Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s Chief of Staff M. Lisa Moody left at least one General Administration and Elections Committee member perplexed by her testimony Tuesday about her role in a Rell campaign fundraiser. “Here’s an individual who admits launching this shake down of political appointees,” and “I’m being lead to believe she can’t recall all the facts,” Rep. Christopher Caruso, D-Bridgeport, said following the three-hour hearing.“Maybe I’m sitting in a different room but a lot of people seem to be covering their tracks on this issue,” Caruso said.
Caruso was referring to the “I don’t recall” comments by Moody. “I think you know everything that goes on in your office,” Caruso told Moody. According to the State Elections Enforcement Commission report, Moody’s executive assistant, Dan Moreland, who testified last Thursday, told the Chief State’s Attorney – who also investigated the matter – that he heard bits and pieces of a conversation between Department of Public Utility Control Commissioner Ann George and Moody the day the invitations were handed out. According to the report, Moreland heard George say, “Are you nuts?” to which Moody replied, “It’s after 5 p.m.” When questioned Tuesday, Moody said she didn’t recall the conversation. “I can’t speak to what he heard,” she said.“This was a major event in her life that she apologizes for and she can’t recall the details,” Caruso said. He said Moody must have known the law she violated existed before she violated it if she was saying, “It’s after 5 p.m.” in addition to having the invitations delivered to her car instead of her office. Another issue Democratic committee members wanted Moody to address was her role as Rell’s chief of staff. Rep. Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven, said it was brought up that some of the commissioners, who Moody asked to distribute the invitations, felt pressured to agree to distribute them. Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Linda Yelmini testified Friday that she felt Moody had given her a “direct order.” “I don’t know why they’re afraid of me,” Moody said. “Given my title and my relationship with the governor I can somewhat understand,” however, “I don’t want to be feared; I want to be respected.” She said she has apologized numerous times and would take it all back if she could. “What I did was wrong,” she said. “And had I known, I certainly would not have done it.” “I accept responsibility for coming up with the idea to hold a fundraiser for political appointees,” Moody said.She said that when she heard a newspaper reporter asking about the Dec. 7 fundraiser she placed a call to Elections Enforcement Executive Director Jeffrey Garfield to find out if she had violated any laws. She said once she learned she “unwittingly” caused a violation she initiated a complaint that same day. Rell Campaign Manager Kevin Deneen testified on Monday that he doesn’t remember if he called Moody or if Moody called him indicating there were questions being raised about the fundraiser. Deneen said the decision to return the checks from the fundraiser was made within a 14-day window that ended Dec. 21. The question then became how much influence did the campaign have in the settlement of the Elections Enforcement complaint Moody initiated. Deneen said he hadn’t read, seen, or heard any news on the Feb. 8 Elections Enforcement Commission hearing, so two days later he picked up the phone and called Garfield to find out if a settlement had been reached. On Monday, May 15 Deneen testified that he asked Garfield about what the commission had decided. He said Garfield offered up the names of the 16 Commmissioners who faced a $500 fine. In addition to the names of the 16 commissioners, Deneen said Garfield gave him the names of four of the attorneys and a draft copy of the settlement agreement. Deneen said he called the four attorneys, spoke with two of them, and shared the proposed settlement agreement, which they had not seen. Deneen said he may have spoken with Moody that same day. Moody said Tuesday that she never saw the settlement agreements with the commissioners before or after they signed them. Deneen testified that he never negotiated any settlement agreement for any of the commissioners or their attorneys.Caruso said on Monday that “Mr. Garfield violates his own rules because what applies to Yelmini doesn’t seem to apply to Deneen.” According to Garfield’s Feb. 16 letter to Yelmini, “the Commission can only discuss a pending matter with a respondent or their legal representative.“So why did Garfield share information with Deneen, Rell’s campaign manager? Find out on Thursday when the hearing continues. There won’t be any hearing Wednesday, May 17, so members can attend an energy summit.