Senate President Martin M. Looney was not happy with what the head of Connecticut’s largest municipal lobby had to say during its annual meeting in Cromwell.
Joe DeLong, the new executive director of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, criticized both Democratic and Republican leadership in the state Senate Thursday during his first major address to member municipalities.
CCM will “be much more proactive when it comes to advocacy,” DeLong, who has been in the state for three months, said. “If we can’t convince legislators of what makes sense, then we’re going to convince their constituents of what makes sense.”
But it’s unclear after his remarks Thursday how far he’s going to get with his strategy.
“In the short time that Mr. DeLong has been in Connecticut, he has obliterated the positive working relationship — built by former CCM executive directors — which CCM previously enjoyed with legislative leaders,” Looney said Friday.
“The relationship, as it stands today, is more toxic than the water DeLong failed to protect West Virginia inmates from drinking,” continued Looney, referencing an incident during DeLong’s tenure as executive director of the West Virginia Regional Jail Authority before he moved to Connecticut.
According to a publication called ThinkProgress.org, a link to which was provided by one of Looney’s staff, some 429 inmates in a Charleston, W.Va., jail were not provided with enough potable drinking water after a chemical spill in the area in January 2014.
According to the article, inmates, jail personnel, and DeLong gave conflicting information about a variety of things that occurred during the crisis after it was over, including how much water was provided to the inmates and whether the jail’s water system had been cleaned satisfactorily before inmates were allowed to use it again.
Looney shared that incident with news media as part of a prepared statement Friday following DeLong’s comments to CCM members on Thursday.
Among other things, DeLong said that he had been surprised to learn — during a press conference in opposition to bills that would have expanded workers’ compensation benefits for police and firefighters — that Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff would tweet that he stands with first responders.
DeLong said the tweet might as well have said, “I stand proudly with special interest worker groups.”
DeLong continued: “The message was very clear. It doesn’t matter how much the cost is or where the money is going to come from. If you’re a special interest labor working group you can count on me to be in your corner no matter what.”
Responding to Mr. DeLong’s comments about Duff’s tweet, Looney said, “I find it absolutely appalling for Mr. DeLong to attack our Senate Majority Leader for standing up for the police officers and firefighters who put their lives on the line every day.”
But DeLong’s criticism Thursday wasn’t partisan.
He also went on to criticize Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano for wanting a seat at the budget negotiating table even though it was clear his caucus wasn’t going to vote for any package that came out of those negotiations.
Fasano said he agrees with the first part of Looney’s statement.
“I second Sen. Looney’s comments,” Fasano said in a statement. “I could not have said it better myself.”
DeLong ended his 30-minute address by concluding “the state of Connecticut is starving for leadership.”
CCM released a statement in response to Looney’s criticism today:
“CCM values its relationships with all of Connecticut’s state legislative leaders and will continue to work hard with Senator Looney and all other legislative leaders on key municipal issues. CCM recognizes the important property tax reform victories accomplished this session and will work to deepen and strengthen relationships with leaders.”