By Doug Ireland
---- — Southern New Hampshire police chiefs had nothing but praise yesterday for Michael Delaney after learning he’s stepping down as attorney general.
Delaney, 43, informed Gov. Maggie Hassan he was leaving public service after 14 years and returning to private practice. His term ends March 31, but Delaney said he would stay on as long as necessary to ensure a smooth transition for his successor.
Some local law enforcement officials said they were surprised to hear he would be leaving and wondered who would replace him.
Marc Goldberg, the governor’s spokesman, would not comment on whether there is a front-runner for the job and said Hassan would work as quickly as possible to select a replacement. The Executive Council must confirm the nominee.
Speculation recently arose at the Statehouse that Hassan wanted to appoint her own attorney general. Goldberg emphasized it was Delaney’s decision to step down and that Hassan “would have been happy if he would have stayed on.”
While Hassan supports allowing expanded gambling in the state, Delaney is strongly opposed.
Delaney has had his share of critics in his four years as attorney general, but he’s also had a lot of supporters in Southern New Hampshire.
“I thought he was a good attorney and a great advocate of law enforcement,” Windham police Capt. Michael Caron said. “We will miss him.”
Local police chiefs said although they didn’t necessarily have a lot of personal contact with Delaney, they liked how he ran the attorney general’s office.
“Every time we’ve had interaction with his office, it’s always been very professional,” acting Atkinson police Chief Patrick Caggiano said.
Derry police Chief Edward Garone agreed. As a leader of the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police, Garone said he had a good relationship with Delaney and lauded his work.
“My dealings with Attorney General Delaney have always been positive,” Garone said. “He was first and foremost a gentleman.”
He said Delaney was a credit to criminal justice and wished him well.
“I will miss that relationship and I hope when the governor makes that replacement, that the person has the same qualities,” Garone said.
Delaney would not comment on his future plans, saying it would not be appropriate while still in office.
Delaney said highlights of his career as attorney general include the murder convictions of Steven Spader and Christopher Gribble in the 2009 Mont Vernon home invasion and machete attack.
He also spoke of the conviction and 60-year sentence of Myles Webster for attempted murder in the shooting of Manchester police Officer Dan Doherty last year.
Yet Delaney expressed disappointment in the lack of an arrest in the kidnapping and murder of 11-year-old Celina Cass of Stewartstown in 2011 and the fatal shooting of Greenland police Chief Michael Maloney during a drug raid last year.
But Newton police Chief Lawrence Streeter praised Delaney for his handling of the Greenland shooting investigation.
One of Streeter’s own officers, Patrolman 1st Class Chris Thurlow, survived the shootout in April that killed Maloney and wounded four other police officers when they were confronted by an armed suspect during a drug raid.
“I had significant interaction with him in the Greenland investigation and I thought he did an excellent job,” Streeter said. “I thought he did a fair and thorough review.”
Rockingham County Attorney James Reams said although he didn’t always agree with Delaney, he respected him.
“While we have disagreed over some things over the years, I don’t think the disagreements carried over from issue to issue,” Reams said. “I like Mike and liked working with him. I am sure he will do well in private practice.”
Hassan praised Delaney for his service. He served in the attorney general’s office from 1999 to 2006, leaving to become legal counsel for former Democratic Gov. John Lynch. Lynch then appointed him as Kelly Ayotte’s successor in 2009 when she stepped down to run for the U.S. Senate.
Delaney thanked his colleagues at the Department of Justice for their “professionalism, work ethic and camaraderie.”
But Delaney had his share of run-ins with the Legislature’s Republican majority last session, including former House Speaker Bill O’Brien.
He was criticized for the independence of his office and his insistence that members of a House committee stop questioning state child care workers about cases.
O’Brien also wanted the Legislature to have the authority to order Delaney to join lawsuits brought by other states. Delaney told him it was unconstitutional.
Shortly after Delaney’s announcement yesterday, Republican State Committee Chairman Jennifer Horn issued a statement praising the attorney general and questioning why he was stepping down.
“After he announced his opposition to Maggie Hassan’s disastrous state budget that relies on $80 million in non-existent and illegal gambling revenue, the governor refused to discuss his reappointment,” she said. “There are serious questions about whether Governor Hassan decided to deny Attorney General Delaney another term because of his strong and principled rejection of her irresponsible policies.”
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.