For the first time in UConn history, the University of Connecticut will not be using their own legal and labor relations staff to negotiate the upcoming contract with the University’s professors.
Instead, Governor Dannel Malloy’s political appointees on the UConn Board of Trustees have retained a New Jersey based law firm known for their anti-union record and their close relationship with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Although the public and students pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for UConn’s existing legal and labor relations staff, earlier this year the UConn Board of Trustees authorized President Susan Herbst to sign a lucrative agreement with McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter LLP to represent the State and the University of Connecticut at the bargaining table through the end of the year.
The generous deal hands $250,000 over to the New Jersey based firm for their work through December 31, 2015 and then allows UConn to “extend” the contract, without re-bidding, into 2016.
Considering negotiations only officially began this week, the agreement virtually guarantees the New Jersey firm will get a half a million dollars or more in state and student funds in the coming months.
According to one of the websites that track law firms, McElroy, Deutsch generates gross revenue of about $120 million a year with a “Profit per Partner” of about $970,000.
As the Star Tribune reported, the amount of New Jersey state business that McElroy, Deutsch, was getting skyrocketed after Christie took office. In just the first couple of years of his administration the law firm’s take from state work jumped by more than fivefold.
The law firm’s Managing Attorney, Edward Deutsch, who served as a high ranking member of Christie’s transition and has since been appointed by Christie to other major commissions explained in an interview that the money flowing into his law firm was a result of the “spike in state business to the firm [after] taking over contract negotiations with labor unions, a critical focus of the Christie administration.”
The law firm’s relationship with Christie is extensive. The New Jersey Governor appointed McElroy, Deutsch partner Walter Timpone to serve as Vice Chairman of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, the agency responsible for regulating campaign financing for all state’s elections and campaign finance laws.
Last year, Christie named Louis Modugno, another McElroy Deutsch partner, to serve as a Commissioner on the State of New Jersey School Ethics Commission. Like Governor Malloy, Governor Christie is a major advocate of charter schools and the corporate education reform industry, which in New Jersey makes the School Ethics Commission a key appointment.
And just this past summer, Christie named Thomas Scrivo, McElroy, Deutsch’s Managing Partner in their Newark office as his Chief Counsel.
With Chris Christie now running for President, the law firm’s Managing Attorney, Edward Deutsch, is back in the news as one of Christie’s fundraising leaders.
As for the situation in Connecticut, according to information released by the University of Connecticut, McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter partner John Peirano will “lead the negotiations” for UConn and the State of Connecticut.
According to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) in Connecticut and New Jersey, Peirano has an extremely rocky and controversial record when it comes to union negotiations, with multiple unfair labor practice complaints arising from his work.
Both Rutgers University and Rutgers’ medical school, the Biomedical and Health Sciences of New Jersey, used attorney Peirano and McElroy, Deutsch with chaotic and even catastrophic results.
With Attorney Peirano playing a leading role in the negotiations at BHSNJ, the Rutgers medical school is still negotiating an initial contract after more than 6 years and the negotiating tactics lead to at least one Unfair Labor Practice Charge against the schools’ administration. Apparently Peirano is no longer part of the negotiation team and the talks are reportedly finally moving toward conclusion.
Meanwhile, Rutgers University reached a contact settlement with its faculty in March of this year, but not before “both sides agreed to pare down their negotiating teams and Peirano was eliminated from the bargaining table by the Administration.”
As of result of their relationship with Christie, McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter has been mired in controversy in recent years.
For example, as Christie’s “Bridgegate” scandal unfolded, Bridget Anne Kelly, Christie’s Deputy Chief of Staff and the alleged ringleader in the effort to close lanes onto the George Washington Bridge in order to punish a local mayor retained McElroy, Deutsch’s Walter Timpone. Christie fired Kelly after emails revealed she had played a major role in the bridge situation. Timpone and McElroy, Deutsch later dropped Kelly citing that there was a “conflict” due to the fact that he was one of Christie’s appointees to the Elections Commission.
In another case, McElroy, Deutsch hired Michele Brown, one of Chris Christie’s close friends after she resigned from her job in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2009, “amid a furor over a $46,000 loan she received from him that he did not report on his income tax return or disclosure reports.” About three months after Brown was hired by the firm, Christie hired her as his appointments counsel.
While it is unclear why UConn even thinks it is appropriate to hire outside negotiators, this is hardly the first time that the Malloy administration has retained expensive out-of-state lawyers and consultants to do the work state employees could and should be doing.