Michael Conlon, County Attorney-elect, plans leadership transition

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Michael Conlon

Michael Conlon (D-Goffstown), who won the 2018 race for Hillsborough County Attorney, will be sworn into office on January 2. Before then, he is preparing for the new position.

The Hillsborough County Attorney is paid around $89,000 per year and has a total budget of $4.6 million. As the chief law enforcement officer in the county, the County Attorney is charged with the prosecution of felonies and misdemeanor appeals from the district courts. The office works in conjunction with the State Attorney General’s Office, New Hampshire State Police, the county Sheriff’s Department, and local police departments to prosecute crimes committed within Hillsborough County.

There are two districts:

  • The Northern District Office, located in Manchester, is staffed by 11 full-time prosecuting attorneys, six full-time support staff, three part-time support staff, three victim witness advocates, one part-time investigator, one paralegal and several legal interns.
  • The Southern District Office, located in Nashua, is staffed by eight full-time prosecuting attorneys, one part-time prosecuting attorney, four full-time support staff, three victim witness advocates and one part-time investigator.

Below, Conlon answers questions about his new role:

Q. What do you have planned?

A. The election for Hillsborough County Attorney is over but every day the staff of prosecutors, victim support advocates, legal assistants and office managers are going to work for Hillsborough County. I have been meeting with current County Attorneys, members of the criminal justice community, public officials on the front lines of our opioid epidemic, and advocates for reform and services who want to help see our community back at work and participating in our shared economic future.

My initial plans are to address the leadership and administrative issues. I want to see improvements in our overall performance as an organization; to understand what is and is not working, and capture as much information as possible. Our county commissioners and delegation of representatives have been craving an effective leader who can be a conduit between this office and their decision-making in order to ensure that our tax dollars are being spent in a manner that is responsible, and my plans largely surround bringing that responsibility back to the people of Hillsborough County.

Q. What are your priorities?

A. My top priority is to get the house back in order, and ensure we are heading in the right direction of effective, thorough management. That might mean I develop a training program for my team about how to use a resource and then deliver that training. Whatever it takes to get the job done and support our prosecutors, advocates and staff, I will do. My scope will grow from there.

I want to inventory the programs available for people going through our criminal justice system and reconcile what is being offered to that of our neighbors. What works? What doesn’t work, and why? How could a certain program in another county be adapted for Hillsborough? How much would it cost and what’s the return on investment? We need to ask these questions, to engage with all levels involved whether the director of a facility to an individual going through rehabilitation, and do what we can to guide their success. It’s an imperfect solution to a vast problem, but to the extent that we can think about things in a different way to get to the destination, I’m going to prepare the ask and encourage those involved to consider it. We must continue perfecting our solutions for the improvement of our community and try to maximize our potential.

Q. How is the transition going?

A. The transition is going well. Honestly, I’m not sure how it could go better! I have received a lot of support which I appreciate greatly. People from all corners have reached out with contact information, tips on someone else to connect with, or hope for a better tomorrow. People who meet me sense my motivation and passion that I have developed for this office and quickly become a solid ally because we’re all in this for the same reason: we want to see positive change in our community. We want to help everyone reform their mistakes into rehabilitation. We want people to stop offending and find a new path. We want thoughtful leaders who will listen and incorporate the needs of the community into their decisions. There are a lot of great people today quietly working on our behalf at all levels of government, municipal, county and state, and I am excited to join their ranks. Both Attorney Hogan and I ran a positive campaign based on our plans for improvement and Mr. Hogan has been gracious inviting me to visit the two offices and meet the team, which I appreciate greatly.

Q. What issues are you facing?

A. The budget issues described in 2017 that were well publicized have not gone away. As noted, my first priority is to explore what I can do to help the team internally, and ensure that the volume of work to be completed is borne on shoulders ready to argue. Any good manager knows that when your team is overworked there is a higher potential for error. The work that is being done in the County Attorney’s Office is far too important for any error. The work being done by the Office is vitally important for our community and every single person working for the County Attorney’s Office should feel the dignity and value of their contribution every day, not that they are overworked and stressed and lose sight of that meaning. While I can’t control all variables, it’s my duty to ensure that the Office is functioning as well as possible given the resources available, and I will begin addressing this issue promptly after my swearing-in on January 2nd.

There are other issues with more nuance that I will be exploring, such as program availability, documentation, training, technology, reporting, supervision, collaboration and community outreach that will be on my desk. I look forward to exploring each one and implementing solutions, or finding new ideas to try, in order to ensure I am doing my level best to step forward together as a community.

I’m also looking forward to working with our county leadership, legislature, governor, and attorney general in Concord along with my fellow county attorneys because only through collaboration will we ensure that new programs like Felonies First SB124 and the Bail Reform SB556 are implemented as effectively as possible when further revisions happen. Our failure to collaborate and prepare our offices for change only creates stress and expenses ultimately borne by our staff, people going through the system and our taxpayers. It is my hope that we can do better and that’s why I’m here.

Q. Can you shed some light on the problems in Manchester that may have led to your victory of Hogan? (See 6/30/2017 article in Manchester Ink Link.)

A. That article was hard to read. On one hand, I wanted to win my election and have the honor to contribute. On the other hand I live in this county, and it’s embarrassing to read the attorney general’s office describe any county’s office as having a leadership crisis. This is an office that doesn’t get much attention compared to other elected officials in New Hampshire, so when you see something like that, you should take it very seriously. And I haven’t even mentioned the victims, and the trauma and stress of going through an abusive situation, and not being able to rely upon prosecutors to bring justice to your abuser – not because of evidence, or other factors which might be hard to bear but understandable. It’s frightening and, in my view, the antithesis of what the criminal justice system should be in America. The response to all crimes is justice, but victim crimes in particular need to be met with swift, thorough, and thoughtful responses to protect the freedom of victims and their liberty to continue their lives.

County campaigns have many factors across a large territory and while I hope that voters who dug into my race were impacted in some way by that article it’s incredibly hard to reliably quantify. When the results of the AG’s review are released and I have had time to implement their recommendations, it is my hope that in our next election cycle those same voters will be reading a new chapter of their County Attorney’s office where problems are being solved, pro-active measures are in place to mitigate future mistakes and justice is being done for victims in Manchester, Nashua and elsewhere in Hillsborough County.

Michael Conlon age 37, lives in Goffstown. A graduate of Suffolk Law School, he is Chief Compliance Officer to Winthrop Bentley Capital, a startup investment advisory firm.

His legal background includes more than a decade in regulatory compliance in a variety of disciplines, coordinating with executive leadership and part-time laborers, outside counsel, company counsel and regulators to bring organizations into new, effective, compliant directions that focus on training, communication and engaging subject matter experts to find the right way forward.