The heads of state government’s nine watchdog agencies referred three finalists Monday to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to become executive director of the new Office of Governmental Accountability — including one candidate who’s prepared to take no salary.

The Governmental Accountability Commission voted unanimously following a 50-minute closed-door debate to recommend: former Freedom of Information Commission executive director Mitchell W. Pearlman; longtime state accountancy board director David Guay; and former Motor Vehicles Commissioner Nancy Hadley.

Malloy has until Sept. 1 to appoint an executive director. That person would serve on an interim basis until after the legislature convenes the regular 2012 session on Feb. 8, during which the appointment must be considered by the House and Senate.

“This is a final pool of deep talent and commitment, and OGA would be well-served with any of these people at the helm,” Colleen Flanagan, the governor’s spokeswoman, said Monday. “Governor Malloy will review the candidates and select the person who he believes will help lead the new consolidated agency, while keeping in mind the unique missions of the individual bureaus.”

“I feel very confident that we’ve chosen the best people for this job,” Carol Carson, executive director of the Office of State Ethics and chairwoman of the accountability commission, said afterward.

Carson said the panel was looking for candidates “with the ability to work with all of the varied commissions and offices — and their varied missions — in a way that won’t cause chaos.”

Malloy and the legislature drew mixed reviews for their decision to combine nine watchdog groups into one agency. The new divisions are supposed to maintain autonomy over their respective duties and most of their financial decisions under the merger plan, with the executive director only overseeing business and administrative functions. But some critics have argued the merger would weaken many if not all of the watchdog functions.

Besides Ethics and the FOIC, the new Office of Governmental Accountability also includes: the State Elections Enforcement Commission, the Office of the Victim Advocate, the Office of the Child Advocate, the Judicial Selection Commission, the Judicial Review Council, the State Contracting Standards Board and the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners.

One of the most vocal critics of the merger has been Pearlman, a Glastonbury lawyer who retired in 2005 after 30 years with the Freedom of Information Commission and 28 years as its executive director and general counsel.

Pearlman, who said during an interview Friday that he is seeking the director’s post primarily to help safeguard the independence of the watchdog divisions, also pledged to forgo a salary if given the job. He now collects an annual pension of $68,500 and the approved annual pay range for the job he is seeking runs from $95,463 to $145,684.

The fact that Mitchell Pearlman was offering to take the job for no pay did not seem to put him at the front of the line for consideration with Malloy.

“There is a process,” Malloy told Capitol reporters following an afternoon event at a Hartford-based, nonprofit social services agency. “When I get those names and resumes I will take it all into consideration. If his name one of the names I will consider it.”

Guay, who lives in South Windsor, has been executive director of the state Board of Accountancy since 1989.

Hadley, a Bridgeport resident, served as DMV Commissioner from 1993 to 1995, primarily and as deputy commissioner of Transportation from 1991 to 1993 under then-Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr.  From 2004 to 2009 she also worked for the city of Bridgeport, first as director of the Office of Planning and Development and later as senior project manager for the city housing authority.

Pearlman had referred to the merger plan back in May as “a disaster” for the Freedom of Information Commission, which also is now included in the Office of Governmental Accountability.

“I feel very strongly about the independence of the watchdog and advocacy agencies,” Pearlman said last week, describing his role as one who would be “mediate disagreements. I don’t think I’m the boss.” That job, he said, belongs to the nine division heads.

Pearlman’s concerns were echoed Monday by several watchdog division heads.

“I was mainly looking for someone who understands we have nine divisions with very different — and sometimes conflicting — mandates,” said Victims’ Advocate Michelle Cruz said.

Jeanne Milstein, Connecticut’s child advocate, said she believes the panel recommended finalists with intelligence and integrity “who will help us maintain the independence and autonomy of our offices.”

The current head of the FOIC, Colleen Murphy, added that the executive diretor not only needs to protect the independence of these various agencies, but have the depth of background “to be able to be supportive of each of these unique and varied missions.”

Two individuals interviewed Friday who were not included on the list of three forwarded to Malloy on Monday are:

  • Gloria Davis Delancy of Bloomfield, chief fiscal and administrative officer at the FOIC since 1998.
  • Michael J. Purcaro of Ellington, chief administrative officer for the state Department of Public Health since 2009.
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Keith M. PhaneufState Budget Reporter

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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