Once again, Spending the Public’s Money to Keep the Public in the Dark

by Categorized: Employment, Government, Transparency/FOI Date:

The Connecticut State Colleges & Universities system, with its 90,000 students and $300 million in state aid, is among the most expensive and most important government operations. So when Michael Gargano Jr. abruptly resigned his $224,554 job as provost last month, the taxpayers of Connecticut might have felt entitled to a robust exit interview, to learn why he was dissatisfied with the governance of the system and in particular how his thinking differed from that of his boss, Board of Regents President Gregory Gray.

But that’s not likely to happen.

As my colleague Kathy Megan has reported, a separation agreement Gargano and Gray signed contractually bars Gargano from uttering a sentence that disparages Gray – or anyone else connected to the state’s higher education network. Specifically, Gargano’s deal prohibits him from making any derogatory statement about the Board of Regents, about his employment with the Board of Regents or about any current or previous member, employee or officer of the Board of Regents.

On the other side of the ledger, the agreement continues Gargano’s paycheck for nearly 16 weeks, at a cost to taxpayers of more than $65,000. That payment – roughly equal to a year’s salary for a typical state employee – is not required by Gargano’s employment contract.

As is typical of negotiated employment separations, the agreement also bars Gargano from suing his former employer. There’s no indication he had any basis for a suit, although if he was in fact treated in a way that violated the law, perhaps that, too, is something the taxpayers had a right to know.

So in the end, an employee of the public has signed off on giving tens of thousands of dollars of the public’s money to another public employee as part of a deal that will keep the public in the dark about the public’s business.

Does anyone have a problem with this?

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How We Knew Tom Foley Was in Trouble on Election Night

by Categorized: Data, Politics Date:

For hours after the polls closed Tuesday night, as vote tallies cropped up from town to town, Tom Foley enjoyed a steady if tantalizingly thin HC 10 MALLOY ELECTIONmargin in his quest to unseat Gov. Dan Malloy.

But here at The Scoop, we could tell early on that Foley was in serious trouble, even as he seemed to be thousands of votes ahead.

Our early warning came from a simple system that not only compiled the local results as they were announced, but also analyzed how each candidate was faring compared to their initial match four years ago. That deeper look at the numbers showed that almost from the beginning, there was evidence Foley was facing an uphill battle to avoid a replay of his 2010 defeat.

Connecticut elections typically display a sharp divide between the most-populous cities, which vote overwhelmingly Democratic, and smaller suburban and rural towns, many of which lean moderately or heavily Republican. But it’s those smaller towns, many with a single voting precinct, that report early, giving Republican candidates a phantom edge that can be wiped out when the totals come in from the cities.

In the newsroom, we could see that while Foley once again did well in traditionally Republican towns, he was losing ground in many of those communities compared to four years ago. Later, it was evident that he had failed to substantially chip away at Malloy’s huge margins of victory in the large cities. For more details on how Malloy’s victory came together, see my colleague Dan Haar’s excellent analysis.

Tuesday’s vote offered a fresh reminder of the dangers of reading too much into early returns. So on election nights to come, it’s worth remembering that even with hyper-competitive news coverage of a hyper-competitive political process, patience is still a virtue.

The map below shows how Malloy and Foley fared Tuesday, compared to their vote spreads in 2010. Towns shaded blue are those in which Malloy performed better than four years ago, either by extending his margin of victory or shrinking Foley’s. Similarly, red-shaded towns are those in which Foley either won by more votes or lost by fewer. Deeper colors indicate are more dramatic improvement over 2010. Click on a town for details.

Town-by-Town Vote Margins for Connecticut Governor

by Categorized: Data, Politics Date:

As town results trickle in from local registrars tonight, we’ll begin to have a sense of how Tom Foley and Dan Malloy are faring in the battle for the governor’s office. But since different towns complete their counts in different time frames – and particularly because larger cities tend to lag significantly behind small, one-precinct towns – early figures may give a lopsided view of how the race is really going.

With this campaign a rematch of 2010, a better measure might be to compare each candidate’s town-by-town margin of victory against his margin four years ago. That’s what this chart accomplishes. As each town reports vote totals for Foley and Malloy, the chart will show which candidate saw gains compared to 2010, either by extending his lead or narrowing his opponent’s lead.

So if suburban towns report early in the evening and indicate, as expected, a preference for Foley, this chart will show not merely that Foley is doing well in the suburbs, but whether he’s doing better or worse than he did four years ago. Likewise, while Malloy is expected to win big margins in the cities, this chart will show whether he has lost or gained ground compared to 2010.

Note that the chart will have no data for the 2014 race until the first towns report, sometime after 8 p.m. Note also that refreshing the page will load the latest data.

Claim Check: Greenberg Ad Muddies Esty’s Stand on Social Security

by Categorized: Claim Check, Politics Date:

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Where’d the puppies go?

Weeks after airing what might be the feel-good ad of the 2014 campaign season, featuring hordes of tail-wagging dogs, Mark Greenberg has returned to the aGreenberg_Esty_SocialSecurityirwaves with a considerably harsher message aimed at 5th District Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty.

In “Disturbing Patterns,” Greenberg, the Republican challenger, draws historical parallels to portray Esty as a politician who supports higher taxes and lobs false attack ads. In firing that salvo, Greenberg stays mostly — but not entirely — within bounds.

Continue reading

Veteran Boston Investigative Reporter Detained in Russia

by Categorized: First Amendment, Law Enforcement, Legal Affairs, Media, Non-profits Date:

Joe Bergantino, executive director of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and a long-time Boston television reporter, was detained in Russia Thursday while conducting a training session for fellowBergantino journalists, according to a release from the New England First Amendment Center.

Bergantino and Randy Covington of the University of South Carolina were leading a workshop with Russian journalists when authorities interrupted the session and took the two men away, the release states, citing Beth Daley, a reporter for NECIR who has spoken with Bergantino.

Daley said the men were accused of “teaching an educational workshop illegally because they were using the wrong visas,” according to the release. The men were then taken to a Russian court and ordered to halt the workshop and leave the country.

Bergantino, a former reporter for WBZ-TV and ABC News, co-founded the non-profit New England Center for Investigative Reporting in 2009.

Claim Check: Elizabeth Esty Misleads on Social Security

by Categorized: Claim Check, Employment, Politics Date:

claimcheckThese days, video cameras follow candidates everywhere, from intimate meet-and-greets to massive pEsty_SocialSecurity_Greenbergolitical rallies, and when rivals dig into that footage, they face a choice. They can look for some unflattering off-the-cuff gaffe to embarrass their opponent, or they can cherry-pick and string together piecemeal quotes to make their challenger appear to be saying something he or she is not.

Elizabeth Esty’s campaign went with the latter option in a new ad taking aim at Fifth-District Congressional challenger Mark Greenberg’s stance on Social Security. Continue reading

Claim Check: Foley on “Underperforming” Schools

by Categorized: Claim Check, Education, Politics Date:

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It’s been strangely quiet in the Claim Check cubicle lately, but not because candidates and PACs have suddenly abandoned political advertising.

Instead, Connecticut candidates took a break from specific boasts or specific accusations to focus on generic vote-for-me-I’m-a-nice-guy ads that defy fact-checking. So, for example, we saw congressional candidate Mark Greenberg’s clever analogyFoley_Education about barking dogs and we know that gubernatorial longshot Joe Visconti packs heat and rides horses. But neither of those spots had measurable claims that could be addressed in this space.

But at last, a recent Tom Foley TV spot, focusing on education, makes a single checkable assertion about the performance of Connecticut schools. The claim is based on an outdated report and the issue of school performance is more complicated than can be squeezed into a short ad. But overall, Foley’s assertion is justifiable. Continue reading

Claim Check: A Foley Misstep on His Time at The Bibb Co.

by Categorized: Claim Check, Employment, Politics Date:

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Readers who are keeping count will know that this is the seventh time Claim Check has considered Tom Foley’s tenure with the Bibb Co. They may also recall that we have typically deemed ads Foley_RightExperiencefrom both sides to be generally accurate, even when they lack context or rely heavily on opinion — which doesn’t lend itself to fact-checking.

Instead, what has gotten the political spinmeisters in real trouble are statements in ads that are demonstrably and unequivocally erroneous — incorrect statements that leave little or no room for interpretation or truth-shading. And that is the fate that befalls Foley in his latest ad in the tug-of-war over Bibb.

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Claim Check: Malloy Hits – Again – at Tom Foley and the Bibb Co.

by Categorized: Claim Check, Employment, Politics Date:

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Five times now, Claim Check has evaluated assertions about Tom Foley’s involvement with the Bibb Co. textile firm in Georgia. And five times now, BibbTowerwe’ve found that one side or the other didn’t get the story exactly right — though usually without veering so far from the truth as to earn an unfavorable rating.

That is the case once again, as Claim Check takes its sixth look at the Bibb, via an ad from Gov. Dannel Malloy’s campaign titled “Ghost Town.” Continue reading

Claim Check: Foley Takes Aim at Malloy on Taxes, Jobs, Economy

by Categorized: Claim Check, Employment, Government, Politics Date:

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Whatever advantages attach to incumbency at election time, there is one obvious potential Foley_Hurtingdownside: Officeholders create an inescapable trail of policy decisions and are typically linked to the fortunes — and certainly the misfortunes — of their dominions during their terms.

All of that creates opportunities for opponents, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Foley is out with an aggressive new ad mining the record of incumbent Gov. Dan Malloy on key pocketbook issues: taxes, jobs and the economy. Continue reading