When is theft, not theft?
4 judicial workers pay fines in scam
Published: Wednesday, December 23, 2009, New Haven Register
By Brian McCready, Milford Bureau Chief
Four state Judicial Branch employees, including an Orange woman, have paid $500 civil penalties to the Office of State Ethics for allegedly using their state positions to obtain financial gain.
The four employees allegedly overcharged the public for documents, and were forced to make restitution, according to OSE officials.
The four court workers are Kathy Jordan of Orange, Sharon Haas of Stamford, Deidre Clement of New Fairfield and Mary Fjelldal of Stamford.
According to the consent orders finalized with the Office of State Ethics Monday, all four are court monitors for the Judicial Department at the Stamford Court Reporters Office.
Court monitors record and transcribe proceedings in Superior Court, an OSE statement released Tuesday says. Despite a mandatory price schedule, each of the four allegedly overcharged members of the public for the reproduction of transcripts, according to the statement.
State law prohibits employees from using their public office or position to obtain financial gain for themselves.
“By overcharging requestors in excess of the amount allowed by the mandatory price schedule, the four monitors allegedly used their state positions to obtain financial gain. In the consent orders, the four court monitors deny any violation of the Code of Ethics,” the OSE statement says.
In addition to the civil penalties, Jordan, Haas, Clement and Fjelldal also agreed to reimburse members of the public $207.75, $371.25, $528 and $212.50, respectively, the amounts of the overcharges, the OSE statement says. As a further part of the settlements, each will provide a detailed invoice to all future requestors, specifying the per-page rate charged, the total number of pages and the total amount due.
“The Code of Ethics seeks, first and foremost, to prevent public officials from using their positions for personal, financial gain, beyond what the law allows,” OSE Executive Director Carol Carson said in the statement.
OSE spokeswoman Meredith Trimble said the issue was brought to their attention by another state agency. She said OSE would not have any control over whether the employees were disciplined.
“Regarding any agency personnel matters, we don’t know how this was handled administratively by their agency. That, we wouldn’t get involved in, because it is not under our purview. Our statute allows us to impose civil penalties, which we did,” Trimble said. “How agencies subsequently handle any ethics matters would be up to the management, HR department and in keeping with that agency’s own internal ethics policy, if applicable.”
Trimble said education is the key to ensuring abuses do not occur. The OSE has a number of training options to ensure that state employees know and comply with the ethics law, she said.
“We do free in-person training at state agencies, hold free quarterly trainings at our offices, offer free training DVDs to any requesting agency, provide an interactive, online training ... as well as a Web-streaming training video and plain-language guides to the Code of Ethics,” Trimble said.
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