(Updated 5:52 p.m.) The Yankee Institute’s name was cleared Thursday by Attorney General George Jepsen, who released his findings regarding a month long investigation into an email campaign that was critical of the labor deal.
The investigation was prompted by a complaint made by the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, who alleged through their attorney that the misinformation being spread about the concession package started with the conservative group. It didn’t.
“State information systems security personnel informed us that the e-mails were not sent from within the state system, and there was no evidence that the safeguards in place to protect the state’s network from hackers or other intrusions were compromised or altered to permit or facilitate the transmission of these e-mails,” Jepsen wrote in a press release.
Jepsen asked the Auditors of Public Accounts to help him investigate the matter as a whistleblower complaint. They returned their report to his office a few weeks ago.
In the complaint SEBAC alleged that negative information about the tentative agreement was sent to state employees through “blast” e-mails, suggesting state software settings were circumvented in order to widely distribute the emails.
“State information systems security personnel found no evidence that anyone sent “blast” e-mails concerning the tentative SEBAC agreement from outside the state e-mail system to hundreds or thousands of state employees in a single mailing and no evidence that security measures were bypassed,” Jepsen said.
Yankee Institute of Public Policy Director Fergus Cullen repeatedly denied the email and hacking allegations. In a statement Thursday he said his organization is reserving the right to take legal action.
“The unions can file harassing complaints with the Attorney General to try to silence us. They can pressure our landlord to rescind our lease. But we will not be intimidated from defending Connecticut’s taxpayers,” Cullen said. “SEBAC has defamed and slandered us, and abused the state’s whistleblower law with false and unsubstantiated accusations. We reserve our legal options.”
Jepsen said the investigation is now closed.
“Our review of the e-mails provided by SEBAC, and other selected e-mails that originated from IP addresses outside the state system, did not show that the state e-mail system was improperly accessed or compromised in violation of state laws or policies. Therefore, based on the evidence to date, and with the agreement of the State Auditors, I am closing the investigation,” Jepsen wrote.
The union coalition thanked Jepsen and the auditors for investigating the complaint, but they refused to apologize for filing the complaint or concede they may have been wrong.
“It’s disappointing that the state’s email system is apparently arranged so that outside groups can get around inadequate software restrictions and distribute emails through the system without being in violation of computer hacking laws—and apparently without even being subject to detection. We continue to believe that doing so using assumed names for the purpose of disrupting a free and fair democratic vote is immoral, if not illegal,” SEBAC said in an emailed statement.
“Union leaders have no doubt the Yankee Institute will continue regardless. We would respect them much more—though obviously not agree with them—if they would openly admit what their motives are for getting involved in state workers’ elections. We would also respect them more if they stopped employing people as in-house propagandists that masquerade as ‘investigative reporters’.”