Bysiewicz in controversy on two fronts

A Hartford Superior Court judge said Wednesday he expects to begin hearing evidence next month about whether Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz meets the statutory qualifications for attorney general.

But questions about her qualifications receded in the face of a new controversy over a constituent-services data base that other candidates say appeared to be used as a political-intelligence file. It was replete with personal notes about constituents.

Her rivals for the Democratic nomination for attorney general, George Jepsen and Cameron Staples, quickly accused Bysiewicz of improperly using state resources.

Bysiewicz denied wrongdoing, saying the information is relevant to her official duties.

“Many of these contacts are also made when our agency does outreach with community groups and organizations throughout the state,” she said. “References to personal situations also remind me about someone’s health or other issues when I see or speak to that person.  Many notations are conversational in nature and none are noted for political purposes.”

The Courant story was the latest in a series of problems that have plagued Bysiewicz since she ended an exploratory campaign for governor and became a candidate for attorney general.

She was forced to file a lawsuit last month seeking a declaratory ruling about whether she has 10 years of active legal practice in Connecticut, a statutory requirement to serve as attorney general.

Bysiewicz has been a lawyer for more than 20 years, but she falls short of the requirement unless her tenure as secretary of the state is included.

Judge Michael R. Sheldon told lawyers in the case today that he is keeping Bysiewicz’s request for a declaratory ruling about her qualifications on a fast track.

Bysiewicz is hoping to resolve questions about whether she meets a statutory requirement for the office before a nominating convention May 22.

Eliot Gersten, a lawyer for the Connecticut Republican Party, an intervenor in the case, raised the possibility today of challenging the court’s jurisdiction to resolve the uncertainty over her status.

“Is it a legal uncertainty or a political uncertainty?” Gersten said.

But Bysiewicz’s lawyer, Wesley Horton, said that Sheldon made clear that any jurisdictional challenges should come no later than next week, at their next status conference.

Sheldon, he said, is “keeping all the lawyers on a short leash.”