Gov.-elect Dan Malloy made his third major administrative appointment this week, but the pace and quiet nature of the transition has some lawmakers and advocacy groups frustrated.
At the newsstand in the Legislative Office Building Wednesday one lawmaker said he didn’t know who Malloy would be naming the Department of Children and Families Commissioner until he strolled through the door with Supreme Court Justice Joette Katz, whom Malloy tapped for the slot.
Prior to Katz’s announcement Tuesday morning child welfare advocates felt they should have been consulted during the vetting process even though Katz was received warmly by those working in the trenches on behalf of abused and neglected children.
In a place that operates on rumors and speculation, each of Malloy’s administrative appointments has been somewhat a surprise even to Capitol insiders who are used to frequently trading information and gossip.
Timothy F. Bannon, Malloy’s chief of staff and first appointment, said Thursday that “You can’t rush a process as important as that and still get a level of confidence in appointments.”
It is not a process that will happen by “plebiscite,” Bannon said. So it‘s not a conversation that‘s going to happen outside Malloy‘s inner circle or the 22-member transition team.
“Governor-elect Malloy has to have a confidence in the individual and his confidence is non-delegable,” Bannon said. “If you’re going to go slow, the selection of personnel is a good place to have a slow pace.”
More importantly as Malloy casts a wide net and tries to attract the best candidates from all over the country for positions he’s drawing from a pool of candidates that may already be employed. If their employers find out they’re applying for another job it could cost them their current one, Bannon said.
“I think personnel process has to be confidential,” Bannon said. “We also have to respect the privacy of the individuals applying.”
While the appointment process has frustrated some, others have been very understanding.
“Gov. Malloy should be deliberative,” Senate President Donald Williams said Wednesday evening. “We haven’t gone through this process in at least 20 years.”
“It’s admirable they’ve been able to go through such an exhaustive process in such a short period of time,” Williams added. “It’s a breath of fresh air that a governor is making choices that highlight a different set of criteria and that he’s doing it in his own way.”
It’s not secret that the pace of the process has limited how far Williams and House Speaker Chris Donovan can go in filling vacancies on nine of the two dozen legislative committees. Due mostly to retirements and losses seven of the House chairmanships and three of the Senate chairmanships are vacant. Each committee is co-chaired by a state representative and senator from the majority party.
Both Donovan and Williams have been in touch with Malloy who may consider appointing a lawmaker to head one of the state agencies. If he wants to pick a lawmaker Malloy won’t be able to wait long since lawmakers are barred from taking a position in the executive or judicial branch and all members will be sworn in on Jan. 5. Any lawmaker who takes the oath of office won’t be able to serve in a Malloy administration for two years.
“I understand his desire to take his time,” Donovan said in a phone interview Thursday. “The guy’s the next governor and he has to try and figure out who is going to go.”
“We had a conversation about it and I understand he has some holes to fill,” Donovan said.
He said the pace does not totally handicap the process and his caucus is planning an issues caucus on Monday to talk about its legislative agenda.
While Williams believes items one through 10 will be about the budget, Democrats have waited a long time to pass legislation that advances the health care debate and reduces energy prices in the state.
Donovan said two of the areas he plans to focus on this year involve health care and implementing the federal health care legislation, along with getting the energy package, Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed earlier this year to Malloy’s desk.
“I’m excited about working with a governor that works on policy and has a plan,” Donovan said.
And while the appointments of key commissioners is likely to remain a closed-door process, Bannon said transition team will be looking to populate policy subject areas early next week.
Admittedly Bannon said he wished the transition process on the policy side were moving a little faster and he takes full responsibility for it not being further along.
Meanwhile, Malloy spent most of the week in Washington D.C. meeting with key decision makers and talking about everything from the University of Connecticut Health Center to the state’s transportation needs. He ended his trip Thursday with a meeting with President Barack Obama.