Author Archives: Jon Lender

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

Sexy Photo Draws More Criticism Of Back9Network; Back9 Defends Shot, Pointing At ESPN’s Provocative Pix

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Back9Network photo, posted on Instagram by Jennifer Bosworth

Back9Network photo, posted on Instagram by Jennifer Bosworth, who is second from left.

The Back9Network, a new cable golf network that issued a public apology last November for a video on its website that contained sexual references and vulgar language, again has drawn criticism in recent days for a photo of four scantily clad women that’s been posted on Instagram, a popular photo-sharing social media service on the Internet.

The photo was put up a few days ago on the Instagram page of Back9 personality Jennifer Bosworth, one of the four women pictured. Her Instagram posting said the picture was taken in conjunction with the “Back9Network Spring Fling photo shoot” at Augusta National Golf Club, where the Masters tournament started Thursday. Continue reading

Malloy Suggests WTIC Should Dump Rowland; But He\’s Back On Air, Saying Nothing About \’Co-Conspirator\’ Claim

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A day after ex-governor John G. Rowland was named in federal court as an alleged co-conspirator in a campaign-financing scheme, he returned to the microphone Tuesday afternoon for his WTIC-AM talk show — but he was mum on the topic that likely made more listeners tune in than usual.

Rowland started his three-hour program at 3:07 p.m. with this 11-second comment: “John G. Rowland here with you — and before I get the program going, I just want to make a quick statement: I am not going to be discussing the recent news and legal developments. I am sure that you all understand. And I want to respect the process.”

He provided no specifics or context for listeners who may have been unfamiliar with the court proceeding Monday – which dramatically lifted the curtain on federal investigators’ efforts to build a case for Rowland’s possible indictment by a grand jury.

Instead, Rowland switched immediately to a discussion of some of his more typical subjects, ranging from the ways in which Obamacare is “ruining lives” to the success of UConn Huskies basketball.

Rowland has not responded to Courant messages, left on the phone and email, seeking his comment on Monday’s developments in court.

Rowland’s show had been pre-empted by Red Sox baseball late Monday afternoon — when businessman Brian Foley and his wife, former congressional candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley, were admitting in federal court in Hartford that they used a sham consulting contract with Rowland to pay him for secret political assistance to Wilson-Foley’s 2012 campaign. Continue reading

Images From \’Aid-In-Dying\’ Display, Newly Returned To The Capitol

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\"6words1\"\"6words2\"Here are a couple shots of the controversial \”aid-in-dying\” photo display that was abruptly removed from the wall of the tunnel between the Capitol and Legislative Office Building last month, but was put back up Thursday after the ACLU of Connecticut intervened.

Here\’s the story that appeared in Thursday\’s Courant about it.

Here\’s a link to a short video that shows how far up the tunnel the display extends: 6wordsvideo

Elections Panel Dismisses GOP Complaint On Malloy\’s California Fundraising Trip

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The State Elections Enforcement Commission has dismissed a complaint by the state Republican Party alleging that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and the state Democratic Party illegally solicited money from a state contractor during the governor\’s fundraising trip to the San Francisco area last Oct. 18 to 20.

In a written decision released Wednesday, the commission said it found, “after thorough investigation, that the facts do not support the allegations contained in the complaint,” which was filed in late October by the state GOP’s communications director, Zak Sanders.

Malloy and Jonathan Harris, the state Democratic Party’s executive director, spent the October weekend mixing with active California Democrats and campaign donors. Malloy spoke to the Democrats at two events.  One, at which Malloy was billed as \”special guest,\” was a fundraiser for the Democratic Governors Association, an independent political committee that assists Democrats across the country. The other was described as a non-fundraising event focusing on public policy issues.

Among those Malloy spoke to on the weekend were two executives with McKinsey & Co., a management consulting firm that has had two contracts with the state of Connecticut worth several million dollars since 2010. One of the McKinsey executives was Lenny Mendonca, a prominent Democratic activist and donor in the Bay area. Continue reading

\’Aid-In-Dying\’ Photo Display Will Return To Capitol Complex, After ACLU Questions Its Removal

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Photos of people who support “aid-in-dying” legislation — removed abruptly last month from the wall of the tunnel between the state Capitol and the Legislative Office Building — can be put back up Thursday, after the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut raised constitutional questions about their removal.

“We were notified late Tuesday that [the Office of] Legislative Management would give us the space to re-hang the End-of-Life Choice: Six Words portrait display,” said Tim Appleton, Connecticut Campaign Manager for the “aid-in-dying” advocacy group Compassion & Choices. “We’re pleased with this solution,” he said, “and we, again, encourage visitors to come see these courageous supporters of death with dignity.”

The 30 or so poster-sized photos show faces of “aid-in-dying” supporters, both young and old – including a doctor, nurse, med student, clergyman, former legislators, and activists – along with a six-word quotation from each, such as: ”Terminally ill people should have choice”; “Pro-choice in life and death”; “Born free! Live free! Die free!” and “I intend to die with dignity.”

The legislative management office oversees the public displays that are set up in the LOB tunnel by organizations, and its executive director, James Tracy, told Appleton in an email Wednesday that his group could put the display back up from Thursday through the following Wednesday to make up for the days it had reserved, but lost.

The display came down on Feb. 7, a week before its scheduled Feb. 14 removal date, after House Minority Leader Larry Cafero approached Tracy, telling him he thought it was inappropriate for the public space inside the Capitol complex.

“It caught my eye. It was so directly advocating for a piece of legislation during a legislative session.” Cafero recalled Wednesday. “In my 22 years here, I’d never seen anything like that before.”

The underground corridor is continually booked to showcase artwork by students and adults, as well as Connecticut history, state building projects, community service organizations, health issues, and various other non-controversial things. However, Appleton’s display was focused on a pending bill that’s at the center of a legislative battle: House Bill 5326.

The bill would allow a mentally competent patient with less than six months to live to obtain a doctor’s prescription for a lethal dose of medication – and, this past Monday, it was the subject of an animated public hearing by the legislature’s public health committee. Continue reading

Chimp Attack Victim Makes Video Plea For Permission To Sue State

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Interview with Charla Nash produced by her legal team and conducted by Geomatrix Productions.

Charla Nash — the victim of a brutal 2009  mauling by a chimpanzee that blinded her and ripped off her face and most of her hands — gets her chance Friday to persuade state legislators to let her sue the state for $150 million in Superior Court.

In anticipation of a big public hearing on her case Friday in the state Capitol complex in Hartford, Nash\’s legal team has produced a video to help make her case to legislators, and released it to The Courant Tuesday. In it, she tells part of her life story and talks with pride about her daughter.

The video shows Nash close-up as she talks to the camera. Part of the video also shows her feeling her way along the hallway of the Boston-area rehabilitation facility where she now lives, then entering her room and sitting down on a hospital-style bed.

“I want to be as normal as I can be. I miss waking up in the morning with the sun,” she says. “It was always nice to look at what kind of day it was going to be… I really miss seeing a whole lot. … I’m hoping that the legislation will allow me to have my day in court – that I will be able to have a judge listen to the evidence that is brought before him about the vicious attack on me, and that it shall not happen top nay other person again.”

Nash, who needed a face transplant as part of her recovery, is expected to appear but not testify at a public hearing in Hartford conducted by the General Assembly\’s judiciary committee, said Kevin Reynolds, an attorney who serves as legislative lobbyist for Nash\’s legal team.

The committee hearing — at noon in the Legislative Office Building — is the first step in the legislature\’s deliberations on Nash\’s effort to overturn a decision last June by state Claims Commissioner J. Paul Vance Jr.

Vance denied Nash\’s request that he waive the state\’s \”sovereign immunity\” against lawsuits seeking financial damages — in this case, Nash\’s claim of $150 million in damages from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. The General Assembly has the power to pass legislation overruling the claims commissioner\’s decision, thhus giving a claimant the right to sue the state.

Rep. Gerald Fox III, co-chairman of the judiciary committee, said Tuesday that the committee has until April 2 to vote whether to approve her appeal and send a legislative resolution forward for final General Assembly approval.

Fox said he\’s not inclined to have the Nash video it shown as part of the hearing, which may take all afternoon. \”If they want to make [copies of] it available to members of the committee\” for viewing later, Fox said it\’s fine with him.

The video covers much of the same material that the Nash team already has been circulating among legislators in the form of a half-inch-thick, spiral-bound book entitled \”IN THE MATTER OF CHARLA NASH.\”  Among the photos in the book is a menacing-looking, color shot of Travis, the 200-pound chimp at age 14 with teeth bared, seated on a couch in an adult diaper with his belly bulging. Continue reading

Marijuana Grower Keeps Connecticut License Despite Problems That One Of Its Members Had In Colorado

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The state Department of Consumer Protection has decided to let Advanced Grow Labs LLC retain its status as one of four companies licensed to legally produce medical marijuana in Connecticut — despite the fact that one of its corporate team members lost his license to produce marijuana in Colorado in 2012.

That team member, John J. Czarkowski, resigned as Advanced Grow Labs’ director of production after the Tuesday revelation that he had to shut down his Colorado marijuana dispensary and production facility, Boulder Kind Care, in 2012 after the city of Boulder, Colo., moved to revoke his license for several alleged violations of regulations.

Advanced Grow Labs said that although it identified Czarkowski as its director of production in licensing materials submitted to the state, he was a consultant.

Late Friday afternoon, state Consumer Protection Commissioner William Rubenstein announced the outcome of his agency’s three-day inivestigation of Advanced Grow Labs.

\”A careful review of the circumstances surrounding consultant John J. Czarkowski\’s license revocation by the city of Boulder, Colorado, and his efforts to conceal this information, has led the Department to conclude that he is not appropriate to act as a consultant in the ongoinig operation of a facility in Connecticut\’s medical marijuana program,\” Rubenstein wrote Friday to David Lipton, managing partner of Advanced Grow Labs.

The consumer protection agency’s inquiry began after the Boston Globe Tuesday morning revealed the Colorado problems of Czarkowski, who was part of three groups that had won preliminary approval to run medical marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts. The Courant then reported that he was part of Advanced Grow Labs in Connecticut.

“Despite our concerns with Mr. Czarkowski, we have concluded that the best course of action for Connecticut’s medical marijuana program, and the patients it is designed to serve, is to allow Advanced Grow Labs to retain its medical marijuana producer license,” Rubenstein added.

“We did not reach this decision lightly,” he wrote. “Our conclusion is based on our conviction — after a factual review — that Advanced Grow Labs, which is primairly a Connecticut-based company whose principals have longstanding roots in the state, was equally misled by Mr. Czarkowski, despite havinig done a thorough background check prior to retaining him.”

Merrill Newsletter: Possibly Political, But Not Illegal

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State auditors have found that Secretary of the State Denise Merrill’s controversial e-newsletter, which she discontinued in October, apparently did not violate state law but “could be perceived” as intended for “partisan political purposes.”

In a four-page report Monday, chief auditors John Geragosian and Robert Ward told Merrill: “Based on the information reviewed it can be concluded that the newsletter project that was discontinued did not violate state statutes.”

“However,” they added, “there may always be a question as to whether the e-newsletters were emailed to individuals to inform them of what your office is doing, or to get your name out to those individuals for partisan political purposes.”

“We found no substantive documentation to positively support that the e-newsletter project was for clearly political purposes, although it could be perceived that it was,” the auditors wrote.

The Courant disclosed last Oct. 11 that Merrill, a Democrat, had used her taxpayer-funded office to email a monthly newsletter touting her achievements to thousands of Democratic activists and campaign contributors who could help her win re-election this coming November.

The list of 5,000 newsletter recipients was relayed to Merrill’s taxpayer-funded office from the personal email account of her chief of staff, Shannon Wegele, an “unclassified” political appointee who assisted in Merrill’s 2010 campaign. Merrill later acknowledged that many of the names – including 2,800 members of Democratic town committees and 150 local party chairpersons – came from her 2010 campaign’s list.

On Oct. 15, four days after the Courant’s disclosures, Merrill apologized for the newsletter at a press conference and directed her staff to cease its publication; it was sent from June to October 2013. Continue reading

Trash Agency\’s Spokesman Departs; His $109,425 Job Was Eliminated

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Paul Nonnemacher, the public spokesman for the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority, has lost his $109,425-a-year job as director of public relations and education at the financially troubled agency. A cost-saving move eliminated his position and he left two weeks ago.

Nonnenmacher’s 10½ years at the state\’s quasi-public trash agency qualified him for its maximum 16 weeks of severance pay and benefits, such as medical insurance, for full-time employees, said Thomas D. Kirk, the CRRA’s president and CEO. The CRRA is not part of the state retirement system, Kirk said, and \”offers no pension or post-employment benefits.\”

The agency – which burns trash to generate energy at its plant in Hartford’s South Meadows – has been under pressure to reduce expenses. The pressure increased after a recent audit found that the CRRA’s large staff is paid more than employees at similar utilities and waste firms; more than one-third of its 45 employees were making between $101,000 and $292,000 at the time of the audit. Continue reading