Grafton County commissioner primary has Republicans hashing out conflict of interest

  • Matthew Bjelobrk (Courtesy photograph)

  • Glenn Libby (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 9/10/2022 2:15:57 AM
Modified: 9/10/2022 2:15:37 AM

HAVERHILL — The Republican primary race for a new Grafton County Commissioner will ask voters to consider between the spouse of the county administrator and a former Haverhill Selectboard member who filed primarily to provide an alternative choice.

Two Haverhill residents are running as Republican Party candidates for Grafton County Commissioner in District 2, currently held by Linda Lauer, D-Bath, who decided not to seek reelection. The Republican candidates for the district, which includes Upper Valley towns of Haverhill, Piermont, Orford and Lyme, are Glenn Libby, the retired county superintendent of corrections, and Matthew Bjelobrk, a former town Selectboard member, retired police sergeant and retired Army colonel.

Libby said he acquired an “extensive knowledge of county government” through his 30 years of employment as a corrections officer and a superintendent, which included working frequently with the Grafton County Commissioners.

“I understand the budget process and the statutory responsibilities of the county, I am an effective communicator and problem solver who will carefully listen to all sides of an issue,” Libby told the Valley News.

Libby said he aims to strike a balance between fiscal responsibility and providing excellent services. He said that taxes are a major concern of many county residents, and that as a fiscal conservative he plans to work toward cost-effective and efficient budgets. Libby also stressed the need to educate all communities in Grafton about the county’s services and programs.

“Grafton County is a geographically large area, with very different economic conditions in each area,” Libby said. “The farther you live from the county (hub) in Haverhill, the less you see the impacts of the county government services.”

But Libby also is married to Grafton’s longtime County Administrator Julie Libby.

Bjelobrk, Libby’s primary opponent, said Libby’s relationship to the county administrator has too much potential for a conflict of interest.

“He is running for a position to be his wife’s boss,” Bjekobrk said. “(Even if no laws were broken), is this the kind of impression that we would want to give the public?”

According to the Grafton County handbook, a conflict of interest occurs “when an employee is in a position to influence a decision that may result in a personal gain for that employee or for a relative,” which can include “a person related by blood or marriage.”

Bjelobrk said that he filed for the seat “in the eleventh hour of the last day” before the election deadline, because he believes that “no one should ever run unopposed.”

Bjelobrk noted that other county employees also are related to Libby through his marriage, including Human Resources Director Karen Clough, who is Glenn Libby’s sister-in-law.

According to Grafton County policy, the commissioners also supervise the human resources director, including conducting performance evaluations.

“There would just be too much influence under one roof, that it starts to feel like a family-run business,” Bjelobrk told the Valley News.

If elected commissioner, Bjelobrk said he would call for a review of all county positions to ensure that compensations are in alignment with their duties and market value, and that county employees possess the credentials and qualification required under the position’s job description. Bjelobrk said this would help address his questions regarding how wages have adjusted over time for certain positions, such as the county administrator, whose annual salary has risen from $75,000 in 2009 to $125,000 at present, a 40% increase in just over 10 years.

Libby, in response to questions about a potential conflict of interest, said he would not vote on any measure that would create a conflict of interest involving his wife.

Libby also pointed out the commission is a three-person board that requires a majority of at least two members to make any decision.

“One member’s actions do not dictate the actions of the full board,” Libby noted.

Libby also confirmed that he is related through marriage to other county employees, though said no employees are related to him by blood.

“The county is a large organization that draws on the labor pool from the immediate area, (so) it would be hard not to have relatives that are employed,” Libby said.

Libby also is acting as interim farm manager for the county prison, a program in which county inmates learn agricultural skills through operating a working farm, which consists of a dairy operation, a small piggery, a tree farm, a vegetable garden and a farm stand. The farm produces vegetables for the county nursing home and county correctional facility and for sale at its farm stand.

Libby’s interim position is part time “as needed,” for which Libby is paid hourly on the county’s wage scale.

Libby said he would resign from the position if elected to the commission.

The winner of the Republican primary for Grafton Commissioner District 2 will face the Democratic Party candidate Martha Stroup McLeod, who is running unopposed, in November.

Lauer, who has served on the county commission for nine years, said she is stepping down “for personal reasons” and to allow new candidates an opportunity to serve.

The New Hampshire Primary election will be on Tuesday. Haverhill residents will vote at the Town Municipal Building at 2975 Dartmouth College Highway from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Lyme residents will vote at the Lyme Community Gymnasium at 35 Union St., from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Orford residents will vote at the Orford Town Office at 2529 Route 25A, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Piermont residents will vote at the Old Church Building at 132 Route 10, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Patrick Adrian can be reached at

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