HARTFORD, CT – It was exempted from Connecticut’s Freedom of Information laws when it was created, but some lawmakers are hoping for a redo of how the Connecticut Partnership is structured.
The 13-member nonprofit board of the Partnership includes Gov. Ned Lamont, House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, Senate President Martin Looney, and House and Senate minority leaders. It will eventually oversee the expenditure of $100 million in taxpayer dollars, $100 from the philanthropic foundation run by Ray Dalio’s partner, Barbara, and $100 million in private donations over the next five years.
Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said a general lack of transparency – because it exempted itself from Freedom of Information laws – has “clung” to the organization.
The General Administration and Elections Committee heard testimony Friday on a bill that would eliminate the Partnership’s exemption from Freedom of Information laws.
The legislation seeks to provide for more transparency and accountability regarding the allocation of taxpayer funds.
Jan Hochadel, AFT CT president and member of the Connecticut Partnership board of directors, said she has concerns about the legislation.
”I cannot use the most valuable resource I bring to the Board – my experience and conversations with our 30,000 members – if neither my members nor I can trust that the specifics of those conversations will not be subject to public exposure,” Hochadel said in written testimony. “Labor leaders, like legislators, understand that transparency and some degree of privacy can coexist.”
Mike Savino, president of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, said there’s taxpayer money involved and “we have no idea how it’s being expended.”
Questions were raised recently when Dalio Philanthropies hired a Global Strategy Group to handle its communications. The board of the Partnership was unaware.
Erik Clemons, who chairs the Partnership board, said he speaks for the Partnership and not the contractor hired by Dalio Philanthropies which is a private entity.
The Partnership is a public-private entity that was created to help at-risk teens stay in school. It has not yet hired an executive director.
“As Chair of the Board, I speak for the Partnership,” Clemons said Friday. “The CEO will assume this role once he or she is appointed. Global Strategy Group is the media contact for the Partnership at this formative stage, as they are for all of Dalio Philanthropies’ education initiatives. Global Strategy Group’s contract is with Dalio Philanthropies.”
Max Reiss, a spokesman for Lamont, said Dalio Philanthropies can hire whoever they want.
Candelora said these issues which seem to continue to plague the board exasperate the issue of transparency.
“We never had a public hearing on this whole structure to begin with,” Candelora said.
The Connecticut Partnership is currently exempt from public hearing and open meeting laws.
Candelora said he’s sympathetic to the desire to have confidential and frank discussions, but he believes it can be done within the confines of the Freedom of Information Act.
He added that he’s hopeful there will be bipartisan support for the measure because it was raised by the two Democratic co-chairs.
“I think they share our concerns,” Candelora said.