For even to the most cynical, the recent CT Mirror’s story entitled, “Is it a gag order or the Malloy administration speaking with one voice?” is utterly shocking and should make Connecticut residents extremely uncomfortable and very queasy.
The CTMirror article reiterates the reality that Democratic Governor Dannel Malloy is not the Dan Malloy who asked voters to make him Connecticut’s governor in the 2010 election.
Dan Malloy, the candidate, ran on a platform that he would be the “most transparent governor in history.” He claimed that he supported Connecticut’s landmark campaign finance reform law, that he wanted stronger, not weaker, state ethics laws and that he believed that an honest, just and open government required strong Freedom of Information laws.
But since being sworn in as governor in January 2011, Dannel Malloy has become the least transparent governor in modern history, has consistently undermined and destroyed Connecticut’s campaign finance laws, made a mockery of the state’s ethics laws and has engaged in an unprecedented assault on the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
But his most anti-open government maneuver may very well be the news that Governor Malloy has allowed a directive to go out that prohibits his commissioners and other public employees from talking to legislators (or anyone else) about Malloy’s fraudulent state budget proposal.
As the CT Mirror reports;
Key legislators say a directive restricting what agency heads can tell legislators about Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget proposal is hindering lawmakers in doing their jobs and will push more of the budget-writing process behind closed doors.
“Our job is to negotiate and evaluate and build the best budget possible for the 3.5 million people of Connecticut,” said Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, House chair of the Appropriations Committee. “Denying us the ability to do that is denying us our responsibility and our authority as the legislature.”
“I think this is a politically correct gag order,” said Rep. Melissa Ziobron of East Haddam, ranking House Republican on the committee. “If we can’t get full answers to our questions, we can’t serve our residents and the state of Connecticut well.”
At issue is a memo Office of Policy and Management Secretary Benjamin Barnes, Malloy’s budget chief, sent last month to Executive Branch agency heads.”
In a stunningly inappropriate, unethical, immoral and arrogant demand, Malloy’s budget director writes, “Requests for new ideas, alternative reduction proposals, or for the agency’s priorities in restoring or cutting funds should be referred to OPM…Agencies are expected to support the Governor’s budget rather than providing alternatives to that budget.”
While there has always long been an unwritten guideline that political appointees try to defend their boss’ proposals, the notion that Malloy, through his budget director, would direct public servants, who are paid with public dollars, whose statutory duty is to run a state agency and provide public services, not to speak with legislators or others about, “new ideas, alternative reduction proposals, or for the agency’s priorities in restoring or cutting funds” is nothing short of Putinesque.
As for reaction from legislators, the CT Mirror adds,
“Referring to Barnes’ memo, Bye told The Mirror this week that she’s not surprised, “in tough fiscal times, that a chief executive wants to keep as much control as he can.”
But Bye added that the administration must appreciate that the legislature has its own constitutional charge to adopt a budget, and it must have more than just facts and data.
For example, if the Appropriations Committee is considering restoring two programs cut in the governor’s plan, but ultimately decides Connecticut only can afford one, members normally would ask officials in the affected agency which program might provide the most public benefit.
“If we are trying to choose between funding programs, it would be better if commissioners could offer us their thoughts on those alternatives,” Bye said. “I think it would make for a better process.”
While State Senator Beth Bye’s conclusion that it would “be better if commissioners could offer us their thoughts on those alternatives” is absolutely true, her comment that is a forgone conclusion that “a chief executive wants to keep as much control,” provides cover for Malloy’s reprehensible action.
Wanting to “control the dialogue” is a long way from interfering with the Constitutionally mandated role of the Connecticut General Assembly.
The CTMirror article concludes;
“Barnes wrote Tuesday in a statement to The Mirror that, “We work together, as one administration, with all our commissioners and agency heads. This is a budget filled with tough choices, but they are the best ones to keep Connecticut on a path towards a brighter future. The Governor, through his office and through OPM, remains willing to discuss his budget proposals, or any other specific proposals legislators make, at any time. Executive branch employees are professionals who can’t be expected to publicly advocate for positions at odds with the Governor as a part of their job.”
Barnes statement is a bizarre and weak excuse for a policy approach that promotes secrecy and violates the most basic tenets of an open and transparent government.
The Democratic majority in the Connecticut House of Representatives should put down their budget pens, set aside their budget calculators and tell a governor and an administration that has gone amok that no further action will be taken on Malloy’s proposed budget until this outrageous memo is rescinded and Connecticut’s state commissioners and agency heads are instructed to be open and honest with all of the members of the legislative branch of government whose obligation is to review, revise a governor’s proposed budget and eventually adopt a budget that carries the weight of law.