Blumenthal critic had his share of problems in state's AG office

The assistant attorney general who this week accused his boss, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, of lying to him about having served in Vietnam has clashed in the past with superiors in the attorney general's office.

Richard R. Hine, 60, of New Britain, said in a letter reported in multiple Connecticut news outlets that Blumenthal had claimed to have served in Vietnam during a conversation about Hine's concerns that he - then a member of the Marine Corps Reserve - might be called up to fight in Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s.

Hine was "appalled and shocked, because I knew he had not been to Vietnam," he said in the letter, which has been republished on a number of political blogs from around the state.

Personnel records from the Office of the Attorney General show that Hine has been suspended without pay twice, in 1993 and 1995, during his tenure with the office.

The first disciplinary action is outlined in a 1993 memo that charges Hine had not "competently, diligently and promptly handled the representation of the state in the cases assigned to you," citing three cases in which Hine allegedly "failed to properly investigate the facts and formulate and pursue an adequate defense of the state's interests or those of the individual state employees you were assigned to represent."

The Day first learned of Hine's prior disciplinary record through a source unconnected to any Connecticut political campaign. The documents were provided Wednesday by the Office of the Attorney General after The Day filed a Freedom of Information Act request.

Hine did not respond Wednesday to multiple phone messages.

Less than one month after the Feb. 5, 1993, memo from Deputy Attorney General Aaron S. Bayer, which informed Hine he could be subject to discipline "up to and including dismissal," a second memo from Bayer outlines Hine's punishment: two weeks of suspension without pay, and a transfer - at Hine's then-current salary - to work in the attorney general's Workers Compensation Department.

Less than two years later, Hine was again notified of impending disciplinary action over charges that he had repeatedly been absent from the office, including out of state, during work hours; used his state phone to make personal calls to his ex-wife, a friend and his veterinarian; and violated a ban on using his office for personal gain by presenting his attorney general business card to a state trooper after a traffic accident and stating "words to the effect that 'this should be all you need.' "

The 1995 memo also said Hine was accused of "settling cases without authorization and inappropriate behavior at work." Hine also drove from August to September 1994 while his driver license was suspended, the memo said.

In a stipulated agreement dated July 6, 1995, Hine did not admit guilt but agreed to three more weeks of unpaid leave, reimbursement of more than $1,400 for unauthorized phone calls and mileage payments, and several other provisions that were redacted in the personnel documents provided to The Day.

Even before the documents were obtained, rumors swirled about Hine's relationship to his boss. That led Blumenthal's Senate opponent, Republican Linda McMahon, to criticize the attorney general for what her campaign portrayed as an attempt to smear a prominent critic who has revived a story line that damaged Blumenthal's standing with some voters.

A McMahon spokesman, Ed Patru, charged that Blumenthal was effectively doing to Hine what he and his staff have condemned for years: punishing a whistleblower.

"Isn't it ironic that Dick Blumenthal is always so eager to protect the voice of the whistleblower, but his campaign apparatus this week is working round the clock to discredit whistleblower Richard Hine by calling him a 'disgruntled employee,' " Patru said in an e-mail sent to news organizations Wednesday afternoon.

Blumenthal's campaign, however, insists it has said nothing to discredit Hine.

"No, the campaign has not released any information about Mr. Hine or his work," Blumenthal campaign spokeswoman Maura Downes said.

In a statement, Blumenthal campaign manager Mindy Myers did not address Patru's criticism head-on, but said McMahon "needs to stop her negative campaigning."

"As news reports have pointed out, this story originated from a Republican who actively supports Linda McMahon," Myers said.

The quote in Patru's e-mail comes from a video clip he linked to, in which NBC Connecticut's chief political correspondent, Tom Monahan, paraphrased Hine's concern that his reputation was being attacked by those sympathetic to Blumenthal.

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