By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – Current and past employees of the state Fish and Game Department are circulating a letter of support for longtime executive director Glenn Normandeau hoping to save his job.
They plan to send the letter signed by supporters to the 11-member New Hampshire Fish and Game Commission before its November meeting hoping commissioners will reconsider their decision to not reappoint Normandeau for another four-year term.
The letter says Normandeau has been an excellent leader for the past 12 years and the signers appreciate that he listens to all staff to better understand and support the work they do for the state’s fish and wildlife.
“The signers believe he is a well-rounded and administratively effective director who has the ability to continue to address challenges faced by the department now and into the future,” said an employee who asked not to be identified.
The Fish and Game Commission made its decision in executive session to not reappoint Normandeau at its September meeting and sealed the minutes. Normandeau’s term expires on March 31, 2020.
State Sen. Dan Feltes, D-Concord, a gubernatorial candidate, and InDepthNH.org each filed a right-to-know request to obtain any and all records relating to Normandeau’s reappointment, but they haven’t been released yet.
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said again Monday that it was the Fish and Game Commission’s call to not support a fourth, four-year term for Normandeau, adding he has always had good dealings with Normandeau.
State law is clear that the Fish and Game Commission nominates the executive director, not the governor.
Sununu’s spokesman Ben Vihstadt reiterated that the decision not to reappoint Normandeau was the Fish and Game Commission’s, not the governor.
“The decision was wholly theirs, and Governor Sununu had absolutely no role in the process and was not present at the closed door meeting where it was conveyed that the decision to not reappoint Director Normandeau was made.
“Any insinuation otherwise is baseless and without merit,” Vihstadt said.
Normandeau’s conversations with Sununu at the Executive Council meetings is often a bright and funny spot to the day as the governor calls on various department heads.
A typical back and forth: Gov. Sununu asks: “How’s the fish?”
Normandeau responds: “Fine.”
Sununu: “How’s the game?”
Other times, the banter is more serious.
Feltes is awaiting a response to his right-to-know request to find out what was behind the commission’s decision by unsealing the minutes.
Christopher G. Aslin, senior assistant attorney general for the Environmental Bureau, wrote to Feltes on Oct. 17 stating it would take an “additional five days” to gather all materials to produce the records.
Feltes said, “This is yet further evidence that this is
the least transparent administration in recent New Hampshire history.”
Feltes said there are real victims here and a cloud of smoke as to what happened.
“These are good people, dedicated and hard-working public servants and their families who are being impacted by Governor Sununu’s decisions without any public explanations. That’s not fair to them and their families,” Feltes said in an email.
Of the 11 seats on that board, Sununu has nominated and the Executive Council has confirmed all but two of those appointments.
Feltes said he has a number of concerns about the situation.
One is transparency, he said.
“It’s troubling that Governor Sununu, behind closed doors, continues to push out good people to stack agencies with personal, well-connected friends. We need transparency from our elected leaders, whether it’s nominations and commissions or campaign finance and out-of-state travel, Granite Staters deserve to know what’s going on,” Feltes said.
Normandeau told the commissioners at the Oct. 9 meeting that he wasn’t pleased to hear they weren’t going to reappoint him from the governor.
At the Owl Brook Hunter Education Center meeting in Holderness, Normandeau said he was most upset that they did not talk to him about their concerns or give him an opportunity to respond.
Normandeau said he was “blindsided.”
Chairman Robert “Moose” Phillipson of Cheshire County, said the governor requested that they not talk to him about the matter until “it was all over” and that the decision to let him leave the department at the end of his term in March was made when Normandeau met with the governor.
The commission set up a search committee for a new executive director headed by Commissioner Eric Stohl of Coos County to find a replacement.
Normandeau was a Seacoast commissioner before taking the post in 2008 and his dad was a commissioner before he was. He was a commercial fisherman out of Portsmouth from 1984 to 1990 and prior to that, was a field supervisor in water quality issues for Normandeau Associates of Bedford.
The commissioners are Paul Debow of Grafton County, Bruce Temple of Sullivan County, Fred Bird of Strafford County, Paul McInnis, of the Seacoast, Christopher Hodgdon of Merrimack County, Christina Luppi of Rockingham County, David Patch of Carroll County, Eric Stohl of Coos County, Ray Green of Hillsborough County, and Marc LaChance of Belknap County and Robert Phillipson of Cheshire County who is serving now as chairman.