Connecticut Official Sleazebags on Parade
A Fine, A Reprimand And A Raise
Jon Lender | Government Watch | The Hartford Courant
January 25, 2009
The announcement of a $1,000 fine against state Department of Children and Families lawyer Maureen Duggan last week probably closed the book on any penalties she'll pay for an incident in 2004, when she used a phony identity in writing a letter that led to the firing of her then-boss, state ethics director Alan S. Plofsky.
And the way it all shakes out, she ended up with a fine, a reprimand and a raise.
The $1,000 fine extracted by the Office of State Ethics for violating ethics statutes was more than offset by the $6,000 raise that Duggan has received — a 5 percent boost to $111,000, up from about $105,000 — in her current job as a management attorney at DCF.
For a while last year, it looked as if Duggan might be in real trouble, perhaps in jeopardy of losing her law license and her state job.
That was after The Courant disclosed in May that Duggan, a staff attorney at the State Ethics Commission in 2004, was the author of the mysterious, unsigned letter that purported to be from a parking lot attendant who had observed irregularities and improprieties at the ethics commission office.
More than one administrative inquiry was launched into her conduct. But eight months later, it now appears that the newly announced ethics fine is the last sanction possible in the case. Earlier, state personnel officials decided not to discipline her, and last month a state lawyers' grievance panel gave her a reprimand while ordering her to attend nine hours of ethics classes.
Now, with the episode behind her — other than the humiliation that she has said she feels — Duggan continues to serve in good standing as the DCF's assistant legal director, supervising nine hearing officers, seven of them lawyers, in the department's administrative hearings unit.
DCF spokesman Gary Kleeblatt said that after the Department of Administrative Services decided not to discipline her last year, the department required her to take a one-day ethics course administered by the Connecticut Bar Association. And, he said, Duggan's supervisor at DCF gave her a half-hour "counseling" session, in which she was told:
•"The obligations of a public servant and attorney are that their standard of accountability is higher than someone in the general public."
•"There are appropriate ways to bring concerns to the notice of management" — and writing letters under a phony identity, such as an imaginary parking lot attendant, isn't one of them.
Duggan's salary rose to $111,000 because "in 2008 managers received cost of living adjustments" of 3 percent, and, because her performance was rated satisfactory by her superiors, she got a "performance-based increase" of 2 1/2 percent.
Meanwhile, Plofsky, who was fired a month after Duggan's letter arrived, still has a case pending in federal court, suing members of the former ethics commission who fired him in September 2004 after a chain of events touched off by the August arrival of Duggan's letter.
The letter contained intentional errors of spelling and grammar such as the phrase "I want to be anonimus" and "I work in the parking lot and patrol the building where the ethics is." After the letter arrived, Duggan and two co-workers filed sworn "whistle-blower" complaints against Plofsky, with allegations of misconduct that formed the basis for his firing. In Duggan's sworn complaint, she referred to her own letter as "an anonymous letter," as if someone else had written it. Plofsky denied the charges and a state panel later reinstated him, albeit not to his old job. He retired last May.
The domino effect of Duggan's letter ended with the legislature dismantling the old ethics agency, which imploded amid bitterness over the Plofsky situation. It was replaced in 2005 by the new Office of State Ethics, which now has fined Duggan, and an overseeing panel called the Citizens Ethics Advisory Board.
Plofsky's federal lawsuit has dragged on now for three years. His lawyer, Gregg D. Adler, said Plofsky's case originally could have been settled for less than $200,000, a cost to the state that already has been exceeded in the past several years of litigation. It's the job of state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal's office to defend the case, and, as it turns out, part of Duggan's present job is to serve as DCF's liaison to Blumenthal's office — not on her case, but on any DCF-related lawsuits.
Duggan's lawyer, Hope Seeley, has said that issues raised in the "anonimus" letter were found valid by auditors, and that Duggan "felt she had no viable alternatives" to faking her identity because "she feared retaliation by Plofsky."
Adler said those fears were groundless, and it's Plofsky who has been wronged.
He added: "While Mr. Plofsky, who had to take early retirement because he was unable to cope with the degradation suffered as a result of his public discharge just weeks after he had been instrumental in forcing the resignation of a corrupt Governor, languishes at home waiting for the issuance of a decision in his federal court case, Ms. Duggan received two slaps on the wrist" — the reprimand and $1,000 fine — "while retaining her job as an attorney with the Department of Children and Families. This is not justice."
•Jon Lender is a reporter on The Courant's investigative desk, with a focus on government and politics. Contact him at email@example.com, 860-241-6524, or c/o The Hartford Courant, 285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115.
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What about arrests and prison for behavior like this?:Attorney, prosecutorial, judicial, official, and police misconduct is an "art form" in the state of Connecticut and too many other states. There are two classes of people. Those that get taxed, arrested, and live in a "State of Fear" and there are those who run the "State of Fear" with immunity from arrest and prosecution, what US Constitution?
MAUREEN DUGGAN, right, addresses the committee reviewing misconduct charges against her related to a fraudulent letter she wrote in 2004 while a staff lawyer with the State Ethics Commission. The letter led to the firing of ethics chief Alan S. Plofsky. Her lawyer, Hope Seeley, is at left. (BOB MACDONNELL / HARTFORD COURANT / November 5, 2008)