Edelblut OK’d as N.H. Education Commissioner

  • Frank Edelblut, center, listens to a question from New Hampshire Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, far right, during a public hearing on Gov. Chris Sununu's nomination of Edelblut to lead the state's education department, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) ap photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/23/2017 12:07:21 AM
Modified: 3/23/2017 11:09:59 AM

Concord — The New Hampshire Executive Council on Wednesday appointed Frank Edelblut to a full four-year term as education commissioner despite fallout over his donation toward defending a lawsuit brought by the department he now leads.

During the panel’s Wednesday morning meeting, Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, D-Concord, expressed concern that Edelblut’s hitherto anonymous gift, which likely was made before he was appointed commissioner, represented a conflict of interest.

“I don’t have any quarrel with his contribution,” Volinsky said. “I have some concern that when I asked him about any potential conflicts of interest he did not think to disclose this.”

Edelblut last week told Volinsky that he had donated $1,000 to the Croydon School Board’s legal defense of a lawsuit brought by state officials over the board’s payments of public money to private schools.

The disclosure came after the Valley News reported that Croydon rejected a request to reveal unnamed donors to the $23,000 fund and that Edelblut for two weeks declined to answer questions about his role.

“It should not have required an express request from an executive councilor to disclose that,” Volinsky said.

Volinsky also said he was concerned that, contrary to statements Edelblut had made during confirmation hearings in January, the new commissioner was seeking to further his own “agenda” rather than implement policy created by others.

Councilor Russell Prescott, R-Kingston, said he trusted Edelblut’s integrity and warned the group not to “jump to conclusions.”

“I do not believe that he would go back on his word,” Prescott said, referring to Edelblut’s promises to act as a mere implementer of policy.

With that, the council voted along party lines, 3-2, to confirm Edelblut for a four-year term.

Edelblut, a former Republican state representative and businessman with no experience in public education, was appointed earlier this year to fill the remainder of departing Commissioner Virginia Barry’s term.

The legal case in question has been stayed as a bill that would allow Croydon’s payments nears Gov. Chris Sununu’s desk.

Sununu, a Republican who has said he would sign the legislation, did not comment on Edelblut’s appointment during Wednesday’s meeting.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.

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