Rep Chris Caruso, the inspector Jarvet of Democrats, was decidedly upset.
“Maybe Mr. Healy can fill me in on what ethics violations occurred,” he told a reporter. "In all fairness here, Don Clemons hasn't been charged with anything. We have no authority in this area. I know [Healy] is desperate to latch onto something. He should first call his Republican friends because they control the U.S. attorney's office. Before he starts shooting his mouth off, he should call Kevin O'Connor, the Republican appointee. He'd get a quicker answer that way."
State Rep. Don Clemons, who is considering running for mayor of Bridgeport in November, was present in the summer of 2004 at a private meeting attended by former NBA basketball star Charles Smith and the notorious state Sen. Ernest Newton, now cooling his heels in prison for various offenses that Caruso found intolerable when they were committed by agents of former Republican Governor John Rowland.
At the meeting, then Sen. Newton pitched an idea in the direction of Mr. Smith: He would be delighted to load up Mr. Smith’s non-profit foundation with $3 million in state tax dollars to build a shopping center in Bridgeport if Mr. Smith would be so kind as to divert some of the loot to an associate of his, Jeanette Foxworth, recently found guilty after a short trial of nine felony counts in a public corruption scandal.
Before the deal with Mr. Smith was completed, Mr. Newton went off to serve a five year stretch in prison, and Rep. Clemons clammed up – until he was called to testify in Ms. Foxworth’s trial, when the truth came tumbling out of him; odd how the prospect of perjury convictions can pry open lockjawed clams.
Mr. Healy, the Republican Party chairman, has made a great fuss about all this, ruffling the feathers of the easily provoked Rep. Caruso and others in the Democrat Party.
Mr. Caruso wants Mr. Healy to point to a specific ethics violation committed by the snow white Mr. Clemons, confident he cannot do so. Speaker of the House Jim Amann already has passed the Clemon’s fish under the noses of Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane and Jeffrey Garfield, executive director of the State Elections Enforcement Commission, both of whom smelled nothing odiferous.
“I would assume if there was a crime,” said Speaker Amann, “the FBI probably would have issued an indictment of Don Clemons by now. They've said the Newton case is over.”
Really, who does this news sponge Healy think he is, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal? Having received a pass from all the above mentioned ethical sleuths, why should Mr. Clemons not be permitted to resume his quiet uneventful life, unmolested by Mr. Healy?
Because, sirs and madams, we are now living in the post John Rowland era. And in the post Rowland era, politicians should be held to a higher standard than they were when the legislature threatened to call then Governor Rowland to testify in a pre- impeachment proceeding. Prosecutors had not yet targeted Rowland, and it was widely felt at the time that concurrent proceedings – a legislative investigation combined with a prosecutorial investigation – would speed Mr. Rowland out of office and into jail, where he belonged. When the legislature met to consider impeaching Gov. Rowland, he had a clean bill of health from the relevant ethics committee and prosecutors had, at that point, no reason to proceed against him.
Yet none of this prevented leading Democrats from kicking up the kind of fuss that now has caused Mr. Caruso to erupt in bilious rage against the mild suggestion offered by Mr. Healy.
The prosecution of Ms. Foxworth was a spin off from the prosecution of former Bridgeport mayor Joe Ganim and Mr. Newton. Prosecutors bagged their prey from information they had compiled while listening to tapped telephone calls. When the FBI spokesmen said the case was now closed, they meant no further prosecutions were likely from the information they had at hand. But legislative hearings are not especially concerned with prosecutions, and statements from Mr. Kane and Garfield ought not to be taken as an indication that all is well in Bridgeport, where Mr. Clemons aspires to become mayor.
One wonders: Will Mr. Clemons in the future be able to count on the support of those leading Democrats who even now appear anxious to support him?