Monday, May 04, 2015

Do I Dare Disturb The Universe: Cutting Yelmini

“Do I Dare disturb the universe?” – T.S. Elliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Increasingly, the legacy media chooses not to disturb the universe. Disturbances always are politically inadvisable and inconvenient.

In Connecticut, as everyone knows, the political universe is controlled by Democrats confabing in formerly smoke-filled back rooms, where the light of publicity rarely shines. It is the age-old mission of the media to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, and Democrats in Connecticut rarely have been as comfortable as in the past few years, following the capture of the governor’s office in 2011 by Dannel Malloy, the first Democratic governor since the administration of Governor William O’Neill, who left office in 1991 as deficit clouds were marshalling on the horizon.

The succeeding Governor, Lowell Weicker, blew the clouds away by instituting an income tax that, he said, would in the future relieve legislators of relying on a cracker-jack box of niggling little taxes – many of which were imposed later by Mr. Malloy, who channeled Mr. Weicker during his first term in office.

At the beginning of his second term, Mr. Malloy promised numerous times to impose no more taxes; enough was enough! The budget writing committee in the state legislature, dominated by progressives, now has done the dirty deed for him by producing a tax and spend plan that would be the envy of the Democrats in the National Governors Association (NGA) Mr. Malloy hopes to herd as its 2016 chairman.    

The best investigative reporters follow stories to the gates of Hell, which shall not prevail against them, and the more courageous of them are singed by the flames to secure data necessary for their narratives.  In Connecticut, the Hillary Clinton solution to possibly explosive e-mails – set up your own server and be careful to destroy any incriminating  communications – was not available to Governor Dannel Malloy’s budget director Ben Barnes and his chief of staff Mark Ojakian on the occasion of Mr. Barnes’ firing of Linda Yelmini, for 28 years the state’s labor-relations chief.

It was a curious firing. Ms. Yelmini was by all appearances a competent negotiator. While her rulings may have rubbed the fur of union leaders the wrong way on occasion, many doffed their hats to her professionalism and were surprised at her abrupt dismissal – so they said. She knows considerably more about spending and cost saving measures than Mr. Malloy’s chief factotum, Policy and Management guru Ben Barnes, who lately has been having the devil of a time balancing the state’s checkbook. And hidden inconspicuously behind the flower pot for two decades, she probably knows more about politics than the upcoming Chair of the NGA.

The unpleasantries of the firing were left to Mr. Barnes, who hoped, after he had shown Ms. Yelmini the door, she would not be too retaliatory. A trail of e-mails between budget director Ben Barnes and chief of staff Mark Ojakian was unearthed by Hartford Courant investigative reporter Jon Lender by means of a Freedom of Information request. 
 Barnes: "It's done."
  
Ojakian: "So I saw. I was copied on a letter to Governor. … Was it awful? Will she go quietly!"
  
Barnes: "Awful. [Expletive] awful. Not quiet."
  
Ojakian: "She also texted me and asked me to call her. I told her I have been on vacation. She will create problems I fear. And now I see she has tried to call me twice."
  
Barnes: "Sorry. She really wants to know why, but I don't think it makes sense to have that discussion with her."
  
Ojakian: "I agree. And don't be sorry. We are all in this together. She said she thought she was doing a good job. She's shocked and disappointed. I'm not responding anymore. Just wanted you to know."

Indeed, knowing is nice – but only for the keepers of the secrets in state government.

Mr. Lender acknowledges we may never know who wanted Ms. Yelmini fired or why, but there is little question that Mr. Barnes, Mr. Ojakian and, through him, Mr. Malloy were all in on the hit; they were “all in this together.” Mr. Lender notes that Ms. Yelmini hired and fired state employees, a function that “earned her a reputation as the state's ‘terminator,’ and now Barnes and company have terminated the terminator, who may know more about issues involving firing than anybody.”

There are theories a ’plenty.  One theory holds that Ms. Yelmini was dismissed because a) she has been competent in pension negotiations, and b) she has mapped the closets in which all the dead bodies have been stored. Mr. Malloy, under this theory, needs someone less competent, independent and resourceful (read: “more political”) than Ms. Yelmini when the time comes, if ever, for Mr. Malloy to pretend he has reached a tax saving agreement with state union leaders. It’s always difficult for a magician to fool the crowd when his assistant has ideas of her own. The best ministers in the one party state are those who happily conspire in the general fraud – “yes” men like Mr. Barnes and Mr. Ojakian. M. Yelmeni knew how to say “no.”


Ms. Yelmini’s independence may have been her undoing. In the one party state, cooperation is far more important than competence, and it is possible to lose a job you have done too well.
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