Ex-CSU Chancellor Carter pays ethics fine over hiring of wife

After stepping down following a tumultuous year, former Connecticut State University System Chancellor David Carter this week paid a $2,000 fine for an ethics violation involving the hiring of his wife for a $26,903 part-time job during a hiring freeze.

A stipulation and consent order says Carter failed to disclose his financial interest in the rehiring of his wife to run Southern Connecticut State University’s graduate school one month after she took an incentive to retire from the same job. Carter signed the order and paid the fine Tuesday.

“Conflicts of interest must be properly disclosed as required by law, and handled at a level higher than the individual with the conflict,” said Office of State Ethics Carol Carson in a statement announcing the decision.

According to the order, Carter told the ethics office he did not know of the reporting requirement and that he “had instituted his own recusal process from any matters involving his wife and her office. He stated he was therefore unaware of the request or approval regarding his wife.”

Carters’ wife, Sandra Holley, had previously worked at SCSU as the chair of the graduate school, but elected to take the early retirement incentive package the state offered in June 2009. At the time, the state was in the midst of a hiring freeze, and Carter’s approval was required for the hiring of any administrator.

On June 30, the president of SCSU faxed a memo to Carter asking for approval to rehire three retired administrators, including Holley. The request was approved the next day.

Carter said the request was handled by his executive assistant/associate vice chancellor, according to the order, because it involved his wife. That position was held by David Trainor, according to the CSUS website. Carter told the office the request was approved “without the knowledge of or any consultation with” him.

The Office of the State Comptroller reports the last full year before retiring, Holley was paid $167,207. Her pay for the first six months of 2009 and for the 120 days she was brought back was $127,690. By taking the early retirement incentive package, her pension payment increased by about $670 a month. She receives a $9,230 monthly pension payment, which she still received when she returned to SCSU temporarily.

Susan Cusato, head of the SCSU faculty union, said it didn’t strike her as odd at the time but said state ethics laws are in place for a reason.

“It didn’t strike me at the time as unethical, but I didn’t know it was the chancellor making that decision,” she said. “You should be up front and honest.”