Important Wait, What? weekend stories you might have missed

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Define fiscal irresponsibility….

While most Connecticut residents feel a growing unease about the Malloy administration’s irresponsible and underhanded approach to state budgeting, I’m often asked to give specific examples of how Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy has handled the Connecticut budget during his term in office.

Long-time readers may remember this one, but here is a prime example for readers who are newer to Wait, What?

In January 2010 there was a tragic school bus accident on Route 84 in Hartford that killed a young Rocky Hill student who was attending one of the CREC magnet schools.

As politicians are wont to do, state legislators kicked into action, and on May 1, 2010 the Connecticut General Assembly passed Public Act 10-83.  The new law created a special protected trust account called the Connecticut School Bus Seat Belt Account and required the Department of Motor Vehicles to administer a program to use the funds to help Connecticut school districts pay for the cost of equipping school buses with lap/shoulder (3-point) seat belts.

To pay for the program, the legislature increased the cost associated with restoring a suspended driver’s license from $125 to $ 175 and directed that $50 of each license restoration payment be deposited into the Connecticut School Bus Seat Belt Account.  The Office of Fiscal Analysis estimated the higher fee would raise about $2.1 million a year.

Now fast forward two and a half years…

Governor Malloy had been in office for two years and none of the $4.7 million collected for school seat belts had been spent.

And then, rather than using the money for its intended purpose…

We witnessed the following;

As part of the December 2012 “deficit mitigation bill” Governor Malloy and the legislature included language that overrode the existing law and quietly transferred $4,700,000 from the School Bus Seat Belt Account into the General Fund to help eliminate the projected FY 2013 $415 million deficit.

Gone was the money for school seat belts.

For more go to:  http://jonathanpelto.com/2014/05/31/define-fiscal-irresponsibility/

 

Does it really only cost $30,000 to get Governor Malloy to veto a good bill?

Over the past few months Governor Malloy and his political operatives have raised more than $30,000 from major insurance companies and their corporate executives.  The funds were deposited into the special Democratic State Central Committee account that will be used to augment the $6.2 million that Malloy will be getting from the State’s public financing system.

Then late last week Governor Dannel “Dan” Malloy stunned healthcare advocates when he vetoed an important bill that would have required insurance companies to provide data about how much substance abuse coverage and related mental health care they were actually providing Connecticut residents.

The legislation was a product of a major study conducted the Connecticut General Assembly’s bi-partisan Program Review and Investigation Committee, a committee I chaired in 1993 during the last year I served in the Connecticut House of Representatives.

The Program Review and Investigation is the only committee charged with fully investigating major public policy issues and developing comprehensive solutions.

In this case, the committee produced a comprehensive report entitled, “Access to Substance Use Treatment for Privately and Publicly Insured Youth.”  Phase I of the report, and its corresponding legislative initiatives, was adopted on December 18, 2012.  Phase II of the report was adopted on June 7, 2013.

This past legislative session, one of the legislative proposals arising out of the report, was introduced in the form of House Bill 5373, An Act Concerning the Reporting of Certain Data by Managed Care Organizations and Health Insurance Companies to the Insurance Department.

The bill was a common sense, first step toward ensuring insurance companies actually pay the bills they are supposed to be paying.

More at:  http://jonathanpelto.com/2014/06/01/really-cost-30000-get-governor-malloy-veto-good-bill/

 

And then this one…Will the Working Families Party stand up for working families in this year’s election

The sickness that has crept into Connecticut politics and government

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As measured by the number of college graduates Connecticut is among the most educated states in the nation.  As measured by per capital income Connecticut is wealthiest state in country, and if we were our own country we’d be one of the wealthiest and best educated countries in the world.

And yet there is a sickness that is increasingly evident in Connecticut politics.  It takes the form of elected and appointed officials who display a level of arrogance, greed, entitlement, and what appears to be an growing level of outright corruption…in both political parties.

In Sarah Darer Littman’s latest MUST READ column entitled “The Environmental Racism of Bridgeport’s Carnival of Corruptionin this weekend’s CT Newsjunkie, Sarah Darer Littman shines the bright light of truth on a complex deal in which Bridgeport ’s political and corporate leaders are conspiring to move Bridgeport’s Harding High School on to a severely polluted superfund site in order to make room for Bridgeport Hospital’s expansion plans.

The political wheeling and dealing stretches from Bridgeport to Hartford and back again.

By the time their effort is over, the cost to Connecticut taxpayers will exceed $100 million or more, and that doesn’t even begin to count the cost to Bridgeport’s public school students, teachers and parents who are but pawns in the deceit that has become the hallmark of Connecticut’s political environment.

Sarah Darer Littman introduces her piece with the following,

If the window of government transparency in Connecticut has become foggy lately, in Bridgeport it’s turned into a funhouse mirror.

The latest to come from Mayor Bill Finch’s Carnival of Corruption was a vote Thursday evening to proceed with phase one of a deal to build a new Harding High School on 17.2 acres of a 78-acre brownfield site on Boston Avenue, currently owned by General Electric. This would enable Finch and his allies to sell the current Harding High site to Bridgeport Hospital.

According to federal law, a brownfield site refers to “real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.”

The aforementioned brownfield site is, according to a piece in the CT Post, “contaminated with lead, arsenic, petroleum hydrocarbons and volatile compounds.”

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers helpful information about School Siting Guidelines, and why they are so important:

“Children, particularly younger children, are uniquely at risk from environmental hazards. They eat, drink and breathe more in proportion to their body size than adults. In addition, environmental contaminants may affect children disproportionately because their immune, respiratory and other systems are not fully developed, and their growing organs are more easily harmed. This means they are more at risk for exposure to harmful chemicals found outside where they play and in the environment where they spend most of their time — school and home.”

As might be expected, parents and those representing the community have concerns — especially since most of the process for this deal (like so much of what goes on in Bridgeport) has taken place behind closed doors. Indeed, in the minutes from the Bridgeport School Building Committee meeting on January 3, 2013, Finch Deputy Chief of Staff Ruben Felipe reports that GE asked the administration to keep their conversations confidential. Thus both the sunlight and the community were kept out. Helping to keep things under wraps was the fact that the School Building Committee failed to file their statutory notices with the town clerk’s office until February 2014, evidenced by this email from Frances Ortiz, assistant City Clerk.

There’s been some gob smacking chicanery involved, because, let’s face it, this wouldn’t be Bridgeport if there weren’t.

A petition to the City of Bridgeport Planning and Zoning Commission was filed in the name of the City of Bridgeport Board of Education (File 13-74). It was signed on Dec. 3, 2013, by John Eberle of Stantec Consulting Services and on Dec. 18, 2013, by Marian Whiteman, executive counsel for Transactions & Brownfields at General Electric.

On Jan. 13, 2014, Sauda Baraka, chair of the Bridgeport Board of Education (in whose name the Planning Petition was apparently being made) wrote to Melville T. Riley, Jr, the acting chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, asking that the item not go forward with a public hearing for the application because the education board hadn’t voted to approve a site plan nor a special permit concerning that property. In what is a reflection of the incredibly sad state of affairs in Mayor Bill Finch’s Bridgeport, she was forced to ask the Planning Commission for copies of any application filed on the behalf of the Board of Education. How ridiculous is it that an elected Board of Education should have to ask another city body for copies of planning applications being filed in its name?

Probably as a result of Baraka’s letter, the planning application was withdrawn from the Jan. 13 meeting.

But by Jan. 16, the Finch administration was able to work magic with fairy dust — or White Out — and Lo! The exact same application with the exact same signatures (on the original you can see the correction fluid) and now guess what? It reads “City of Bridgeport School Building Committee”!  Suggested new campaign slogan for Bill Finch: “If you can’t beat ‘em, erase them!”

And Sarah Darer Littman’s column goes on from there with some of the most disturbing elements of the story yet to come.

You can read her whole column at via the following link,

http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/archives/entry/the_environmental_racism_of_bridgeports_carnival_of_corruption/?utm_source=CTNewsJunkie.com&utm_campaign=a3172ccfcf-FNF_302_Feb_21_2014&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_a493d2308d-a3172ccfcf-92882173

As you read the piece ask yourself, is this Connecticut our citizens deserve?

When illegally clear cutting state forest always carry your “get out of jail free” card…

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… Or, at the very least, make sure you have really, really good political connections.

Zachary Janowski, the investigative journalist for the Raising Hale Website, has authored another “must read” article.  This one entitled “Environmental group sues state for going easy on wind-power company that cut down trees in state forest.”

According to Janowski;

“A conservation group is suing the state to force it to throw out a settlement between state officials and a wind-power company that clear-cut 2.5 acres of state forest.

The Berkshire-Litchfield Environmental Council is suing the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and officials within that agency for settling out of court with the offender.

According to BLEC’s complaint, the 111 largest trees that were cut down are worth more than $1.1 million.

BLEC claims DEEP should have referred the issue to Attorney General George Jepsen instead of settling the matter. Since the case wasn’t handled in open court, BLEC claims, the consent decree is “null and void.”

BLEC asks the court to invalidate the agreement between DEEP and BNE and replace it with one that requires the company to restore the state forest to its “natural state.”

Jepsen, whose office is defending DEEP in court, said the agency “has broad statutory authority to resolve disputes about environmental matters through the use of consent decrees, as it did in this case.”

‘I will, therefore, vigorously defend the lawsuit which is without merit,’ Jepsen said”

The lawsuit is without merit?

Attorney General Jepsen can disagree with the suit, but to call it without merit is a bit much!

Why not just say that BNE is so well politically connected that state officials have made the practical decision to turn the other check and let BNE off the hook with a slap on the wrist.

Long time Wait, What? readers may vaguely remember a post about BNE and their political connections.

BNE Energy, Wind Farms, Occhiogrosso: A lesson on how modern government really works was a post that revealed that BNE Energy is incorporated in Delaware but owned by two Connecticut residents – Greg Zupkus, who serves as President and CEO and Paul Corey, who serves as BNE’s Chairman of the Board.

BNE has been trying to develop commercial wind projects in Prospect and Colebrook Connecticut.

The company has also received at least a half a million dollars in taxpayer-funded corporate welfare grants from the Malloy administration.

Paul J. Corey is well-known in Connecticut politics and government.  During the Rowland years Corey served as the Executive Director of the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control, the entity that oversees the development of energy policy in Connecticut.  Corey also served as the Chairman of the Connecticut Lottery Corporation’s Board of Directors from January 2000 to December 2004.

Corey’s wife, Christine, was a high-ranking personal assistant to former Governor John Rowland.  Together they gave Rowland the famous hot-tub that helped lead to the impeachment hearings and Rowland’s subsequent resignation and trip to federal prison.

After leaving public service Corey joined the law firm of Brown, Rudnick to work in their Public Utility Practice Group.  Brown Rudnick, LLP presently does the lobbying and permitting work for BNE.  The lead individual from Brown, Rudnick is Thomas Ritter, the former speaker of the Connecticut House of Representatives.

BNE Energy has also retained the services of the law firm of Pullman & Comley, the law firm where former State Senator Andrew McDonald worked before becoming Malloy’s Chief Counsel.  McDonald now serves as a Justice on the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Since Malloy has become governor, Pullman & Comley has received hundreds of millions of dollars in state business and was retained by BNE to help the company get its wind projects approved by the Connecticut Siting Council.

And finally, BNE’s public relations and grassroots lobbying is conducted by none-other-than Roy Occhiogrosso and the Global Strategy Group.  Occhiogrosso having previously served as Governor Malloy’s chief advisor.

Over the past two years alone, Ritter and the Occhogrosso’s Global Strategy Group have received over $200,000 in fees from BNE.

But the pièce de résistance is what happened to BNE after they illegally clear-cut down the two and half acres of pristine forest in one of Connecticut’s state parks.

And for that you need to read Zach Janowski’s piece, “Environmental group sues state for going easy on wind-power company that cut down trees in state forest.

The Janowski article link can be found here: http://www.raisinghale.com/2013/11/07/environmental-group-sues-state-easy-on-wind/ and the previous Wait, What? post on BNE energy is here: http://jonathanpelto.com/2013/01/08/bne-energy-wind-farms-occhiogrosso-a-lesson-on-how-modern-government-really-works/

Controversial Bridgeport billboard donated to Mayor Finch

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Raising Hale is a media project of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy.

Although Wait, What? and Raising Hale are miles apart on some philosophical issues, Raising Hale’s dedication to “uncovering government waste, fraud, and abuse in Connecticut” is impressive.

Fellow investigative journalist and blogger, Zachary Janowski, is doing an amazing job shinning the light of truth into some of the dark spaces of Connecticut’s government and political environment.

In a recent post, Janowski wrote about the billboard that the Webster Bank Arena donated to Mayor Bill Finch so that he could build his twitter following.

It is a particularly revealing issue considering the controversy that surrounded the approval process for the billboard only a year ago.

In November 2012, the Connecticut Post wrote;

The Bridgeport Planning and Zoning Commission gave the go-ahead for the city and Harbor Yard Sports and Entertainment LLC to seek a special permit to build the V-shaped billboard that would be visible to traffic on Interstate 95. The changes, which apply only to the arena area, would increase the height of the proposed sign to “no greater than 60 feet above I-95,” and allow a total of 8,500 square feet of signage on the arena, the baseball stadium and the adjacent parking garage.

[…]

Nevertheless, the public hearing portion of the meeting became somewhat raucous, pitting opponents who accused Mayor Bill Finch of exerting control over the commission against businesspeople and arena representatives who claimed the changes would lure people and money to Bridgeport.

[…]

Paul Timpanelli, who heads the Greater Bridgeport Regional Business Council, said the changes allowing an electronic two-sided billboard would enhance the city’s image and attract people to “come to the city, spend time here and invest here.”

But Carmen Lopez, a retired Superior Court judge, accused Harbor Yard Sports and Entertainment of attempting to buy the Planning and Zoning Commission’s approval, noting that the organization was among several business that donated thousands of dollars to a PAC supporting the mayor’s efforts to change the city charter.

The charter proposal, which was defeated on Election Day, would have allowed Bridgeport’s mayor, rather than voters, to select Board of Education members.

“This change in site regulation and the site plan to follow do not pass the all-important smell test,” Lopez said of the billboard permit. “The people voted no to mayoral control of the Board of Education on Election Day. Tonight you can say no to mayoral control of zoning.”

[…]

John Kennelly, a lawyer representing Lamar Outdoor Advertising, which has its own electronic billboards near the arena’s proposed billboard, also opposed the word changes because he said it represented “spot zoning” and the proposed electronic billboard was never put out to bid.

Now a year later, Raising Hale’s Janowski’s reports,

“Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch is looking for followers on Twitter and he is using billboard space donated to the city to recruit them.

The billboard, visible from I-95, promotes Finch’s account, @MayorBillFinch.

‘The billboard space is provided to the city as free advertising space by Webster Bank Arena,’ said Elaine Ficarra, spokeswoman for Finch.

‘The Twitter followers would remain property of the City’ after Finch leaves office, she said.”

You can read the CT Post story at: http://www.ctpost.com/default/article/Way-paved-for-Webster-Bank-Arena-s-I-95-sign-4051796.php

And the Raising Hale story at:  http://www.raisinghale.com/2013/10/29/donated-billboard-bridgeport-mayor-twitter

Bridgeport (and Connecticut) has a right to expect better

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An editorial in today’s Connecticut Post reminds readers that “Bridgeport residents — and the city’s reputation — are taking it on the chin these days through the inexplicably cavalier behavior of officials they elected to represent them.”

The sad fact that is that it is not only Bridgeport residents who being forced to watch the “inexplicably cavalier behavior of officials they elected to represent them.”

The State of Connecticut and other communities around the state are seeing more than their share of elected and appointed officials who are putting themselves before the people they are supposed to be serving.

The infamous Kenneth Moales Jr. was one of two to make the Connecticut Post’s editorial.

The editorial highlights the “brief interlude by the chairman of the city’s school board as a person wanted by the state police.”

Adding;

“Yes, it was for speeding, traffic violations, and who among us has not been cited for one transgression or another while behind the wheel. But that the Rev. Kenneth Moales would miss a court appearance, whether through forgetfulness or indifference, and become the target of an arrest warrant is, shall we say, nontraditional behavior for the person chosen to lead the city’s troubled school system.

[…]

He was found earlier this year to have been operating his East End cathedral without a certificate of occupancy for four years. After it was made public, the city awarded him a temporary one.

Then there was the time he told a fellow school board member she would “regret” having made a motion to censure him for his behavior at board meetings. He later apologized.

Most famously was the time he said a different board member was acting like “you’re on Ritalin or you’re special ed,” offensive in its own right and unforgiveable for someone tasked with leading the school system. There hasn’t been a public apology for that one.

His brush with fugitive status is yet another troubling, distracting misstep in a city that has a long row to hoe in improving its school system — and its reputation in the outside world.

City residents deserve better, and it’s not much to ask.”

And the same is true when it comes to the other politicians and officials that are being paid for with public funds but failing to fulfill their public duties.

You can read the complete CT Post editorial here: http://www.ctpost.com/news/article/City-has-a-right-to-expect-better-4923281.php

Another day in the life of Malloy’s Corporate Welfare Program (or can you run that one by me again…)

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Thanks to Governor Malloy’s corporate welfare program, Connecticut’s taxpayers provided a Connecticut company with a $100,000 loan and another $26,320 grant to pay for their move from Bloomfield to Hartford.

Malloy said the grant would help Connecticut’s jobless problem by retaining 11 jobs.

In a press release as the time, Governor Malloy explained, “Hybrid Insurance Agency LLC is a full-service, underwriting management and wholesale insurance brokerage firm. This is a fast-growing insurance group, beginning operations in March of 2010 in Windsor, a year later opening a satellite office in Columbus, Ohio, and a service operation in Kathmandu, Nepal. They currently have 11 employees in their headquarters and approximately 650 retail agents and brokers. A $100,000 loan and a $26,320 matching grant will go toward the relocation of the headquarters to Hartford. The project will retain 11 employees.”

Now the owner of Hybrid Insurance Agency reportedly works from home, most of the employees are apparently no longer employed and the company has defaulted on the loan that it received from Malloy’s economic development operation.

Hybrid Insurance is also is under investigation for allegedly failing to pass along $670,000 in premiums to two of the City of Hartford’s insurance carriers.

According to a story written by Hartford Courant columnist and blogger, Kevin Rennie, the Hartford Internal Audit Commission has been asked to investigate Adam Cloud, Hartford’s City Treasurer, “for what they called a possible conflict of interest involving Hybrid, which is at 30 Lewis St. — a building owned by Cloud, his brother Christopher and their father, Sanford “Sandy” Cloud Jr.”

Rennie reports  that “Paula Altieri, the city school system’s chief financial officer, stated in a memorandum that Cloud’s office “moved” an insurance policy from one broker to Hybrid around February 2012 “without the need to compete.”

Meanwhile, Hybrid Insurance made an appearance earlier this year in a Wait, What? post when it was noted that the lobbyists for Hybrid Insurance were among those that attended the Prosperity for Connecticut Political Action Committee fundraiser in Hartford.

Prosperity for Connecticut is the PAC affiliated with Governor Malloy and that raised over $235,000 thanks to 15 fundraisers held over an 18 month period.  Governor Malloy apparently attended all 15 fundraisers, with three held in Washington D.C., three in New York City and the rest in Connecticut.

Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman joined Malloy at the Hartford event which was targeted to raise donations from Connecticut lobbyists.

Hybrid Insurance has worked with the lobby firm of Camilliere, Cloud and Kennedy for the past two years, paying the lobbyists a total of $26,900. Christopher Cloud, Adam Cloud’s twin brother, is one of the partners and the lobby firm’s offices are located in the same building that “houses” Hybrid Insurance and is owned by the Cloud brothers and their father.

Today Hartford City Treasurer Adam Cloud had a letter to the editor in the Hartford Courant clarifying his role in the whole affair.  Adam Cloud wrote;

“I would like to clarify some points made in recent articles about the Hartford treasurer’s office and Hybrid Insurance Group [Oct. 11, news, “Officials Call For Audit Of Treasurer”; Oct. 10, Kevin Rennie column, courantopinion.com, “Who's Got Hartford's Missing $669,997?”].

There are two insurance policies being discussed. First, the smaller pension fund policy was recommended by an insurance agency that had solicited a reduced-cost proposal from Hybrid. The bid was approved by the office of the corporation counsel and the pension commission, not our office.

As for the insurance coverage for the city and the schools, the selection of the insurance was made by an independent committee that neither I nor anyone in my staff was a member of. My office did not approve any business relationship between the city and Hybrid.

It is the finance department, which does not report to the treasurer’s office, that processes payments to vendors. When our office was notified that the carrier had not been paid by Hybrid, and the city could be in danger of an insurance coverage lapse, I engaged the finance department. In consultation with former city Finance Director Julio Molleda, we transferred the funds.

This is not an uncommon occurrence in managing the finances of a large city. It was my intent to protect the city from any potential financial dangers with no insurance.

The fact that Hybrid has an office in a building in which my family and I have an ownership interest had no bearing on this decision. Upon becoming treasurer, I relinquished any management responsibilities of this building.

Finally, it is important to note that in accordance with state law, at no time was the city uninsured. The city does not have to recoup the payment or make any additional payments; this is the carrier’s responsibility.

I strongly support the state Department of Insurance investigation of Hybrid and the city’s internal audit department’s review.

Adam Cloud, Hartford City Treasurer.

And lest it falls through the cracks, the only person who raised concerns about Malloy’s gift to Hybrid Insurance in the first place was Bloomfield’s State Representative who asked why state funds were being used to persuade a company to move from his district into Hartford.

At the time Baram said, “The loan program should primarily focus on growing small businesses in the local community where they are located…  “I will be conveying my disappointment to the governor’s office, urging the Department of Economic and Community Development to award future loans and grants that will allow companies to remain local.”

“The world of politics, power — and money” or “The man Gov. Malloy has on speed dial”

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Wait, Can you run that by me again…?

Over the weekend, three Connecticut Hearst Media Group reporters, Kate King, Neil Vigdor and Ken Dixon published a front-page story in the Stamford Advocate.

Considering it was the last “real” weekend of the summer and the newspaper’s primary readership is in Stamford, most Connecticut residents might have missed it.

However the piece should definitely be marked “MUST READ” since we’re likely to be hearing a lot more about this growing controversy.

The piece explores the relationship between Governor Dannel Malloy and contractor Al Barbarotta.

Malloy is renting his Stamford house for $8,000 a month.  Barbarotta, a Stamford contractor who made tens of millions thanks to city contracts when Malloy was Stamford’s Mayor is “managing the house” for Malloy while he lives in the Governor’s Mansion.

Some of the newspaper’s findings are more than a bit breathtaking.

The Stamford Advocate piece starts with a description of a moment during a recent Stamford Board of Finance meeting in which a Hearst reporter asks Al Barbarotta, “if he’s aware of the unauthorized use of a city truck by a city employee whom Barbarotta hired to do landscaping at Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s Stamford home, where Barbarotta is caretaker.”

Barbarotta responses,

“’No, I haven’t heard,’ he says sarcastically, smirking as he pulls the cell-phone from the pocket of his khaki pants…He brashly invites the reporter to look at the screen, which shows two missed calls from “GovernorMalloy.” Barbarotta likes to describe himself as the governor’s “best friend.” Cell- phone titles aside, he routinely calls the governor “Danny.” But the relationship between the two men extends far beyond the realm of friendship to the world of politics, power — and money.”

As the paper explains,

“Barbarotta’s construction company, AFB Management, has earned millions of dollars in outsourcing work in the city where Malloy was mayor from 1995 to 2009 and references that money can’t buy. In addition to Stamford, the firm’s reach extends from New Haven to Waterbury and Barbarotta’s hometown of Trumbull, with AFB managing 11 million square feet of public school facilities throughout the state and hundreds of acres of parks and beaches.

But controversy inevitably seems to follow the 62-year-old Barbarotta, a major bundler of campaign cash for Malloy, whose close ties to the governor have previously raised questions of impropriety and cronyism.”

As some will recall, Malloy and AFB Management were investigated by Connecticut’s Chief State’s Attorney just before Malloy ran for Governor in 2006.  The corruption investigation was base don’t he allegation that “Malloy used his influence to award city jobs to contractors who worked on his home.”  Malloy and AFB were eventually cleared of any wrongdoing.

Now Malloy and Barbarotta are back in the news, but Malloy is not bound by municipal ethics laws and apparently the relationship is outside of the jurisdiction of State Ethics laws.

In response to the Stamford Advocate, Malloy’s spokesperson acknowledges the close friendship between the two, but brushes aside any suggestion of an improper alliance between the first-term incumbent and the construction manager…’It should be noted that Mr. Barbarotta is not a lobbyist, is not a pre-qualified state contractor and does not do business with the state of Connecticut whatsoever,’”

But what is the relationship?

The weekend Stamford Advocate reports on Barbarotta’s role with the Newtown School following the December 2013 Sandy Hook Massacre.

“In the days after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, the governor needed help with the sensitive task of relocating students from Sandy Hook to a moth-balled Monroe school. Malloy turned to his friend Barbarotta, much to the confusion of other contractors at the site.

A series of emails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act questioned Barbarotta’s role in the move, including an exchange between Trumbull First Selectman Timothy Herbst and Newtown First Selectman Pat Llodra on whether contractors should send their invoices to AFB. Barbarotta’s company manages school facilities in Trumbull, where he has traded barbs with Herbst.

‘I do not know what legal authority Mr. Barbarotta would have to tell subcontractors working on behalf of the town of Newtown to send invoices to his office,’ Herbst wrote.

Herbst provided the newspaper a copy of AFB’s directive to the contractors who were assigned to the Sandy Hook Elementary School relocation, as well as correspondence from Newtown counterpart Llodra.

‘I am remembering a conversation I overheard when Newtown first met with the team from Monroe at Chalk Hill School,’ Llodra wrote. ‘Al Barbarotta indicated to the group gathered that he was assigned by the governor to handle the entire project, including all the invoicing and the information about costs and donations would be turned over to the governor’s office.’”

Meanwhile, as noted, Barbarotta is taking care of Malloy’s Stamford house.  The Stamford Advocate reports,

“In the Stamford landscaping work on Malloy’s property, city officials are now conducting their own internal investigation into whether Ron Markey, who is the city deputy tree warden and was working as a subcontractor on the governor’s property, violated the municipal code of ethics.

‘Ronnie Markey works for the city,’ Barbarotta said Tuesday. ‘AFB manages the city’s parks department. I’m an independent contractor so I do work all over the state. The governor asked me to help oversee his house. I called (Markey) up – the governor had no clue I called him.’ On Thursday, Malloy’s office released a copy of a bill for $1,596 for the tree work that Doba said the governor plans to pay and includes the customary 5 percent management markup fee assessed by Barbarotta.”

And the connection and relationship goes deeper and deeper.

According to the Stamford Advocate,

“The day before Hearst reported on the work at Malloy’s Stamford home, which the governor is renting out for $8,000 a month, Malloy showed up in shorts and a polo shirt for the grand opening of Parker’s Steaks & Scotch, a Trumbull restaurant Barbarotta is a partner in.

‘He has known the governor a long time,’ said DiNardo [Connecticut’s Democratic State Chair], who was also at the opening. ‘He is certainly supportive of the governor. In his business, he has tried to be bipartisan.’”

The paper also reveals,

“Barbarotta, his family and his employees are major supporters of Democrats, contributing $7,700 to political action committees and candidates in 2009 and 2010, including $4,250 for Malloy and now Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman.

In a process called “bundling” several AFB employees gave money that was recorded at the same time. On May 21, 2010, eight AFB employees contributed $100 each to Wyman.

When Malloy won the governorship by a mere 6,500 votes in 2010, Barbarotta co-hosted a victory party for his friend at the Old Town Hall in Stamford.”

There is a lot more to the story and the story is undoubtedly only the first of many.

Readers can find Saturday’s Stamford Advocate piece at: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/The-man-Gov-Malloy-has-on-speed-dial-4758969.php#photo-5078635

Corporate Education Reform Industry spends nearly $4.7 million on Connecticut lobbying, little of it telling the truth.

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Pro-public education commentator Wendy Lecker has written another “must read” piece, this time pointing out the fact that corporate education reformers are either unwilling or unable to tell the truth as the spin their political stories to try and convince elected officials and the public to support their “education reform” agenda.

Lecker, like many of us, has heard the latest round of ads that side-step the truth in a politically self-righteous attempt to convince us that we can improve out public education system by handing it over to private corporations and charter schools.

This new $1.5 million advertising campaign by a front organization called, ironically enough, A Better Connecticut, is just one more step in the most expensive lobbying effort in Connecticut history.

Here are the latest numbers;

To date, since Governor Malloy took office, the corporate education reform industry has spent at least $4,650,721.54 on lobbying, breaking all Connecticut records for the most expensive effort in history to buy up Connecticut Public Policy.

The following chart reveals the players in this scheme.

Following the chart is a link to Wendy Lecker’s latest piece in the Stamford Advocate, Bridgeport Post and other Hearst media outlets.

Corporate Education Reform Organization Amount Spent on Lobbying
   
Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Now, Inc. (ConnCAN) $1,121,672.17
   
Connecticut Coalition for Achievement Advocacy, Inc. (ConnAD) $758,969.00
   
A Better Connecticut $1,490,000.00
   
Students First/GNEPSA (Michelle Rhee) $876,602.08
   
Achievement First, Inc. (Dacia Toll/Stefan Pryor) $237,504.22
   
Connecticut Council for Education Reform  (CCER) $126,559.85
   
Students for Education Reform (Michelle Rhee) $15,714.22
   
Connecticut Charter School Association/N.E. Charter School Network $22,000.00
   
Excel Bridgeport $515.00
   
Teach For America $1,185.00
   
EDUCATON REFORM LOBBYING EXPENDITURES $4,650,721.54

 

Wendy Lecker: Imagining where all that money could have gone

“Proponents of corporate-driven education reforms seem to believe that the notion of telling the truth is a low priority. Take for example the false claims being made by charter school advocates about the size of waiting lists for charter schools.

In as diverse locations as Massachusetts and Chicago, charter lobbyists having been pushing charter school expansion by claiming lengthy waiting lists. In both locations, investigations by journalists at the Boston Globe and WBEZ revealed that the waiting list numbers were grossly exaggerated, often counting the same students multiple times. As a Massachusetts legislator noted, raising the charter cap based on artificial numbers “doesn’t make sense.” Unless, of course, your main goal is charter expansion rather than sound educational policy

Another common theme promoted by charter schools is the questionable claim of amazing success. Recently, Geoffrey Canada of the famed Harlem Children’s Zone gave an online seminar in which he boasted a 100 percent graduation rate at his schools. However, if one looks at HCZ’s attrition rate, the true graduation rate is 64 percent. Many have also noted that Canada kicked out two entire grades of children because of sub-par test scores.

Here in Connecticut, ConnCAN, the charter school lobby, is the prominent peddler of shaky claims and half-truths about charter schools.

Recently, in an effort to promote the expansion of charter schools in Bridgeport, Jennifer Alexander, the CEO of ConnCAN, Inc. declared that nearly 80 percent of charters outperform their host districts. However, data from the State Department of Education reveals that about 90 percent of Connecticut’s charters serve a less needy population than their host districts: fewer poor children, fewer English Language Learners or fewer students with disabilities, with most having a combination of two or three of these categories.

Considering poverty, language barriers and special education needs are the prominent factors influencing standardized test scores, it is not much a feat to have higher test scores with a less challenging population. ConnCAN’s claim is hardly an indication of success or innovation.”

Read the rest of Lecker’s commentary piece here: http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/article/Wendy-Lecker-Imagining-where-all-that-money-4526450.php#ixzz2TlStOU64

Meanwhile – At taxpayer or industry expense? Malloy to Keynote Security Industry Association’s “Government Summit”

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At the very moment Governor Malloy’s political operation was weighing the political fallout of his trip to the White House Correspondents Dinner and whether he should “reimburse” People Magazine for $1,000 or so (we still don’t know how much taxpayers shelled out for Malloy’s security detail), the U.S. Security Industry Association was releasing a press release that Malloy would be this year’s “Keynote Speaker” at their Security Industry Association Government Summit next month in Washington, D.C.

According to the Security Industry Association (SIA), the event is the “premier annual public policy conference in the security industry.”

The press release explained that Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy will serve as the keynote speaker and that, “Gov. Malloy’s remarks will precede a panel on school safety on day two of the Summit. Violent events in our nation’s schools have demonstrated that these “soft targets” are not sacred to those seeking to do harm. Understanding there are many factors that can contribute to secure learning environment, this panel will examine those factors as well as the contributions the industry can make to provide safe educational facilities.”

The press release goes on to note that, “The SIA Government Summit provides attendees with unique insights that help them better understand how policy drives business in the security industry. The exclusive nature of the setting allows one-on-one conversations with government decision makers.”

According to the Security Industry Association’s website, they are “the leading trade association for electronic and physical security solution providers. SIA protects and advances its members’ interests by advocating pro-industry policies and legislation at the federal and state levels; creating open industry standards that enable integration; advancing industry professionalism through education and training; opening global market opportunities; and collaboration with other like-minded organizations. As a proud sponsor of ISC Expos and Conferences, and owner of the Securing New Ground Conference, SIA ensures its members have access to top-level buyers and influencers, as well as unparalleled learning and network opportunities.”

Interestingly the press release did not reveal whether Governor Malloy’s trip to Washington D.C. would be paid for by the Security Industry Association or the taxpayers of Connecticut.

Wait, What? Malloy Reimburses People Magazine…

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“To remove a needless distraction when there are far more important public policy issues to deal with, Gov. Malloy has made the decision to personally reimburse People Magazine for the costs of his attendance at the White House Correspondents Dinner. He has written a personal check for $1,234.62,” said his spokesman, Andrew Doba.

You have got to be kidding me!

So it was an official  visit to Washington, but he will reimburse People Magazine…and yet the taxpayers will still pick up the tab for the airfare, accommodations, payroll and overtime for Malloy’s security detail – - – the cost of which Malloy’s office refused to provide…

As just reported in the CT Mirror, Malloy’s spokesperson said;

  • “We are confident that People Magazine’s payment would have been proper under Connecticut’s ethics laws…The governor attended the event in his official capacity and used the opportunity to advance Connecticut’s interests. The governor’s office accepted People Magazine’s gift in order to relieve taxpayers of the cost. Instead of shifting the cost to the taxpayers, the Governor is personally paying the cost.”
  • “First, during the event, Gov. Malloy engaged in substantive discussions with numerous senior officials,” Doba said. “To note just a few discussions among many, he talked with Small Business Administrator Karen Mills about Connecticut’s Hurricane Sandy relief plan and small business investment programs under the JOBS Act, talked with House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer about the strategy for pursuing federal gun control legislation, and talked with Congressman Steve Israel about proposals for the establishment of a regional infrastructure bank.”
  • “And Gov. Malloy promoted Connecticut’s economic development agenda in discussions with numerous business and media leaders.”

See CTMirror Blog Post at http://www.ctmirror.org/blogs/malloy-reimburses-people-white-house-party

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