Author Archives: Jon Lender

GOP Chief Tells Malloy: ‘Stop Covering Up” For ‘Charter School Cronies’

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State Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola Jr. Monday backed a call by Jim Smith, head of the Connecticut Council  on Freedom of Information, for the Malloy Administration to insist on public disclosures by an embattled charter school management group and the Jumoke Academy schools that it has managed.

“It is time for Governor Malloy to stop covering up for his charter school cronies and open the books,” Labriola said, referring to a Sunday Government Watch column on the subject in The Courant. “Instead of protecting this highly dubious organization, Dan Malloy should be working to protect the Connecticut taxpayers that have spent $53 million funding it.” Continue reading

Pfizer, Diageo Agree To Pay $5,000 Fines For Ethics Violations Relating To 2012 Democratic National Convention

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Two corporations have agreed to pay $5,000 fines for ethics violations in connection with receptions they staged for delegates and Connecticut officials including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Diageo North America, Inc. and Pfizer, Inc., each failed to make mandatory reports of lobbying expenditures for food or drink valued at more than $10 per recipient, the Office of State Ethics said in a statement this week.

“Lobbyist reports must fully disclose all expenses as required by the Code of Ethics,” said Carol Carson, executive director of the ethics office. “It is worth noting that the public officials and employees that attended did not violate the Code, because the total cost per person did not exceed the $50 limit.”

Both companies agreed to the fines under written settlement agreements signed last month. They have since submitted the proper filings and notifications, the ethics office said. One of those reports, by Diageo, lists Malloy as a “beneficiary” — one of several — of $15.81 worth of food and drink.

Democrats Blast House Republicans’ Taxpayer-Funded Constituent Mailers, Saying They Resemble Political ‘Attack Pieces’

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State Democratic Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo Saturday blasted Connecticut House Republicans for using taxpayer-funded constituent mailings to make “highly political” attacks on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and legislative Democrats.

DiNardo was responding to a Government Watch column posted on Friday evening (and to be printed in Sunday’s Courant) when she issued a statement calling for state House Minority Leader Larry Cafero, R-Norwalk, and state GOP Chairman Jerry Labriola “to apologize to voters for some of the their members’ post-legislative constituent newsletters, which are overtly political, distort basic financial facts, and misrepresent Governor Malloy during an election year.”

Republicans had already defended their newsletters in the Government Watch column, as Cafero’s spokesman, Pat O’Neil, said the message in the mailings is nothing more than a “fair and honest depiction of what took place in the legislative session…. The use of Gov. Malloy’s photo depicts and defines what Democrats did in 2014 in the short session.” Continue reading

‘Superseding Indictment’ Of Rowland Makes Minor Wording Changes Involving His Alleged Criminal Intent

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Federal prosecutors issued a “superseding indictment” Thursday in their pending case against ex-Gov. John G. Rowland, but it sounds like more than it really is.

All they did was add three words to two of the criminal counts contained in the original April 10 indictment: “knowingly and willfully.”

Counts 6 and 7 of the indictment allege that Rowland caused illegal contributions to be made to the 2012 congressional campaign of unsuccessful Republican candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley in the 5th District.

The original wording of the April 10 indictment, for both counts, was: “…Rowland caused contributions…to be made…”

The new wording, in the superseding indictment issued Thursday, is: “…Rowland knowingly and willfully caused contributions…to be made…”

For the sake of adding six words, the feds needed to issue a whole new 21-page indictment. Everything is the same except that the superseding indictment explicitly claims that Rowland acted intentionally.

Here is how the indictment says that Rowland caused illegal contributions to be made: Rowland was hired by Wilson-Foley’s husband, Brian Foley, under a $35,000 contract as a consultant to his chain of nursing homes. Prosecutors claim that the contract was a sham, and, in reality, was a means for Foley to pay Rowland for helping his wife’s campaign.

Thus, prosecutors claim that Foley’s payments to Rowland were, in reality, contributions to Wilson-Foley’s campaign — and they also claim that the amounts were “in excess of the limits” of federal election law, making them illegal.

Rowland has pleaded not guilty to those two counts and five five others lodged against him in April. A trial in federal court is scheduled for September.

In addition to the two allegations that he caused illegal contributions to be made, the ex-governor is charged with two counts of falsification of records in a federal investigation, one count of conspiracy, and two counts of causing false statements to be made to the Federal Election Commission. The charges carry sentences of one to 20 years for a maximum total of 57 years.

Pelto Issues Formal Statement For His 3rd-Party Gubernatorial Candidacy

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Former state Rep. Jonathan Pelto Thursday morning issued a formal statement to Connecticut news organizations, confirming a Courant story that reported his decision to enter the governor’s race as a third-party candidate. In the story, Pelto explained his reasons for the decision in greater detail than in Thursday’s press release.

Here is Thursday’s press release, in full:

Pelto To Run For Governor

Will Convert from Exploratory Committee to Candidate Committee for Governor

 Former state legislator Jonathan Pelto is announcing that he will be a candidate for Governor this year and that he and his Lt. Governor candidate, Ebony Murphy, will be converting their exploratory committee into a candidate committee for the office of Governor and Lt. Governor of the State of Connecticut.

 “Since creating an exploratory committee for Governor a few weeks ago, I have been overwhelmed and incredibly humbled by the positive response I have received,” said Pelto, who represented the Town of Mansfield in the Connecticut General Assembly for five terms from 1984 to 1993.  Continue reading

Pelto: ‘Exploratory’ Phase Ends; He’ll Definitely Run For Governor On 3rd-Party Line; Will Form Candidate Committee

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Former state Rep. Jonathan Pelto, the Democrat who last month began exploring a third-party candidacy against incumbent Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, declared Wednesday that he’s definitely running for governor – a move that some party insiders fear could throw a close gubernatorial election to a Republican in November.

“I’m not here to be a spoiler,” Pelto told The Courant in an interview – responding to criticism voiced by some Democrats last month when he first raised the possibility of opposing Malloy from the political left. “I’m here to be a credible candidate…and to make a real difference in the debate.”

A Pelto candidacy could affect the election’s outcome even if he were to win only 1 percent of the vote, or about 10,000 votes, observers say. Malloy only defeated Republican nominee Tom Foley by about 6,000 votes in 2010 out of 1.1 million cast, and Foley is again the Republican Party-endorsed candidate although he faces an August primary for the nomination. A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed Foley tied with the first-term Democratic incumbent at 43 percentage points.

Pelto – a onetime Democratic insider who ran the state party’s central office in the 1980s as its political director – lately has alienated many mainstream Democrats by criticizing Malloy. In April, for example, his online blog “Wait What?” at featured “The growing list of reasons to vote against Dannel ‘Dan’ Malloy’s re-election.” He has said Malloy is the “most “anti-teacher, anti-public education, pro-charter school Democratic governor in the nation.”

The Malloy campaign so far has not engaged Pelto publicly over his claims.

Pelto, 53, of Mansfield – a political liberal who calls himself a populist – said last month that he wouldn’t go through with a third-party candidacy if he thought that “the only outcome was to defeat Malloy and ensure a Republican governor.” He said he’d need to believe he has a “ reasonable chance… to get 36, 37 percent of the vote” in a three-way race.

But on Wednesday he said he’s decided to take the full plunge even though admitting that “victory is certainly a long shot.”

Why the change from last month? A major reason, Pelto said, is that several liberal-leaning “constituency groups” – including the American Federation of Teachers, the Working Families Party, 1199 SEIU New England – are only endorsing people who have actually declared their candidacies, not those who have only formed exploratory committees.

“That means the only way I can make my views heard is to become a declared candidate,” Pelto said. “The only way to be a credible candidate is to be an announced candidate.” Continue reading

Foley Blasts Malloy Administration, Legislative Leaders, Over Loophole For Insiders In New Judicial Pension Law

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Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley Tuesday blasted the Democratic Malloy administration and legislative leaders for leaving a loophole that could be exploited by political insiders – including legislators, themselves – as they fashioned a new law early this month to cut back an excessive pension benefit for judges who are appointed when they’re in their 60s.

“State workers and public servants deserve fair and reasonable pensions,” Foley said in a statement. “But the current system leaves the door open for employees gaming the system and irresponsible leaders using the system for political pay-backs. These abuses will end when I am governor.”

The new law – which was inserted by legislators into a massive state budget-implementation bill on the last day of the 2014 legislative session, May 7 – was intended to address an issue that was highlighted by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s judicial nomination in March of 66-year-old lawyer Anthony Avallone, a former Democratic state senator and longtime member of the Democratic National Committee. Avallone was one of two 66-year-olds nominated by Malloy and confirmed as judges in April by the Democrat-controlled House and Senate.

Controversy arose because Avallone and the other 66-year-old, Timothy Bates of Noank, will reach the mandatory judges’ retirement age of 70 in less than four years – and then will instantly collect lifetime pensions of more than $100,000 a year, with annual cost-of-living increases and state health benefits for life.

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Retirement Board Blocks East Haven Mayor’s Disability Pension Again

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The state Retirement Commission has denied a request from East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo to reinstate a disability pension that he’d been collecting for years until it was rescinded in November 2011.

Commission minutes show that at a May 15 meeting, “all voted in favor” of a motion to “deny the reinstatement of Mr. Maturo’s Retirement Benefit.”

No further details were available Friday, but it’s unlikely that this is the last word in a long-running battle. In March, after Maturo appeared before the commission with his attorney, his local state senator, Len Fasano, blasted the panel and said it has treated the mayor unfairly.

Maturo, a Republican, had been collecting an annual disability pension of more than $40,000 from his past years as an East Haven firefighter until it was rescinded in November 2011 after he won the election for mayor.

The Retirement Division of the state comptroller’s office, which administers the Connecticut Municipal Employees Retirement System (MERS), said Maturo couldn’t collect the disability pension while being paid $75,000 a year as mayor.

Maturo had collected that same pension during an earlier, 10-year stint as mayor from 1997 to 2007 — but the comptroller’s office tightened its interpretation of retirement rules in 2011. It said that a MERS retiree is prohibited from working more than 90 days a year for a municipality that participates in that retirement system. Officials said it had been a mistake to allow Maturo to collect the pension during the first 10 years he was mayor.


Kevin Rennie: CCSU Poet Promoted To Full Professor While In Jail

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Ravi Shankar, the poet in residence at Central Connecticut State University who has had legal problems in recent years, has been promoted to full professor while in jail, Courant columnist Kevin Rennie reports on his Daily Ructions blog.

Read it here.

The governing board of the Connecticut Young Writers Trust issued a statement  Wednesday, saying it “firmly stands by…Ravi Shankar” — who is its executive director and chairman — “as he pays his debt to society for personal mistakes wholly unrelated to his educational mission.”

The statement — issued by Rand Cooper, vice chairman of the trust, and Andy Thibault, its chairman emeritus — went on to say:

We are indebted to Ravi for his tireless efforts in running our organization. As chair of our board he has devoted extraordinary time and energy to the cause of furthering literary arts among young people in Connecticut. Visiting schools to conduct poetry workshops; spearheading fundraising; coordinating with teachers, principals and superintendents; bringing in professional writers to speak and teach; managing our annual awards ceremony: this work — which long predates Ravi’s legal troubles — bespeaks his strong commitment to public service and the good of his community.

We at CT Young Writers Trust are proud to have a professor of Ravi’s talent, heart and dedication as our leader. We are eager to enjoy our 17th annual celebration on June 8 with Ravi at the helm. 

McKinney Refunds $400 In Contributions From Contractors And Spouses; Democratic Party Chief Calls Him Hypocritical

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Republican gubernatorial candidate John McKinney has returned $400 in donations to four people who fell under the state law that bans campaign contributions by state contractors and their spouses, according to his latest financing report to state election regulators.

The four people, who gave $100 each to McKinney’s campaign committee last October, were sent refunds less than two weeks after they were mentioned in a Feb. 15 Courant Government Watch column as potentially ineligible to contribute. They are: Jonathan Gavin of Durham, president of United Concrete Products Inc. in Wallingford, and his wife, Lorene Gavin; and William Valus of Fairfield, owner/sales at Encon Inc., a heating, air-conditioning and energy-efficiency company with offices in a main office in Stratford, and Maureen Valus, his wife.

The companies of Gavin and Valus appear on the State Election Enforcement Commission’s list of state contractors, or prospective contractors whose “principals” — that is, top managers or owners — are banned by law from contributing to candidates for Connecticut statewide office and state political committees.

State Democratic Party Chair Nancy DiNardo blasted McKinney in a statement this week over the returned contributions and two more recent donations that she claims he should return for the same reason. DiNardo provided a link to an online video of McKinney saying at a candidates’ debate this past Friday that “I won’t take a penny from state contractors into our campaign.” DiNardo said he “owes the voters an apology for his blatant hypocrisy.”

McKinney spokesman Michael Fox said the campaign did not wish to comment on DiNardo’s statement, but he did provide some explanation for how the campaign committee evaluates contributions to assure that they are legal.

“Given the large number of total contributions it is an incredibly small number that have not self identified themselves [as banned contractors] but we intend to continue to be vigilant and operate by the highest ethical standards,” Fox said. Continue reading