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An interesting wrinkle emerged this week after Representative Benjamin Bartlett resigned from the New Hampshire House of Representatives.
Bartlett, a Republican from Nottingham, cited personal health concerns as his reason for stepping down on Wednesday. That tracks with his 2023 attendance record, which consists almost entirely of excused absences that he attributed to health-related challenges.
“I don’t feel I’m adequately representing my constituents,” Bartlett told the Globe.
His departure leaves Republicans with just 200 of the chamber’s 400 seats. That still constitutes a majority, since Democrats have just 196 members seated.
Bartlett said he feels awful about leaving his party with such a narrow margin, but he knows resigning is the prudent course. “My entire life I have put everything ahead of myself, between my military career and my law enforcement career and all else,” he said. “I always put everything before me, and now my health has deteriorated to a point where I need to put that first.”
The wrinkle: After the news of Bartlett’s resignation broke, Nottingham blogger Doug Bates posted an image of an anonymous letter he said he had received in the mail on Tuesday.
The letter claimed that Bartlett was in violation of the Hatch Act , a law that prohibits federal government employees from seeking partisan political office, so he needed to resign from either his legislative seat or his job. (Remember: Legislators in New Hampshire are volunteers. They make just $100 a year for their service.)
Bates said he wasn’t confident in the letter’s accuracy, but it seemed credible enough to investigate, so he started poking around.
“I was anticipating it might end up in a paragraph tucked into some future post that I had gotten an anonymous tip and had disconfirmed it,” Bates told the Globe.
But then Bartlett actually resigned. The timing was too big of a coincidence to ignore, so Bates said he posted the letter to be transparent about the message he had received and the fact that he had not yet been able to substantiate its claims.
So I started digging, too, and I managed to confirm a few key points:
- Bartlett is a federal employee. A spokesperson for the US Department of Veterans Affairs said he’s a full-time dispatch supervisor for the VA’s police service. He was hired in 2014.
- The Hatch Act could be relevant. A spokesperson for Secretary of State David Scanlan said the law may apply if a member of the New Hampshire House is a federal employee.
- This is on authorities’ radar. The VA spokesperson told me the department is “aware of this situation and looking into the matter.”
My efforts to reach Bartlett for additional comment have unfortunately been unsuccessful. He told the New Hampshire Bulletin that he decided to resign after House leadership approached him this week for a conversation about his attendance. I asked a spokesperson for the office of House Speaker Sherm Packard whether leadership was aware of the Hatch Act allegation. She didn’t answer that question.