House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt resigned Sunday for the second time in three days, this time apologizing for misrepresenting his work.
“It is true that I misrepresented work as work I performed for attorney (J. Brandon) Giuda,” the Salem Republican said in a statement. “I take full responsibility for my conduct; I apologize to my family, friends, colleagues and above all my constituents.”
Giuda, the state representative who took on Bettencourt for a spring semester internship, said he is happy with the third-year law student’s resignation.
“I fully applaud D.J. for finally doing the right thing and telling the truth,” Giuda, R-Merrimack, said.
Giuda said Bettencourt worked only about one hour in his Chichester practice as part of the internship. But Bettencourt submitted 11 weeks of detailed reports about the internship to the University of New Hampshire School of Law for credits he needed to graduate, Giuda said.
“It’s 11 weeks of reports written in extreme detail of things that never occurred,” Giuda said.
The matter came to light when Giuda saw a photo Bettencourt posted on his Facebook page May 19. Clad in a cap and gown, he was pictured with Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe at the University of New Hampshire School of Law commencement.
Bettencourt first said he would resign Friday under pressure from Giuda and House Speaker William O’Brien, R-Mont Vernon. The understanding the three men had was that Bettencourt would leave his post, acknowledging personal problems. He was then to report his misrepresentation to UNH School of Law officials.
Instead, Bettencourt cited his upcoming nuptials and a new job as the reason for his plan to resign June 6.
Giuda then threatened to release the full reports if Bettencourt did not leave the House immediately.
Giuda said he had one client willing to waive confidentiality to verify Bettencourt never met with them, despite the claim on the internship report. Bettencourt even lists meeting with clients at a location that no longer exists, and includes court dates that were never scheduled, Giuda said.
“Some people have a personality defect; when they say something, they believe it to be true,” Giuda said. “He actually seems to believe the lies.”
Raymond Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, said in a statement that O’Brien needs to answer questions about his role in the controversy.
“Speaker Bill O’Brien has created a culture of corruption in Concord on an unprecedented level,” Buckley said in the statement. “Bill O’Brien, D.J. Bettencourt and the Republican majority in the legislature have continually acted as if the rules and basic ethics do not apply to them.”
O’Brien could not be reached for comment Sunday, but released a statement praising Bettencourt’s work in the House.
“Certainly, we are disappointed to hear about Rep. Bettencourt’s resignation from the House,” O’Brien wrote. “He played an important part in achieving a historic budget that closed a nearly $1 billion deficit, in providing tax and regulatory relief to help grow New Hampshire’s economy and in moving forward an agenda based on Republican principles of lower taxes and limited government.”
Bettencourt said Friday he planned to start a new job as executive director of the New Hampshire Legal Rights Foundation, a conservative organization founded by O’Brien.
Giuda said he had intended to bring a motion to the House floor to expel Bettencourt if he did not resign.
“I’m doing what I have to do to rid the House of a dishonorable person,” Giuda said.
Bettencourt’s status with the law school remains unclear. He could not be reached for comment, but referred to the matter in his statement.
“I will continue working with UNH School of Law to resolve this matter and I fully trust the process they have in place,” he wrote. “That process is non-public and that is how I plan to proceed.”
Giuda hopes the experience will be good for Bettencourt in the long run, saying it could help him to grow and mature. O’Brien said he wished Bettencourt the best as he leaves the House.
“Clearly, he has a number of challenges to work through as he moves forward with his family and career,” O’Brien said. “I wish him the best of luck in the future.”
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