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It’s Never Enough. Rell and Friends Took Low-Digit License Plates on Way Out.

Six years in and around the state’s highest political office were not honor enough for Republican M. Jodi Rell and a circle of friends, loyalists and family members. The former governor and her coterie grabbed some low digit automobile license plate numbers for their personal use in the final weeks of her administration, Daily Ructions has learned. These plates are not included among the thousands randomly assigned to state drivers each year.

Rell took “14” for herself and her husband. She bestowed “600” on her son, Michael, who works for the House Republicans. She conferred “932” on his in-laws, Maureen and Mark Cenci. And what a mother-in-law is our faded Snow White. Son-in-law Matthew O’Connor received “615” on November 8, 2010. Chief of Staff M. Lisa Moody had a big appetite for the modern status symbol of influence and insiderdom, too. She gave herself “83” on December 10th and bagged “653” and “663” for her brother and sister-in-law.

Department of Motor Vehicles records reveal who Rell and Moody rewarded with the closely-held gift of low-digit plates. A job in the state bureaucracy was also not enough for some recipients. They also get a chance to flaunt it. There’s Rell-Moody favorite Jacqueline Mandyck, unpopular with many in and out of Rell’s circle of advisors. She registered “282” in the final day of the administration. Loyalist Daniel Moreland, whose combative testimony was helpful to Moody in an early ethics controversy, registered “879” on the final full day of Rell’s tenure.

Staffers who were plated by Her Excellency include surly mouthpiece Richard Harris (“722″), longtime press aide Adam Liegeot (“686″), loyal assistant Adam Jeamel (“343″), and Moody keeper-of-the-bunker-gate Jamie Hinman (“475″). Rell counsel and Moody favorite Herb Shepardson, a former Republican state chairman, motored off with 2 plates, “325” and “836”. Jeamel says he was offered the plate as he left government for Eastern Connecticut Health Network in December, he didn’t ask for it.

Outgoing DMV head Robert Ward, now a State Auditor charged with finding abuses of power, registered “377” on December 12th. Rell and Moody retained a trio of supportive legislators until the end of their term. Senate Republican leader John McKinney received “460”, Senator Len Fasano “675” and Representative John Frey “474”. McKinney said today he was offered his new plate for his new car by Moody.

Republican United States Senate nominee Linda McMahon got her automotive swag (“275″) after spending $50 million in her 2010 campaign against Richard Blumenthal. One of her advisors, Patrick Sullivan associate Gene Sheehan, snagged “514”.

Though Rell once professed an aversion to lobbyists, Connecticut Hospital Association lobbyist James Iacobellis, who cultivated Moody, trundled away with “970”. The hundreds of millions taxpayers handover to state hospitals aren’t enough.

Department of Social Services Commissioner Michael Starkowski (“750″) was one of numerous recipients who declined to return calls seeking comment today.

The identities of recipients of the elitist symbol who lease their cars were not available.

UPDATE: Linda McMahon responded to an inquiry about the provenance of her new plate.  She says, “Well, the license plate was unsolicited on my part. Gov. Rell called and asked if I wld like to have one and I said yes. I sent my money to the appropriate office and received my new plate.”  Mrs. McMahon declined to provide any hint of her intentions for the 2012 U.S. Senate race.

29 comments

1 Jerry Boyle { 02.03.11 at 6:09 pm }

Shallow, shallow people.

2 Frank Mulligan { 02.03.11 at 6:18 pm }

This is about the most benign form of graft there is. Let’s just stipulate that part of the deal with winning the governorship is you get to pass out the low number license plates to your cronies. So the rest of us, with normal egos, can see them driving around and know who the crooks are. Maybe hound them like paparazzi, so they’ll get embarassed and turn them in. And you can go back to ferreting out more malignant shenanigans.

3 Frank Goodrich { 02.03.11 at 7:30 pm }

With the state going deeper into debt, all of those low number plates should have been auctioned off to the highest bidder. Other states around the country have done this and have raised thousands of dollars. The state of Delaware was just on TV showing how a single digit plate went for over $100,000.00 at an auction that was open to the public. Thank God LM is gone. Looking forward to Mr. Bannon bringing back professionalism back into the Governor’s office. Good Luck Governor Malloy

4 RELL PALS GOT COVETED LOW-NUMBERED LICENSE PLATES NOT AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC BEFORE SHE LEFT OFFICE | The Hanging Shad { 02.03.11 at 7:31 pm }

[…] so right up to her last day in office. Hartford Courant columnist Kevin Rennie reports on his blog, Daily Ructions, that insiders in the Rell administration—staffers, supporters and their families—got […]

5 Alicia { 02.03.11 at 8:08 pm }

Elitist symbols? Really? Why don’t you let us know what kind of cars they are driving – that’s far more elitist than their plate number. GAL.

6 Tweets that mention It’s Never Enough. Rell and Friends Took Low-Digit License Plates on Way Out. — Daily Ructions -- Topsy.com { 02.03.11 at 9:18 pm }

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Heath W Fahle, Dan Lovallo. Dan Lovallo said: Perks of the ruling class.http://www.dailyructions.com/its-never-enough-rell-and-friends-took-low-digit-license-plates-on-way-out/ […]

7 Bill Mainor { 02.03.11 at 9:36 pm }

I bet Rell was stunned to learn that the Governor has the power to issue 3 digit plates.

8 Keith { 02.03.11 at 9:45 pm }

Shocker Kevin! I’m sure this is the first time this has ever happened. Sure glad we can count on the Courant to bring hard charging news like this to the forefront. I’m sure the rest of the low digit plates are kept in a vault and haven’t been handed out to cronies by every Governor since George L. Lilley.

9 Mark A. Console { 02.03.11 at 9:51 pm }

When I requested the three number license plate “514”, I was told by the chief administrator of the govenor’s office, that these plates would not be issued, that the govenor would not be issuing these special plates as favors. How convenient

10 alberto { 02.03.11 at 10:53 pm }

I look at low plates and always find an elderly person behind the wheel. I had figured it was somebody’s mother in law for whom this might be a crowning achievement… go figure it was Jodi Rhell. I hope Governor Malloy pulls the plates from them all gives them to veterans and their families. I also want to know who refused the plates those are the people of substance.

11 Bill { 02.04.11 at 12:40 am }

Don’t we have bigger fish to fry with our debt around 3.7 billion dollars. Yet this is what we get from you Mr. Rennie. Nothing on how our tax dollars have been wasted though out the years.

12 Cheshire Kat { 02.04.11 at 6:26 am }

Low number license plates should either be banned as an example of un-American aristocracy or should be auctioned off to the highest bidder to pay for state services

13 Paul { 02.04.11 at 8:02 am }

We should put a numerologist on this. Let me try.

“14” for Rell. The number of full days worked in six years as governor?

“83” Moody’s golf handicap?

“600” for Little Mikey. Because they don’t issue plates for jet skis?

“275” for McMahon. Was Sexy Bitch already taken?

“377” for Ward. The number of shades of red his face turned when reading this in the paper? (He’s a good guy and I’m guessing his disinterest in Moody’s insistence on him getting a plate is an indication of how lame he thought the whole thing was).

14 Fuzzy Dunlop { 02.04.11 at 8:36 am }

Was ASSMAN taken?

It’s frustrating how this seems so benign and yet antidemocratic at the same time. Sure, what harm is in a chosen few getting low digit plates? But, as Cheshire Kat points out, the only possible reason for giving them out is to that the driver can be identified as a member of the state aristocracy.

Let’s make no mistake about why people want these plates; it goes well beyond vanity, a marker of access. No, the biggest benefit of receiving a low digit plate is that the police will likely think twice before pulling someone who has one over. It is a implicit warning for troopers that yes, this person knows someone and is connected. Issue a citation at your peril.

It is fortunate that former DCF commissioner Susan Hamilton didn’t have one. Would things have turned out differently for her if she had?

15 Joe Sixpack { 02.04.11 at 9:18 am }

C’mon. This is a tempest in a teapot. The vast majority of two and three digit plates were handed out long ago by then Democrat Gov’s. That is why, as a previous commenter noted, they are usually on the cars of older folks.

When Rowland took over, there were no low digit plates to give out – so the GOP elite did the next best thing – they took a four digit plate starting with the number 0 – in effect, making there own statuts symbol. Much like the star bellied Sneeches of Dr. Seuss, it only matters to those that have them- or covet them.

Nowhere in the story does it mention former Sen Billy Ciotto, who in additiona to having the Wethersfield DMV building named for him, sports a couple of two digit plates on his cars. Or former Congreewoman Barbara Kennelly, who drives around in a three digit registered car.

And before we praise Mr. Bannon and his bringing back professionalism to the office, check out the Capitol parking place reserved for the Gov’s Chief of Staff – and notice car parked in it sporting the three digit plate. Either Bannon got one from Bill O’Neill, or one of Lisa Moddy’s friends is parking in his spot illegally…….

16 BeardedMan { 02.04.11 at 9:32 am }

I actually just passed one of these cars this morning, though not one with the numbers listed here. All of this reminds me of a petty high school clique…so goes politics. The best line of this post: “Chief of Staff M. Lisa Moody had a big appetite for the modern status symbol of influence and insiderdom, too.”

17 HB { 02.04.11 at 10:20 am }

Hey Kevin,

As you probably know from driving around town, there is a certain business here (starts with M—) which has single letter plates (A, B, C, etc) for most of it’s vehicles. And friends of owners are also sporting one and two letter license plates.

Just saying…

18 betty { 02.04.11 at 10:54 am }

Does anyone remember when. Gov. Tom Meskill gathered 26 close friends and gave them each a single letter of the aplhabet?

19 priscilla dickman { 02.04.11 at 11:30 am }

Governor Rell’s new direction for Connecticut with the OSE was to be the model for new ethics compliance to be copied across the country. When she created the new and improved Office of State Ethics and the supposedly independent Citizens Ethics Advisory Board this was her purpose. Aside from this office being a total failure (OSE) costing tax payers so much money in their pursuit of ethics charges against me, we can see that right up to the top of the chain of command-Governor Rell failed in restoring ethics. Perhaps Governor Malloy can try by first dismantling the OSE/CEAB and having legislative aides investigate ethics issues in our state. One great way to save money and restore ethics is to abolish the OSE . Perhaps the definition of what ethics means should have been read to her and her staff Lisa Moody in particular. Governor Malloy should ask since as early as 2007 how much money in overtime,compensatory time, research and added personnel has the OSE spent to pursue docket # 2007-024?. For what purpose did they pursue knowing they had no case and knowing that G.Kenneth Bernhard was seated on the CEAB illegally. The OSE has known since 2008 that they needed six votes to convict. At no time did this ethics office divulge it did not have the six votes because not only should Mr.Bernhard not have been seated but nor should Shawn Wooden. Mr. Wooden served as a delegate to the 2008 presidential primary and cast the vote in Hartford as a delegate. The assistant attorney general in answering an advisory opinion I asked stated clearly that if an individual help a political position in 2008 then they could not be seated on the OSE/CEAB board. Thus Mr.Wooden knew he was not eligible to be seated nor to cast his vote to convict me of an ethics charge. Thus there are only five votes, the entire process was null and void. Here we have Mr. Wooden stating he will restore ” ethics and integrity” to Hartford as mayor. I think he and the whole CEAB/OSE had first pull out a Webster dictionary and read the definition of the word Ethics-

Ethics board’s closed deliberations illegal, FOIC says
But $15,000 fine levied against Coventry woman left standing
By Alex Wood
Journal Inquirer
Published: Monday, January 31, 2011 11:18 AM EST
The state ethics board violated Connecticut’s open meetings law when it went behind closed doors a year ago to deliberate ethics charges against a Coventry woman who had worked at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, the state Freedom of Information Commission ruled Friday.

But the commission declined to void the actions taken by the Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board at the closed meeting on Jan. 12, 2010.

The ethics board concluded during the closed session that the former Health Center employee, Priscilla Dickman, had violated the state ethics code by using state time and resources, such as e-mail, to run jewelry and travel businesses. It fined her $15,000. Dickman is appealing the decision to New Britain Superior Court.

A Journal Inquirer reporter had filed the complaint with the FOI Commission and argued Friday that the ethics board’s action should be voided to make the board aware “that a violation of the Freedom of Information Act can have consequences.”

But the three members of the FOI Commission who were present at Friday’s special meeting — rescheduled from Wednesday because of bad weather — unanimously approved a decision proposed by the commission’s hearing officer, rejecting nullification of the ethics board’s action.

“The commission does not believe that justice would be served by the consideration of such a remedy in this case, which involved a long, difficult, and conscientious hearing into the Dickman matter,” the decision says.

The ethics board’s hearing on the charges against Dickman occupied a total of eight scattered days, between September 2009 and January 2010.

Most of the hearing was open to the public and was broadcast by the Connecticut Network, or CT-N. But the ethics board, which performs a role roughly comparable to that of a jury in such hearings, went behind closed doors twice: to discuss a procedural issue on the hearing’s first day and to conduct its deliberations at the end of the hearing.

The JI reporter complained to the FOI Commission about both closed sessions. The commission had previously ruled that the closed session on the first day of the ethics hearing was illegal. The ethics board is appealing that ruling to New Britain Superior Court.

A semi-retired Superior Court judge, known as a “judge trial referee,” is assigned to preside over ethics board hearings.

On Jan. 12, 2010, the final day of the Dickman hearing, there was a discussion of whether the ethics board’s deliberations should be open or closed to the public.

A transcript of the hearing shows that Dickman’s lawyer, John Geida, argued that the deliberations should be open. But state Ethics Enforcement Officer Thomas K. Jones said, “The board should be able to deliberate in the manner that it deems most appropriate,” whether that be in public or in private.

Barbara E. Housen, who is the board’s general counsel and a former staff lawyer at the FOI Commission, told the board that “these proceedings are not governed by the Freedom of Information Act.”

G. Kenneth Bernhard, who was then chairman of the ethics board, expressed the view that closed deliberations would be in the best interests of the parties and the public. “I think it adds to the fair and open exchange of information and points of view with the members if we’re not being held accountable for every statement and observation to the public,” he said.

Judge James G. Kenefick Jr., who was presiding over the hearing, then said, “It’s my opinion that the board may deliberate in private, and they do so starting now. So the public portion of the hearing is closed.”

During the subsequent case before the FOI Commission, Housen argued that the judge’s ruling left the ethics board no choice but to deliberate behind closed doors.

But the FOI Commission ruled that, while Kenefick approved of the ethics board deliberating in private, he didn’t direct or instruct the board to do so. Moreover, the commission said, Kenefick had indicated that his role ended when the board began its deliberations.

Victor R. Perpetua, a senior staff lawyer at the FOI Commission, presided over the hearing in the JI’s complaint last August and wrote the decision ultimately adopted by the commission.

Copyright © 2011 – Journal Inquirer
posted by Priscilla Dickman

20 Wilton Businessman { 02.04.11 at 11:45 am }

I mean seriously, who cares? It’s a freaking license plate.

21 Goose Bag { 02.04.11 at 12:55 pm }

Hey Paul #13 – That’s a pretty lousy thing to say about a guy you don’t know, who never owned or stole a jet ski. Cheap shots are lousy, funny man. Shame on you! Get your facts straight.

22 Paul { 02.04.11 at 3:12 pm }

“I mean seriously, who cares? It’s a freaking license plate.”

WB. Don’t you know that license plates are the gateway to hot tubs?

23 DrHunterSThompson { 02.04.11 at 3:13 pm }

Interesting, but only as a curiosity.

I think more interesting and scandalous are the big jobs and pension benefits of Malloy appointees and the surviving members of the Rell administration, like Anna Faceito at the DPUC.

24 Scarlett { 02.04.11 at 10:59 pm }

Good job Kevin, your article is going to lead to the firing of State employees. Or did you not know that is illegal to release liscence information. So instead of screwing Governor Rell you have embarrassed Malloy.

25 BZ { 02.05.11 at 5:37 am }

Do they REALLY want their vehicle that noticeable? Otherwise, who cares?

26 Normal person { 02.05.11 at 8:38 am }

Kevin, your revelations and journalistic enterprise are many times laudable but stop with the righteous indignation over the past administration. You are nearing the compulsive category focusing on license plates. What about world hunger and the state deficit? Move on.

27 cc { 02.05.11 at 8:50 am }

hey…i feel left out… i have a 3 digit plate..and the police STILL pull me over….no special treatment for me…

28 CT: Low-digit license plates always in political fashion :: Transport News { 02.07.11 at 9:08 am }

[…] are in the news thanks to former state Sen. Kevin Rennie, a blogger and Courant columnist, who posted an item Thursday about plates going out the door in the last days of the […]

29 Democritius { 02.12.11 at 9:14 pm }

Mr. Ward, now state auditor, was MVD commissioner until a month or so ago – the release of the plates identities was made therefore using policies Ward had established. Mr. O is innocent of anything except second quessing the FOI knowledge of a senior MVD official when he dutifully filled the request by Mr. Rennie – who should have known better also. Blame Ward not Malloy, etc. By the way – the only real reason anyone would put a plate like this on their car is to tell the cops the owner is a “powerful” politician and not to ticket the car. Just like those add on decals “the 100 Club” – that is a state cop gimmick to raise scholarships for their kids via donations – in return the donor get the special sticker, plaque, that tell other cops to give that car owner special treatment. Get the idea now?? “