Monday, January 24, 2005

Can an ethics panel in Connecticut, itself act ethically?

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What does this Jan. 15, 2005, post on FreeSpeech.com say about ethics in Connecticut:

Is our legal system being run by morons and deviants?
(post contains picture and story of a Connecticut cop killer (a former prison guard) and the cop he killed)

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Ethics Panel Pushes Ahead

But Lawmaker Wants To Delay Hiring Director

January 24, 2005 By JON LENDER, Hartford Courant Staff Writer

The State Ethics Commission is pressing forward to hire a replacement for Alan S. Plofsky, the longtime executive director it fired last September - but a top legislative leader says any hiring should wait until after lawmakers act on proposals to drastically restructure both the agency and the director's job.

The problem-plagued ethics panel could, within a week or two, choose a new executive director/general counsel from a field of four finalists interviewed last week. According to multiple sources, they include:

John J. Woodcock III, a lawyer and former state legislator who served on the ethics commission until last year.

Susan Hamilton, director of the legal division at the state Department of Children and Families.

Theodore M. Doolittle, an assistant attorney general who handles fraud and "whistleblower" complaints and has been the lead lawyer in Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's investigation of the state's failed energy deal with now-bankrupt Enron.

Saphora M. Lifrak, ethics attorney for the New York City Council.

The plan to hire someone quickly for the job, paying $88,455 to $113,464, is "troubling," and should be postponed, said state Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn.

"First, we have two separate proposals to overhaul the make-up of the ethics commission," he said, referring to bills on which the General Assembly will act while lawmakers are in session.

Overhaul plans offered by both Senate Democrats and Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell call for major "restructuring of the commission itself," Williams said.

"Why would we want to bring aboard a new executive director/general counsel when current plans call [for] his or her duties to be drastically changed?"

But Hugh Macgill, chairman of the ethics panel, said, "we have been quite explicit" with all the job candidates - whose identities he would not discuss - "about the possibility of a change" in the structure of the ethics agency or the nature of the job.

If the functions of executive director and general counsel are separated into two positions, anyone now hired for Plofsky's old job would be considered for one of the posts, but there are no guarantees, Macgill said.

Macgill said it is important to go forward now because it could be months before lawmakers decide whether and how to restructure the agency over which his panel presides. Any bill that does pass may not take effect until October - potentially putting off a hiring for a year at a time when Rell and lawmakers have made ethics reform a top priority after the scandal that led John G. Rowland to resign as governor and plead guilty to corruption charges. Rowland is to be sentenced March 11 in federal court. Williams wrote Rell recently, asking that she delay the hiring. She replied that she lacks legal authority to stop the independent commission.

Williams also said the commission has been working well under the leadership of an interim director since Plofsky was ousted over misconduct allegations, which he denies and is appealing.

Although the interim chief is not expected to continue, another temporary replacement could be found, Williams said.

Macgill did not appear bothered by a recent letter from Gregg Adler, Plofsky's attorney, asking the commission not to hire a replacement because Plofsky's appeal is to be heard next month by the state Employee Review Board, which has the power to reinstate him. Macgill did say he would present Adler's letter to the commission before a final decision is made on a replacement, perhaps within a week or two.]

Of the four candidates, whose names were circulating last week at the Capitol and the Legislative Office Building, only Doolittle, the assistant attorney general, would confirm his interest. He was willing to say only that "every day I serve the people of the state of Connecticut" is an honor, and "it is an honor to be among those interviewed to be executive director of the ethics commission."

Woodcock, at the time he served on the ethics commission, had a pending application to become a state judge.

If Woodcock had been successful, the appointment would have been made by Rowland.

Woodcock disqualified himself from Rowland-related votes as the scandal escalated, but did vote with others to ratify a negotiated settlement of an ethics case against Rowland two years ago.

More than a decade ago, Woodcock's wife, then a zoning board member in South Windsor, unsuccessfully sued the Journal Inquirer newspaper of Manchester for libel, in an ethics-related controversy that spilled into his own 1988 campaign for re-election as a state representative.

Woodcock, a Democrat who since has moved to West Hartford, lost that election. Hamilton, the DCF legal division director, served on two personnel selection panels that handled the hiring late last year of four new staff lawyers at that agency including Maureen Regula, a DCF spokesman said. Regula, until December, had been an ethics commission attorney. Last summer she joined two other staff lawyers in filing the misconduct complaints that got Plofsky fired. Her fellow complainants, still on the ethics agency staff, sat in on last week's candidate interviews for executive director. Asked if that might become an issue in the hiring process, Macgill said:

"Fiddlesticks."

Lifrak made news in New York last year when she filed a federal lawsuit against the City Council. She claimed, among other things, council leaders did not take seriously her complaints that she had been harassed by Councilman Allan W. Jennings Jr. of Queens and that she received a lower salary than male lawyers for the council.

The above came from the Hartford Courant website.

Fair use of copyrighted material

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My email to incoming Gov. Rell of Connecticut regarding Rowland and corruption

How can there not still be sleaze in the Connecticut Governor’s Office, if former Rowland aids are answering Rell’s phones? (post)

Can cops rape, rob, beat, and murder with immunity?
(post contains pictures of young adults brutalized by police, and picture of a 1978 Chevrolet Corvette and one of the houses I fixed up from a boarded up condition)

This blogger's email: stevengerickson@yahoo.com

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