An Honesty Deficient Governor's Office and Connecticut State Police Internal Affairs
Rell Takes Heat On Appointment
Keep Lawmakers Off Executive Branch Commissions, House Leaders Say
January 6, 2007
By TRACY GORDON FOX, Hartford Courant Staff Writer
Legislative leaders have policed Gov. M. Jodi Rell's new commission on state police internal affairs, removing a legislator she had appointed because it could be perceived as a conflict of the separation of powers.
Rep. Stephen Dargan, D-West Haven, co-chairman of the public safety committee, found out over the holidays that he could not serve on the state police internal affairs commission as a voting member, and legislative leaders chastised Rell for appointing him to the commission and others like it.
"It is inappropriate for legislators to serve as members of executive branch commissions and task forces," concluded James Amann, speaker of the House, and Christopher G. Donovan, House majority leader, who sent Rell a letter saying Dargan would not be serving on the commission,
They also asked her to cease appointing legislators to other similar positions, saying they "would respectfully suggest that in the future you refrain from appointing legislators to these groups."
Amann, D-Milford, and Donovan, D-Meriden, said they recently reviewed "section 2-5 of the General Statutes" and found that it "appropriately limits legislators to working within the legislative sphere in order to prevent conflicts relating to the separation of powers."
Section 2-5 says "no member of the General Assembly shall ... be nominated or appointed by the governor ... to serve or be elected to any position in the judicial, legislative or executive department of state government."
Christopher Cooper, Rell's spokesman, said Thursday that Rell had not yet seen the letter regarding Dargan, although it was dated Dec. 28. But Cooper added that numerous legislators have been appointed to various task forces and commissions through the years.
"The governor, in trying to develop the composition of any task force, is always looking to bring the very best people and the people with the most expertise in on the proposed effort," Cooper said.
Cooper noted that anyone who is asked to serve on a commission has the prerogative to decline.
The problem with Dargan's appointment was disclosed Thursday at the internal affairs commission's second meeting, at state police headquarters in Middletown, at which the commission discussed improving ethics training for state troopers.
A report released last month outlined misconduct and improper influence in cases against troopers that involved domestic violence, sexual assaults, drunken driving and larceny. It was prepared by the New York State Police and the Connecticut attorney general's office, and detailed how department managers failed to correctly deal with the offenses, which in some cases broke criminal law as well as department regulations.
The day the report was released, Rell ordered the formation of the commission, and soon afterward named eight members to it, including Dargan. Others included former police chiefs, a former prosecutor and a Superior Court judge.
Dargan came late to the meeting Thursday and revealed to other members of the commission that he would be serving as an ex-officio member with no voting rights.
"I can't vote but I still would like to sit and have the opportunity to ask questions," Dargan said, adding that he was surprised by his colleagues' findings.
"The commission doesn't want to be in violation, but the governor appointed me in good conscience because of my long-standing position as the leader of the public safety committee," he said.
Robert Farr, chairman of the commission, said he felt Dargan was a good choice.
"I felt it was unnecessary," Farr said of the letter written by legislative leaders.
"This is an ad hoc commission," said Farr, a former Republican state representative from West Hartford. "She was trying to get people with expertise about policing. We're all on board trying to do something, trying to restore confidence in the state police."
Staff Writer Christopher Keating contributed to this story
Contact Tracy Gordon Fox at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Speaker James Amann painted as Mafia-like Thug?: