In a letter released Tuesday afternoon, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal told the Department of Social Services Commissioner Michael Starkowski that he has “grave misgivings” about the department’s request to hire outside counsel to sue legal aid attorneys.
More than two weeks ago, DSS alleged that legal aid attorneys interfered with the bidding process when they sent a letter to bidders interested in managing the HUSKY health insurance program for low-income families and Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s new Charter Oak Health Insurance Plan for uninsured adults.
Legal aid attorneys like Sheldon Toubman of New Haven were surprised by Mr. Starkowski’s request because they felt they had done nothing wrong by sending the letters to bidders. Now they have Mr. Blumenthal backing them up.
“The legal action itself, seeking to silence the attorneys as critics, could well violate profoundly significant, well-established First Amendment rights and principles,” Blumenthal wrote.
David Dearborn, spokesman for DSS, said in an email Tuesday that “The Commissioner has asked the agency’s in-house counsel to review the Attorney General’s response. Regardless of whether legal action is possible, the agency needs some assurance that outside involvement with the state’s bidding process will not become a tolerated practice.”
“In the meantime, the Attorney General did note that he shares the Commissioner’s commitment to the integrity and independence of the state procurement process. We need to work together to make sure these words are supported by everyone,” Dearborn said.