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    Saturday, April 01, 2023

    OPINION: State auditors won’t release allegations of nepotism, suspect bidding and no-work employee

    Don’t you think the public should be able to find out in what ways a whistleblower has suggested the state treasurer is using questionable bidding practices?

    Wouldn’t you like to know which employee of the secretary of the state’s office, according to a whistleblower, is not working at the job? What is the job? How much does the person not doing any work make and how are they getting away with not doing anything?

    Wouldn’t it be good for the public to find out what kind of nepotism has been alleged in the Department of Transportation and who, according to a whistleblower, has gotten an improper promotion? Who may be related to what powerful person? Who may have gotten improperly promoted to what job?

    These are questions that interest me because they go to the heart of a lot of what the public often wants to know about their government, whether business is being conducted properly and ethically.

    And these are not hypothetical allegations. They are among the dozens of real complaints about Connecticut government made to state auditors last year by whistleblowers.

    I requested three of the complaints, and the state auditors have refused to release them. I filed a complaint Thursday with the state Freedom of Information Commission.

    Attorney General William Tong, who I believe is inclined to sweep under the rug any corruption in a government run by fellow Democrats, is joining state auditors in requesting that the law pertaining to whistleblower complaints be tightened in a way that it is very clear that their allegations are not ever made public.

    Meanwhile, while the legislature considers changing the law, as proposed by the auditors in S.B. 1154, I requested three of what seemed like interesting complaints.

    We only know the subject of the complaints, by title, as the auditors are required to report that much information.

    The auditors, in refusing my request, cited the part of the law that exempts documents relating to an investigation of whistleblower complaints from disclosure.

    I contend that the original complaints themselves, the complaints that resulted in an investigation, are separate, not only a part of that subsequent investigation, and therefore public documents.

    The FOI commission, in adjudicating my complaint in these three cases, will have to decide.

    If the commission orders the release, the attorney general will no doubt take the commission to court on appeal.

    In the meantime, the attorney general will continue to press his case in the legislature, and make it certain that the FOI commission will never have a say, that whistleblower complaints about wrongdoing in state government will never surface publicly.

    The legislature ought to revisit the entire law and make it clear that whistleblower complaints in Connecticut are public documents, just the way they are in the federal government.

    I don’t have much faith that this legislature would do very much to be sure that complaints about government corruption and wrongdoing are aired publicly, as they are investigated, the same way reports of crime to police are public.

    Reports of bank robberies are public in Connecticut, but apparently, according to the attorney general and auditors, not allegations of rigging bids, no-work jobs or nepotism in government.

    This government seems to just want to sweep those under the rug.

    This is the opinion of David Collins

    d.collins@theday.com

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