McKinney Renews Call for Legislative Inquiry into Allegations of Corruption within Speaker Donovan’s Office

July 31, 2012

Eight Member Bipartisan, Bicameral Committee Would Be Assisted By Independent Counsel

Hartford, CT – State Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (R-Fairfield) today renewed his call for a bipartisan legislative committee of inquiry to investigate allegations of misconduct related to Connecticut Speaker of the House Chris Donovan’s legislative office and congressional campaign. Sen. McKinney has reached out to Democratic and Republican legislative leaders in both the House and Senate and informed them of his call for an eight-member bipartisan, bicameral committee of inquiry to determine appropriate legislative action. He further recommends the committee appoint a special counsel with experience in federal criminal investigations to assist the inquiry. The special counsel would be granted subpoena power to maximize the committee’s potential to obtain critical information.

“Based on the new indictments, we now know that this conspiracy extended all the way to the most senior staff within the Speaker’s office,” Sen. McKinney said in a statement released Monday night. “It involved, not just former Donovan policy advisor Josh Nassi, but at least one other senior level staff person who presumably still works in the Speaker’s legislative office. According to the Speaker’s own internal investigation, there also exists a list in Nassi’s handwriting of seven bills pending during the 2012 session, of which the ‘Roll Your Own Bill’ was just one. Now that staff people within the highest office of the Legislature have been implicated and it appears that many other bills may have been targeted, we as a legislature – both Republicans and Democrats – cannot turn a blind eye any longer.”

Sen. McKinney proposed the following guidelines for the committee:

  • Eight members. Each legislative caucus leader would appoint two members of their respective caucuses to serve on the committee. Because Speaker Donovan’s legislative office would be a subject of the inquiry, House Majority Leader Brendan Sharkey would make the appointments for the House Democratic Caucus. Senate President Don Williams, Sen. McKinney and House Republican Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr. would make the appointments for their respective caucuses.
  • Independent Counsel. The committee will appoint an independent counsel with experience in federal criminal investigations and grant that person subpoena power to assist the inquiry. Sen. McKinney said, “Legislative staff are directly implicated in this matter, so it is imperative that independent counsel with the power to investigate thoroughly be retained. This will help the committee obtain pertinent information in an on-going investigation and avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
  • Scope. The committee is charged with reviewing all obtainable information about the events leading up to the federal probe of Speaker Donovan’s congressional campaign and current and former legislative employees.
  • All committee meetings and votes will be notified in advance and held in public.
  • The committee’s decisions will be by majority vote.
  • The committee will be responsible for making a formal recommendation to the full Legislature.
  • The committee’s recommendation can be “no action,” or involve the reprimand, censure or expulsion of legislators, and suspension or termination of legislative employees.
  • Committee recommendations affecting legislators will be put in the form of a resolution, introduced in both the House and the Senate, debated and voted on.

“As each new detail leaks out, it has a corrosive effect on public confidence in state government. The legislature should have convened a committee of inquiry when allegations first surfaced in June. Having missed that opportunity, we need to convene one now,” Sen. McKinney said.

Sen. McKinney said there are a myriad of questions that need answers: “How could this happen? Was it an isolated incident? What steps can be taken to help prevent this from happening in the future? Who within the Speaker’s office attempted to influence Roll Your Own legislation and who from the Speaker’s office communicated the progress of that effort to the Speaker’s congressional campaign? What other bills were on Nassi’s list and were legislative staff involved in negotiating or drafting those bills? Did the Speaker solicit contributions from special interest groups affected by those bills?” he asked.

“If there were additional bills influenced as a result of these coordinated activities, legislators have a right to know that information and be given an opportunity to revisit their votes on those matters.

“The public needs to know that this abuse of power and public trust will not be tolerated by its elected representatives,” he said.

Sen. McKinney first called for a committee of inquiry into the Donovan campaign scandal on June 1st. He has consistently advocated the formation of a standing committee on ethics since being elected Minority Leader of the Senate in 2007.