Editorial: UConn budget should not be crafted behind closed doors – Meridian Record Journal

When the late Gov. Ella T. Grasso signed Connecticut’s landmark Freedom of Information Act into law in 1975, the letter — and the spirit — of that piece of legislation were very clear: We would have open government in this state, as open as we could reasonably demand, with very few exceptions, all of them clearly spelled out.

Article 1 declared that the new law would apply to any “public agency,” defined as “Any executive, administrative or legislative office of the state or any political subdivision of the state and any state or town agency, any department, institution, bureau, board, commission, authority or official of the state or of any city, town, borough, municipal corporation, school district, regional district or other district or other political subdivision of the state, including any committee of, or created by, any such office, subdivision, agency, department, institution, bureau, board, commission, authority or official …” and on and on.

Article 2 defined a “meeting” of such an agency, department, institution, etc. etc., as being in the purview of the new law.

Article 6 allowed for a few exceptions to the law — but only as may concern personnel actions, pending litigation, security, real estate acquisitions and almost nothing else.

Unless we’re missing something, this would mean, for example, that if there were a tiny town called Hicksville, Conn., and if that town had a dog catcher, the dog catcher’s budget, [Read More]

Unnoticed Legislation Converted 32 Merit-System Employees Into Political Appointees – Hartford Courant

By Jon Lender

Tucked quietly into the massive state budget-implementation bill approved in a June 29 special legislative was an intriguing provision that removed 32 highly paid jobs at state executive-branch agencies – including communications directors and legislative liaisons – from the state’s merit system.

The provision, proposed by the office of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and agreed to in negotiations with leaders of the Democratic legislative majority, takes the 32 positions out of the state’s “classified” civil service system and makes them into “unclassified” political appointees – like deputy commissioners or executive assistants.

The change – which became effective July 1, a day after Malloy signed the 686-page bill – eliminates testing procedures that were previously required for hiring. “Unclassified” employees don’t enjoy the same job protections as those in the “classified” merit system, so it is easier for political officials to remove people currently in the jobs.

Malloy and his people have been eyeing the change since at least 2012, when they proposed similar legislation that failed. But a top Malloy budget lieutenant said in recent days, when asked by Government Watch about the new provision, that there are no immediate plans to flex the administration’s newfound legal muscle and replace any of the 32 with appointees of their own.

“The provision was agreed to as part of negotiations and an agreement with the General Assembly on the budget implementation bill. The provision is no reflection on the hard work and dedication of those presently in the positions, nor is there any specific action immediately envisioned. It is a matter of philosophy [Read More]

Malloy’s budget office, legislators backed FOI reduction – Journal Inquirer

By Mike Savino

Legislation protecting communications among members of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority from public disclosure when they occur outside scheduled meetings appears to have the blessing of both lawmakers and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration.

Malloy’s budget office, at the request of PURA, negotiated the language into the bill that implements the state budget.

But the language originated as a provision of an amendment that members of the legislature’s Energy and Technology Committee drafted for a bill to cap, reduce, or eliminate fixed fees on electrical bills as a way to promote energy conservation. That amendment, which was never subject to a public hearing, cleared the Senate but was never brought before the House of Representatives for a vote.

Gian-Carl Casa, the undersecretary for legislative affairs in the state Office of Policy and Management, said the office negotiated the language back into the budget implementer at the request of PURA. The authority is part of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, meaning it is within the executive branch of state government.

Mark Bergman, a spokesman for Malloy, said he was unaware of the language being included in negotiations and declined to comment further.

But PURA spokesman Mike Coyle said the change is necessary because the requirements of the state Freedom of Information Act were interfering [Read More]

Editorial: Force UConn to keep budget debate open – The Day

Any organization doing the public’s business, which is another way of saying spending the public’s money, should understand and appreciate the need to keep the public informed about how its business is being conducted and its money is being spent.

This view is apparently not shared by the University of Connecticut and its governing body. On June 24, the university’s board of trustees adopted a nearly $1.3 billion budget for the next fiscal year, increasing spending in troubled economic times by $103.7 million or nearly 9 percent. It’s worth reminding you that $400 million will come from the state, while much of the rest must be supplied through tuition paid by debt-laden Connecticut students and their families.

So one would think there would be a public interest in how the board came to approve such a big spending increase.

Yet this budget was discussed, amended and finalized behind closed doors during a 5½-hour executive session of the board’s Financial Affairs Committee in May. That was followed by a 90-minute review by the board — also behind closed doors — and the formal adoption in a public meeting that had no public discussion. A UConn spokeswoman points out the budget, [Read More]