Saturday, July 30, 2011

Yankee Institute vs SEBAC, Final Round

Attorney General George Jepsen having investigated a charge made to his office by SEBAC, a coalition of unions the membership of which soon will be voting either to adopt or reject Plan A 2, that the Yankee Institute had used state the state’s e-mail system to communicate with union workers, the attorney general found that the charges against the institute were false. The comprehensive investigation by two state agencies, the attorney general’s office and the state Auditors of Public Account, Mr. Jepsen wrote in his finding, “did not show that the state e-mail system was improperly accessed or compromised in violation of state laws or policies.”

“As part of our inquiry,” Mr. Jepsen wrote, “we reviewed the e-mails sent to state employees and provided by SEBAC. The first e-mail, containing the subject line 'VOTE No twice on concessions… pass it on' was sent on May 24, 2011 at 8:07 pm from 'Lawrence Jones' to a state employee. The second e-mail, containing the subject line ‘http//votenotoconcessions.com,’ was sent to a state employee on June 13, 2011 at 8:07 pm from 'Daniel Luciano.' Neither Lawrence Jones nor Daniel Luciano is listed on the state’s central financial and administrative computer system (CORE-CT) as a state employee. Neither of these two e-mails originated from State of Connecticut internet protocol (IP) addresses. Each originated outside the state e-mail system and reflected a Yahoo e-mail address. The e-mails were sent to IP addresses leased by the State of Connecticut. State information systems security personnel informed us that the e-mails were not sent from within the state system, and there was no evidence that the safeguards in place to protect the state’s network from hackers or other intrusions were compromised or altered to permit or facilitate the transmission of these e-mails.”

Mr. Jepsen is to be lauded for not having allowed the leaders of SEBAC to use his office as a political tool for the purpose of discrediting the institute on false charges that, had they been sustained, might have succeeded in drawing public attention away from SEBAC’s botched attempt to convince rank and file union members to vote in favor of Governor Dannel Malloy’s doomed Plan A.

The same union leaders who falsely accused the institute of illegalities recently unilaterally changed union by-laws so that a previous vote on Plan A would once again be voted upon under circumstances more favorable both to Mr. Malloy and SEBAC negotiators, causing one commentator – yours truly – to note that SEBAC, having found it impossible under the old by-laws to fix a vote, had discovered a way to fix the voting process to its advantage. This kind of transparent attempt to fix a vote could only succeed if union leaders were to spew out a cloud of skunk scent to distract public attention from their own dramatic failings. The Yankee Institute, and more especially Zach Janowski, the institute’s investigative reporter, were convenient scapegoats upon which SEBAC leaders sought unsuccessfully to pin their own too obvious failings.

SEBAC’s objections to Mr. Jepsen’s finding were amusingly predictable. Leaping over the results of Mr. Jepsen’s exhautive examination, SEBAC lamented that the architecture of the state’s e-mail system “is apparently arranged so that outside groups can get around inadequate software restrictions and distribute emails through the system without being in violation of computer hacking laws -- and apparently without even being subject to detection” – and never mind that Mr. Jepsen found no instance of the state’s email having been hacked by the institute. SEBAC then noted that the institute’s political interests include “producing painful job cuts and ‘downsizing’ state government, which is really just code for privatizing public services.” In fact, Mr. Cullen has noted that the institute favored Plan A  – the very same plan promoted by SEBAC union leaders – over Plan B, which recently has been implemented by Mr. Malloy and includes painful cuts. No doubt the institute, along with many governors and legislators, favors the privatizing of public services as a means of controlling unsustainable costs. SEBAC’s objection to the institute’s view on privatization might have been more justly urged in a letter to the editor; SEBAC thought it rose to the level of a crime and engaged the attorney general as an instrument to harass and punish an organization for having taken advantage of its constitutional right disagree with the leaders of SEBAC.

Yankee Institute Director Fergus Cullen commented following Mr. Jepsen’s finding, “Making reckless accusations without a shred of evidence damaged the union's credibility. Rank-and-file state employees deserve better for their dues than the stunning incompetence of union staff throughout the concessions ratification process."

Mr. Cullen made his comment but a few hours before he had been told by Trinity College that the institute was being given the boot or, as Mr. Cullen, whose sense of humor is unfailing even in trying circumstances, preferred to put it – being expelled – from the Trinity College campus in Hartford where, for the past 13 years, the institute has stoutly defended educational institutions, private enterprise and constitutional rights more often miss-cited than observed by its detractors. It is not known what part SEBAC or union friendly legislators may have played in the institute’s unexpected expulsion from Trinity.
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