Malloy sticks by staff, tweaks VIPs on low-digit plate snafu

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made an offer today to any of the low-digit plate recipients who feel aggrieved that their privacy was violated by the illegal release of their names.

“If a mistake was made, we will gladly refund the money to any individual requesting it and promptly issue a new license plate,” Malloy said.

No word on whether they will be the low-digit plates that turn heads and convey a sense that the driver is a VIP. The potentially aggrieved include former Gov. M. Jodi Rell, her adult children, her chief of staff, Lisa Moody, and others, including Senate Minority Leader John P. McKinney, R-Fairfield.

The governor’s tart response — note the absence of an apology or admission of an error in releasing the data in response to a media request — is a signal that he will not be looking to discipline anyone on his staff involved in the episode. The players include his close media and political adviser, Roy Occhiogrosso, and his chief of staff, Timothy Bannon.

Occhiogrosso passed Rennie’s request to Bannon, who forwarded it to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The list of plate recipients came back through Bannon to Occhiogross, who released it to the blogger and Courant columnist who made the request, Kevin Rennie.

One problem: the information has been exempt for years from the Freedom of Information Act.

The law was changed to keep private driver’s license information, including home addresses, photos and dates of birth. But it also applied to license plate information, meaning that the well-connected who obtained VIP plates could have status and anonymity.

Earlier today, Republican State Chairman Chris Healy suggested the release of the names put lives at risk, amping up the controversy.

“The Malloy administration has taken a cavalier attitude about a serious matter and Governor Malloy must hold his administration officials accountable for their lapse in judgment and ability to follow both State and Federal law” Healy said. “In recent months we have seen people take political vengeance to a new level and it is reprehensible that the Malloy administration chose to disclose information that puts citizens at risk.”

Anyone think this is the last word?