They may not always agree with him, but Gov.-elect Dan Malloy’s administration had planned to keep Department of Social Services Commissioner Michael Starkowski on until a new commissioner could be named. Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell had other plans.
Rell accepted Starkowski retirement which she says was required under executive order 27-A . Starkowski, who took the early retirement package in 2009, will approach the end of his second 120-day contract extension this week. Rell’s administration said extending it past the 240 days would violate the executive order.
The executive order was created in order to reduce the amount of “double dipping,” state employees can do by collecting both a pension and a paycheck.
Besides there’s a holiday and a weekend in between Rell‘s departure and Malloy‘s swearing in, which means the post will be vacant for just a few days, Rell’s staff reasoned. Michael Cicchetti deputy secretary of the Office of Policy and Management will fill in for Starkowski during his brief absence.
Malloy’s Chief of Staff Timothy Bannon said they never asked Rell to violate her executive order and will reinstate Starkowski on Jan. 5.
Though Rell asked for letters of resignation from 156 of her appointed staff, the Malloy administration has decided so far to keep the Commissioners of Higher Education and the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and has suggested it may be retaining more.
“We have not been informed as to whether Governor Rell has accepted any other resignations,“ Bannon said last week.
As of last week Rell’s administration said it had not accepted any other resignations.
“When Commissioner Starkowski and I spoke—before he learned that his resignation has been accepted—he agreed to help maintain the continuity of services DSS provides to hundreds of thousands of Connecticut’s neediest citizens. His commitment is genuine and I am certain that he will honor it,” Bannon said.
The Department of Social Services has a $5.6 billion budget, nearly one-third of the state budget. Malloy has said he will conduct a national search for applicants to head the departments of social services, environmental protection, transportation, and education.
The Education Commissioner will ultimately be chosen by the State Board of Education, which Malloy will have a hand in appointing, but the rest of the positions are completely under his discretion.
Education Commissioner Mark McQuillan resigned last week citing the stress of the job. Click here to read his resignation letter.
“I am pleased to offer any assistance to you and the next Commissioner of Education to make a smooth transition and look forward to continued improvements in our public schools under your leadership,” McQuillan said in his letter last week to Malloy. ”I expect that the State Board of Education will appoint an acting commissioner at its January 5th meeting.”
Department of Children and Families Commissioner Susan Hamilton also tendered her resignation last month, but Malloy has already decided to appoint former Supreme Court Justice Joette Katz to that position.
Malloy has also appointed Reuben Bradford as Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, Dr. Jewel Mullen as Commissioner of the Public Health Department, Ben Barnes as Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, and Sen. Donald DeFronzo as Commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services.