Connecticut’s quasi-public agencies – including its Port Authority and CT Lottery, which have recently been plagued by scandals – may find the way they do business significantly altered if state Republicans have their way.
The Connecticut GOP has unveiled a package of legislative proposals to increase transparency and oversight at the state’s quasi-public agencies – which also include the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, the Capitol Region Development Authority and the Connecticut Airport Authority – to address what it calls “years of scandals and mismanagement of state funds.”
“Our proposals will overhaul the oversight of state quasi-publics and turn over a new leaf when it comes to transparency and accountability,” Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano said. “For years Republicans have proposed policies to stop quasi-publics from engaging in questionable behavior and mismanagement of taxpayers’ dollars.
“With the most recent scandals at the CT Port Authority and CT Lottery Corporation,” Fasano said, “these issues can no longer be ignored by those in charge.”
Last summer, the Port Authority was rocked by a number of scandals, including findings by a state auditor that certain officials had misused funds to buy meals and liquor, incurred excessive legal fees and lacked administrative, financial or ethics-related policies. The CT Lottery has faced problems stemming from game errors and its treatment of employees.
Senate Republicans also called on state leaders to stop creating and funding new quasi-public agencies until their suggested protections are approved and enacted, with Fasano singling out the process behind the formation of a new quasi-public, the Municipal Redevelopment Authority, which has the support of Gov. Ned Lamont.
That agency, created as part of the state budget bill approved last spring, “is not operational, no appointments have been made, and operating funds were recently cut by the governor,” according to the GOP. “However, the governor’s latest bond package contains $45 million in new bonding for the yet-to-be-formed quasi-public.”
“Connecticut does not have the best reputation when it comes to establishing and managing quasi-public agencies,” Fasano said. “Haven’t we learned from our mistakes?”
Fasano further noted that, in recent years, quasi-publics have come under fire for questionable severance payments, including CT Lottery, the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority for a $250,000 severance payment made to its former president/executive director, Access Health CT for severance payments of over $376,000 to four senior level managers, and the Connecticut Green Bank for multiple severance packages that have been questioned by state auditors.
Among the GOP’s policy proposals:
- Require submission of quasi-public agency separation agreements and contracts with an annual cost of over $50,000 or a duration of five years or greater to the Attorney General for review and comment before entering into or renewing any such contracts.
- Eliminate the State Code of Ethics section for quasi-publics regarding contracts with immediate family members. This change will strengthen the code of ethics application in quasi-publics to prevent family members of employees from inappropriately benefiting financially through employment or contracts awarded.
- If any appointment has not been filled for three months, the board of any quasi-public must send notice to those responsible for making appointment. If an appointment is not filled for more than six months after that, allow the board to fill any such open appointment.
- Require all quasi-publics to submit all salaries to the comptroller’s office, Office of Fiscal Analysis and committee of cognizance annually.
- Require all quasi-publics to submit any salary proposed that will exceed more than $200,000 or higher or a 5% or higher salary increase to the committee of cognizance. If no committee of cognizance, require such information be sent to the Appropriations Committee. Committees will review prior to salary becoming effective.
- Require each quasi-public to report annually to the committee of cognizance and appear before such committee to answer questions regarding such report. The form and substance required in the report shall be set forth by the Office of Policy and Management.
- Require all quasi-public agencies to submit financials to the comptroller for disclosure on Core-CT.
- Require an Office of Policy and Management designee to be on any finance committee of the board of any quasi-public entity.
- Charge the Department of Administrative Services with developing policies and procedures that can be used by all quasi-publics with little modification.
- Extend attorney-client privilege to members of the General Assembly and its staff, state auditors and the office of the Attorney General so that privilege is not waived by sharing materials with any of the entities.
- Require each quasi-public to report specified information annually to the governor, auditors of public accounts and Office of Fiscal Analysis.