A four-term lawmaker who resigned abruptly Tuesday from his seat in the New Hampshire House of Representatives has been under investigation by the state attorney general’s office for six months.
Troy Merner, a Republican from Lancaster, was reelected in November. He had been serving both in the State House and as a member of the Lancaster Board of Selectmen. But investigators concluded that Merner no longer lives in the district he represents and hasn’t lived there since August 2022, according to a letter the attorney general’s office sent Monday to House Speaker Sherman Packard.
Merner has been renting an office in Lancaster, but he has been residing with his wife and stepson about 15 miles south, in Carroll, which is part of a different legislative district in Coos County, according to the letter.
Matthew G. Conley, an assistant attorney general for the Election Law Unit, wrote that there is “no ambiguity” about the constitutional and statutory provisions that require lawmakers to inhabit the districts they represent, and “no reasonable argument” can claim that Merner is still domiciled in Lancaster.
Even though Merner has known for months that the attorney general’s office is investigating this matter, he has continued to act as a state representative and collect mileage reimbursement based on the distance between Concord and his former domicile in Lancaster rather than his current address in Carroll, a difference of about 31 miles per roundtrip, Conley wrote.
Only the House of Representatives itself can judge the qualifications of its members, so Conley wrote the letter to Packard to notify him of the attorney general’s findings so House leadership could “take further action.” Merner resigned from the House the following day. Merner did not respond to the Globe’s requests for comment.
In a statement, Packard’s office said Merner was urged to resign immediately after the office learned of the attorney general’s conclusion.
Lancaster Town Manager Benjamin S. Gaetjens-Oleson confirmed that Merner has resigned from the town’s Board of Selectmen as well.
Merner told the Caledonian Record that his wife died in January 2022, then he sold his home, moved into an apartment in Lancaster, and remarried in September 2022. He reportedly said he moved to reside with his wife in Carroll at about the same time as his reelection in November and had planned to serve out the term.
But the letter from the attorney general’s office alleges that Merner ceased to reside in Lancaster in August 2022, well ahead of the November election in which he both won reelection and voted. So the office is continuing to investigate issues related to his mileage reimbursement and an allegation of wrongful voting, according to the letter.
The complaint that prompted the attorney general’s investigation came from Kathy Lavoie, a poll worker in Lancaster who said she questioned Merner’s supposed address when he reported to the polls to vote both in November and in March.
Lavoie, a Republican, told the Globe that she has served alongside Merner and appreciates what he has done for the community, but she felt a sense of civic responsibility to report her suspicions after the March election.
“We vote for elected officials who tell us one thing, and we expect that to be the truth,” she said.
“It didn’t have to go down this way,” she added.
New Hampshire Democratic Party chair Ray Buckley said Merner’s actions are “an outright disgrace and a flagrant betrayal of the public’s trust.”
“It’s appalling that he knowingly misled the community, undermining our democracy’s core foundations,” Buckley said, commending Lavoie for exposing Merner’s behavior.
“This scandal serves as a stark reminder that, as they continue to lose elections, the NH GOP has shown they will first give up on democracy before they give up power,” he added. “It is vital we hold them accountable for their corruption now and going forward.”
Packard’s office said it’s not aware of any members living outside the districts they represent.
“If citizens have information about any such situations they should take action and file a complaint so the matter can be investigated, and our constitutional provisions can be upheld,” the statement from the office said.
The allegations against Merner came as the political parties grapple with a historically tight margin in the New Hampshire House. While the GOP has clung to its extremely narrow edge, the Democrats may be on course to win another seat and create an even tie.
The Globe reviewed Merner’s voting record for 2023 and identified seven motions that would have been decided differently if Merner had abstained. Merner voted against five motions that failed because they ended in a tie, and he voted for two motions that passed by a one-vote margin.
- An ought-to-pass motion on House Bill 234 (relative to renewable energy credits) failed on Feb. 14, with a 182-182 vote. The bill was ultimately deemed inexpedient to legislate.
- An ought-to-pass motion on House Bill 430 (relative to applications for the education freedom accounts program) failed on Feb. 14, with a 185-185 vote. The bill was ultimately deemed inexpedient to legislate.
- A motion to adopt an amendment to House Bill 125 (relative to youth employment during the school year and at night) failed on March 16, with a 183-183 vote. The un-amended bill was ultimately deemed inexpedient to legislate.
- An ought-to-pass motion on House Bill 271 (repealing the fetal life protection act) failed on March 23, with a 192-192 vote. The bill was ultimately tabled.
- An ought-to-pass motion on Senate Bill 69 (relative to allowing certain nonprofits to participate as a customer-generator group hosts under net energy metering) failed on May 4, with a 186-186 vote. The bill was ultimately tabled.
- An ought-to-pass motion on House Bill 69 (relative to direct payment and membership-based health care facilities) passed on March 22, with a 190-189 vote.
- An inexpedient-to-legislate motion on House Bill 626 (requiring the department of education to administer the education freedom account) passed on April 6, with a 195-194 vote.
Merner’s resignation came the day after Representative William A. Hatch, a Democrat from Gorham, resigned. A spokesperson for the New Hampshire Department of Justice said the attorney general’s Election Law Unit did not receive any complaints regarding Hatch.
This story was updated Sept. 21 to include a statement from the office of House Speaker Sherman A. Packard.