Senate Republicans Propose to Increase Transparency, Oversight of State Quasi-Publics

February 11, 2020

Today Connecticut Senate Republicans unveiled a package of legislative proposals to increase transparency and oversight at Connecticut’s quasi-public agencies.  Following years of scandals and mismanagement of state funds by multiple quasi-public agencies, these proposals build upon past Republican proposals to protect taxpayers and restore public trust to these agencies.


Senate Republicans also called on state leaders to stop creating and funding new quasi-public agencies until these protections are approved and enacted.


“Our proposals will overhaul the oversight of state quasi-publics and turn over a new leaf when it comes to transparency and accountability,” said Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano (R-North Haven). “For years Republicans have proposed policies to stop quasi-publics from engaging in questionable behavior and mismanagement of taxpayers dollars. Unfortunately, past administrations have turned a blind eye to these problems, allowing new quasi-publics to be formed without proper oversight, controls or transparency. With the most recent scandals at the CT Port Authority and CT Lottery Corporation, these issues can no longer be ignored by those in charge.”


Sen. Fasano emphasized the need for stricter transparency and oversight of quasi-publics before the state moves forward with creating and funding new quasi-publics. He specifically questioned the process behind the formation of a new quasi-public known as the municipal redevelopment authority (MRDA).


Language establishing the MRDA was snuck in as part of the state budget bill approved by Democrats last spring. The agency is not operational, no appointments have been made, and operating funds were recently cut by the governor. However, the governor’s latest bond package contains $45 million in new bonding for the yet to be formed quasi-public, exceeding his abandoned “debt-diet.”


“To see the Governor abandon his promised ‘debt-diet,’ regardless of what projects will get new funding, is disappointing in and of itself. But to see $45 million in borrowed taxpayer funds dedicated to a yet-to-be-formed quasi-public that has no track record is nothing short of reckless,” said Sen. Fasano. “Connecticut does not have the best reputation when it comes to establishing and managing quasi-public agencies. Haven’t we learned from our mistakes?”


This summer, a series of scandals surrounding the Connecticut Port Authority came to light and were detailed by state auditor reports that found Port Authority officials misused funds to purchase meals and liquor, incurred excessive legal fees and lacked administrative, financial or ethics-related policies. Also in the news again this year, the CT Lottery Corporation has faced problems stemming from lottery game errors and its treatment of employees.


In recent years, quasi-publics have also come under fire for questionable severance payments, including: the CT Lottery Corporation, the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority for a $250,000 severance payment made to the former president/executive director, Access Health CT for severance payments of over $376,000 for four senior level managers, and the Connecticut Green Bank for multiple severance packages questioned by state auditors.


Three quasi-publics, the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority, the Capitol Region Development Authority and the Connecticut Port Authority, also have a history of failing to cooperate with requests to share basic financial data with the State Comptroller required for the state’s transparency website.


The policy proposals Senate Republicans are submitting to the legislature this year are detailed below:


  1. Require submission of quasi-public agency separation agreements and contracts with an annual cost of over $50,000 or a duration of five years or greater to the Attorney General for review and comment before entering into or renewing any such contracts.
  2. Eliminate the State Code of Ethics carve out for quasi-publics regarding contracts with immediate family members. This change will strengthen the code of ethics application in quasi publics to prevent family members of employees from inappropriately benefiting financially through employment or contracts awarded.
  3. If any appointment has not been filled for 3 months, the Board of any quasi-public must send notice to those responsible for making appointment. If an appointment is not filled for more than 6 months after that, allow the Board to fill any such open appointment.
  4. Require all quasi publics to submit all salaries to the Comptroller’s office, OFA and committee of cognizance annually.
  5. Require all quasi-publics to submit any salary proposed that will exceed more than $200,000 or higher or a 5% or higher salary increase to the committee of cognizance. If no committee of cognizance, require such information be sent to the Appropriations Committee. Committees will review prior to salary becoming effective.
  6. Require each quasi-public to report annually to the committee of cognizance and appear before such committee to answer questions regarding such report.  The form and substance required in the report shall be set forth by OPM.
  7. Require all quasi-public agencies to submit financials to the Comptroller for disclosure on CORE.
  8. Require an Office of Policy and Management (OPM) designee to be on any finance committee of the board of any quasi-public entity.
  9. Charge the Department of Administrative Services with developing off the shelf policies and procedures that can be used by all quasi-publics with little modification.
  10. Extend Attorney/Client Privilege to members of the General Assembly, and its staff, State Auditors and the office of the Attorney General so that privilege is not waived by sharing materials with any of the entities.
  11. Require each quasi-public to report specified information annually to the Governor, Auditors of Public Accounts and Office of Fiscal Analysis.