The ax started to fall last week on political appointees who were given permanent civil service payroll jobs by the Rell administration in the months leading up to the change in governors.
The new Democratic governor, Dannel Malloy, said he would have his agency heads review the personnel files of, and possibly weed out, Rell's political people who made their way into regular merit-system jobs, and two were shown the door this past week, days before their probationary periods ran out.
One was Debra Hinman of Burlington, whose case was covered extensively in this column. She was the 55-year-old ex-school bus driver and pizza restaurant chef who lacked experience or education in farming but still was hired July 16 as an agricultural inspector by Rell's agriculture commissioner, F. Philip Prelli.
Hinman — who also happened to be the mother of a former aide to Rell's now-departed chief of staff, M. Lisa Moody — was let go on Tuesday from her $61,664-a-year job, four days before her six months' probation would have ended and she would have attained permanent status.
The other — never mentioned in this space before — was Christopher Tymniak, 32, of Stratford, who ran Rell's Bridgeport office for three years before his transfer last July 16 to the Department of Motor Vehicles as its $81,830-a-year legislative program manager. He got a visit Thursday from the DMV's chief administrative officer at the department headquarters in Wethersfield and was told he was out of a job. He was two days shy of the end of his "working test period," or probation.
"The determination was made that Mr. Tymniak would not be successful in his job, which is the purpose of a working test period," DMV spokesman William Seymour said Friday.
The Malloy people seem to be beginning their terminations with the Rell holdovers whose probation periods are soonest to end. The new governor and his staff have been mum on the number of Rell appointees' resumes they are examining and the total number of firings they envision.
But Tymniak talked freely on Friday about what this political situation looks like from the receiving end. "I understand that that there's a [new] party in power," he said. "I want to give the new governor the benefit of the doubt — he's got tough decisions to make … balancing the state budget and all that."
Tymniak is a registered Republican and the son of two former members of the state House of Representatives. He said he is not active in GOP politics and knew from reading the newspaper that Malloy would be examining the qualifications of the Rell people he inherited. But, he said, "I saw myself as a government employee" instead of a political type who would be questioned for lack of qualifications — as was Hinman, who has chosen not to talk about her situation with The Courant.
Tymniak said he got a 91 on his civil service examination — not the highest among candidates, but at the high end, he said — and was interviewed before his hiring by Robert Ward, who then was the DMV commissioner and recently was named one of two state auditors of public accounts, subject to upcoming legislative confirmation.
"I thought I would have had an opportunity to meet the new commissioner," Tymniak said. "Because Gov. Malloy said everyone would be looked at carefully, I was hoping that would have meant the commissioner would have called me in and said, 'Listen, Chris, you're on a list here' ... and I could have explained what I had been doing" and argue his case.
But it didn't happen that way, and a day later Tymniak and his wife, Nicole, had agreed that she would return to work full time at a West Haven forklift company in an administrative job. She had been working three days a week while their 2-year-old son, Sam, was in day care and staying home on Tuesdays and Thursdays with the boy. Now the boy will be pulled out of day care to save money, and "I'm going to be Mr. Mom" while he looks for a private-sector job. Tymniak has a degree in business management, as well as a real estate license.
"One thing I do want to say is that I thought the DMV leadership and employees do a remarkable job there," Tymniak said. "They're not appreciated."
Others are likely to follow Tymniak and Hinman out the door in coming months, because the probation periods of several of those in question extend into June.
One political appointee who got a big civil service job in Rell's waning days is Jacqueline Mandyck of West Hartford, whose probationary period ends April 21. Mandyck, who had been Rell's deputy commissioner of consumer protection, was hired Oct. 22 into a $113,623-a-year permanent job on the state payroll as a community development administrator in charge of a newly reorganized housing division in the state's Department of Economic and Community Development.
Mandyck knows Moody, the Rell staff chief, as well as Moody's friend and influential lobbyist Paddi LeShane. She was hired for the new job by Rell's economic development commissioner, Joan McDonald, over two higher-scoring candidates.
McDonald had expressed an interest in remaining as commissioner under Malloy and has been running the department on an interim basis since the new governor took over. But on Friday, she was nominated as New York state transportation commissioner by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, so she won't be staying.
Whether Mandyck will stay is unknown. Malloy and his staff still have not said whether they will keep her. Sources note that Mandyck has both Republican and Democratic ties and might find receptive ears in the new administration; while she has worked most recently for Rell, she previously worked for Trinity College on the Learning Corridor development next to the campus in Hartford at a time when former Democratic state Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin Sullivan, also of West Hartford, was a Trinity administrator.
Another Democrat who worked with Trinity College on that project was ex-Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez, now free while appealing a corruption conviction for which he has been sentenced to three years in prison. Mandyck helped to plan two mayoral inauguration galas for Perez, The Courant reported in 2006.
Jon Lender is a reporter on The Courant's investigative desk, with a focus on government and politics. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 860-241-6524, or c/o The Hartford Courant, 285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115.