Are StudentsFirst and other “Education Reform” groups under investigation for Ethics Violations?

24 Comments

It’s a very valid question.

It certainly appeared that StudentsFirst, Excel Brideport, Teach for America – Connecticut Chapter and other groups pushing Governor Malloy’s “education reform” bill engaged in lobbying activities that were not properly reported to the Office of State Ethics.  If they did engage in those activities they could face significant penalties and fines for breaking Connecticut law.

The problem with answering the question is that there is a state law the exempts ethics complaints from Connecticut’s Freedom of Information law and sets up a different standard that give extensive protection to any group or person who is being charged with an ethics violation.

Innocent until proven guilty is the hallmark of our system of justice, but at least in criminal law, the public has a right to know whether someone has or has not been arrested.

But a very different standard exists when it comes to protecting public officials or those who may have violated the state’s ethics code.

Although these provisions were intended to protect people from being hit with frivolous ethics complaints, the present law actually prevents the public from getting information that it has a right to know.

However, a complaint alleging a violation of the Code of Ethics must remain confidential until one of the following criteria is met: (1) after a judge trial referee makes a finding of probable cause, (2) upon the request of the respondent or (3) upon an agreed resolution of the matter by consent order.

This means that while the Office of State Ethics is investigating a complaint, no one, including the person who filed the complainant, the respondent, any witnesses or the Board Members and staff of the Office of State Ethics may disclose the existence of a complaint.

And there is even a $10,000 penalty should the person filling the complaint reveals that he or she has taken that action.

Talk about a disincentive to step forward and file a complaint!

So the quick answer is that we don’t know if investigations are or are not presently taking place.

If I, for example, filed an ethics complaint against some or all of these “education reform” organizations, I could not inform my readers of that fact.

Furthermore, if someone else out there filed a complaint, they could not legally tell me that a complaint was pending.

And finally, if the Office of State Ethics began their own investigation, which is permitted under state law, then they could not inform anyone (except for the organization being investigated) that such an activity was taking place.

Now that I think about it, perhaps this is exactly the situation in which that great phrase comes into play — “Let me just say that I can neither confirm nor deny that the Office of State Ethics is investigating StudentsFirst or any other “education reform” group at this time.”

In fact, even if I could confirm such information, the law would prohibit me from doing so.

So there, for those of you who have been asking, you’ve got your answer.

Remember, he or she who writes the rules…. ah…. writes the rules.

  • jschmidt2

    no penalty for denying a complaint exists? The rules must have been written by lawyers.

    • jonpelto

      Funny right

  • JM

    Just put an emphasis on what you want to say.  It would be no different than the hidden messages that were sent around the state during the great education state take-over.

    I CAN neither CONFIRM of deny…

    • jonpelto

      Good point -
      Sent from my BlackBerry please excuss typos

    • guest

      Or, to put it another way, I CAN neither CONNfirm nor deny a PRYOR complaint.

      • jonpelto

        Ohhhhhhhhh. Good one!

        Sent from my BlackBerry please excuss typos

  • Linda174

    Jon,

    How come this complaint is made public?  Complaint Against Wilson-Foley, re: Rowland Connection, Moves Forward; Does Wilson-Foley Expect Not to be Asked About It?

    http://scullycommunications.com/archives/3496

    • jonpelto

      Good question – I assume a finding of probable cause was made by a judge – but I will check, so they mush have completed an investigation and now it is in phase II, I’ll find out.

      Sent from my BlackBerry please excuss typos

      • sharewhut

         Elections complaint, not Ethics or FOI?

        • Linda174

          Geez! How do you keep up with all this bull? This is exhausting. Teachers are too busy teaching, grading, keeping track of their students, avoiding adminstrators with stupid ideas to be able to keep up with all of this crap.

          • jonpelto

            What are you talking about – you get done at 3pm. You show up 5 minutes before school and you have the summers off…

            Why Paul Vallas or Steven Adamowski or Dan Malloy could teach 3 classes at a time and still do their regular jobs.

          • Linda174

            I know you are joking, but I still have to tell you. I arrive at 6:15. I do leave by 3:30, but I easily take home 2 hours of work a night and at least 6-8 hours on the weekend: planning, grading, etc.  Paul, Steve and Dan couldn’t even pass my 7th grade English class not to mention control, educate,  inspire and amuse 125 twelve and thirteen year olds.

          • sharewhut

             Special Ed, you have to pass him if he does work to the best of HIS ability.

          • Linda174

            Yes, extended time, study guides, modified test/quiz, read aloud to them, paraphrase questions if they don’t understand, option to audio record lengthy written responses,  retake if they earn below a C, no penalty for spelling errors and a gold star every day!

          • sharewhut

             It’s easy. Just see State ‘workings’ from the inside. Most of us just shake our heads (well more like rub them after banging against walls). People are amazed with some of the stuff I’m dealing with. Most of which would have a private employer fined or worse.
            “And so it goes”

        • jonpelto

          Right – elections complaint – say anything you want

          FOI complaint – say anthing you want

          Ethics complaint – say something and you get fined $10,000.

          Seems pretty simple… ie who gives a rat’s ass if you hit me with an elections complaint or an FOI complaint but say I’m unethical and you lose your 1st Amendment Rights.

          • sharewhut

             But to request details  of an FOI request you must file an FOI which won’t be determined until after the original FOI that you’re requesting disclosure of is determined then the merits of your FOI must be determined and a determination will be made as to whether they can release to your FOI the contents of the FOI you’re requesting the contents of…..
            Then it moves to the review and redaction stage.
            And in this case I think they’d use up a lot of markers and toner. (Must be copied, sections crossed out, then recopied at least once to keep redacted stuff from showing up when held to a light).
            And do you think I’m kidding?

      • Linda174

        Thanks.

  • sharewhut

    It comes down to a memo from on high to Ethics and FOI Commissions:
    “Remember who’s on the other end of that there leash you’re yankin’ on!”

    “Sec. 1-205.  (Formerly Sec. 1-21j).  Freedom of Information
    Commission. 

                (a) 
    There
    shall be established, within the Office of Governmental Accountability
    established under section 58 of Public Act 11-48, a Freedom of Information
    Commission consisting of nine members. (1) Five of such members shall be
    appointed by the Governor, with the advice and consent of either house of
    the General Assembly.”
     

    • jonpelto

      I think the statute is posted in each bathroom stall

      Sent from my BlackBerry please excuss typos

      • sharewhut

         On a scroll, right?

  • CT Dad

    Q: Did I post this comment?
    A:  “No comment.”

    • jonpelto

      Its starts with that…. And then if that doesn’t work – its the old 5th amendment thing,,,,

      Sent from my BlackBerry please excuss typos

  • guest

    This is like a striptease!