Gov. Ned Lamont on Monday backed the chief state’s attorney’s decision to hand over to federal authorities a criminal investigation into state police who allegedly submitted tens of thousands of phony traffic stop tickets to Connecticut’s racial profiling database.
“I think it’s appropriate,” Lamont said. “I think Pat Griffin, the state’s attorney, thought it was important to step back and let them. We’re gonna coordinate in any way we can, be absolutely forthcoming, no stone left unturned.”
The governor’s comments were in response to a recent statement from Griffin, Connecticut’s top prosecutor, who first told WTNH News 8 that he has relinquished control of the criminal probe into the potential wrongdoing to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“I think DOJ brings the tools and the resources necessary to conduct this investigation, on the one hand. On the other, I think that the investigation will be thorough,” Griffin said. “I think that it will be independent, and I think when it’s concluded, I’m hopeful that we’ll get to the bottom of this. If people need to be held accountable, either in federal court or in state court, we’ll do that.”
In a statement to the CT Mirror late Monday, Griffin added: “My election to have our investigative team stand down in response to the DOJ request was made after careful consideration and reflects a real concern that simultaneous state and federal investigations would involve unnecessary duplication of efforts that could complicate and/or compromise the overall investigation.”
The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment. But Lamont’s endorsement of the DOJ investigation comes as advocates and lawmakers have called for more accountability and transparency from the state.
Last summer, Hearst Connecticut Media Group revealed how, in 2018, four state troopers had fabricated hundreds of traffic stop tickets for better assignments, pay increases, promotions and specialty vehicles.
In June, state auditors published a report detailing how they were unable to corroborate 25,966 traffic stops submitted to the racial profiling database, while indicating that the number of falsified records could possibly reach 58,553. They found that the fake records reflected more infractions for white drivers and fewer for Black and Hispanic motorists.
The report outlined how the falsifications by state troopers and constables compromised the accuracy of racial profiling data, which the state collects annually. It also acknowledged that investigating the motives for the fabrications was not part of the audit.
After the audit’s release, Griffin’s office said it was launching an investigation into “the information received recently through the academic report” but declined to comment further on the nature of the inquiry or whom it involved.
The state investigation was expected to coincide with another pending inquiry, conducted jointly with state police, surrounding the four troopers.
Lamont then announced that he was appointing Deidre Daly, formerly a federal prosecutor under President Barack Obama, to investigate “how and why the misconduct occurred, why it went undetected for so long and what reforms should be implemented to ensure that such misconduct does not reoccur.”
State legislators on the judiciary and public safety committees also held a meeting to gather more information.
At the legislative forum, the official overseeing the state police, James Rovella, said his agency had complied with a subpoena from the federal Department of Transportation, who is also conducting an investigation. DOT investigations, separate from the DOJ, typically “involve crimes with a public safety impact, procurement and grant fraud schemes that significantly impact DOT funds, consumer and workforce fraud, and employee integrity violations.”
In rare public remarks last week, Griffin said it was in early July when the DOJ asked the state to halt its own investigation so the feds could take over.
“You can’t have two cooks in the same kitchen working off the same cookbook, and so DOJ has to take the lead on it,” Griffin said in the interview with WTNH. “And as the chief state’s attorney, I concurred with that decision.”
Questions remain about how the state has handled the potential misconduct.
The four troopers first identified by Hearst to have fabricated tickets — Timothy Bentley, Noah Gouveia, Kevin Moore and Daniel Richter — only received 10-day and two-day suspensions. Bentley and Gouveia retired. Richter then retired in 2021. The three retired troopers still receive pensions, while Moore is still an active employee.
In the legislative hearing last month, while vowing to hold accountable any state trooper found to have intentionally submitted faulty data, Rovella pleaded with the general public to stop “focusing on the negative.” He said doing so would be an “injustice” to law enforcement who are doing their jobs with integrity.
And Daly, whom Lamont appointed to head the investigation into state police misconduct, is employed by a Stamford law firm that has worked on investment deals with a venture capital firm co-founded by the governor’s wife, Annie Lamont. She has personally helped the first lady prepare financial reports she’s made to the governor’s office and Office of State Ethics.
On Monday, Lamont defended the state’s approach to the scandal, adding that the press is “jumping to some conclusions” before officials complete their inquiries.
“I gotta see whether it’s a small handful of people that were actually padding the accounts and doing this on purpose or whether it was broader than that,” Lamont said. “That’s why we’re gonna have an independent investigation to get to the bottom of this.
“The state’s attorney took a look at it, and now the feds are,” he said. “We’re cooperating 100% to make sure we get to the bottom of this.”