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AG investigation finds NH lawmaker lived outside of his district for more than a year

State House, Concord, NH
Dan Tuohy
The New Hampshire State House

A Republican lawmaker from Coos County who recently resigned his seat hasn’t lived in his district for more than a year, according to an investigation by the New Hampshire Department of Justice.

State investigators allege former Rep. Troy Merner, who was first elected in 2016 while living in Lancaster, relocated to Twin Mountain in 2022 but failed to resign his seat in the Legislature, as required by law. A months-long investigation by the Attorney General’s office concluded Merner was not domiciled in his district “during the previous legislative session and still is not domiciled within the district.”

Investigators alerted New Hampshire House Speaker Sherman Packard of their findings in a letteron Monday. On Tuesday, the House Clerk published Merner’s notice of resignation.

Republicans held a razor-thin majority in the New Hampshire House last session, and many bills were decided by a single vote. Merner’s participation helped his party maintain that narrow edge during the last legislative session, though his resignation and other vacancies have created a near-even partisan split.

Merner, however, is disputing the Department of Justice’s allegations. He told NHPR on Thursday he has been “open and honest since day one” about his living situation.

He also claimed, without providing evidence, that there are “multiple state reps who do not live in their district.” When asked to clarify, he said there were “a few” but declined to elaborate.

“We have all this illegal voting,” Merner told NHPR, referring to unproven claims of widespread voter fraud in American elections, “and they are going to worry about one person?”

According to state investigators, Merner relocated from Lancaster to Twin Mountain following the sale of his home on Aug. 26, 2022. The buyer permitted Merner to store furniture and other belongings for two weeks, investigators allege, after the sale.

Merner, a retired ironworker who served on the Science, Technology and Energy Committee, claims he continued to live in Lancaster through November 2022.

Merner cast ballots in Lancaster in November and again during this year’s town elections in March. Kathy Lavoie, a local election volunteer, alerted state authorities to concerns about Merner’s domicile, according to the Attorney General’s office.

When questioned about his residency at the polls, Merner allegedly said he had a “lease back” agreement at his former residence in Lancaster and was residing there when he cast a ballot in November, according to investigators.

Merner reiterated that claim to NHPR on Thursday.

“When I voted, I was still there,” he said.

In a statement, House Speaker Packard’s office said “when we learned that the Department of Justice had concluded Merner resided outside of his district, Merner was contacted and urged to resign immediately, which he did.”

Packard’s office said they are not aware of any other state representatives who are living outside of their district, as alleged by Merner.

“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 speaker’s office said.

A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office said “the Election Law Unit has not received any complaints regarding other current state lawmakers not being domiciled in the district they represent.”

State prosecutors are also investigating whether Merner improperly requested mileage reimbursement for travel to the State House. He requested reimbursement for at least 49 trips during the current legislative session, according to the letter. Merner’s residency in Twin Mountain is 174 roundtrip miles from the State House, while he was expensing mileage from his previous home in Lancaster, which is 205 miles roundtrip.

The Attorney General noted in its letter to Packard that the office would continue looking into allegations that Merner voted illegally in local elections.

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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