If there was any doubt that Governor Dannel Malloy was lying to state employees last fall when he was courting their vote, they need only look to the decision by Malloy’s political appointees on UConn’s Board of Trustees to hire a New Jersey based, corporate law firm with close ties to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to lead the contract negotiations against UConn’s faculty.
New Jersey lawyer John J. Peirano, a partner with Elroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter, has been given a contract that could cost state taxpayers and UConn students $500,000 or more to serve as the lead negotiator against the American Association of University Professors – UConn Chapter.
Peirano’s firm, McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter, is closely connected to Christie. The firm’s Managing Director, Edward Deutsch, served on Christie’s gubernatorial transition team and is now a member of the Christie for President fundraising committee. The firm’s Newark Managing Partner was recently appointed Christie’s chief legal counsel and other firm lawyers have been appointed by Christie to major New Jersey Boards and Commissions.
The news that the University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees had hired a big time, out-of-state law firm to represent UConn in its negotiations with the faulty was first reported here at Wait, What? in an article entitled UConn hires Gov. Chris Christie connected law firm to negotiate contract with faculty union.
While both the Hartford Courant and CT Mirror have recently followed with their own news stories about the development, both media outlets skipped over any reference to the law firm’s connection with Governor Christie. The Hartford Courant article is here – UConn’s Hiring Of Outside Law Firm Angers Faculty and the CT Mirror story is here – UConn begins labor contract talks with cost savings as goal.
As confirmed in the news reports, UConn will be paying the New Jersey firm $250,000 plus expenses for its work through December with an automatic contract extension into 2016. The cost to UConn students and Connecticut taxpayers for the out-of-state “expertise” will run $310 an hour for attorney Peirano’s help. Considering how long contract negotiations generally last, the total cost for the New Jersey law firm could easily surpass $500,000.
While UConn already spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on its own legal and labor relation staff, what makes the decision to hire outside negotiators particularly newsworthy is that this will be the first time that UConn has hired outside labor negotiators.
Considering Governor Dannel Malloy serves as the President of the UConn Board of Trustees, appoints the Chairman of the Board and directly appoints and controls the majority of the members of the board, the unprecedented decision has the Malloy administration’s fingerprints all over it.
The choice UConn made is also a strange one. In addition to the close relationship that the New Jersey law firm has with Republican Governor Chris Christie, is the fact that controversy has often surrounded John J. Peirano, the law firm’s lawyer who will be leading the UConn negotiating operation.
A review of his track record reviles that Peirano has been associated with a series of unfair labor practice charges brought by unions, not to mention the role Peirano played in the Christie administration’s failed attempt to privatize the New Jersey Turnpike.
After taking office, Governor Christie created the New Jersey Privatization Task Force in March 2011. Two months later, the anti-union governor’s Task Force reported that “privatization offers a variety of benefits to governments and taxpayers including lower costs, improvements in the quality of public services and access to private sector capital and professional expertise.”
A corresponding effort to privatize the New Jersey Turnpike Authority was derailed when the contract with toll collectors was extended for two years after toll collectors agreed to salary cuts of about 25 percent — from around $65,000 a year to $49,500 annually.
Attorney Peirano has been a lead labor lawyer for the Turnpike Authority.
Despite the major concessions given by toll collectors, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority issued a Request for Proposal to privatize the work of the Turnpike’s toll attendants. The plan called for firing more than 200 full-time public employees and approximately 350 part-time employees, although the RFP did include a provision that would require any private contractor to offer positions, even if they were at a much lower salary level, to any of the public employees who would be laid off.
However, only a few weeks later, on February 25, 2011, the Turnpike Authority suspiciously eliminated the First Right of Refusal provision from the RFP.
In response to the Turnpike Authority’s decision to cut the public employees off at the knees and not even allow them an initial opportunity to remain employed, the union filed a lawsuit claiming the action was in retribution for the union’s outspoken opposition to the plan and that the Turnpike Authority’s action should not be allowed to stand.
In his brief to the court, the Turnpike Authority’s lawyer, Attorney Peirano, blasted the union and the public employees they represented in a court brief that opined,
“In an effort to undermine that decision, plaintiffs – the union representing toll collectors and seven of its members – have impermissibly sought to derail that process by manufacturing a First Amendment lawsuit in federal court.”
As the Star-Ledger reported at the time in an article entitled,
Wednesday in federal court, a lawyer for the toll collectors said that after they spoke out against plans this summer to privatize their jobs, the authority on Feb. 25 vindictively removed a “right of first refusal” provision that would have given the toll takers first dibs on jobs with the new company handling toll collection.
The clause was removed two days after union members picketed and protested at an authority meeting, and Simpson told reporters after the meeting he was “not happy” with the way toll collectors were behaving.
“The timing here could not be any clearer,” said lawyer Steven Weissman, representing International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local No. 194.
But John J. Peirano, a lawyer representing the authority, said toll collector protests did not lead to the removal of the right of first refusal provision.
The provision was removed because it was causing some prospective bidders to drop out, he said. Even though 23 prospective bidders initially expressed interest, only four bids were received.”
Whether the move was an immoral attempt to silence the unions or an unethical attempt to appease private contractors, the net effect was the same.
Attorney Peirano and his client, the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, was intent on privatizing a public activity and refused to even give the displaced workers a first right of refusal to keep their jobs.
Inherently, despite the Christie administration’s best efforts, the ill-conceived privatization effort later collapsed.
Now that same lawyer is part of Governor Dannel Malloy’s team.
And as for Malloy and his record on higher education…
The CT Mirror reported yesterday that as a result of Governor Malloy’s utter failure to propose sufficient funding for the University of Connecticut and the state’s other public institutions of higher education,
The university in June reported is was facing a $52.7 million deficit for the fiscal year that begins in July 2016 — a 4 percent hole in the $1.36 billion needed to continue providing existing programs, services and salary levels. That projection was made before the final two-year state budget was adopted, providing UConn $4.5 million less than its leaders were anticipating.
University officials declined Wednesday to provide updated budget projections for the fiscal year that starts in nine months.