General Administration and Elections Committee Co-Chairman Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, felt a bill that would create more oversight of the Office of State Ethics deserved a “full and fair debate,” which it did not get Friday.
In order for it to be added to the agenda GAE Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher Caruso, D-Bridgeport, would have had to agree to allow it and he didn’t.
He said “it’s not the time to inject politics into the Office of Ethics.” He said it would erode the independence of the watchdog agency, and believe it or not Gov. M. Jodi Rell agreed.
“The last thing we really need is another watchdog watching the watchdog. This is an independent agency and we should let them do their work,” Rell said.
Slossberg wanted to require that a judge trial referee examine opinions issued by the new Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board.
The Office of State Ethics lobbied against the bill in this four-page letter.
In the letter the Office of State Ethics Executive Director Benjamin Bycel wrote that he didn’t even learn about the substitute language proposed in the bill until 3 p.m. Thursday.
Furthermore, Bycel said if someone is dissatisfied with an OSE opinion they have already have the right to judicial review under the Uniform Administration Procedures Act.
Caruso said the bill was an “intrusion of the judicial branch into the legislative branch.” He said the legislature should not get involved in the “micromanagement” of the Ethics Office.
Bycel wrote in the letter that it has been suggested the bill is a direct response to a recent OSE ruling. The ruling Bycel is referring to is the one that says Speaker of the House James Amann’s can not raise money from lobbyists for his private employer, the Mulitple Sclerosis Society. The Citizens Advisory Board “issued an opinion which it believed was in the best interest of ‘clean government’ in Connecticut,” Bycel wrote.
“The CEAB also discussed publicaly at its meeting that it believed it was the responsibility of the legislature to clarify the law if it did not agree with the CEAB decision,” he wrote.
This will lead back to a discussion on a full-time verses part-time state legislature.