State insiders are closely watching the fate of CRRA, the regional garbage and recycling agency, as some town officials believe that the agency is hurting financially and could eventually go out of business.
Now, a longtime Hartford Democrat is asking the state legislature to force CRRA to set aside money in case he wins a bitter lawsuit against the agency.
Matthew J. Hennessy, who runs a consulting firm known as Tremont Public Advisors, is asking the legislature to insert language into a CRRA bill to force the agency to “post a bond in sufficient amount to pay any judgment or arbitration award resulting from outstanding claims pending against CRRA as of December 31, 2013.”
That would include Tremont’s civil lawsuit that says CRRA violated the state’s anti-trust act and competitive bidding laws after Hennessy’s firm failed to win a consulting contract that had long been held by Brown Rudnick, the law and lobbying firm that employs former House Speaker Thomas Ritter. Hennessy and Ritter are longtime Hartford Democrats from the West End who have had cordial relations in the past, but they have clashed over the CRRA issue.
“Based upon the information that has been discovered to date, I am confident that our suit will be successful,” Hennessy wrote in a letter to the environment committee co-chairs, Sen. Edward Meyer and Rep. Linda Gentile.
Thomas D. Kirk, CRRA’s president and CEO, declined to comment on Hennessy’s letter. Continue reading →
A Hartford law firm won a preliminary victory recently in a bitter lawsuit against the regional trash agency when a judge refused to disqualify the law firm for a conflict of interest.
Murtha Cullina, a well-known firm that served as the former general counsel for the embattled Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority for 29 years, is now representing a consulting firm headed by Hartford Democratic political operative Matthew J. Hennessy in a lawsuit against CRRA.
In one of its first moves in state Superior Court in Hartford, CRRA tried to disqualify Murtha Cullina from the civil lawsuit after charging that “the firm has gained confidential information regarding the defendant’s finances, development, and private matters that will result in an unfair advantage to the plaintiff in the present action,” according to court papers. Continue reading →
The state’s regional garbage agency won a victory this week as the state’s Freedom of Information Commission blocked the release of emails by former House Speaker Thomas D. Ritter on the grounds that they were covered by attorney-client privilege.
The FOI battle, which has already lasted for nearly two years, could now last years longer as it heads to Superior Court in an appeal.
An attorney said the clash could have potentially broader implications at the state Capitol if communications between lawyer-lobbyists and their clients are deemed secret. Lobbyists who are not lawyers would not be able to have their emails and other communications fall under the umbrella of attorney-client privilege because they are not attorneys.
“It certainly opens the door to that,’’ said Hartford attorney Michael C. Harrington, who was seeking Ritter’s emails. “This will allow any lobbyist, who happens to have a law degree, to create a veil of secrecy under the auspices of the privilege. Lobbying is not legal advice.’’
Others, though, believe the ruling will have no long-term implications because the emails were read “in camera” or in secret by FOI commissioners who determined that they were related to legal issues. In addition, FOI covers government actions and does not apply to communications between private entities that would involve other lobbyists and their clients.
The battle involves a bitter, ongoing clash between Harrington and the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority, the regional garbage and recycling behemoth that serves about 70 cities and towns. Harrington is the attorney for a consulting firm headed by Matthew J. Hennessy, a longtime Hartford Democratic political operative who is suing CRRA in an anti-trust case because he did not receive a three-year consulting contract worth more than $250,000. Ritter’s firm had the contract for years before Hennessy became a bidder.
CRRA has already spent more than $100,000 in attempting to block the FOI requests over the past two years, according to testimony. Continue reading →
What does Tom Ritter do for the state’s regional garbage agency?
That was the question Tuesday at a two-hour public hearing in front of the state’s Freedom of Information Commission.
Ritter, the influential former Speaker of the House, has worked for years as a consultant for the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority, the regional garbage-burning and recycling entity that serves about 70 towns. His work has been part of a broader controversy as part of a freedom of information battle that has lasted longer than 18 months and has cost the CRRA more than $100,000 as the agency refuses to reveal more than 1,000 emails by Ritter and others that CRRA says are protected by attorney-client privilege, according to testimony.
The issue was still not resolved after Tuesday’s hearing and will be the subject of future testimony, which has not yet been scheduled.
The FOI hearing officer, staff attorney Kathleen K. Ross, seemed unclear at times during the hearing over exactly what services Ritter performs for CRRA.
Despite facing a huge buzzsaw of opposition over his bill on conflicts of interest, the former Republican gubernatorial nominee is pushing ahead to resurrect the measure before the session ends on June 5.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Foley announced that 11 legislators – 9 Democrats and 2 Republicans – have conflicts of interest because they either work for a lobbying firm, a public employee’s union or a state contractor. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Joseph Markley of Southington, is designed to prevent those conflicts.
Foley declined to name the 11 lawmakers, but confirmed that one of them is House Republican leader Larry Cafero, a longtime real estate attorney who works as a partner for the lobbying and law firm of Brown Rudnick. Foley has said that Cafero “absolutely” has a conflict of interest by working for a firm that currently lobbies the legislature. Separately, Brown Rudnick is at the center of an ongoing civil lawsuit by the consulting firm of Hartford Democratic political operative Matthew J. Hennessy against the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority, the influential regional garbage agency. Hennessy charges in the lawsuit that Brown Rudnick had been the pre-determined winner of a consulting contract and that the firm has been engaged in illegal lobbying at the state Capitol. Continue reading →
Brown Rudnick, a lobbying and law firm with close ties at the state Capitol, is holding its annual “Red Wine Night” on Thursday in Hartford.
The night has become a tradition on the Capitol calendar. The official legislative bulletin says that the night “is in compliance with Connecticut ethics laws C.G.S. Section 1 – 91 (G) (10).”
The event dates all the way back to the days when Thomas D. Ritter was the House Speaker for six years in the early to mid-1990s, and the wine nights became well-known in the House Democratic caucus room. Today, Ritter is a partner at Brown Rudnick, as is House Republican leader Larry Cafero of Norwalk.
The clash between House Republicans and former Republican gubernatorial nominee Tom Foley during a public hearing this week marked one of the most contentious dust-ups of the legislative session so far.
Insiders have said for days that three House Republicans were actually defending their leader, Lawrence Cafero of Norwalk, who has been mentioned in a bitter civil lawsuit by Hartford Democratic operative Matthew J. Hennessy against the state’s regional garbage agency.
But Cafero rejected that idea, saying that the House Republicans were acting on their own Monday because they believed that Foley’s proposal was over-reaching and could prevent as many as half of the legislators from serving because of conflicts of interest. Continue reading →
A potential Republican primary for governor is still more than one year away, but two of the main contestants are already clashing over conflicts of interest.
Former Republican nominee Tom Foley came to Hartford this week and said he wanted to rid the Capitol of perceived conflicts of interest, including one by House Republican leader Larry Cafero. Continue reading →
Former Republican gubernatorial nominee Tom Foley came to the state Capitol complex Monday with the straightforward idea of trying to root out conflicts of interest in state government.
But he ran into a major buzzsaw of protest from both Republicans and Democrats over the wording of a bill that he was pushing – and the impacts that it would cause. In a surprise, Foley was blasted harshly by three House Republicans who disagreed with the wording of Senate bill 727. Foley said the conflicts were “sleazy” and added that the ”foxes are running the henhouse” at the Capitol, which did not sit well with some legislators.
One of those protesting loudest against Foley’s testimony at a committee hearing was Rep. David Labriola, the brother of the state Republican Party chairman. Labriola and other Republicans protested that the bill was so broadly written that it would cover large numbers of employees who work at some of the largest corporations in Connecticut. Several legislators said it was so broad that it would affect half of all state legislators – potentially forcing them out of office.
“It’s absurdly broad. It’s outrageous,” Labriola told Foley. ”It’s actually going to cover everybody – like 1 million people. … It truly is absurd. That’s my major point.”
Labriola, who is known for being low-key in the legislature, added, “It’s not appreciated or helpful to throw around words like sleazy. … I get there’s an election coming up. I don’t think it’s helpful to use that kind of bombastic language.” Continue reading →
The board of the region’s powerful garbage agency held an emergency meeting Monday to discuss a high-profile lawsuit that charges illegal lobbying and favoritism in the awarding of a consulting contract.
The Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority held the meeting to discuss the strategy and defenses to the civil lawsuit, said board chairman Donald S. Stein.
“We have to take it seriously and put a defense together,’’ Stein said in a telephone interview. “We don’t believe the charges have merit.’’
Stein, who also serves as the first selectman of Barkhamsted, declined to comment in detail on the lawsuit by a consulting firm run by longtime Hartford Democratic strategist Matthew J. Hennessy, who was one of two bidders for a three-year consulting contract worth more than $250,000.
Hennessy was trying to unseat the incumbent consultant, Thomas D. Ritter of the law and lobbying firm of Brown Rudnick. Ritter’s firm has held the contract since 2006, and Hennessy charges in the suit that Ritter’s firm was the “predetermined’’ winner. Hennessy’s firm, which was never interviewed and was the high bidder, is seeking monetary and punitive damages, attorney’s fees, treble damages under the state’s anti-trust statutes, “an injunction prohibiting CRRA from utilizing outside lobbyists,’’ and a Superior Court judge’s ruling awarding him the contract. Continue reading →