Connecticut Governor proposes consolidation of state ethics offices

Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy is proposing a measure that would consolidate the state’s ethics and information offices and move them under the control of a gubernatorial appointee. The proposal would consolidate the Office of State Ethics, the State Elections Enforcement Commission and the Freedom of Information Commission into one office, leading critics and the directors of the offices themselves to raise questions about their ability to effectively enforce ethics rules going forward.

Agency leaders say that if it becomes necessary to investigate the Governor it may be difficult to do so, as they effectively report to an appointee of the Governor. The way the consolidation works out, this single office would also control the state’s public financing fund for campaigns.

The consolidation comes as part of a broader $40 million budget measure the governor proposed in February, which effectively reorganizes much of the state’s political offices. Malloy is has also proposed merging the Judicial Review Council and the Contracting Standards Board into a single office tasked with government accountability. According to Malloy, consolidating all of these agencies will save the state over $1 million per year. But observers question whether the consolidation will create conflicts as each agency has a separate and distinct mission which may not be as easily consolidated as it appears.

“Watchdog agencies operating under the budgetary control of a gubernatorial appointee, or any single elected official, are on a choke-chain,” Albert P. Lenge, director of the elections enforcement commission, said in written testimony submitted to the General Assembly’s appropriations committee.