According to an Associated Press report issued yesterday, Susan Meredith a state arbitrator has reinstated 40 of the 103 state employees who lost their jobs in the wake of alleged disaster relief fraud following Tropical Storm Irene. D-SNAP — the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — provided food stamp and other relief to qualifying Connecticut residents. Qualification for the D-SNAP assistance depended on the income and assets of the applicants and on the amount and type of damage suffered.
The story was picked up by news services across the state but also caught considerable national attention.
According to the report which cited a statement by Sal Luciano, executive director of the Union local representing some 35 of the former employees, the arbitrator determined that the errors committed by these 40 employees warranted discipline but not dismissal. Accordingly they will be required to pay restitution and serve suspensions of varying lengths –so far between 15 to 60 working days. This leaves open the issue of back pay for periods of unemployment following the August 2011 storm that exceeded the newly imposed suspensions. More than 60 additional cases are still pending–among them cases characterized as the most egregious
According to a post by the Hartford Courant blogger, Christopher Keating, the level of mutual tension between members of the Malloy administration on the one hand and lawyer for 60 former workers, Rich Rochlin, have remained high.
With controversy raging in Michigan and elsewhere over the role of labor unions in the public sector, we are curious to know how our clients and neighbors in Connecticut and especially here in Mystic, Stonington, Groton, New London, and the rest of Southeastern Connecticut view the issues.
Does the fact that the fraud impacted publicly administered relief funds, mean that public employees found to have abused the program should be accountable –not just in criminal court — but to their employer as well? Would this create an unfair disparity between workers in the public and private sectors? Should the state seek review of the decisions in Superior Court? Please tell us what you think.