Forty of the 103 state employees no longer in state service as a result of an investigation into alleged food stamp fraud got their jobs back Wednesday, state and union officials said.
An independent arbitrator was hired to go over the 103 cases involving state employees accused of defrauding the state when they applied for the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, D-SNAP, after Tropical Storm Irene.
Some of the employees opted to resign or retire rather than go through the hearings.
Sal Luciano, executive director of AFSCME Council 4, who represents 37 of the 103 state employees said most of the cases resulted in the arbitrator finding an employee had made an error, but “did not commit intentional fraud.”
Those workers have agreed to pay full restitution to the state and were given suspensions ranging from 15 to 60 days, Luciano said.
“We made it clear from the time the allegations broke that any individuals who knowingly deceived taxpayers to receive a D-SNAP benefit must be held accountable,“ Luciano said. “We also made it clear that people are innocent until proven guilty and that everyone is entitled to due process and union representation.”
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s spokesman Andrew Doba said those employees who “committed some of the most egregious violations have not had their cases heard yet, and are still not employed by the state.”
According to Doba Malloy has instructed the Office of Labor Relations to review each of the decision and explore with the state Attorney General whether there are sufficient legal grounds to appeal to the superior court. That process will be undertaken in the coming weeks, he said.
A total of 23,726 households and 74,230 individuals received the federal disaster assistance from the state following Tropical Storm Irene.
An estimated 128 employees were referred for administrative review, according to the administration’s last count in March.
The state was in charged of administering the federal $12.4 million program and asked for income information, but not employer information which could explain why the number of state employees has grown over the past two months.
The program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is intended to get food assistance to those in need as quickly as possible following a disaster.
The program distributed $200 to $1,200 per family in benefits on ATM-like debit cards to those who met certain income guidelines.
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.