Sunday, September 07, 2008

Liar, Liar


explanation of this video [found here]


The below from the Hartford Advocate in Connecticut [found here]


Liar, Liar
A state ethics lawyer lies and gets away with it. Where's the ethics in that?
Comments (3)
Thursday, September 04, 2008
By Andy Bromage


Admit you're a liar, keep your cushy state job.

That's the message the Rell administration is sending state employees following an investigation of Maureen Duggan, a state staff attorney who admitted forging a letter that was used in the firing of the state's top ethics official. A state human resources investigator decided last week that Duggan should not be punished for authoring the fraudulent letter, in part, because the State Ethics Commission that employed her had no specific rules prohibiting that type of behavior.

State investigator Stephen Caliendo found no "just cause" to discipline Duggan, a 23-year state employee who now earns $105,000 as a lawyer for the state Department of Children and Families. In 2004, she was a staff attorney at the State Ethics Commission, whose executive director, Alan Plofsky, was targeted by the administration of Gov. John Rowland for publicly stating that Rowland's acceptance of gifts broke state ethics law.

Duggan wrote a phony letter that appeared to be written by an anonymous parking lot attendant, detailing problems within the State Ethics Commission and filling it with misspellings like "anonimus" to make it seem authentic (because, obviously, all parking lot attendants are uneducated dingbats). Her then-husband mailed it to the chairman of the commission, a Rowland appointee, who in turn brought it to Duggan's attention. Duggan never acknowledged she had authored the letter; instead, she and two other staff attorneys passed it off as authentic to the Auditors of Public Accounts, and sought (and received) protection as whistleblowers.

Investigations ensued. Plofsky was practically put on trial. Ultimately he was fired, but a state panel later found the move improper and reinstated him, albeit in a different state agency. Plofsky sued the state in federal court and during a deposition of Duggan earlier this year, she admitted that she had written the parking lot letter.

To recap: A high-level state employee forges a letter accusing her boss of misdeeds, lies about it, later admits she lied about it, and receives no punishment for her deceit. Andy Sauer, the head of the good government group Connecticut Common Cause, is incredulous. "She forged a letter. Forgery is a crime. How much more just cause do you need?"



One could hardly imagine a more blatant misuse of state whistleblower protections than Duggan's charade. Duggan told Caliendo, the state investigator, she wrote the letter because she feared retaliation if her complaints became public. Caliendo concludes that what Duggan did may have been "wrong, improper and even deceitful," but it was motivated by genuine fear of Plofsky, not malice.

Using twisted logic, Caliendo exonerates Duggan because the Auditor of Public Accounts confirmed "many of the improprieties and transgressions" Duggan raised in the parking lot letter. Except that's not even true. Many of Duggan's anonymous accusations were not substantiated by the auditors. For instance:

Duggan's letter claimed that Ethics Commission employees "work strange hours." But the auditors reported they "could not confirm whether or not employees ... worked less than their required 40-hour work week."

In one of the more bizarre examples, Duggan's letter complained that "there are a lot of deliveries recently to Ethics, like two big desks and all kinds of computer stuff. Why do they get all this stuff?" The auditors found all the purchases "were done properly."

Auditors did find the commission failed to provide attendance and compensation records during regular reviews, and, more creepily, that Plofsky signed memos to staff members with little x's and o's.

That's not the point. Duggan could have made a whistleblower complaint like any other state employee and kept her name secret, a point made by a state judicial panel that's looking into whether Duggan should be disbarred. Duggan was "well aware" of the Whistle Blower Protection Act, the judicial panel said, and, indeed, invoked it when she turned over the parking lot letter.

By defrauding the ethics commission in using a phony identity, Duggan compromised the validity of her claims and damaged public trust in state government, or so one would think. Caliendo, the state investigator, apparently doesn't see it that way. In fact, Caliendo notes that one state employee, Office of Labor Relations attorney Sandra Fae Brown-Brewton, knew of Duggan's lie three years before it became public in the deposition and did nothing about it. Rather than serving to indict Brown-Brewton or Duggan, Caliendo used that cover-up to bolster his case for why Duggan can't be fired.

"The state was aware more than three years ago that Ms. Duggan authored the anonymous letter and no disciplinary or other action was instituted against her at that time," Caliendo wrote.

Plofsky's lawyer, Gregg Adler, says he expected Caliendo's report to be whitewashed. The state rules used to protect Duggan from discipline, Adler says, were ironically the same ones used to take down Plofsky.

Duggan didn't return a phone call and e-mail seeking comment. Nor did the governor's staff. Should we take their silence to mean shame from Duggan's exoneration, or tacit approval?¦

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editor@hartfordadvocate.com

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