Ernie Newton pleads guilty to bribery. Sen. Ed Meyer (D-Guilford), realizing that the Senate has no formal mechanism to deal with legislators who have ethical lapses, starts suggesting to his colleagues the idea of a bipartisan ethics panel. No one, it seems, is all that interested.
Senate Minority Leader Lou DeLuca (R) is arrested in June on charges that he asked a known member of the mob to threaten his grandson-in-law. There is a scramble in the Senate to figure out what to do. DeLuca resigns as minority leader but continues on in the Senate.
The Senate creates a bipartisan committee of inquiry in August into the DeLuca affair, made up of three Republicans and three Democrats.
The idea of a permanent bipartisan ethics committee is floated in September. Sen. Donald Williams had asked Sen. Meyer to go forward with the idea, but only after the DeLuca mess.
“I started talking with my colleagues about this in early 2005 after we got information about Ernie Newton and had no mechanism to deal with it,” Meyer said.
But, he said, it wasn’t until after DeLuca pleaded guilty in June that [Majority Leader Don] Williams asked Meyer to “go forward with it.” (Hladky)
House Speaker Jim Amann, however, thinks it’s a bad idea.
“I don’t know why we need another committee,” said House Speaker James A. Amann, D-Milford. (Hladky)
DeLuca, after a long debate and a lot of resistance, eventually agrees to testify before the committee in October. Some of his testimony is under oath, the rest, including answers to questions from committee members, isn’t.
In December, Sen. Thomas Gaffey (D) quits the Higher Education committee following the revelation of his relationship with a high-ranking official in the Connecticut State University system.
Also in December, still on their high horse, Senate Democrats propose a wide-ranging plan on ethics. Some sort of bipartisan process for investigating legislators is included in the plan. Also included is a mechanism to revoke pensions for corrupt state lawmakers, which will become a sticking point later.
In April, after a lengthy debate over pension revocation a proposed ethics bill doesn’t make it to the floor.
In a June special session, an ethics bill is finally passed and signed. Pension revocation is in the bill (it isn’t retroactive, Rowland is spared), but a bipartisan ethics committee is not.
In July, Sen. Crisco (D) is denied public financing for forging signatures on documents.
In January, Sen. Thomas Gaffey (D) is back, and this time he’s accused of double-billing. His transgressions are largely overshadowed by the news that Jim Amann has accepted a $120,000/year job to “advise” the new speaker. Amann later backs out under intense pressure.
In May, both Gaffey and Crisco are fined by the SEEC: Gaffey for $6,000, Crisco for $4,000. Sen. Williams makes a point that neither will suffer any further punishments.
Late in the month, as Democrats debate instituting (or re-instituting, if you like) special elections for U.S. Senate vacancies, Republicans offer an amendment that would create a bipartisan ethics committee. Sen. Williams dislikes the idea now, because:
Sen. President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, said it opens the doors to frivolous complaints against any of the 36 senators. He said it means even if someone believed a rumor was true they couldn’t be held responsible for making a false statement against a senator. (Stuart)
The amendment is defeated. Every Democrat except for Sen. Ed Meyer votes against it.
Hladky, Gregory. “Ethics plan facing rocky road in House.” New Haven Register 14 September, 2007.
Stuart, Christine. “Senate Approves Power Grab, Declines Ethics Rule.” CT News Junkie 29 May, 2009.