Rockingham County Attorney Patricia Conway of Salem asked Gov. Chris Sununu to withdraw her nomination to serve as a Superior Court judge, two days after incoming Attorney General John Formella was asked to investigate possible voter fraud allegations against her dating back to 2008.
“…So we won’t be taking that up,” Sununu told the Executive Council at their regular meeting. That was the end of the discussion on the subject with Sununu offering no explanation for Conway’s withdrawal.
Associate Attorney General James Boffetti told InDepthNH.org Wednesday that Formella received a request from Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, D-Concord, on Monday to do a full investigation of allegations that Conway voted in Atkinson in 2008 while living in Salem.
The allegations were first raised when she was running for county attorney in 2014 and indirectly by Warmington two weeks ago at the public hearing on Conway’s nomination.
In an email Wednesday afternoon, Conway said she was grateful for the governor’s support and nomination and she thanked the Executive Councilors for their consideration. She didn’t address the allegations.
“At this point in time I find it appropriate to withdraw my nomination to allow Governor Sununu an opportunity to put forth a new nominee. I look forward to continuing as the Rockingham County Attorney and working with our staff to ensure victims of crime are protected and perpetrators are held accountable,” Conway said.
At the public hearing, Warmington said she came across a newspaper article saying Conway had not voted for six years in Salem but cast a ballot in Atkinson because she was there helping her elderly father vote. Conway said that was correct, but Warmington didn’t further question Conway about it.
Boffetti said there was no time before Wednesday’s Executive Council meeting to do a full investigation, but he asked Conway last week about the allegations when first raised by InDepthNH.org.
At that time, Conway said she was staying more at her father’s house in Atkinson than at home because she was taking care of him so she voted there in the general election of November 2008, Boffetti said.
Since the statute of limitations would have run out on any voter fraud crime and based on her response, his office didn’t pursue the matter any further, Boffetti said.
Warmington’s letter to Formella seeking a full investigation was received Monday and there was no way an investigation could have been accomplished by Wednesday, Boffetti said.
In the letter, Warmington said she learned that while Conway voted in Atkinson in 2008, her husband, whom she married in 2005, registered to vote in Salem and voted in 2006 and 2008 elections in Salem after purchasing the property where they lived in 2005.
Warmington further wrote that in 2008 it was a class A misdemeanor to vote for any office or measure at an election if such person is not qualified to vote. “Under current law, it is a felony,” Warmington wrote.
Warmington said that while any statute of limitations would have passed on potential criminal charges, whether she voted legally would be relevant to Conway’s suitability to serve as a Superior Court judge.
Boffetti said he served as Acting Rockingham County Attorney after Jim Reams resigned amid controversy while Conway was an assistant county attorney there.
When asked about the unrelated matter, Boffetti said Wednesday that at some point, it came to his attention that Conway’s husband Eric Lamb’s name had been removed from the Laurie List of police whose ability to testify might be questioned based on discipline in their personnel files.
Lamb was a Salem police officer. Boffetti said after looking into it, it was clear Lamb’s name shouldn’t have been removed and he placed it back on the list.
At the time, Conway said publicly she didn’t now how Lamb’s name had been improperly removed.
The New Hampshire Bar Association Board of Governors gave Conway qualified support for the judgeship but with reservations for her impartiality and fairness. It particularly focused on her lack of civil experience.
Conway acknowledged during the public hearing that her entire career has been spent on criminal prosecution, but she said she did not think it could preclude her to be a Superior Court justice.
At the public hearing, Warmington also raised other concerns.
“On the first day you took office you fired Jerome Blanchard,” a whistleblower for Conway’s predecessor who claimed retaliation. The case was settled for $80,000, Warmington said.
Conway said it was absolutely false that she fired him for retaliation.
Sununu nominated Conway in March citing her hard work ethic and the respect she enjoys for her experienced work.
Nancy West contributed to this story.