The Partnership for Connecticut, the multimillion-dollar private-public initiative between the state and Ray and Barbara Dalio, has been disbanded in the midst of questions over its transparency and what Barbara Dalio called “political fighting.”
Among the issues behind the Dalios’ exit were allegations by Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey, who was hired as the group’s president and CEO on March 23, that she had been the target of “false and defamatory allegations” on May 4. She has been on paid leave since May 7.
There have also been questions about transparency; the nonprofit organization was formed last year by legislation that made its operations exempt from the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act.
The partnership called for the state and the Dalios to each contribute $20 million a year for five years; each have contributed their initial $20 million. Those funds were earmarked for Connecticut’s lowest-performing school districts. To date, about $25 million has been spent on laptops for students, with about $14 million of the state’s contribution now being returned to the government.
“Boards that are designed to accomplish significant goals must have a foundation of trust,” Gov. Ned Lamont said in a statement. “It has been made clear since the inception of this partnership that breaches of trust were part of the norm. The Dalios have lost confidence in this board structure, and I totally understand why, and together we have decided to dissolve the partnership.”
“We’ve tried hard over the past 15 months to make this unique model work,” Barbara Dalio said in the same statement, “but it has become clear that it’s not working because of political fighting. I am not a politician and I never signed up to become one. I only want to help people. Through this experience I’ve learned about our broken political system and I don’t see a path through it to help people.”
She also blamed a pair of high-profile Republicans for the group’s dissolution.
“Our dream of working together in a bipartisan way to help the disengaged and disconnected youth of Connecticut came to an end because politicians like the two leading Republicans of the House, Rep. (Themis) Klarides and Rep. (Vincent) Candelora, want to fight in the media rather than debate issues and resolve them with other board members,” Dalio wrote. “They sought to sabotage the partnership. It can’t go on like this, so I suppose they ‘won.’ That is tragic because the other board members wanted the partnership to succeed.”
In his own statement, Candelora, deputy minority leader representing North Branford, said: “The partnership, well-intentioned as it was, came into existence under a cloud – no public hearing and the ability to conduct its business behind closed doors. It became the brightest example of state government’s growing disconnect with the people it serves, and like the push for tolls before it, this development should be a flashing signal to the governor that an overall change of approach is desperately needed as he takes on his biggest and most important policy endeavor yet – the process of reopening our state.”
House Minority Leader Klarides of Derby and Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney (D-New Haven) both expressed discontent with the organization’s Freedom of Information exemptions and with the still-unexplained treatment of Schmitt-Carey.