The partisan overtones were quieted some Friday as one of the 16 commissioners fined by the Elections Enforcement Commission testified about her handling of the invitations to Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s Dec. 7 fundraiser. Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Linda Yelmini said she received three invitations from M. Lisa Moody, Rell’s chief of staff, at an informal gathering after work at Carbone’s restaurant in Hartford.
Yelmini said Moody gave her three invitations and said something like, ‘Please give one to Anna and one to Donna.’ Yelmini is referring to two DAS employees, Anna Ficeto and Donna Micklus.“At the time I felt like a postman,” she said. She said Friday she told Micklus, “I was asked to give this to you.” And, she said she can’t remember if she handed Ficeto the invitation or left it on her chair. Yelmini, who also happens to be an attorney, protested the Election Enforcement Commission’s suggested settlement agreement, which implied she violated the law by soliciting subordinates to attend a political event. “It was not solicitation,” at the time, she said. She said it may be now since the Elections Enforcement Commission has changed its mind about what solicitation means, but not then. “It wasn’t unethical either,” she added. Rep. Andrew Fleischman, D-West Hartford, said, “The question of ethics is often not determined by a judge.” He said, “just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s right.” She said the mere act of passing an envelope does not constitute solicitation. In addition she said the Elections Enforcement Commission is an exercise in futility because a party being accused of the violation doesn’t get a hearing and then the commission enters into an agreement if the respondent admits they “knowingly and willfully” violated the law. Yelmini’s agreement does not admit she violated the law because “I most certainly did not,” she said. But Sen. Edward Meyer, D-Guilford, said, “If you believe you’re innocent then why did you not contest the charge.” The loaded question upset even Democrats. Rep. David McCluskey, D-West Hartford, objected to the question, then the room erupted into a repeat of “The Jerry Springer Show,” a visual used to describe the first two days of the hearing. “This man has no decency,” Senate Minority Leader Louis DeLuca, R-Woodbury shouted referring to Meyer. Rep. Christopher Caruso, D-Bridgeport, ruled DeLuca out-of-order, but DeLuca said he didn’t care and kept talking. Yelmini interrupted everyone to answer the question. “I never admitted I violated the law, if you will please read the agreement.” She said the next step would have been an appeal to Superior Court, which would cost $4,000. In addition it was the first time in 34 years her and her husband were going on vacation together. “I was done, I needed to be done,” she said. “Last I checked $500 was still a better deal than $4,000,” she added. After a short recess, Meyer apologized. He said his wife, who was watching the hearing on television, called to tell him he had gotten too upset and over extended himself. “I will not do that again,” Meyer said. Monday the committee will hear from Rell campaign manager, Kevin Deneen.