Sunday, January 09, 2011

Rennie Sniffs Out Gaffey, Williams

Hartford Courant columnist Kevin Rennie, whose nose is extremely sensitive, smells something fishy in the relationship between former eight-term state Sen. Thomas Gaffey and state Senate President Donald Williams.

After recently running for re-election to his seat and winning, Mr. Gaffey quit the senate when he was convicted of having used his own PAC funds to pay for trips that he also billed to the state over several years. It appears the double billing may have been occasioned by Mr. Gaffey’s fondness for a fetching lady.

A second girlfriend, Mr. Rennie reported, also tapped into Mr. Gaffey’s affections:

“Connecticut State University System Associate Vice Chancellor for Government Relations and Communication Jill Ferraiolo employed her charms to make Gaffey the chief and relentless advocate for a $1 billion blank check in public funds for CSU to spend on construction at its four campuses.”
Far from recoiling in horror at Mr. Gaffey’s indiscreet petty larceny, his influential friend in the legislature, Mr. Williams, “tut-tutted that the public was not interested in officials' private lives. What did enrage Williams, however, were the efforts of state Sen. Joan Hartley, D- Waterbury, to impose some sensible standards and restrictions on CSU's expensive plans.”

So formidable and trusting was the Williams-Gaffey alliance that Mr. Williams then targeted Ms. Hartley on behalf of his friend, according to Mr. Rennie:

“Williams removed Hartley as co-chairman of the Higher Education Committee while he continued to sustain the volatile, corrupt Gaffey in his close circle of influential advisers until the end came Monday.”
The Republican American located in Waterbury pointed to an evident double standard in the way the Democratic dominated legislature responded to both Mr. Gaffey and former state Senator Lou DeLuca, who had the misfortune to be a Republican when he was caught in a sting operation arranged by the Feds some years ago. In the DeLuca case, President Pro Tem of the Senate Don Williams did not fiddle while DeLuca burned:

“Compare Sen. Williams' treatment of fellow Democrat Gaffey with his handling of the scandal surrounding former Sen. Louis C. DeLuca, R-Woodbury. Mr. DeLuca did not steal money or peddle influence. Believing his granddaughter to be a victim of physical abuse by a then-boyfriend, Mr. DeLuca asked for Danbury trash hauler James Galante, later convicted on federal racketeering charges, to have someone threaten the boyfriend. No threats or assaults occurred, but Mr. DeLuca pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy to commit second-degree threatening.

“The Senate decided to launch an investigation that could have led to expulsion, had Mr. DeLuca not decided to resign five months after entering his guilty plea.

“But the zeal the Senate, under Sen. Williams, showed in the DeLuca case was nowhere to be found before or after he left office. "Lawmakers displayed an almost never seen willingness to investigate a colleague after DeLuca pleaded guilty to a threatening charge in June," the Republican-American reported in November 2007. ‘Legislators have been jailed for drunk driving, arrested for barroom brawling, shoplifting and ballot fraud, convicted of bribery and child molestation, and cited for misusing campaign funds since DeLuca joined the General Assembly in 1991. None of them were investigated or punished. ... Only (DeLuca) was threatened with expulsion.’"
To be sure, ethical propriety, like love, sometimes rests in the eye of the beholder. But when so much ink has been spilled over the lack of ethics of politicians in this state, we may say that a standard of ethics has over time been clarified on a case by case basis. Applying the “good for the goose” standard to Mr. Gaffey, it ought to have been plain to ethicists in the legislature -- very early on in the Gaffey scandal – that Mr. Gaffey had exceeded the boundaries the legislature itself had established to prevent such moral mutilation as Mr. Gaffey inflicted upon himself. It is altogether proper, under these circumstances, to ask why his comrades in the senate did not reacted more aggressively to early indications that Mr. Gaffey had run off the rails. It was no act of friendship on Mr. William’s part to fail to reprove a friend when he was so obviously in danger of crossing ethical thresholds. Indeed, Mr. Williams’s good-old-boy politicking may have facilitated his friend’s downfall.

Fortunately for Gov. Dannel Malloy, Mr. Williams was not one of the legislators Mr. Malloy netted to flesh out his new administration. Mr. Williams, his rigorous application of ethical strictures somewhat compromised by his backhanded defense of his comrade in the senate, still presides as President Pro Tem of the state senate.
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