates about the overtime cost of investigating the matter.

“We therefore conclude that the weight of the evidence establishes that you did not give an order to interrupt or otherwise slow down the investigation,” the council’s letter to Flynn said.

Wheeler said the council should adopt policies that spell out when requests of department heads by the state’s chief executive should not be carried out.

“The lines aren’t clear, and the lack of a policy is something we should look at,” said Wheeler, who lost his council seat on Nov. 2 to Nashua Democrat Debora Pignatelli.