Sunday, March 12, 2006

3 Stooges Ethics Committees

New ethics regulator mum on backlogged Rowland, Silvester probes
By Don Michak, Journal Inquirer

The recently appointed executive director of the Office of State Ethics is refusing to say whether the agency will complete as many as 40 investigations initiated by its predecessor, the now-defunct State Ethics Commission.

Benjamin Bycel said in an interview that he would make no comment about plans to tackle the backlog left by the former ethics panel, which included a probe of at least one close associate of the corrupt former Gov. John G. Rowland.

Bycel, who took control of the state ethics office three months ago, said he had a longstanding policy of speaking to the media only after an investigation was completed and a complaint or charge was actually levied. He added that would not deviate from that policy even to respond to questions that were not about specific probes. Bycel also refused to say whether the ethics office would continue to pursue individuals involved in the payment of lucrative "finder's fees" by investment partnerships that did business with state pension fund under its former overseer, the corrupt ex-state Treasurer Paul Silvester.

Such fees were at the center of the secret deals in which Silvester designated his own "finders" and diverted some of the money for political purposes.

Bycel referred questions about the Rowland and Silvester scandal figures to the interim enforcement officer at the ethics office, Dennis Curtis, a Yale Law School professor and former colleague of Bycel's at the Los Angeles Ethics Commission. Curtis did not return telephone calls to his office and home.

Before the demise of the State Ethics Commission, its investigators had mounted probes that involved several Rowland administration figures and assorted cronies - including a longtime friend of the former governor, millionaire developer Robert V. Matthews. Matthews, who now spends much of the year at his landmark mansion by the sea in Palm Beach, Fla., had treated Rowland to a free vacation there. His various companies received at least $29 million in state contracts, subsidies, and rent during Rowland's tenure as governor.

Matthews also was involved in an unsuccessful attempt to convince a Pennsylvania company in which he and former Connecticut Development Authority Chairman Arthur H. Diedrick had invested to become a tenant in a New Haven building owned by the developer. The company's former president has said Matthews promised to use his friendship with Rowland to secure state economic development money to pay for the move and Matthews managed to get Rowland to personally lobby for the relocation during a telephone call after a golf match.

The legislative committee that weighed impeaching Rowland also found that Matthews paid greatly inflated rates to rent and then buy through a straw man at twice its value Rowland's Washington, D.C., condominium.

The Matthews probe, which ethics commission staffers began in 2003, and most of the others involving individuals linked to both Rowland and Silvester, were suspended pending possible action by federal prosecutors.

The Silvester scandal involved more than $12 million in fees collected by "finders" during the former state treasurer's 17-month tenure, including former state Senate President William A. DiBella and other politically connected individuals.

DiBella is challenging a civil fraud complaint lodged against him by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which accused him of aiding and abetting Silvester in a scheme that was to deliver DiBella a $525,000 payoff.

©Journal Inquirer 2006

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3 Stooges National Security Service


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