N.H. Fish & Game leader ousted, and the reasons remain unclear

  • N.H. Fish and Game executive director Glenn Normandeau speaks during a press conference with Gov. Chris Sununu and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke following a roundtable discussion at Bass Pro Shops in Hooksett on Tuesday, June 13, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

Concord Monitor
Published: 10/11/2019 10:05:49 PM
Modified: 10/11/2019 10:05:35 PM

CONCORD — The New Hampshire Fish and Game Commission is establishing a search committee to find a new head of the Department of Fish and Game, a month after members voted to not recommend Director Glenn Normandeau for a fourth term.

In an interview Thursday, Commission Vice Chairman David Patch said a search committee of four commissioners will meet soon to organize itself and get legal advice.

But the department’s 12-year director is not happy about the circumstances.

In an interview with an InDepthNH reporter on Wednesday posted on Youtube, Normandeau said the September vote, which was conducted in a nonpublic session behind closed doors, had deprived him of the ability to defend his record.

“What I was upset about is the fact that the way it was done, that I was not asked in, not told what the issues were that they had or given the chance to respond to them,” he said in the interview.

Patch, meanwhile, said the board had followed proper procedures, adding that nonpublic sessions are the most appropriate way for a board to deal with personnel issues.

“Any other board I’ve ever served on, if you discuss personnel it has to be in a nonpubic session,” he said Thursday. “And that is for the protection of the personnel. And we did it in the manner that you are supposed to do it.”

Normandeau was not available for comment Thursday.

New Hampshire’s 11-member Fish and Game Commission, whose members are chosen for four-year terms, has the sole ability to nominate the director of the department. According to state law, the commission votes on a nominee for a four-year term; that nominee is then brought before the New Hampshire Executive Council for a vote.

Normandeau is just wrapping up his third four-year term. But in a notice last month, the department announced that Normandeau would be leaving the post in March.

That notice followed a Sept. 11 commission meeting in which commissioners convened a two-hour closed-door session to vote on a “personnel matter.” The outcome was clear: The commission was choosing someone new.

Commission members have been tight-lipped about why Normandeau did not receive the body’s blessing this year.

“As far as I know, I’ve been here 12 years and haven’t had any issues with the commission, so it was a bit of a surprise,” Normandeau said to InDepthNH.

Patch cited the confidentiality of the nonpublic session and declined to comment. Neither commission chairman Robert Phillipson nor Christopher Hodgdon — the Merrimack County representative — were available Thursday.

While the motivations have not been made clear, officials on all sides of the issue said the decision was wholly the commission’s — not Gov. Chris Sununu’s.

“Glenn and I have maintained a great relationship for the last nine years, and I conveyed that to the Fish and Game Commission when they met to discuss Glenn’s reappointment,” Sununu said in a statement. “It was conveyed to me following our meeting that the commission unilaterally decided to go in a different direction, as laid out in statute, and we must respect their process.”

In the coming weeks, the search committee plans to hold an organizational meeting to determine how to proceed, Patch said, adding that it would likely get advice from the Department of Justice on how to move forward and whether its earlier session was above board.

Most of the members have served only one or two terms, meaning that many have known Normandeau only as the department’s director and have not engaged in a search process, Patch said.

“When we meet the attorney general, I will have a lot of questions,” he said. “I have no problem being as straightforward and as open as possible with our process, but we need to make sure that we follow the law.”

In his statement, Sununu sought to put the matter — and Normandeau’s frustration — in the past.

“I wish Glenn nothing but the best and know he’ll bring the same energy and passion to his next endeavor that he did to the State of New Hampshire.”

But the gubernatorial campaign of Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, the Concord Democrat who is seeking his party’s nomination to challenge Sununu next year, filed a right-to-know request seeking records in Normandeau’s ouster.

“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 in a statement.




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