Jepsen, Malloy and playing politics with the law…

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Call it naïve, but some would claim that while politics is political, America’s legal system is supposed to be above or separate from the day-to-day world of politics.

But as we Americans we are learning, our legal system is, in fact, extremely political and appears to becoming more political by the day.

At the federal level, politics surrounded cases like the Bush-Gore election or Obamacare.  Both are prime examples of how politics can influence or even trump legal proceedings.

The sad case of the politicization of the legal system is becoming even clearer here in Connecticut.

In the case of CCEJF v. Rell, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the Connecticut Constitution requires that the state properly fund a public education system that provides every child with an adequate education and determined that Connecticut’s present education funding formula is unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court ordered that the CCEJF case be returned to the Superior Court so that the lower court could determine the meaning of adequacy and identify actions the state must take to properly fund its public schools.

Although Governor Malloy and Attorney General Jepson endorsed the CCEJF case as candidates and committed to resolving the CCEJF case and improving the school funding formula, the first thing Jepsen and Malloy did was file a motion asking the Court to remove the concept of early childhood education from the court’s definition of education.

But of course, we all know that early childhood education is one of the most vital elements in the effort to improve education achievement.

As if that wasn’t outrageous and insulting enough, more recently Jepsen and Malloy moved to have the entire CCEJF case dismissed by the courts and moved to have the CCEJF coalition removed as the case’s plaintiff.

This past week the Superior Court dismissed Jepson and Malloy’s attempt to end the case and ordered the full trail to begin on July 1, 2014.

Another example of the Malloy administration’s politics before policy approach was visible in how they handled the case of Lopez v. Vallas.  In that case Jepsen and Malloy used public funds to come to the defense of Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, when Pryor decided that while the law required that Paul Vallas could only stay on as the head of Bridgeport’s school system if he completed a school leadership program at a Connecticut institution of higher education, Pryor would allow Vallas to stay if he only took a three-credit independent study class instead.

And now we have yet another example of playing politics with a case.

The situation developed yesterday in conjunction with the case of SEBAC V. Rell.

Back in 2001, in a fit of rage and political maneuvering, Governor John Rowland laid off 2,800 unionized state employees.

A three-judge panel unanimously ruled that Rowland and Marc Ryan, his secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, had violated the law because the layoffs were only targeted toward union members.  Rowland’s action was so egregious that the court actually ruled that Rowland and Ryan should be held personally liable for the impact of their action.

As he court explained at the time, the “Defendants [Rowland and Ryan] have not shown why the state’s fiscal health required firing only union members, rather than implementing membership-neutral layoffs.”

The court went on to say that the firings “were ordered as a means of trying to compel the plaintiff unions to agree to the concessions demanded…As plaintiffs have shown that defendants fired employees based on their union membership without narrowly tailoring the terminations to a vital government interest, plaintiffs were entitled to summary judgment on their First Amendment targeting claims.”

In essence, the court ruled that Rowland’s decision to fire only union members was illegal because it was nothing more than an effort to silence and punish the union and its members,

Since the decision in the SEBAC v. Rowland was handed down when Malloy was governor, the Malloy administration had the choice of working to settle the case or appeal to the United States Supreme Court.  The chance of the Supreme Court taking the case was extremely unlikely.

The appropriate solution was simple and straight-forward.  Sit down and negotiate a settlement.

But the politics superseded the policy and Attorney General Jepsen, with Malloy’s support, announced that they were going to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

Then yesterday, Jepsen, once again with Malloy’s approval, said he is withdrawing his petition asking the United States Supreme Court to review the case and would sit down with the unions to settle the case.

As reported by CT Newsjunkie, when asked why he was withdrawing the petition for review, Jepsen said “This is the time of maximum leverage…If the petition for review was denied three or four months from now, the state would be sitting across the negotiating table from an “emboldened adversary who’s holding most of the cards.”

An “emboldened adversary who’s holding most of the cards?”

Governor Rowland broke the law by firing 2,800 state employees.  Rowland, not the state employees was the adversary.

Malloy and Jepsen could have sat down and negotiated a settlement at any time.

Instead they decided to play politics with the case, initially saying they’d appeal to the Supreme Court and now backing off that stance.

And now they say they want to settle to prevent the state employees and their unions from becoming an “emboldened advisory who’s holding most of the cards.”

Once again, elected officials seem committed to placing the value of the politics above doing the right thing for the state.

Jepsen and Malloy should never have allowed this case to drag on.

Like the CCJEF v. Rell public school funding law suit, Connecticut’s elected officials should make doing the right thing their top priority and leave the politics for another time.

Enough is enough.  Instead of scapegoating Connecticut’s public schools students or state employees, Jepsen and Malloy should roll up their sleeves, stop playing politics and settle the CCJEF case and settle the Rowland case.

You can read more about the SEBAC v. Rowland case at:

CT Newsjunkie:  State Withdraws Request For Review of Labor Case Dating Back to Rowland Administration

CT Mirror: Risking second guessing, Jepsen opens negotiations in union case against Rowland

Courant:  Jepsen Won’t Appeal Union Victory In Layoff Case

 

Malloy Gets Standing Ovation From State Union Leaders: Rank + file wonder if someone spiked the punch

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Late today the Hartford Courant posted a blog item entitled, “Malloy Gets Standing Ovation From State Union Leaders.”

The Courant wrote, “Gov. Dannel Malloy rarely receives any plaudits from Republicans or skeptics of his policies on the state budget and other issues…But he still receives a warm response from the state’s unions – as shown by a standing ovation he received this week at the state Capitol.”

If you opened your window moments later you would have heard half of all rank and file state employees and retirees musing over whether the Hartford Courant was preparing their April 1st edition early while the other half were wondering whether someone had spiked the holiday punch being served at the event.

Adding insult to injury, the Courant categorized the blog as being related to 2014 ELECTION.

Makes one assume that the reporter was also partaking of the punch…

Early Retirement Agreement Update:

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State employees who are eligible may elect to retire in lieu of layoff under the terms of the new Stipulated Agreement between the Malloy Administration and SEBAC:

State employee employed as of December 1, 2012 and you are a member of the Connecticut State Employees Retirement System (SERS).  Offer applies to non-represented employees, including managers, as well as to members of all bargaining units.  

Prior to August 31, 2011 you were under the age of 55 AND had twenty-five or more years of service. 

SERS members must irrevocably elect to retire in lieu of layoff AND sign a stipulated agreement by May 1, 2013.

Retirement date: Eligible Tier I members must retire no later than July 1, 2013.  Tier 2 members must retire no later than September 1, 2014.

Benefit to Tier I members (must retire no later than July 1, 2013): The eligible member may elect between the following two options:

a. Have their benefit reduced by 4.5% for each year they are under 55 as of their date of retirement (no later than July 1, 2013) and be entitled to the COLA provisions of individuals who retired after October 1, 2011; OR

b. Have their benefit reduced by 6.0% for each year they are under 55 as of their date of retirement (no later than July 1, 2013) and be entitled to the COLA provisions of individuals who retired before October 1, 2011.

Benefit to Tier II members who elect to retire no later than July 1, 2013:  The eligible member may elect between the following two options:

Have their benefit reduced by 4.5% for each year they are under 60 as of their date of retirement (no later than July 1, 2013) and be entitled to the COLA provisions of individuals who retired after October 1, 2011; OR

Have their benefit reduced by 6.0% for each year they are under 60 as of their date of retirement (no later than July 1, 2013) and be entitled to the COLA provisions of individuals who retired before October 1, 2011.

Benefit to Tier II members who elect to retire after July 1, 2013 and no later than September 1, 2014: The benefit will be reduced like any other early retirement benefit (6% for each year before eligibility for normal retirement), however, individuals who elect to retire in lieu of layoff will be entitled to the COLA provisions in effect for individuals who retired prior to October 1, 2011.

State/SEBAC retirement settlement finally reached…

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Last September I inaccurately reported – ALERT/UPDATE: Arbitrator rules against Malloy Administration on significant retirement issue.   Last November I wrote a post entitled, Is another Connecticut State Employee Early Retirement Incentive coming?.

The rumors and hypothesis all revolved around two factors.  What was deemed to be a potentially illegal move by the Malloy Administration to grant certain hand-selected individuals special early retirement benefits almost two years ago and the broader recognition that the Malloy Administration desperately wants to reduce the state workforce — thereby moving costs from the General Fund over to the Pension Fund.

Well, while details are still sketchy, an agreement was finally reached between late last week between the Malloy Administration and SEBAC on the early retirement grievance and details will be sent out to impacted state employees within the next 24 hours.

Those who qualify under the new agreement, the parameters of who qualifies I do not know, will be given the option to “retire early” as long as they sign the necessary paperwork by May 1 and retire by July 1.

Those receiving the emails are asked to provide additional details or additional details will be posted as they become available.

Latest Poll Reveals Governor Malloy’s Public Approval Rating: Incredibly Low

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A new public opinion survey, conducted by Public Policy Polling, a survey research firm from North Carolina, reported today that their recent survey of Connecticut voters revealed that “Dan Malloy continues to be one of the most unpopular Governors in the country in our polling. Only 33% of voters approve of him to 51% who disapprove…”  For the details of the survey see: http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2012/08/connecticut-miscellany.html

The survey found that “Malloy only barely gets over 50% approval even with Democrats, at 52/33. Independents disapprove of him by a more than 2:1 margin, 25/53, and with Republicans he’s at 15/73.”

The survey report concludes that “Malloy would trail a hypothetical GOP opponent for reelection right now by a 46/39 margin.”

But as the press release recognizes, by political standards, there is still “plenty of time” for Malloy to rebuild his support.

That said, the results clearly indicate that his policies and approach to governing have not only alienated the vast majority of Republicans and Unaffiliated voters, but his level of support among Democrats remains at record lows.

As far as the total electorate is concerned, the weak economy, Malloy’s 2011 record tax increase, the state’s on-going budget deficits and the sense that he spends an inordinate amount of time cutting ribbons, attending ground breaking ceremonies and generally acting more like a candidate than a governor are probably some of the biggest factors reducing his level of voter support.

In addition, many voters probably question his frequent out of state trips and non-essential expenditure of state funds.  An ironic example was that the headline beside the news about today’s poll read “Malloy To China: ‘To Put Connecticut On The Map’”.

While people who monitor and run political campaigns would suggest that the overall numbers are very troubling, the real news is Malloy’s the lack of support among Democrats and women.

In a state like Connecticut, where unaffiliated voters make up an increasingly larger proportion of voters, a Democratic candidate must start with the vast majority of Democratic voters and a significant majority of women voters, and then a sufficient number of unaffiliated voters to win.

By comparison, this latest public opinion survey reports that only 52% of Democrats approve of the Governor’s job performance and only 34% of women voters approve of Malloy’s performance.

Unfortunately, the poll does not provide enough information to identify why Malloy’s job performance rating is so low.

However, having studied Connecticut voting patterns over the past four decades, the most likely reason is that Governor Dannel Malloy’s policies and priorities have proven to be very different then the policies and priorities that he had promised when he was candidate Dan Malloy.

The Governor’s systematic attack to undermine and vilify Connecticut’s state employees and teachers are just two examples of where Malloy said one thing during the campaign and then did something completely different when he became governor.

For example, during the campaign Malloy often spoke about the importance of public employees but then last year, he spent much of his time decrying excessive state salaries, pensions and the “work ethic” of state employees.  During the 2011 Legislative Session, Malloy would regularly claim that many state employees received pensions of over $100,000, when the fact, the average state employee pension is less than a third of that amount.

Then this year, Malloy shifted his assault to one that repeatedly attacked Connecticut’s public school teachers.  At one point Malloy claimed that all school teachers had to do was show up at school for 4 years and they’d get tenure, when, teachers and parents know that most teachers work extremely hard, earning every dollar of their salary.

Later during the “education reform” debate, Malloy said that he didn’t mind if Connecticut’s education system focused on “teaching to the test,” as long as the standardized test scores went up.  It was a position that teachers and parents found extremely ignorant and insulting.

Beyond the damage this type of rhetoric has had on his support from state employees, teachers and their families, is the reality that most Democrats believe in the role of public servants and the need for a more active, effective government.

Finally, in addition, Malloy’s decision to oppose any tax increase on those making over $1 million dollars while proposing major tax increases on middle income working families, has left many Democrats disillusioned.

Despite all of the above, it is important to reiterate that considering the next gubernatorial election is more than two years away, the Governor and his team still have time to repair some of their relationships with key Democratic voting segments.

Background Note:  For those who regularly monitor political polling, it is important to recognize that Public Policy Polling uses a somewhat controversial automated telephone interview process.  Voters are called and asked to complete an automated survey.  For example, the recording will read a question and then ask, if you agree with that statement push 1, if you disagree with that statement push 2.  Over the years that have been widespread concern that automated calling is not as accurate as surveys conducted by actually phone operators.  That said, the accuracy of this type of polling has been fairly accurate and many campaigns, organizations and media outlets use an automated polling process on a regular basis.

Malloy Takes Bold Step – Proposes Paying for State Pension Fund the Right Way.

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When it comes to putting Connecticut’s fiscal house in order, mark this one as the single most important proposal Governor Dannel Malloy has made since taking office.

Imagine having a 30-year mortgage that had relatively low payments for the first twenty years and then massive payments for the last ten.  Payments that were so large that you knew, beyond any reasonable doubt, there was any way you could possibly make the payments so you would lose the house, and you were essentially living on borrowed time.

That is exactly what Connecticut has been facing.  That’s the way Connecticut has been paying its obligation to the State Employee Pension Fund.

Yesterday, Governor Malloy announced his plan to fulfill the state’s funding obligation the right way.

His plan would look much more like a mortgage that paid significantly more of the costs in the earlier years.  In this way the State Employee Pension Fund and taxpayers would benefit from the compounding effect, which in turn, would save taxpayer’s literally billions over the long run.

According to financial experts, pension funds should be financed at about 80 percent of their total liability.  In 1991, Connecticut’s State Employee Pension Fund was funded at 63 percent of the total liability.  Nineteen years later, the state’s failure to make payments and losses in the stock market meant the pension fund were funded at only 44 percent of its total liability, one of the lowest ratios of any state in the nation.

As the result of an impressive return on investments and changes from the Malloy/SEBAC agreement, a new actuarial report found that the State Employee Pension Fund is now at 48 percent funded – still well below what is considered a healthy funding ratio.

Governor Malloy’s new plan is to dramatically increase payments to the State Employee Pension Fund starting with an “extra” $123 million payment next year and then continue, each year, to increase the amount of money going into the Fund.

By paying now, instead of having a State Employee Fund that was bankrupting the state by 2030, the Fund would be well on the way to self-sufficiency guaranteeing that retirees get the pensions they are legally entitled to and allowing the state to redirect future funds to vital services.

The two primary challenges standing in the way of Malloy’s new pension fund plan is where to come up with the extra money and the significant challenge posed by the State Spending Cap.

While this year’s budget is $1 million under the spending cap and next year’s is scheduled to be $195 million under the spending cap, FY 14 is on track to be $653 million over the cap and the year after that, FY 15, the budget is projected to be $1.2 billion over the cap.

Governor Malloy’s new plan would be to change the law and make additional pension fund payments exempt from the spending cap limitation.

The Governor was less clear about where the extra funds would come from.

His plan, which would require the approval of the General Assembly, the state employee unions and the State’s Retirement Commission, drew praise Monday from labor leaders.

Since it would be a win – win – win for the state, the employees and the long-term interests of the taxpayers, approval would be likely.

For more information check CTNewjunkie: http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/malloy_seeks_changes_to_state_employee_pension_fund/ and CTMirror http://ctmirror.org/story/15150/malloy-unveils-plan-reverse-two-decades-damage-employees-pension-fund

Note:  Meanwhile, with the state going from a projected surplus to a likely deficit in the last few days, Governor Malloy today announced nearly $79 million in new, emergency spending cuts.  With limited areas in which to cut, one of the prime targets was, once again, Connecticut’s public colleges and universities which Malloy had already targeted for the deepest cuts in Connecticut history.  Earlier this week, the Connecticut State Universities and Community Colleges announced tuition and fee increases to address what was already impossible to achieve spending cuts to the institutions.

In its annual report released Monday by the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University, Connecticut ranks seventh in cutting higher education funding from last year to this year. While the average cut in other states was 4.1 percent, Connecticut’s public colleges and universities took a 12.2 percent funding cut this fiscal year.

More on this breaking news later

So what the heck is “The Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP)”

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Today, a second state employee faces a dismissal hearing and again the evidence is that the state employee was given inaccurate information and the application may even have been modified by the DSS worker to ensure the state employee qualified.

In all the rhetoric coming from the Malloy Administration about the clear and convincing evidence of widespread fraud by state employees using the D-SNAP program, as well as, the comments that there is a culture of corruption among state employees, I don’t recall seeing the Governor or his people provide any real details about the D-SNAP program.  When it comes to the type of accusations that have been leveled at state employees it would appear that ignorance is bliss.

Below is a quick review of the program taken from official United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service documents.  This is the federal agency that oversees the  D-SNAP program.  In addition, it appears that in 2009 significant changes to the rules and regulations concerning D-SNAP were implemented.

The mission of the D-SNAP program as defined by the USDA is that D-SNAP is there to ensure easy access to safe, nutritious foods for disaster survivors and that;

D-SNAP benefits are loaded on Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards for use at most grocery stores.

D-SNAP benefits are calculated to allow households to purchase a nutritious diet for 30 days.

D-SNAP benefits are available quickly after a disaster – usually after grocery stores open for business.

D-SNAP benefits are available to households who meet financial eligibility requirements and who have experienced a temporary loss of income, inaccessible resources or high disaster-related expenses – eligibility is not limited to households typically eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

D-SNAP is implement following a Presidential disaster declaration

D-SNAP is operated by State Departments of Human Services in coordination with USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services (FNS).

States can design application and benefit delivery systems to respond to conditions on the ground. Application sites may be operated out of Department of Human Services offices, FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers, mass shelters, stadiums, or other large-capacity venues.

Benefits may be redeemed for groceries and, in some cases, for hot or prepared foods.

State Departments of Human Service can contract with non-profit organizations to outreach to the eligible public.

Unfortunately in this situation the Connecticut Department of Social Services had never engaged in a full D-SNAP operation and expected approximately 3,000 applicants for the program.  In fact, there were 20,000 applicants over the course of a few days and DSS workers with no connection to food stamp issues, let alone D-SNAP, were pulled in to process the applications as people stood in long lines.

The basic rules of Eligibility are as follows:

  • The person must have lived in the disaster area at the time of the disaster. States may also choose to extend eligibility to those who worked in the disaster area at the time of the disaster.
  • Recipients must plan on purchasing food during the benefit period
  • Recipients must have experienced at least one of the following adverse effects:
  • Food damaged by disaster event or spoiled due to power outage (A power outage lasting over 4 hours can cause food spoilage.)
  • Damage to or destruction of the household’s home or self-employment business
  • Disaster-related expenses not expected to be reimbursed during the benefit period (e.g., home or business repairs, temporary shelter expenses, evacuation expenses, home/business protection, disaster-related personal injury including funeral expenses)
  • Lost or inaccessible income, including reduction or termination of income, or a delay in receipt of income for half the benefit period.
  • Inaccessible liquid resources (e.g., the bank is closed due to the disaster).
  • The income test for the program is as follows:
    •  Total net (take-home) income received during the benefit period, plus accessible liquid resources, minus certain disaster-related expenses (disaster related expenses actually paid or anticipated to be paid out-of-pocket during the disaster benefit period) shall not exceed the disaster gross income limit.
    • Net income Includes the wages a household actually receives after taxes and all other payroll withholding, public assistance payments or other unearned income, and a net self-employment income.
    • Disaster related expenses are those expenses that the household has paid or expects to pay during the disaster benefit period, however, If the household receives or anticipates receiving a reimbursement for these expenses during the disaster period, only the net expense is deductible. The period for which disaster benefits are issued (usually one month).

The rules and regulations proceed from there – but that should give us all a basic sense of what the program is meant to cover.

Now it is the responsibility of the state to prove that the state employees accused of fraud intended to steal these emergency food stamps and that the wide-spread misinformation provided by DSS did not play a role in the state employee having qualified.

Oh and PS – applicants were never provided with these guidelines.  They were only given the application forms to fill out.

Latest Update: State’s First Case Against Food Stamp Robber Is A Farce

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Lisa Prout, the state employee accused of stealing $524 in food stamp aid, awaits the decision from her dismissal hearing. But the state’s case has taken an extraordinary turn of events. 

The accusation is that she “fraudulently obtained benefits through the state of Connecticut’s Department of Social Services administration of the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-Snap) in violation of DHMAS work rule #2 and State of Connecticut Personnel Regulation 5-240-1a.”

Considering that this was the first case going to a dismissal hearing, one would have assumed that the Malloy Administration was starting with one of their strongest cases.  In politics you simply don’t deliver the kind of harsh rhetoric that has been coming from the Governor and his people and then risk losing the case.

But at today’s hearing, the state’s case against the state employee proved to be a farce:

From CTNewsjunkie comes the following:

“Lisa Prout, who has worked for 11 years at the hospital and is a single-mother of two, said she would have never lied about her income in order to qualify for $524 in benefits. She claims the Department of Social Services eligibility worker changed her application and failed to count the $1,200 she disclosed on the form as money she had in the bank to pay her expenses.”

“An East Hampton resident Prout said she was without power for nine days and she applied for the food stamps on the very last day in September at which point she received a voucher. When she returned the next day she was given a debt card with $524 on it.

She said she would happily return that money to the state if it meant she got to keep her job.

“I was ushered through the application process like a piece of meat through a processing plant and the DSS worker provided me with guidance in completing the application,” Prout said. “I did nothing wrong; I have been treated unfairly; and my family is suffering.”

Her story confirms the fact that the DSS workers who were responsible for processing 20,000 applications (when 2,000 were expected) had limited training and had never dealt with this particular program before.

In this case, faulty information from a DSS worker appears to have led this single mom to believe that she and her children met the required standard to receive emergency food aid in the wake of Hurricane Irene when, in fact, she did not.

Finally, after all the rhetoric and condemnation of state employees emanating from the Malloy Administration over the last few weeks, upon hearing the news about today’s developments, the  Malloy press team “declined to comment” on individual cases.

More at:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/worker_accused_of_fraud_waits_for_decision/.  

Woman “steals” $524 and is fired from her state position; Man “steals” $450 dollars and is ordered to pay it back but gets to keep his state job.

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UPDATE:  The CTNewsjunkie story on today’s food stamp robber dismissal hearing is up:  http://www.ctnewsjunkie.com/ctnj.php/archives/entry/worker_accused_of_fraud_waits_for_decision/.  

As of moments ago no ruling has been made but the state employee did get a chance to lay out the facts: 

“Lisa Prout, who has worked for 11 years at the hospital and is a single-mother of two, said she would have never lied about her income in order to qualify for $524 in benefits. She claims the Department of Social Services eligibility worker changed her application and failed to count the $1,200 she disclosed on the form as money she had in the bank to pay her expenses.”

“An East Hampton resident Prout said she was without power for nine days and she applied for the food stamps on the very last day in September at which point she received a voucher. When she returned the next day she was given a debt card with $524 on it.

She said she would happily return that money to the state if it meant she got to keep her job.

“I was ushered through the application process like a piece of meat through a processing plant and the DSS worker provided me with guidance in completing the application,” Prout said. “I did nothing wrong; I have been treated unfairly; and my family is suffering.”

“Malloy’s office declined to comment on individual cases”

Background:

The accusation is that she “fraudulently obtained benefits through the state of Connecticut’s Department of Social Services administration of the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-Snap) in violation of DHMAS work rule #2 and State of Connecticut Personnel Regulation 5-240-1a.”

Considering that this is the first case going to a dismissal hearing, the Malloy Administration is probably using one of their strongest cases.  In politics you simply don’t deliver the kind of harsh rhetoric that has been coming from the Governor and his people and then risk losing the case.

For her part, the single-mom with an unblemished record of state service will undoubtedly respond by telling her story which, considering the information that has surfaced to date, will be to point out the fact that the DSS workers who were responsible for processing 20,000 applications (when 2,000 were expected) had limited training and had never dealt with this particular program before.

In this case, faulty information from a DSS worker appears to have led the woman to believe that she and her children met the required standard to receive emergency food aid in the wake of Hurricane Irene when, in fact, she did not.

One can assume that after today’s hearing she will be immediately terminated thereby laying the foundation for the next set of state employee food stamp cases.

Now juxtaposition her story with what occurred last week to the male Human Resources Manager for Connecticut’s Military Department.

In this case, the state employee who knew or should have known the law about using state resources for personal use had used a state-owned gymnasium “for his own (and his family’s) personal use on multiple occasions in 2008 and 2009 without paying the required rental fees.”

The HR manager was ordered to pay $450 in penalties for his violation of Connecticut state law and will remain on the state payroll.

Yesterday the Governor reiterated his commitment to the notion that these state employees are innocent until proven guilty saying “everyone is entitled to due process, but if these allegations prove true, it constitutes a serious violation of the public trust.”

It appears that the definition of a “serious violation of public trust” here in Connecticut would be better described as a loose set of general guidelines rather than an exact rule.

Wait; did he just say what I think he said? Malloy Administration and the State Employee Health Enhancement Program

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Is this what Orwell meant when he said “Big Brother is Watching You.”

It is widely understood that the proposed state employee health care changes was one of the primary reasons that the Malloy/SEBAC agreement failed from passing by a sufficient number the first time around.  Initially called the Value-Based Health Plan, the concept was quickly changed to the State Employee Health Enhancement Program.

In fact, concern about the potential connection between SustiNet and Connecticut’s state employee health plan, as well as, worries about the new Health Enhancement Program led a number of state employees to vote against the proposed agreement.

Following an intense effort by the administration and SEBAC leaders to “clarify” the Malloy/SEBAC agreement, not to mention the change in Subic’s by-laws, the agreement was adopted the second time around.

A key piece of that victory came after Malloy’s administration and SEBAC leaders worked to successfully sell the Health Enhancement Program as a truly win-win situation for employees and the state.

Although voluntary in nature, employees could save money for themselves and the state by agreeing to have the standard physical exams and health screenings that are recommended for people of various ages.  In addition, those facing a select number of serious diseases could also sign up for specialized disease management programs that
would provide them with personalized care while saving the state even more money.

State employees would be healthier, medical costs would come down and state of Connecticut could reduce its budget payments for state employee health insurance.

While the plan required that state employees agree to have standard health screenings, employees were assured that the SEBAC agreement would not force any employee to follow any specific treatment protocols and that personal healthcare decisions would remain a private matter between doctor and patient.

As an added incentive to sign up, those who chose not to sign up for the Health Enhancement Program would face higher premium payments ($1,200 a year) and higher deductibles (an additional $350 per person).

Between the benefit of having healthier employees and the additional revenue from those who refused to follow this common sense approach to healthcare, the Malloy administration projected that state government would save about $100 million a year.

Recently State Comptroller Kevin Lembo announced that 96 percent of all state employees had signed up for the Health Enhancement Program and that he was even implementing steps to reach out to the remaining 4 percent to urge them to sign up was well.

There was much cheering and self-congratulations.  The win-win situation was definitely taking shape.

And then just this past Tuesday, Ben Barnes, Malloy’s OPM Secretary, suggested in a passing comment that one of the reasons Connecticut has a budget cap problem is because too many people signed up for the Health Enhancement Program.

Excuse me?

As part of their two-year $1.6 billion Malloy/SEBAC agreement savings plan the Malloy administration estimated that about half of all state workers would join the Health Enhancement Program and the rest would pay the higher premiums and deductibles.

According to Barnes, of the $100 million projected savings related to state employee health care, about $18 million would come from higher deductibles and $22 million from higher premiums.  Taken together, the penalty and punishment portion of the Health Enhancement Program would provide Connecticut state government with $40 million or about 40% of that portion of the Malloy/SEBAC related healthcare savings.

Now OPM Secretary Barnes is saying that with 96 percent of state employees signing up to be healthier by having better healthcare the state budget will be out of balance.

Barnes said that while it was too early to determine the budget impact from the wellness program (which begins October 1) he expects that although 96 percent have signed up for the program, penalty revenues will actually be higher because some state employees will leave the program or be removed from the Health Enhancement Program prior to the end of this fiscal year.

Putting aside – for a moment – the fact that if 96 percent of employees are enrolled instead of 50 percent in the Health Enhancement Program won’t the state save even more money since even more state employees will be even healthier is a much more serious and sinister question.

According to Barnes, the Malloy Administration is waiting for, and counting on, state employees being removed from the Health Enhancement Program for failing to have appropriate health screenings.

Of course, the number and type of screenings vary tremendously based upon on a  perrson’s age, gender and physical health.

In addition, the doctor/patient relationship prohibits the state from collecting specific information on what is taking place within the doctor’s office.

Barnes can’t possibly be suggesting that the state has or is setting up a system to monitor each employee’s individual healthcare decisions or that they will be tracking down and throwing out individual employees who haven’t had the exact, specific screenings by June 30th.

Or is he?

On Tuesday, Barnes was quoted as saying “the program is a compulsory one with significant obligations.”

That quote certainly implies that the Malloy Administration is or plans to actively track the health and health care activities of Connecticut’s 45,000 state employees.

 As George Orwell said in his book 1984; “Big Brother is Watching You.”

For more on this issue go to CTMirror’s http://ctmirror.org/story/14032/malloy-administration-warns-spending-cap-increasing-problem

 

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