Malloy refuses lawyer’s call to slow Irene disciplinary hearings

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy brushed aside a lawyer’s complaint today that his administration was moving too quickly against 24 state employees suspected of fraudulently obtaining disaster aid after Tropical Storm Irene.

“The reality about Connecticut’s government is it routinely moved too slow, if at all, particularly in incidents like this,” Malloy said. “I think what we’re trying to do is send a very clear message to the citizens of Connecticut that we take this as seriously as they take it, and we’re going to move in an expeditious fashion.”

Rich Rochlin, a lawyer who says he is representing some of the state employees facing administrative hearings and possible termination, told the administration by letter Monday that chaos surrounded the administration of the program, suggesting that some employees may have been misled into applying for aid.

“Perhaps the administration is aware of these facts but has yet to report that it is conducting an internal investigation,” Rochlin wrote in a letter to Andrew McDonald, the governor’s general counsel. “Workers’ jobs and lives can and will be impacted by how this investigation proceeds.”

Malloy, a former prosecutor, was dismissive of the letter.

“If somebody is being paid $250 an hour to represent somebody, what do you think they’re going to say?” Malloy said.

Rochlin could not be reached for comment. The administration says it is unsure whom Rochlin is representing.

“He refused to disclose who his clients were,” said McDonald, who says he spoke to Rochlin on Saturday.

McDonald wrote Rochlin a letter challenging him to identify and provide his clients if they have information indicating they were the victims of misinformation by the Department of Social Services, which administered the aid program.

With their permission, the state would then release their applications for D-SNAP, the Disaster-Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, McDonald said.

“Please let me know if this proposal is acceptable to you and your clients. If it is, I will draft the appropriate waiver forms, once you provide me with the actual names of any of your clients who wish to have their assertions tested openly and honestly,” he wrote.

Malloy said he had no evidence that the Department of Social Services mishandled the federally funded aid program.

“I believe those procedures followed the federal guidelines,” Malloy said.

Malloy spoke to reporters at the state Capitol after his return from Minnesota, where he was on a 24-hour economic development trip. He declined to say whom he had met, or whether he was close to enticing an employer to move here.