ICYMI: Sununu’s ‘lazy,’ off-the-cuff governing has agency picks in the news for the wrong reasons

Concord, N.H. – Yesterday, Governor Sununu withdrew his nominee for Environmental Services, Peter Kujawski. This came after a poor performance at his public hearing, allegations of the governor misusing his position to offer the nominee a private sector job, and Executive Council concerns about lack of qualifications. 

Meanwhile, Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut was confirmed despite public outcry, no apparent qualifications, a failure by Governor Sununu to fulfill his legal obligation to consult the State Board of Education, and a vote of no confidence by that board. Since his confirmation, he has claimed full-day kindergarten would increase ADHD misdiagnoses, been embroiled in a controversy about the Croydon School Board, and most notably, requested legislation to give him broader power in his agency, rather than being an “implementation guy,” as he promised in his confirmation hearing.

 NHDP Chair Ray Buckley issued the following statement:

“Governor Sununu’s resistance to details and effort are coming back to bite him. Both Peter Kujawski and Frank Edelblut faced intense scrutiny about their lack of qualifications for the posts they were appointed to. Edelblut had no background in education and homeschooled his children rather than send them to the public schools he now oversees. Kujawski admitted having given very little thought to climate issues and had no environmental credentials to speak of.

It’s clear that Sununu’s failed and controversy-heavy picks stem from his unwillingness to vet or prepare his nominees. His picks have seemed more politically and personally motivated than based on any set of qualifications for the job. It’s a mystery why Sununu continues to choose unprepared and unqualified nominees to fill out his agencies, but it’s clear that Granite Staters are getting a raw deal. These agency distractions are preventing Sununu from governing effectively and perhaps they are a symptom of a larger issue that even his allies describe as ‘laziness.'”

See a roundup of coverage on Sununu’s highly controversial agency picks:

AP: Sununu drops nominee for New Hampshire environmental agency

Peter Kujawski, a Bedford businessman, faced questions last week over his lack of professional experience in environmental protection and limited understanding of the state’s environmental regulations and projects. Concerns from the five-member council prompted Sununu to withdraw the nomination, his chief of staff said.

At least one of Sununu’s fellow Republicans, Councilor Russell Prescott, planned to buck the governor because he didn’t believe Kujawski had the right background to serve in government…

It’s not the first time Sununu has faced fire over a nominee as he works to fill a number of department leadership posts. Sununu’s education nominee, Frank Edelblut, sat through a highly contentious public hearing that centered on his lack of experience in public education. Edelblut was ultimately confirmed by the council’s three Republicans, a threshold Kujawski couldn’t meet.

Democrats characterized Sununu’s appointment of Kujawski as an act of political patronage. Kujawski said he discussed a number of government posts with Sununu before being offered the environmental job. In a bizarre dustup, he told councilors Sununu even offered him a vice presidency at a private company planning to relocate to New Hampshire, a claim Sununu’s office quickly denied.

Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, suggested Sununu should look inside the department for a more qualified nominee.

“Rather than appointing the acting DES commissioner who was already doing the job, (Sununu) nominated a friend and donor who was vying for any agency nomination Sununu would hand him,” Buckley said in a statement.

Kujawski contributed $400 to Sununu’s gubernatorial campaign, records show.’

Union Leader: Sununu withdraws DES nominee Kujawski

A controversy came up when the nominee informed councilors that he and the governor discussed several openings in the new administration, as well as a position with a private company, as the Union Leader first reported Thursday. The governor’s office denied that Kujawski was offered a position with any business. A Sununu spokesman said the nominee misspoke.

After the public hearing exchange at the State House, state Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley claimed that Kujawski did not misspeak. He questioned whether the governor owned an undisclosed private company, which would allow him to offer a private-sector job to the potential nominee.

Buckley said on Monday that Kujawski was clearly unprepared for his nomination hearing, and not qualified for the job. “Rather than appointing the acting DES commissioner who was already doing the job, he nominated a friend and donor who was vying for any agency nomination Sununu would hand him,” Buckley said.

NH1: Sununu drops nomination for environmental commissioner after rocky hearing

During the hearing, Kujawski also said the DES commissioner position was one of several the governor discussed when the two met.

“DES was at the top of the list, labor was next, there was some discussion of DRED, and very little discussion of DCYF,” Kujawski told the council.

When Democratic Councilor Andru Volinsky asked him to clarify, Kujawski added that “not only that, the Governor unselfishly offered me a position as a vice-president of a company that’s moving to New Hampshire.”

“Kujawski was clearly unprepared for his nomination hearing, and his lack of environmental experience and lack of deep consideration of many issues made him unqualified for the job. Rather than appointing the acting DES commissioner who was already doing the job, he nominated a friend and donor who was vying for any agency nomination Sununu would hand him,” longtime NHDP chair Ray Buckley said in a statement.

Concord Monitor: Sununu withdraws pick for Dept. of Environmental Services commissioner

“I wanted someone more familiar with our state structure,” Prescott said. “It’s no reflection on (Kujawski’s) great resume; it’s my comfort level of having some experience with the department.”

A former Sig Sauer executive, Kujawski was short on environmental credentials. The businessman told councilors at a public hearing last week that his background managing hazardous materials in the military, business experience and time spent in the Boy Scouts were reasons he would be a good pick for the job. He told councilors he did not have enough information to take a stance on hot-button environmental issues like Northern Pass or the federal Clean Power Plan.

At a public hearing last Wednesday, councilors questioned Kujawski’s lack of environmental experience. The nominee needs approval from the five-member council. During his hearing, Kujawski also said that Sununu had offered him a position at a private company that is planning to move to New Hampshire.

“I said ‘Governor, I admire your selflessness but why would you be willing to give me up to a private company when I came here looking for a job within your administration,’ ” Kujawski said at his hearing.

A Sununu spokesman later said Kujawski had “misspoke.”

NHPR: Sununu Pulls Nomination of Pick To Lead DES

Governor Chris Sununu has decided to rescind the nomination of Peter Kujawski to be New Hampshire’s next Environmental Services Commissioner. Sununu says members of the Executive Council had concerns about Bedford businessman Peter Kujawski, who claimed during his confirmation hearing that Sununu had offered him several jobs, including one at a private company.

Union Leader: Kathy Sullivan: Experience should matter for Sununu’s commissioners

One was Peter Kujawski, Sununu’s pick to head the Department of Environmental Services. Unquestionably, Kujawski has extensive executive experience, both as a military officer and a businessman. However, none of that experience comes in the area of environmental regulation. Kujawski testified at his hearing that the governor discussed several jobs with him in addition to DES: Labor, the Department of Resources and Economic Development, and the Division of Children and Youth Services. The one he might be qualified for, DRED, is not the one Sununu offered…

Equally honest about his shortcomings was Franklin Mayor Ken Merrifield, Sununu’s nominee for Labor Commissioner. He testified that he was not going to pretend to be an expert on “all these matters,” although he has been studying since Sununu nominated him, and will continue to do so. When asked about how he came to be before the council, Merrifield continued to be candid, saying that he had hoped to become a commissioner since graduate school.

But the real controversy came when Merrifield said he wanted to stay on as mayor through October. What was Sununu thinking here? Does he think that Labor does not need a full-time commissioner? Why not appoint someone with a little more experience who could start right away?

Then there is Frank Edelblut, New Hampshire’s Betsy DeVos. With only two months of on-the-job training, Edelblut decided to re-organize the department to give himself more authority. By statute, it is the Board of Education’s responsibility to review the department’s programs and activities, and to make recommendations to the commissioner. Edelblut, however, circumvented the statutory lines of authority. He found a friendly Republican state senator, John Reagan, to introduce legislation giving Edelblut carte blanche to reorganize. In addition, Edelblut would take over the statutory responsibilities of the deputy commissioner of education. When asked why he was filing the amendment, Reagan said, “It’s a new commissioner and he’s a professional manager and this is what he wants to do…”

I do not know why Sununu thinks it is in New Hampshire’s best interest to appoint commissioners with little, if any, pertinent experience. However, if Edelblut’s controversies are a preview of what Sununu’s other unproven commissioners will do, Sununu may find these appointments are not in his own political interest.

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