Capability in doubt, Maynard should step down
If the characterization provided by state Sen. Andrew Maynard’s attorney to Waterford police is accurate, the public has not received an honest accounting of the nature of the senator’s impairment.
When attorney Robert Reardon accompanied the senator to a meeting with police investigators Jan. 26 to discuss Maynard’s motor vehicle accident of 12 days earlier, he cautioned police that they were dealing with an individual whose ability to communicate was significantly impaired.
“Attorney Reardon … stated that Maynard has difficulty finding the right words to say and looks for assistance in completing his thoughts,” states the police report released Tuesday. “Furthermore Attorney Reardon stated that Maynard may have difficulty reading and writing and would not be able to do any writing due to his condition.”
Before and after the auto accident, colleagues repeatedly assured the press and public that while Maynard was dealing with a speech impairment since suffering a severe brain injury in a July 2014 fall, he was otherwise fully engaged as a legislator. The man police encountered does not meet that description.
It is simply implausible that someone who needs assistance in completing a thought and who has difficultly reading and writing can serve effectively representing an eight-town district or as co-chair of the Transportation Committee when the future of state transportation policy and spending is under debate.
Perhaps others have been “completing his thoughts” when it came time to vote. It perhaps explains why the senator, with a past record of demanding fiscal honesty and prudency, cast a deciding vote in the 19-17 Senate passage last year of the current budget, which has needed multiple amendments because it was so poorly designed and dependent on tax increases.
During a typical legislative session, legislators receive a deluge of bills and supporting material. Admittedly, no one reads it all and many likely don’t review as much material as they should, but they are capable. It appears Maynard, with “difficulty reading,” is not.
Did the Senate’s Democratic Party leadership encourage the depiction of Maynard as an impaired but capable senator because they desired his vote? Was the point to get him through the end of this, his fifth two-year term, because he qualifies for a small pension and more importantly health insurance benefits in retirement at that point? Were colleagues showing deference to a fellow senator when they chose not share with the public an honest depiction of Maynard’s situation?
The voters deserved better. When it became apparent he was not returning to the functioning level demanded of this position of public trust, Maynard should have stepped down. And he should do so now.
Senate Democrats issued an announcement last week that Maynard would not run again. Some may argue that’s sufficient. We disagree. There is simply too much uncertainty about whether the senator can cogently assess policy options and cast an informed and independent vote for him to continue.
Unfortunately, a resignation now will effectively leave the 18th Senatorial District without representation for the bulk of the legislative session. Under state law, it would be roughly two months until a special election, meaning late April. The legislative session is set to conclude May 4. After that, the focus of Senate and House members will be on the November election.
What is to be done about the retirement benefits? Republicans have expressed a willingness to extend them if Maynard steps down under these special circumstances — an inability to serve due to health issues. The senator faces a tough road ahead. Denying him benefits was never the point. The point was whether citizens had a capable advocate. (Whether retirement benefits for lawmakers after 10 years is good policy generally is for another editorial. It strikes us as excessive.)
In his Jan. 14 car accident, police said Maynard suffered a seizure — not his first since his fall — that caused him to lose control of his car, pass through the Jersey barrier on Route 32 and into oncoming, northbound traffic. His vehicle clipped another car before crashing off the side of the road. He and others could have easily died.
Waterford police did not file charges, which is appropriate. Maynard has surrendered his license, also appropriate.
This has been a sad episode start to finish. Even when it disagreed with him on its editorial pages, this newspaper admired the senator from Stonington for his deliberative approach to policy, his independence, constituent service and candor. He is a nice guy. But when Maynard sought re-election despite not having fully recovered from his brain injury, we withheld our endorsement.
After his re-election, our hope was for a dramatic recovery that would again provide the region with an able senator to represent it. That did not happen. Pretending it did, for whatever reason, was wrong.
The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.
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