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    Wednesday, August 17, 2022

    Awaiting a critical appointment by Gov. Lamont

    A key state watchdog agency, to which the legislature gave added bite this past session, has been leaderless for nearly a month. That is not a terribly long time to leave a vacancy unfilled, but in this case, it means the overseer cannot do its job overseeing.

    We urge Gov. Ned Lamont to act promptly in appointing an executive director to head the newly bolstered Contract Standards Board. More importantly, the governor must avoid a political appointment. Lamont should select a director whose background and professionalism imparts confidence that he or she will act fairly. The last thing he needs is a political dust-up over the selection.

    The legislature, working with then Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, created the Contracting Standards Board in 2007 in the wake of the pay-to-play scandal that drove Gov. John G. Rowland from office and into a federal prison. The intent was to assure state agencies awarded contracts for goods and services based on merit and the wise use of tax dollars, not as political favors.

    But the legislature never adequately funded the board. And while it has uncovered malfeasance, it has lacked the professional staff to act as aggressively, and as broadly, as the legislature seemingly intended when it gave it the job of assuring “procurement requirements are understood and carried out in a manner that is open, cost effective, efficient and consistent with state and federal statutes, rules and regulations.”

    That changed this past legislative session when lawmakers approved a $467,000 budget for the board, fully funding it and its staff. In addition to the executive director, the board can now hire a chief procurement officer, accounts examiner, a staff attorney and research analyst. Previously, the only full-time position was that of executive director.

    Executive Director David Guay, as he long planned, retired at the end of June. It will be Guay’s successor who will fill the new positions. Until Lamont appoints a new director, everything is on hold.

    Paul Mounds Jr., the governor’s chief of staff, tells The Day the process is moving along with the office completing background and reference checks of potential candidates. The nominee must win legislative confirmation.

    The 14-member Contracting Standard’s Board has proved to be a good one that takes its task seriously. With the help of a fully funded professional staff, the board should prove up to the task of rooting out and, ideally, preventing favoritism in the awarding of state contracts for goods and services.

    The editorial board eagerly awaits the governor’s nominee for executive director so that its work can begin anew.

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