(Updated 6:03 p.m.) Remember when the Connecticut State Police Union endorsed Dan Malloy for governor in 2010? Today the union’s president describes its relationship with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy using words like “strained” and “hostility,” while the administration responds with “untrustworthy” and “insulting.”
Connecticut State Police Union President Andrew Matthews said a lot has changed since the union endorsed Malloy.
“We did extensive research and study of candidate Malloy. At the time, he assured us we were unique in state government,” he said Wednesday.
That assurance and an acknowledgement of an ignored statute requiring the state to employ at least 1,248 sworn troopers grabbed Malloy the enthusiastic support of the state police, Matthews said.
“We must re-invest in the state‘s commitment to community policing and ensure that Connecticut meets and exceeds statutorily required State Police staffing levels,” Malloy wrote in a policy paper days later.
But things have changed. The Malloy administration is now pushing to eliminate the statute, replacing it with a data-driven recommendation for the appropriate number of state police. The governor also is consolidating state police dispatch centers.
Meanwhile, the union is preparing to take a “no confidence” vote against Public Safety Commissioner Reuben Bradford and State Police Col. Danny Stebbins, both of whom are Malloy appointees, claiming the dispatch consolidation and reduction in staff to answer phones could impact public and trooper safety.
So what happened? If you ask the union, the governor resents the fact that state police rejected wage concessions during last summer’s $1.6 billion labor agreement vote.
“A large part of it is we had the courage to stand up for what was ours,” Matthews said. “We voted down the wage portion as the democratic process — which got him elected — allows to force the state to honor the last year of our contract.”
Malloy countered by laying off 56 of the newest state troopers, prompting a lawsuit from the union. After a Superior Court judge sided with the union and denied the state’s motion to dismiss the case, Malloy proposed the bill eliminating the statute. The Connecticut Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in the lawsuit
“The one thing that Gov. Malloy said when he was campaigning was we would have mutual respect, we would have a seat at the table. We’ve had none of that,” Matthews said. “There seems to be such hostility towards our membership.”
The Malloy administration rejects the notion that resentment over the union’s failure to ratify wage concessions has anything to do with the governor’s policy regarding the staffing mandate. Roy Occhiogrosso, Malloy’s senior communications adviser, said Matthews’ allegations were “insulting.”
“You can’t govern based on resentment. That doesn’t work,” he said.
Occhiogrosso, who worked on Malloy’s campaign, said the governor supported fulfilling the staffing requirement as a candidate when he believed there was some rational, data-driven reason for the requirement.
“I think then-candidate Dan Malloy and many of us on the campaign assumed there was a law enforcement, logical, sound rationale, research-driven reason behind that number. It turns out there wasn’t. It turns out it was a completely arbitrary number,” he said.
Occhiogrosso said Malloy started a discussion about the number soon after taking office and found it amounts to a consultant’s recommendation that made it into statute. In the years since it was passed, trooper staffing has only met the mandated number once, briefly, he said. Nonetheless, crime rates have dropped and public safety has increased, he said.
If the relationship between the union and the governor has become tattered, Occhiogrosso said Matthews was to blame.
“Andy proved himself to be untrustworthy and it becomes impossible at that point to negotiate with people,” he said. “. . . He hasn’t done his union members any good because he strained a relationship with an administration that worked really hard to forge a good working relationship.”
Occhiogrosso said the administration tried hard to work with the union to find compromises to close a massive budget deficit and modernize state government.
“What he found upon taking office was bloated, broken, out-of-date, not working, and in deficit,” he said. “We had numerous meetings. We met with Andy, we met with Andy and legislators. We bent over backwards to try to ensure there was an open door and good faith negotiations.”
But Senate Minority Leader John McKinney agreed with Matthews’ assessment of the reason Malloy “flip-flopped” on the trooper staffing requirements.
“The only thing that’s changed is their failure to support his SEBAC deal,” he said. “He’s trying to send a message about what happens when you don’t agree with him.”
On Tuesday, Malloy said the legislature should pass language removing the requirement during the upcoming budget implementer session.
“There are direct budgetary implications with respect to the police, as you well know, it’s about $18 million,” Malloy said.
However, McKinney said the budgetary impact of the trooper mandate Malloy cited is inflated because it doesn’t account for money the state will save from paying less in overtime.
In his policy paper, Malloy agreed.
“The cost — which includes recruitment, training, salary and benefits for a full year — is just under $4.2 million. This number could actually be lower as there will likely be an expenditure offset when the amount of paid overtime decreases, a natural effect of no longer being understaffed,” Malloy wrote.
“He was right as a candidate and he’s wrong now,” McKinney said.
However, Occhiogrosso said Republicans were playing politics with the governor’s efforts to make state government more efficient. Everyone says they want change until someone actually makes a change, he said.
“Republicans were among the loudest voices for years, talking about reforming state government, downsizing, saving taxpayers money. Except just about every time we’ve tried to do that, they say ‘No, not that one,’” he said.
The change likely lost the governor the support of the troopers union in future elections. Asked if the union would endorse Malloy again, Matthews said not as things stand now.
“We would need to see some sort of change in the relationship,” he said. “We would need to have a seat at the table.”
Occhiogrosso said Matthews is free to support whoever he wants in the next election.
“The governor does not make decisions based on what he thinks will generate political support. He makes decisions based on what he thinks is in the best interest of the state and what he thinks is the right thing to do,” Occhiogrosso said.
Following the publication of this story, Matthews issued a press release challenging Occhiogrosso’s comments regarding his trustworthiness.
“The positions that I have taken on behalf of the Union may not be popular with the governor and his administration, but I have not attacked the governor or his aides personally. Mr. Ochiogrosso today attacked my character. Ochiogrosso has a reputation of personally attacking anyone critical of the Malloy Administration,” Matthews wrote. “I challenge him to substantiate his claims.”
In the statement, the State Police Union Executive Committee also called upon the governor to caution Occhiogrosso against making personal attacks.