CONCORD, N.H. -- A 23-year-old state representative who faced possible expulsion from the Legislature resigned yesterday rather than defend himself against charges he abused his office.
Representative John Kerns of Bedford submitted a two-sentence letter that was read on the House floor and was met by applause.
"I'm very sad to leave the House. I really feel that I belong there," Kerns said afterward.
Kerns faced three ethics charges: passing a bad check with "State of New Hampshire" on it; using his title to get a parking spot that was reserved for school officials; and threatening them when told to stop parking there.
Kerns said he felt forced to resign because he was afraid the Legislature would take up the matter before he was willing to address it. He also said he plans to spend the next few months recovering from an unnamed neurological illness and preparing to file for reelection in June.
"So there's plenty of time to do what I would term damage control," said Kerns.
He also faced four criminal charges of passing bad checks.
"It was a good resolution to a tough situation for everyone involved," said House Speaker Gene Chandler. "I think it was in his best interest, certainly. It was the first admission he needs to look at his situation."
The legislative Ethics Committee voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend that the House expel him. The House scheduled a vote on the recommendation March 13.
If the House had agreed, Kerns would have been the first representative to be expelled since 1913.
Committee members said Kerns's refusal to take responsibility for his actions weighed heavily in their decision. They noted in their report to legislative leaders that he had demonstrated no remorse for his inappropriate conduct, failed to acknowledge that his acts reflected negatively on the Legislature, and provided no assurance he would refrain from the behavior in the future.
Kerns had asked a judge last week to suspend the proceedings. He repeatedly has said he is undergoing treatment for a serious neurological illness. He also said he would ask the Legislature for an indefinite leave of absence, but did not follow through.