The Legislative Ethics Committee voted on Monday to pursue a preliminary investigation into a complaint against House Majority Leader Doug Ley, a Democrat from Jaffrey who also leads one of the state’s largest teachers unions.
The complaint alleges that Ley improperly participated in legislative business affecting the New Hampshire chapter of the American Federation of Teachers while also serving as the union’s paid president. It was filed by Christopher Mazerall, a Republican who unsuccessfully challenged Ley for his House seat in 2018.
Ley is the second-ranking Democrat in the New Hampshire House. In that role, he has repeatedly testified on his union’s behalf in legislative committee hearings and has voted on bills that have been explicitly endorsed or opposed by the union.
While Ley has acknowledged participating in votes affecting AFT-NH, he has maintained that he hasn’t broken any rules and has not engaged in any “lobbying” on his union’s behalf. (Ley’s predecessor as AFT-NH president registered as a lobbyist while serving in that role.)
The complaint against Ley specifically cites an opinion issued by the ethics committee last year.
A Republican lawmaker had asked the ethics panel whether he would be allowed to accept a job with the Children’s Scholarship Fund, an organization that was also involved in education policy issues that he worked on at the State House.
In that case, the committee told the lawmaker he could accept the job, but if did, he couldn’t sponsor, testify, vote on or “any decision of the legislature, county delegation, or any state agency on matters directly related to the interests of CSF.”
“Disclosure of his conflict of interest in relation to his employment with CSF would not excuse or absolve his violation of these prohibitions,” the committee wrote.
The Legislative Ethics Committee started reviewing the complaint against Ley in April, but has done so only behind closed doors. Under the committee’s rules, complaints are supposed to remain confidential during the first several phases of the complaint review process.
NHPR has independently confirmed the substance and status of the complaint against Ley, and has also confirmed that the details of the complaint line up with the one the committee voted to move forward ("Complaint 2019-2") at Monday's meeting.
From here, the ethics committee’s “preliminary investigation” into the complaint against Ley will also be confidential. Once the committee completes that investigation, it can vote to dismiss the complaint, issue an informal resolution, or move ahead to a formal proceeding. Only in the latter two scenarios will the complaint and the committee’s review of it become public.