It's the beginning of August and while you enjoy the height of summer pleasure, government and politics roll along, providing an opportunity to review some old items and touch on some new ones.
••The Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority (CRRA) continues to battle to keep some communications between it and its "municipal liaison" Thomas Ritter, a lawyer at the law firm Brown Rudnick, which also represents CRRA. The Freedom of Information Commission heard more testimony Friday. The costly matter has dragged on for months. CRRA is seeking to thwart Matthew Hennessy in his pursuit of a claim over the awarding of the municipal services contract to Ritter.
CRRA claims Ritter sometimes was its lawyer and at other times was not. The issue ensnared House Republican leader Lawrence Cafero earlier this year. He's a "contract partner" at Brown Rudnick and as a legislative leader appoints two members of the CRRA board. Cafero insisted earlier this year that his appointees did not vote on the lucrative contracts that his firm receives from CRRA. Cafero appointee Granby First Selectman John Adams must not have read Cafero's claims. In May, Adams voted to pay Brown Rudnick another $85,000 this year.
•State government's creation of a health insurance exchange hit a bump last week when Aetna, the giant health insurance company headquartered in Hartford, decided not to participate in the program's October launch. Aetna believed it needed higher rates than state regulators would allow to make money on it.
Another major health care company, Bloomfield-based CIGNA, is not in the state exchange. In its website's corporate responsibility section, the international powerhouse says it supports the program. CIGNA receives tens of millions in state aid under Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's 2011 corporate welfare program. Over a decade, CIGNA could reap as much as $71 million in taxpayer benefits. You might think that such a bounty from the state's working men and women to a corporation that makes billions would prompt CIGNA to participate in the state's ballyhooed medical insurance exchange. You would be wrong.
The cost of medical care looms over many cogs of state government. The budget for this fiscal year and the one that follows includes savings of more than $167 million in detecting and proving fraud in the Medicaid program of health care for the poor in the next two years. That seems wildly optimistic. The state does have some new tools for pursuing misuse of Medicaid, but those investigations take a long time to get from suspicion to resolution.
The projected Medicaid fraud figure looks more like an attempt to make the budget appear balanced than to include realistic numbers. It's in the fantasy portion of the document.
•Much of the responsibility for clawing back undeserved Medicaid funds will fall on state Attorney General George Jepsen. He's busy. On July 31, Jepsen joined the University of Connecticut's women's basketball team at the White House to mark its championship victory earlier this year.
Jepsen's office is looking for a law firm to oversee an investigation into how UConn officials handled allegations of sexual misconduct by a faculty member. Who gets the job may make the difference in how the critical inquiry goes. A powerful storm is gathering force and approaching the university.
Also at the White House with the team were the head of the UConn trustees, insider Larry McHugh; UConn President Susan Herbst; and her chief of staff, Rachel Rubin. No one in state government knows how to work the obscure levers of influence better than Rubin.
Where were other statewide officials? Comptroller Kevin Lembo, Treasurer Denise Nappier and Secretary of the State Denise Merrill must have been otherwise engaged. Jepsen's office says the White House invited him, and he had some meetings while he was there. It also says he exchanged only pleasantries with UConn officials at "the crowded event." Nevertheless, "it is always appropriate for the attorney general to meet with and talk to university officers," Jepsen's office wrote last week.
I disagree. Jepsen is an important figure in maintaining public confidence in this investigation. He needs to separate himself from UConn officials until this matter is resolved. If we are going to have a whitewash, it should not run through the White House.
Kevin Rennie is a lawyer and a former Republican state legislator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Copyright © 2015, CT Now