(Updated with affidavit) State Sen. Thomas Gaffey, D-Meriden, was charged with six counts of larceny Monday for using his political action committee to reimburse himself for travel, hotel, and other expenses that the state had already reimbursed.
Gaffey, 51, turned himself into Troop H in Hartford Monday, according to a press release from the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney. He will be arraigned on the charges Wednesday, Jan. 5 in Hartford Superior Court, while his colleagues are sworn in across the street at the state Capitol.
The arrest warrant alleges that on six separate occasions from 2004 to 2007, Gaffey sought and received reimbursements from the Government Action Fund (GAF-PAC) for expenses for which he had also received state reimbursement.
The six instances of duplicate reimbursement range in dollar amounts from $100 to $1,209, and total $2,800, the warrant states. All of the expenses were related to legislative conferences Gaffey attended.
Even though Gaffey, who co-chaired the legislature’s Education Committee for approximately 14 years, was re-elected to a ninth-term he said he will not take the oath of office Jan. 5 and will instead plead guilty to a misdemeanor.
Back in 2008 the state Elections Enforcement Commission began looking into Gaffey’s use of political action committee funds, which are supposed to be used in support of a candidate, but the agency concluded many of the expenses were personal reimbursements to Gaffey himself for travel to out-of-state conferences and meetings. Gaffey works for the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority, the quasi-public state trash agency, but the six counts of larceny did not involve his work for that agency, just his legislative work and travel.
In a statement Gaffey said any improper expenses along with fines were paid to the state, which in a rare move decided to proceed with criminal action.
There’s nothing in the plea agreement with the Chief State’s Attorney that prohibits Gaffey from remaining in office, but Gaffey said, “My family, friends and community have already endured a process which has spanned three years. If I were to remain in office, they would inevitably have to endure an ongoing political controversy for years to come. I will not ask them to do so.”
Gaffey said he cooperated fully with the state Elections Enforcement Commission investigation and the more recent criminal investigation. While Gaffey has yet to be arraigned, his statement says he has already agreed to a plea agreement, which calls for him to serve more than one hundred hours of community service.
It’s unclear if a judge will agree to the arrangement. According to the Chief State’s Attorney sixth-degree larceny is punishable by up to three months of incarceration and a $500 fine on each of the six counts.
Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney applauded Gaffey’s decision to step down.
“The crimes Senator Gaffey committed and will plead guilty to, as well as his prior violations of state elections law, undermine the public trust placed in elected officials,” McKinney said. “His resignation is the first step toward repairing that trust.”
Republicans repeatedly mentioned the allegations against Gaffey as the legislature moved forward to censure former Sen. Louis DeLuca, who eventually resigned.
“I am saddened by today’s announcement from Senator Thomas Gaffey and respect the decision given the plea agreement,” Sen. President Donald Williams said in a statement. “I hope the decision to leave the senate brings closure for Senator Gaffey and his family.”
Gaffey’s full statement is below:
“It is with profound sadness and deep regret that I have decided, despite having recently been reelected to my ninth term as the State Senator from the 13th District (which includes Meriden, Middletown (part) and Cheshire (part)), that I will exit from the political arena and will not take the oath of office on January 5, 2011. I will be submitting a letter to the Secretary of State notifying her of my decision in accordance with state statute.
The State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) proceeding regarding my political action committee began in January 2008 and concluded in May 2009. I cooperated completely with the investigation and have always taken full responsibility for mistakes that were made. I apologize to my family, friends, colleagues and the voters of my district for any embarrassment my mistakes may have caused.
As part of the consent decree in the SEEC matter, which involved approximately $2500 of duplicative reimbursements during 2004-2007, reimbursement was made in full and I paid a substantial fine. Also, a substantial sum (in excess of $ 10,000) was forfeited by the PAC to the state.
In December 2010 it became clear that the State’s Attorney would also proceed with the matter. A resolution of the case was not worked out until very recently. Under the agreement, on January 5, 2011 I will be entering a guilty plea to misdemeanors and will agree to perform one hundred hours of community service.
Under the terms of the plea agreement, there is nothing to prevent me from continuing as the State Senator from the 13th District. My family, friends and community have already endured a process which has spanned three years. If I were to remain in office, they would inevitably have to endure an ongoing political controversy for years to come. I will not ask them to do so.
My decision is a deeply personal one. I have decided that the best course of action for everyone involved is for me to walk off the political battlefield. My family and I have suffered immensely throughout this long ordeal and need closure. This ordeal needs to end and I have decided to end it now.
Throughout the last campaign, the underlying facts of the SEEC investigation were placed before the voters of my district in great detail, and they decided I should continue to serve them. I will always be grateful for their understanding and support. I have been blessed with great supporters, colleagues, and friends. I have loved serving as their senator, and believe that much good can be done in public life. The people of my district deserve a “fresh start” with a senator without the unnecessary baggage of controversy.
I have tremendous respect for the Senate and the General Assembly as a whole. My colleagues and the new administration need to address the very important work ahead devoid of any distraction. I wish my constituents and colleagues all the best that the future holds. It has been an honor to serve.”