(Updated) Gov. Dannel P. Malloy joked Friday about how he always cranes his neck when he drives past a car with a low-digit license plate, like the ones former Gov. M. Jodi Rell doled out to prized staff and lawmakers during her last few days in office. But that was before a top aide in his administration admitted to giving the information to a newspaper columnist and blogger.
Senior communications adviser Roy Occhiogrosso said former Sen. Kevin Rennie asked him about license plate numbers and it was his instinct to check it out. So Occhiogrosso said he went to Chief of Staff Timothy F. Bannon, who in turn reached out to the Department of Motor Vehicles, which supplied the governor’s office with the information.
The information was then forwarded to Rennie, who posted it on his blog, Daily Ructions, on Thursday.
“It’s pretty cut and dry,“ Occhiogrosso said Saturday while he was at the gym. He said he had no idea he may be violating federal and state privacy laws by passing along the information.
“The law is very clear both Federally and on the State level that this information is protected from public distribution.” Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy said Saturday.
But Occhiogrosso maintains he had no idea the information couldn’t be shared with the media. He said it’s his “instinct all the time” to follow up on media requests and pass along the information he receives.
“People have a right to know that their government will protect them, if Malloy will go so far as to have individual license plates released, what prevents him from using his power to get their personal records from the Department of Health, the Department of Revenue Services or any other state agency that might add to political fodder but seriously harm private citizens,” said Healy.
When he spoke Friday afternoon with reporters following the announcement of his Insurance Commissioner, Malloy asked the media for some time to catch his breath. He said his reactions were just a first impression and at that point it was still unknown his own staffers may have violated privacy laws.
“I have not formulated a three-digit license plate policy yet,” Malloy joked.
Healy said he’s going to wait and see how Malloy handles this latest development before pressing the issue any further.
Later Saturday afternoon Malloy sent out an emailed statement saying, “If a mistake was made, we will gladly refund the money to any individual requesting it and promptly issue a new license plate.”
There was no comment about whether Malloy would discipline his staff for releasing the information.
Friday afternoon Malloy criticized the Rell administration for doling out the license plates.
“Listen, you know, for the life of me I don’t understand quite what was going on here in the final days of an administration in which the governor almost always comported herself with great dignity and honesty,” said Malloy. “And I can only imagine that people got caught up in the closing days of the administration and some how or some way their judgment left them…You know you probably wouldn’t have written the story if these things had happened from time to time and somebody ended up with the plates.”