Dalio Philanthropies

The governing board of a public-private education partnership was asked to unanimously approve — via mail — a tentative budget, nearly $250,000 in executive compensation, and various operating procedures before its  first meeting.

Legislative leaders who sit on the board all declined the request this week.

The Partnership for Connecticut, a venture between the state and hedge fund giant Ray Dalio’s philanthropic arm, is expected to invest as much as $300 million into low-performing public schools over the next five years.

The partnership’s 12-member governing board, which includes five elected state officials, hasn’t scheduled a meeting yet.

But in an Aug. 22 letter, representatives of Dalio Philanthropies asked Gov. Ned Lamont, House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney and Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano to approve seven “action items” now, through a written reply.

Besides a $247,500 annual salary for the yet-to-be-hired president and CEO of the partnership, these action items include: 

  • Approval of a $425,000 initial operating budget to cover expenses through December.
  • Adoption of a charter and expenditure management rules.
  • Creation of a four-member subcommittee of the governing board, which would have power to act when the full panel wasn’t present.  No legislators would serve on this subcommittee, which would include two Lamont appointees and two from Dalio Philanthropies.
  • Election of board officers.
  • And approval of a “transparency commitment” policy statement pledging to host at least one public meeting per year, organize multiple community forums. provide semi-annual public reports to the legislature, and publish online information about the partnerships’ efforts.

The letter asks for “unanimous written consent.”

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides of Derby and Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano of North Haven. Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio

“I do not believe that it is responsible corporate governance to address such important matters outside of a full board meeting,” Klarides wrote back. “The items I have been asked to consent to represent significant actions which will have consequences and implications for the citizens of Connecticut.”

Dalio and his wife, Barbara, pledged in April to contribute $100 million over the next five years to help Connecticut’s low-performing districts, with the state committing to match the Dalio’s contribution with $100 million in public funds. Both sides have agreed, through the partnership, to try to raise another $100 million in contributions from other private donors.

The Dalios already have funded numerous smaller initiatives in recent years to assist public school students in East Hartford, Meriden, New Haven and Hartford, earning praise from local education leaders, Lamont and legislators, who framed the public-private partnership as a new and effective way to improve Connecticut schools.

“Considering this board ultimately plans on using $100 million of taxpayer money, these types of decisions need to be made in the light of day.”

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides

But Dalio Philanthropies also pressed the Lamont administration for an unprecedented degree of privacy in this new venture.

Lamont and legislators, at the Dalios’ request, agreed to exempt the governing board from state disclosure and ethics rules. This would enable the governing board to exclude the public from any meetings it wishes.

Klarides and other House Republicans have been most vocal in objecting to this concession, saying a major investment — including $100 million of public funds — in Connecticut’s schools, needs to follow an open process.

Klarides told the CT Mirror on Thursday that voting via correspondence offers no opportunities to ask important questions or make fully information decisions. “I’m happy to discuss any of these issues at a board meeting,” she said. 

Fasano expressed similar concerns in a written response.

“The ultimate recommendations and actions may be appropriate, but the process seems extremely lacking,” he wrote. “These are not all ministerial tasks. Some are substantive and ought to be afforded the opportunity of discussion.”

Aresimowicz and Looney also declined to give written approval, and Aresimowicz urged legislative leaders and representatives of Dalio Philanthropies to sit down and find common ground rules.

As you all know, I think that this is a great opportunity for our state – using state dollars to leverage significant private investment in our educational system,” Aresimowicz wrote in an email. “I would like to see us iron out any potential issues, and work together to shape the partnership, so that it can begin the process of working with school districts, students, teachers and other parties to provide additional opportunities throughout our state.”

Looney made a similar appeal.

“Senator Looney looks forward to discussing the value of the partnership, the great educational possibilities it presents to the state of Connecticut, and our requirement for an open and transparent collaboration,” said Kevin Coughlin, spokesman for the Senate Democratic Caucus.

House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, right, and Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney can expect an invitation to a tolls meeting soon. mark pazniokas / ctmirror.org

The Dalios and the Lamont administration agreed to Aresimowicz’s proposal. 

“We’re supportive of that idea,” Dalio Philanthropies wrote.

Max Reiss, Lamont’s communications director, said the governor is willing to approve the action items by letter, but also is comfortable with all parties ironing out the ground rules first.

“The governor wants this unique and exciting opportunity for Connecticut to move forward,” Reiss said. “If that requires more collaboration, then he supports that.”

The action items that lawmakers declined to approve included a slate of officers for the governing board. Erik Clemons, CEO and president of Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology, who was appointed to the board by Dalio Philanthropies, would serve as president. Barbara Dalio would be vice president.

Klarides said whether it involves electing officers, hiring staff, or investing in schools, the public should be able to follow these decisions.

“Considering this board ultimately plans on using $100 million of taxpayer money, these types of decisions need to be made in the light of day,” Klarides said.

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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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  1. This grift, if ultimately successful, would be legendary and make the Malloy-Manafort Busway to Nowhere con look like retirees loading up on extra sugar packets and napkins with their complimentary coffee at McDonald’s.

    How elaborate and bold, che risqué Monsieur Dalio, trebon!

  2. They’ll have their pomp and circumstance meeting and approve the numbers anyway. After all it isn’t the level of pay or the budget, its the lack of a meeting. The Hartford School Superintendent makes $260K, the President of CT Colleges makes over $350K and the UConn President makes over $1MM. $250K is nothing for a administration job surrounding educational funding, the money is aplenty for a no stress job. Administrative salaries are why we have a student loan crisis.

  3. Well… if that isn’t the definition of chutzpah, I don’t know what is. It’s one thing to want to meet in closed session when $100M of taxpayer money is involved (which is pretty audacious in itself), but to ask people to make decisions without a meeting, without discussion and debate, and … by mail?! Wow!

  4. I’m guessing that for most of Dalio’s everyday activities, these particular requests are pretty much “Mikey Mouse” administrative housekeeping and non-substantive issues not worthy of wasting people’s time meeting over. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t fully appreciate what it meant to step into the Connecticut Government Twilight Zone when he offered up his $100MM. His head is probably exploding.

    I get the whole transparency thing but if there is a question about why Connecticut has turned in to the black hole that it is, this example of bureaucracy and self righteous political posturing is probably exhibit 1.

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