ICYMI: Chris Sununu Awards Millions in No-Bid, Government Contracts to Political Allies, Again Using Taxpayer Dollars For Political Kickbacks
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu is at it again – using taxpayer dollars as his own personal slush fund. Sununu appears to be taking his cues from President Trump – who has awarded government contracts and allocated important resources to his own political allies again and again and again. Sununu is clearly proving he is a “Trump guy through and through.”
On Wednesday, Sununu’s administration gave two no-bid contracts totaling millions of dollars to longtime GOP donor and former NH Republican Party Chairman Steve Duprey. Just a few weeks ago, Duprey hosted a high-dollar fundraiser for Sununu.
Sununu has come under fire before for using his office to grant contracts to Duprey’s businesses. Back in May, Sununu awarded Duprey’s hotel a $453,599 contract using COVID-19 relief funding, (the contract is now valued at over $1 million). An investigation by NHPR found that Sununu had “authorized several no-bid, retroactive deals worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to political benefactors, without the traditional outside approval.”
Even New Hampshire Republicans were skeptical of Sununu’s use of taxpayer funds. Republican Councilor Ted Gatsas expressed concern over Duprey’s contract.
Read more about Sununu’s kickbacks to his political allies below:
With some saying they were voting “reluctantly,” the Executive Council approved a contract Wednesday to enter a retroactive 10-year lease for space for the Office of Professional Licensure and Certification with 7 Eagle Square LLC, Concord.
The deal is for approximately 16,247 square feet of space in Concord through 2030 for $3,715,709. The name of the property owner wasn’t mentioned at the Executive Council meeting even after Councilor Andru Volinsky, D-Concord, asked, but Steve Duprey, one of the city’s most prominent landlords, said after the meeting that he and John Chorlian own 7 Eagle Square, LLC.
Duprey, a supporter of Republican Gov. Chris Sununu who also obtained a no-bid contract to rent his Grappone Conference Center to the state to house contact tracers during the pandemic, said his business was located at the site using 11,000 square feet and another 5,000 square feet was unrented when the state approached his business looking for a large space that they needed very quickly.
At the meeting earlier in the day, some councilors raised questions about the deal.
But they were told it was part of a chain reaction prompted by a mental health boarding crisis that the state is trying to work through, which for years has meant those in need of care were being warehoused in hospital emergency rooms until a room could become available at the New Hampshire Hospital, the state’s psychiatric hospital.
Councilor Russell Prescott, R-Kingston, moved to pass the measure, but said he could not understand why others were not voting to second it.
Not approving the lease would continue a housing crisis for the mentally ill, Shibinette said, and would force the OPLC to go back to Philbrook. Attorney General Gordon MacDonald said the state needs to move forward on this as well.
During the discussion about the unusual nature of the 10-year lease, councilors were told it was because of a federal court order that required the state to take over and convert the Philbrook Center on an emergency basis, said Volinsky, who is also a candidate for governor.
After the meeting, Volinsky said, “I agree with Councilor Ted Gatsas that a special meeting should have been held to brief the Council on the court order and how the state would respond. We should have been given the court order.”
He said Sununu had six weeks of talking about the Philbrook conversion. Volinsky said he remembered it coming up in the past when he interviewed Shibinette for the commissioner’s post.
“I didn’t know this was going to be on an emergency basis and the OPLC was being evicted with 30 days notice. The governor, the commissioner of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General are all in on this,” Volinsky said.
At the meeting Volinsky said he understood the Philbrook renovation “needs to happen,” but he questioned whether it was a good deal for the state to enter a 10-year lease, especially now during the COVID-19 crisis.
He said the state was paying “Class A rates when the real estate market is in huge turmoil. I don’t know who the owner of this property is but it is making the state bail out this building that is now mostly empty…and doing it for 10 years,” Volinsky said.
Councilor Michael Cryans, D-Hanover, said he thought maybe this is not the best deal.
And Councilor Gatsas, R-Manchester, also expressed concern for the deal.