Publisher's Note: The saga
Itís unlikely that Liquor Commission Chairman Mark Bodi thought a drunken woman stumbling out of a Keene bar last December would cost him his job.
The governor and attorney general are pushing to remove Bodi for meddling in an investigation of a Keene bar. Bodi has admitted to ordering surveillance equipment returned to that bar. Given Bodiís admission, his removal seems appropriate.
So how did a drunken woman lead to all this?
According to the attorney generalís petition to remove Bodi, Keene bar the Railroad Tavern, which is owned by city council member Randy Filiault (whom I know from my days covering the Keene City Council for the Keene Sentinel), was being investigated for overserving two customers (one of them the above-mentioned woman) in December 2009 and January 2010. In New Hampshire, for now, the liquor commission investigates those kinds of charges. Commission officers went to Filiaultís bar with a subpoena and while they were there state Rep. Dan Eaton, D-Stoddard, showed up and spoke to them.
Later Eaton, whose House district does not include Keene, called Bodi to express concerns about the behavior of the commission officers at Filiaultís bar. If that were the end of it, weíd never have heard of that poor drunken woman. But Bodi went ahead and got involved in the ordeal by calling Filiault and ordering officers to return seized surveillance equipment to Filiault.
So why did Bodi get involved (the first time ever, he claims)? Bodi says state Rep. Eaton pressured him to, but Eaton says he was very careful to not ask Bodi to take any actions and that if Bodi felt any pressure it was perceived, not real.
So who is Eaton?
Eaton has been in the NH House of Representatives for 20 or so years (also someone I covered as a Keene Sentinel reporter). Heís majority floor leader and serves as the chair of a couple of committees and is a member of numerous committees, including a member of the joint legislative fiscal committee, which works out financial matters between the House and Senate. Eaton backed legislation to move liquor enforcement from the liquor commission (a move Bodi opposed) to the state police and was a sponsor of two bills involving the commission during this period. One of those bills would have given a legislative committee oversight over the liquor commission. Itís fair to say heís a bigwig in the House. While the attorney generalís office investigated Eatonís role, they found no evidence that he broke any laws.
Speaker of the House Terie Norelli stood by Eaton, who has not been removed from any of his posts, saying there is no evidence of wrongdoing against him in the attorney generalís report. But what about right-doing? Did Eaton act appropriately in calling Bodi, given his powerful position in regard to the liquor commission?
Why would Bodi feel he has to placate Eaton? Why would Eaton call a department head to complain about the actions of its officers? Whether perceived or real, itís clear from his testimony Bodi thought he was playing good ole boy New Hampshire government.
And thatís bad news. The rule of law is extremely important in how government works.
We canít have elected officials or public servants creating a second set of rules to get things done.