Since taking office five years ago, Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration have done just about everything they could to shut down access to government information and undermine Connecticut’s once prominent campaign finance reform law.
Their primary target for their attacks have been the independent “watch-dog” agencies.
In their latest and perhaps most stunning move, the dynamic duo of Governor Malloy and Lt. Governor Wyman have proposed a state budget that would effectively put an end to the Freedom of Information Commission, the State Elections Enforcement Commission and the State Ethics Commission.
As the Journal Inquirer’s Mike Savino reports in his latest article entitled, Ethics office, FOIC, SEEC say budget cuts would render them useless;
The state’s watchdog agencies Friday warned lawmakers that cuts in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget would render their agencies essentially useless.
“We have already been cut to the bone — we cannot deal with any more cuts,” State Elections Enforcement Commission Executive Director Michael Brandi told the legislature’s Appropriations Committee during a public hearing Friday.
Malloy’s budget proposal would cut a combined $891,983 from SEEC, the Freedom of Information Commission, and the Office of State Ethics — the three biggest of the nine so-called watchdog agencies that operate under the Office of Government Accountability.
Brandi, though, said the proposed cut comes after years of reducing allocations to his and other watchdog agencies.
SEEC received roughly $5.14 million from the general fund in the 2012 fiscal year, when Malloy created the OGA and consolidated the watchdog agencies.
Officials with the FOIC and ethics office sounded similar alarms, saying they, too, would be unable to fulfill their missions if lawmakers adopt Malloy’s budget.
Ethics Executive Director Carol Carlson said her agency is a small office with a highly-skilled staff that is “called upon to engage in multiple aspects of the division’s business, and each employee has multiple roles that impact our core services.”
Carlson warned that a reduction of just three employees — in an agency of 15 — means it no longer would be able to provide adequate training and legal advice to state workers, enforce the state’s ethics code, or process lobbyists’ disclosures that bring in $600,000 annually in revenue.
Like Brandi, the other agencies say cuts since 2012 have left them unable to absorb further reductions.
“The commission’s case docket has increased dramatically over the past several years, while its staff and funding have been greatly reduced due to consolidation and budget cuts,” FOIC Executive Director Colleen Murphy said.
Tom Swan, the executive director of Connecticut Citizens Action Group, made the issue crystal clear in his testimony to the Appropriations Committee;
“This appears to be a backdoor way to undermine the independence of these vital agencies.”
Meanwhile the Malloy administration continues their campaign to dismantle what is left of honesty and openness in Connecticut state government.