The controversial study regarding the streamlining of state government by University of Connecticut Professor Ken Dautrich is on “hold” at the moment Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell said Wednesday.
“That study is on hold right now, so if we don’t deplete it then we will not use the rest of those funds,” Rell said referring to the $223,000 study.
Democratic lawmakers have suggested Rell return the money to the state budget, as part of her deficit mitigation plan.
Obviously frustrated by reporters questions Wednesday Rell said that she would wait for the investigations to be completed before taking any further action.
The state Auditors of Public Accounts are reviewing whether the study, which included a focus group, improperly used state funds for political gain. There is also an ongoing investigation being done by the state Elections Enforcement Commission, which is looking into Dautrich’s work for the governor’s exploratory committee.
Most of the heavy lifting into this issue has been done by reporter Ted Mann of the New London Day who was the first to report about the existence of the study. Most of the information provided to Mann was made through Freedom of Information requests.
Some of the information obtained by Mann included email exchanges between Rell’s Chief of Staff Lisa Moody and Dautrich, which have been the basis for several stories on the issue.
After reiterating her cooperation with the ongoing investigations, Rell warned reporters Wednesday not to piece together emails to find intent.
“I also think it’s a mistake to take individual emails, try to piece them together to find intent to find some kind of something that isn’t there. And so that’s why I think a full review, which is taking place now, is necessary,” Rell said. “Let me make it clear. There was never any polling done using state funds.”
On Tuesday Mann received more information regarding his request for information regarding the poll Dautrich helped Rell’s exploratory committee write.
According to Mann’s report:“Rell has insisted that she did not know Dautrich had helped craft the questions for that poll ‘until I read it in the newspaper,’ e-mails that the chief of staff, M. Lisa Moody, sent to Dautrich suggest otherwise.
“‘Governor thought it was great too,’ Moody wrote to Dautrich on April 7 after approving a draft of the poll, which was paid for by Rell’s exploratory committee.”
In May 2009, Dautrich helped Rell’s exploratory committee come up with questions to be asked as part of a poll conducted Braun Research of Princeton, N.J.
Records show the campaign paid $6,000 for the poll, which was a bargain compared to what it had paid in the past years for polls.
During Rell’s 2006 re-election campaign she paid $29,000 to Public Opinion Strategies of Alexandria, Va. to conduct a poll. Her opponent that year, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, paid $32,000 and $26,000 on polls.
Rell told reporters in early October that she doesn’t believe the poll analysis Dautrich provided her qualifies as an in-kind contribution. According to state election laws in-kind contributions are not allowed to exceed $375.
If the commission determines Dautrich’s analysis was worth more than $375, then Rell’s campaign may be asked to pay a fine.
Elections enforcement officials were unable to comment on the complaint filed by Democratic consultant Jonathan Pelto and have said only that they had received it. They also refused to comment on if the issue, which was raised by Rell herself, was already under investigation.
Rell said again on Wednesday that she wouldn’t talk about her plans for re-election until after the municipal elections Nov. 3.
Meanwhile, Colleen Flanagan, spokeswoman for the Democratic State Party said the governor’s office just acknowledged receipt of Democratic State Party Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo’s FOI request today. DiNardo requested the information on Oct. 13.