A healthcare worker at Connecticut Valley Hospital was the first of attorney Rich Rochlin’s 17 clients to receive her pre-termination hearing on accusations she lied about her income to receive post-Irene food stamp benefits.
Lisa Prout, who has worked for 11 years at the hospital and is a single-mother of two, said she would have never lied about her income in order to qualify for $526 in benefits. She claims the Department of Social Services eligibility worker changed her application and failed to count the $1,200 she disclosed on the form as money she had in the bank to pay her expenses.
“I knew that the application would show somebody else changed my numbers,” Prout said during a press conference in a commuter parking lot off Route 9 in Middletown.
She said most of the conversation at the hearing involved her payroll. Rochlin said she takes home about $1,990 every two weeks.
According to the guidelines for the program, take-home income and liquid assets for the period from Aug. 27 to Sept. 25 could not exceed $2,186 for a single person; $2,847 for a household of two; $3,272 for a household of three; $3,859 for a household of four; $4,254 for a household of five; $4,753 for a household of six; $5,116 for a household of seven; and $5,479 for a household of eight.
Rochlin, Prout’s attorney was not allowed to attend the hearing Thursday, but said his client makes $50,000 a year and was truthful about her income on the application, which asks for “take home pay.”
According to Transparency.CT. Gov, Prout made $82,576.12 last fiscal year. Rochlin said as a healthcare worker she works a lot of overtime and what she made last year has no bearing on this. “It’s a red herring,” Rochlin said.
Asked if she made any overtime during the period Prout said she was instructed to put down her “base salary” on the application.
Rochlin, who has been critical of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s handling of the fraud investigation, said he “is attempting to terminate an 11 year state worker for something that really is a result of his own administration’s failures.”
He said he thinks his client should be cleared and allowed to return to her normal life.
After exiting the termination hearing which offered no closure, Prout told her story to the media as she waited to find out whether she would be fired.
She said since she received a letter from the state telling her she was under investigation she’s been harassed by her supervisors at work. The uncertainty regarding her employment has been stressful, but Prout remained confident things would work out.
An East Haddam resident Prout said she was without power for nine days and she applied for the food stamps on the very last day in September at which point she received a voucher. When she returned the next day she was given a debt card with $524 on it.
She said she would happily return that money to the state if it meant she got to keep her job.
“I was ushered through the application process like a piece of meat through a processing plant and the DSS worker provided me with guidance in completing the application,” Prout said. “I did nothing wrong; I have been treated unfairly; and my family is suffering.”
After making the statements Prout was called back to the hospital where administrators were deciding her fate. But no decision was rendered.
Rochlin said the committee looking into the accusations decided that they were unsubstantiated and it will continue looking into the information she provided them. He said the evidence shows the worker only counted a certain portion of her assets because she had bills to pay.
Rochlin said Prout did nothing wrong and they will continue to fight these accusations until her name is cleared. He said she was shepherded through a process and given bad information.
“She did not intend to commit fraud and this is an example of Gov. Malloy’s failed administration, in administering a federal program,” Rochlin said.
Malloy’s office declined to comment on individual cases.
Prout is just one of 44 state employees being investigated by the state. More than 800 state employees applied for the program and under federal guidelines will be audited for compliance.
CTNewsjunkie reported earlier this week that a random audit of private citizens who applied for the program and received between $200 to $1,200 in benefits has started.