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Federal Criminal Investigation at Legislature: “Confidential and Politically Sensitive….Extremely Urgent in Nature.”

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A federal investigation of corruption at the state legislature had bureaucrats scrambling last fall to obtain legal representation for the Legislative Commissioner’s Office (LCO) and, weeks later, the Executive Director of the Office of Legislative Management (OLM) after Attorney General George Jepsen “declined to represent” the legislative offices, Daily Ructions has learned. LCO, which strained to keep the matter secret, settled on the Hartford firm of O’Brien, Tanski & Young, asking that competitive bidding provisions be waived, “after receiving a list of firms whom [Jepsen's office] would recommend to provide the requested services.”

Documents obtained by Daily Ructions reveal that those bureaucrats have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep information from taxpayers about the actions they are taking to protect the interests of their agencies and themselves at significant public expense. In emails, they discuss ways of wording  their communications in such a general way as to provide no useful information that would inform a member of the tax paying public who might seek access to their emails or letters through the Freedom of Information Act.

OLC’s Larry Shapiro asked in an October 10, 2012 email to Stephen V. Manning, of O’Brien, Tanski & Young, if his inquiries of possible conflicts with other State of Connecticut clients “be done in a way that does not disclose the name of our office (LCO) and the nature of the matter? We would like to keep this confidential.” Legislative bureaucrats were rattled by the federal inquiry that stems from the illegal campaign finance practices of former Speaker of the House Christopher Donovan. His campaign came to grief in the spring when federal law enforcement authorities made arrests in a scheme to tie contributions to passage of legislation involving “roll-your-own” tobacco shops.

The traditional safeguards on the awarding of legislative contracts were discarded because the matter involves “a confidential and politically sensitive matter,” according to a December LCO memo seeking a further waiver of competitive bidding as legal costs mount beyond the $20,000 cap for awarding contracts without bidding. The initial contract for services to represent OLC was, according to Shapiro, “intentionally general and broad” as the public employees seek to keep the bright lights of scrutiny from learning more about the investigation that has included subpoenas for documents and other information the legislature’s bureaucrats seen intent on resisting.

The agreement with O’Brien, Tanski & Young was amended in late October to provide representation to OLM Executive Director James P. Tracy. Fees for Stephen Manning’s services exceeded $20,000 by the end of November. Though viewing a response to the federal law enforcement inquiry as urgent, Tracy kept it from Republican legislative leaders for more than two months after the subpoenas landed in the Legislative Office Building.

As the investigation continues and guilty pleas flow, federal authorities are said to have taken an interest in how millions in bonding state funds have been allocated.