Rich Rochlin, the outspoken lawyer who defended many of the state employees accused and fired for receiving emergency food aid after the September 2011 hurricane, is announcing today that, following independent arbitration reviews, 80 of the 103 state employees who were fired or forced to resign or retire as a result of the food stamp investigation, have been reinstated and about 20 more cases are still in the review stage.
Many will remember the Great Food Stamp Robbery of 2011.
It warranted an “unprecedented” Sunday afternoon press conference in the Governor Office.
Announcing the start of a major state investigation into the matter, Governor Malloy said that the theft of the food stamps was part of a “Culture of Corruption” that had permeated state service.
The Governor’s Office, the Department of Social Services and the state’s labor relations operation kicked into high gear.
After spending thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars “investigating” the theft of the emergency food aid, more than a hundred state employees were fired or forced to retire or resign.
Meanwhile, from the very beginning of the process, the Governor’s Office sought to discredit and destroy Rich Rochlin reputation.
Early on, when Attorney Rochlin spoke out about serious errors in the way applications were processed and called for an independent investigation, Governor Malloy shot back saying, “if somebody is being paid $250 an hour to represent somebody, what do you think they’re going to say?”
And Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s chief advisor and spokesman, added that Rochlin’s efforts were nothing more than “a cheap attempt on his part to market his business“
Even Andrew McDonald, Malloy’s senor legal counsel, got into the act of calling attorney Rochlin names.
As attorney Rochlin continued to speak out about his belief that some state employees were being unfairly treated; the attack from the Governor’s Office became even more vitriolic and personal.
Roy Occhiogrosso called Attorney Rochlin, “everybody’s worst impression of a lawyer… He’s like a cartoon character…There are several pieces of silverware missing from the drawer.”
The next day, Occhiogrosso’s attacks got even uglier, when he went on the record saying that “this guy seems not to be playing with a full deck.”
And perhaps most amazingly of all, when Governor Malloy was asked about Occhiogrosso’s comments, he responded by saying “How many cards in a deck? Does that include the jokers?” Only after did he add, “I wouldn’t have used that terminology.”
Well, now eight months later, 80 of the 103 state employees have been reinstated and it is a pretty safe guess that even more employees will get their jobs back in the weeks ahead.
According to the Courant, “while some employees will receive unpaid suspensions ranging from about 15 to 60 days, they will not lose their benefits or seniority. The independent arbitrator determined that the state’s vindictive approach led to a situation in which “the discipline imposed was too severe.”
And attorney Rochlin told the Courant, “it is clear to everyone who has followed this case that the Malloy administration has been engaged in an orchestrated and coordinated effort to attack these state employees in order to score political points…From his first emergency Sunday press conference to the shameful dismissal hearings, the public has witnessed what can happen when leaders refuse to listen to opposing viewpoints. Now, for the second time, an independent arbitrator has confirmed what we have been saying since that Sunday press conference.”
Last check the Malloy Administration has not responded to the news, but one wonders whether they will ever reveal how many hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on this useless vendetta.
For more background on how this issue developed, search Wait, What? with the words Rochlin or Food Stamps.