A Republican state senator is criticizing the Malloy administration for failing to release documents outlining the agreement between the state and the Jackson Laboratory that intends to bring 300 jobs to Farmington.
“I think we should know the details of the deal,'' Fasano said in an interview Friday. "I don't know what promises were made by the state in writing.''
As an attorney who handles land transactions, Fasano said he is constantly asking questions about the details of a deal. The Jackson laboratory would be constructed on state-owned land, but Jackson would own the building that would be constructed with a $192 million foregiveable loan from the state at 1 percent interest.
"What if the day after you give them the building, they mortgage the building for $150 million? Fasano asked. "If the bank forecloses, can they sell it? I don't think that's going to happen in this case, but I don't know. There's just an infinite number of questions you can ask.''
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has repeatedly talked about "transparency'' since taking office 10 months ago, but Republicans say they have been unable to get answers about the Jackson laboratory deal since it was announced.
Roy Occhiogrosso, the senior advisor and chief spokesman for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, said that the document sought by Fasano contains trade secrets - which he would not describe - that cannot be disclosed under a law passed by the state legislature in 2000.
"Neither Governor Rowland nor Governor Rell ever released the kind of trade secrets that are in these documents,'' Occhiogrosso told Capitol Watch. "Everybody understands the term 'trade secrets' - meaning they are pieces of information that you don't want your competitors to know about. ... The law says we can't release the document. What he asked for, he can't get by law.''
After writing a letter to Smith on Wednesday that sought the agreement, Fasano said he "received a voice mail from one of her staffers refusing to turn over the documents on the basis of a very weak legal argument.''
That response prompted Fasano to write another letter to Smith on Friday that asks for detailed reasons for the refusal under the state's Freedom of Information laws. Two aspects of the law that Fasano said were cited by Smith are the exemptions related to records dealing with ongoing contract negotiations and also records protecting certain trade secrets.
"It is important to note that the only legitimate factor to consider is the public interest, not the interest of Jackson Labs, the interest of your department or the interest of the governor's office,'' Fasano wrote to Smith. "Given that the public is being asked to provide Jackson Labs with almost $300 million in taxpayer money, the public's interest in understanding the details of the agreement with Jackson Labs is both legitimate and significant. I cannot imagine that there is anything in the letter of intent or any other related document that would lead to the conclusion that it is in the public interest to refuse its disclosure.''
When told that Smith had testified at an informational hearing that Jackson will own the building as it is being constructed, Fasano said, "That's even scarier for me. I think it's even worse. They shouldn't get title until they finish the building. Let's say we get into a beef with them while they're building the building. We should know what we're risking.''
But Occhiogrosso said that some of the details of the deal are still being worked out between the state and Jackson.
"The Republicans have made it clear they intend to make this a political issue,'' Occhiogrosso said. "I happen to think they're wrong. ... You have this ridiculous spectacle where the Republicans are trying to make an issue out of it.''
Occhiogrosso criticized state Sen. Leonard Suzio of Meriden, who has become one of the most outspoken opponents of the deal. Suzio has spoken publicly against the plan, including on a radio talk show with former Gov. John G. Rowland.
Occhiogrosso said that Suzio was "just way out beyond right field in the bullpen somewhere'' in his criticism.
"Governor Rowland talking about assuming risk in any economic development deal?'' Occhiogrosso asked. "He bonded $509 million in today's dollars for a football stadium for 10 games a year. By the way, he couldn't even pull it off.''