Four employees have been fired and four have opted to retire as a result of the state’s ongoing investigation into the post-Irene food stamp fraud, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told his commissioners Tuesday.
In addition, 90 more state employees are in various stages of disciplinary hearings and 686 state employees have been cleared of any wrongdoing because they properly qualified for the disaster assistance.
“That means the vast majority of state employees who received these federal benefits were honest and reflect the vast majority of state workers as a whole,” Malloy said.
The Department of Social Services is expected to complete its review of applications by the end of business on Wednesday and refer any more cases to state agency heads for disciplinary action.
“I want you to know that you must move forward with these matters in a timely fashion,” Malloy told his commissioners. “These cases can not languish in your departments.”
After finishing the review of more than 800 state employee applications the state is moving forward with a random sampling of applications from private citizens— a measure that’s beyond what the federal guidelines for the program require.
A total of 23,726 households and 74,230 individuals received the federal disaster assistance from the state.
Malloy also advised his commissioners Tuesday that no names of the terminated employees were allowed to be released.
Malloy’s Chief Legal Counsel Andrew McDonald has said the state’s Freedom of Information statutes would normally require the state to disclose the information, but statutes governing the privacy of food stamp applicants prohibit the state from releasing the names.
McDonald referred the matter last week to the Attorney General’s Office where Assistant Attorney General Mark Kohler concluded the names couldn’t be released
In an informal letter to McDonald Kolher said “nondisclosure of this information is not just a matter of important state policy, but is required by federal law.”
He said unless a court finds otherwise “prudence dictates that no disclosure be made.”
Rich Rochlin, the attorney who represents two of the terminated state employees, said it may be the first time he agrees with the administration.
“Yes he’s giving good advice on that,” Rochlin said Tuesday evening in a phone interview.
Rochlin represents about 20 state employees accused of food stamp fraud and he maintains each filled out the forms as they were instructed to by Department of Social Services staff.
Rochlin said he thinks even the two terminated employees have strong cases and he looks forward to going through the grievance process. The Office of Labor Relations will schedule a hearing in each of the cases within the next 21 days.
Rochlin said he believes his clients will be vindicated once they’re allowed to share their side of the story with a non-political entity like the Office of Labor Relations.