Four fired and four retired in Irene investigation

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Tuesday that four state employees have been fired, four have elected to retire and 90 others face disciplinary hearings that could cost them their jobs as a result of the Storm Irene disaster-relief investigation.

The governor said the state’s investigation found that at least 686 of the approximately 800 state employees who obtained federal disaster relief through the state Department of Social Services were entitled to the aid.

“That means the vast majority of state employees who received these federal benefits were honest,” Malloy said.

DSS will complete its review of state-employee applications for Irene aid by the close of business Wednesday and refer any other cases of fraud it finds to agency heads for disciplinary hearings.

“These cases cannot languish in your departments,” Malloy told his department heads. Employees who did nothing wrong should be relieved of any sense of suspicion, and those who committed fraud should be removed, he said.

Addressing the monthly meeting of his agency heads, Malloy praised Roderick Bremby, his commissioner of social services, for his handling of a scandal that prompted some calls for his firing on talk radio.

“I thank him for his leadership,” Malloy said.

Malloy said DSS now will review all other applications from outside the pool of state employees for fraud, a step far above the federal auditing standards for the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as D-SNAP.

The suspected fraud was discovered by DSS employees conducting a federally required review, including a random check of one-half of 1 percent of all recipients, plus a check of every aid recipient employed by the administering agency — DSS in the case of Connecticut.

State auditors say that of the approximately 800 state employees to obtain aid, 41 were employed at DSS. In all, 23,726 households with 74,230 people got the aid.

Eligible households were to receive food aid ranging from $200 for a single adult to $1,202 for a family of eight. Applicants had to identify uninsured disaster losses incurred from Aug. 27 to Sept. 25. Qualified losses included lost wages and expenses for temporary shelter, emergency repairs and health care due to the tropical storm that destroyed or significantly damaged hundreds of homes.

The maximum monthly “take-home income and liquid assets” an applicant could have for the covered 30-day period was $2,186 for a single adult, $2,847 for a household of two, $3,272 for three, $3,859 for four, $4,245 for five, $4,753 for six, $5,116 for seven and $5,479 for eight.

On the advice of the attorney general’s office, no names of terminated employees were released.

Under most circumstances, documents concerned an employee’s termination or discipline is public, but the involvement of an income-related aid program in the case is a complication, Assistant Attorney General Mark F. Kohler wrote.

“Nondisclosure of this information is not just a matter of important state policy, but is required by federal law,” Kohler wrote.