Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told his commissioners today that they must establish a culture of openness and transparency as the administration copes with state employees who fraudulently obtained disaster relief after Tropical Storm Irene.
“We need to create an environment, an environment in which all of our fellow state employees feel comfortable in bringing their concerns to us in management,” Malloy said during his monthly meeting with state agency heads.
Reading from notes, Malloy reiterated his intention to deal swiftly and severely with those shown to have committed fraud: 15 employees have been referred to their managers for disciplinary proceedings, and more referrals are expected.
“The people whose names we have forwarded to various agencies will face the most severe consequences, administrative and legal, that exist, and I suspect we’ll hear some additional cases and the consequences in those will be swift, as well,” Malloy said.
The governor told reporters after the commissioner’s meeting that the 15 state employees identified as committing fraud all had incomes that clearly exceeded the limits on receiving the Irene assistance.
“The ones that have been referred so far are the ones that are obvious,” Malloy said.
An application-by-application review of the other nearly 800 employees who received the aid will take longer, he said.
Roderick L. Bremby, the commissioner of social services, whose department administered the federally funded program, said the fraud was discovered before a formal audit had begun of the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as D-SNAP.
Sources have said one or more DSS employees saw names of recipients whom they had recognized as highly paid state employees, an account that Bremby confirmed today.
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.
Benefits ranged from $200 to $1,202.
Malloy told his commissioners that a whistleblower statute offers protections to employees who wish to reveal wrongdoing, but he said the administration must go beyond the law and create a culture that promotes whistleblowing.
“I’ve been told that in other administrations that might not have been the goal. It was my goal in Stamford. That is my goal here. I would love it if you’d all buy into that concept,” he said. “We’ll develop our own culture and our own history in this administration.”
“This administration exists to serve the taxpayers, not ourselves, and I hope you will all understand my position,” he said.
In Stamford, Malloy said, he had an open-door policy, part of a culture that encouraged employees to communicate freely with top managers.
“I’ve been a little busy this first 11 months taking on some pretty big issues,” Malloy said. “But in reflecting about this issue, I understand that we need to do more work to create an environment in which people are rapidly sharing information about their concerns when it comes to how government is operated.”
Malloy was asked if he undercut that message by reducing the staffs of the state watchdog agencies in his first budget as governor.
“I don’t think there is any inconsistency at all,” Malloy said. “I believe we are able to do more with less.”
Malloy told reporters he did not see the administration’s raw relations with some unionized state employees who still are angry over concessions as an obstacle to creating an environment of greater trust between labor and management.
The governor said the administration has common cause with the employees on maintaining integrity.
“I think the people who work for the state of Connecticut are deeply disappointed, offended, outraged that some number of their fellow employees may have taken advantage of this program,” he said. “I haven’t heard a single union leader defend it.”