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.
When asked if the Republicans were coming to his defense, Cafero said, “No. Listen, I think they were smart enough on their own. What you saw wasn’t anyone coming to my defense. My defense? I don’t think so.”
He said that Republicans took umbrage with Foley’s public characterizations that the conflicts were “sleazy” and need to be stopped under the law.
“That wasn’t defending Larry Cafero or any individual,” Cafero said of himself. ”I think they were defending the institution.”
The civil lawsuit alleges that Cafero’s law firm, Brown Rudnick, has been engaged in illegal lobbying at the Capitol. Without mentioning Cafero’s name specifically, the suit states that “two members of CRRA’s policies and procurement committee, one of whom was appointed by a partner of Brown Rudnick in his capacity as an elected official, voted to recommend to the board of directors that Brown Rudnick be awarded the [municipal liaison] contract for the period of November 1, 2011 to June 30, 2014.”
Hennessy’s consulting company failed to win the contract, and the firm is suing for triple damages, attorney’s fees, and a court ruling that would award the contract to the firm.
While Cafero currently has two appointments to the board, he had not made any appointments when the Brown Rudnick contract was originally awarded in 2006 and then renewed in 2009. His first appointment came in 2010, and he later appointed Darien resident Dot Kelly to the board after receiving a recommendation from a House Republican colleague.
During a board meeting on December 22, 2011 on whether to extend Ritter’s contract from January through the end of October 2012, Kelly abstained. The vote was 5 -2 to extend the contract, and the two board members voting against the extension were West Hartford Mayor R. Scott Slifka and Barkhamsted first selectman Donald S. Stein, who is now the board chairman.