David L. Guay, the gubernatorial appointee who embodied the Malloy administration’s tense relationship with the state’s three major watchdog agencies, is stepping down as executive administrator of the Office of Government Accountability for a new government post.
Guay will become the first executive director of the Contracting Standards Board. He starts the new job Oct. 18.
“I was honored to be the first executive administrator of the OGA, probably one of the hardest assignments in state government, but I was proud to do it,” Guay said Tuesday. “I’m looking forward to being the first executive director of the Contracting Standards Board.”
The heads of the three largest autonomous agencies – Freedom of Information, Elections Enforcement and Ethics – had been resisting their inclusion in the new office. All three have an oversight role over the executive branch.
The agency heads were informed of Guay’s departure in a terse email announcing his resignation and his acceptance of the new post.
“It’s definitely an opportunity to start anew,” said Colleen Murphy, executive director of FOI. “There is potential for tension still when you have a gubernatorial appointee that is providing services to nine separate smaller units. I think that’s still there.”
“I’m just looking forward to a new beginning and a new executive administrator who will work with the watchdogs to strenghten our mission and work with us moving forward,” said Michael Brandi, executive director of the Elections Enforcement Commission.
The change comes as the commission that oversees the Office of Government Accountability awaits an opinion from the attorney general’s office about its authority to periodically evaluate and set goals for the administrator. The request was sent Sept. 18.
At Malloy’s insistence, nine autonomous oversight agencies were consolidated into the Office of Government Accountability two years ago, ostensibly as a way to eliminate duplicative back-office functions. But the consolidation also raised broader policy questions as it put a gubernatorial appointee over the independent agencies, a source of friction from the start.
Guay conceded in May 2012 that uniting nine autonomous watchdog groups to consolidate and share business functions was not without challenges.
“Clearly this is a work in progress,” he said then, adding that the agency nonetheless is leaner, “seeking those savings and efficiencies and refining the processes of government.”
The legislature approved an $8.6 million budget in 2012 for the OGA for the fiscal year that began July 1, 2012. That’s down 20 percent from the $10.7 million allocated in total across nine watchdog agency budgets in 2010-11 — the fiscal year before the merger.
Malloy sought a further consolidation this year, trying to combine and cut the agencies legal staffs. The plan was abandoned in the face of legislative opposition.
One of the nine autonomous units within OGA is the Contracting Standards Board, which was authorized by legislative action in 2007, but has no staff. The others are the offices of the Victim Advocate and Child Advocate, the Board of Firearms Permit Examiners, the Judicial Review Council and the Judicial Selection Commission.
The Governmental Accountability Commission now will make recommendations for Guay’s successor to the governor.
“We’ve all, I think, learned a little bit over the past few years,” Murphy said. “I think with the right person we’ll be in better shape.”