"In our system of government, nothing is more vital than the personal integrity of public officials, and nothing more dangerous than conduct that encourages public cynicism...Offense independent of legal transgressions have serious implications on public confidence as well, and cannot be ignored," - Senators Martin Looney, D-New Haven, Donald DeFronzo, D-New Britain and Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford.
State Sen. Tom Gaffey, D-Meriden, gave a predictable response to allegations that he crossed the line between private behavior and public policy Monday, but the questions will linger about why he didn't step away from a $1 billion spending plan for his alma mater.
In today's Hartford Courant, Gaffey sidestepped some legitimate concerns over his relationship with Jill Ferraiolo, a vice chancellor at the Connecticut State University System (CSUS). Throughout his Senate career, Gaffey has often felt the ends justify the means. When we questioned whether Ferraiolo had spent over $100 on her boyfriend, who she playfully called "Big Boy," in their email messages, Gaffey stated, "I pay, maybe I am old fashioned." The new Ethics laws forbid anyone, a lobbyist, a private citizen, from offering gifts at that level. It doesn't cut it anymore if you trade dinners or drinks, it's a $100 and that's it.
But that fact that Gaffey is picking up the tab is encouraging because a few years ago, he made a habit of spending tax dollars without paying. In a report, it was disclosed that Gaffey spent $10,000 in expense money from his current employer, the Connecticut Resource Recovery Authority (CRRA)without making timely repayments. He also has made a practice of using leftover campaign funds for personal use without disclosing the details.
The bigger issue here is this is no way to conduct the business of the state nor to saddle future generations of taxpayers with a billion dollars when it had no chance of passing until late in the game. These type of late inserts are usually reserved for a small pet project or two. Still not kosher, but the legislation in question did not have broad based support until it became leveraged by Gaffey and the Democratic friends who voted for the bonding package, 24-12.
Governor Rell decided the bond package and was too high and she rightly vetoed it. Then the Democrats began to count votes for an override and ran into a problem wtih State Sen. Joan Hartley, D-Waterbury, chairman of the Higher Education and Employment Committee. It was her committee which should have had the last say, or any say, in the approval of the CSUS proposal. But she was cut out and threatened by her leader, Senate President Don Williams, D-Putnam, if she didn't vote to override.
Hartley rightly pointed out the CSUS proposal had no oversight or reasonable structure to its spending. It was a blank check and given the history of another blank check program - UConn 200 - Hartley was not satisfied.
No one told Sen. Hartley about Sen. Gaffey's role in this bill or his relationship with Ferraiolo. Gaffey claimed he was not capable of carrying the bill to fruition, but he did not in an email to Ferraiolo that when properly motivated, he can get it done."
"I move mountains for my friends," Gaffey said.
04 December 2007
Posted by Chris Healy at 10:00