Saying Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is rushing to judgment, an attorney is asking the state to declare a moratorium on all disciplinary hearings on the potential firings of state employees who received food stamp benefits following Tropical Storm Irene.

Rich Rochlin, who said he represents more than 10 state employees, says the state needs to order a comprehensive, independent investigation because his clients told him that food stamp benefits were distributed without any verification. His clients are arguing that they should not be subject to losing their jobs because they were unaware of the income limits in the program, which were not listed on the official two-page application.

So far, 24 state employees have been referred to their department supervisors for disciplinary hearings that could eventually lead to firings and the revocation of their pensions. Overall, 92 percent of those who filled out applications for food stamps were approved, according to state records. That does not include potential applicants who learned about the eligibility requirements and walked away without ever filling out an application.

Rochlin said the state employees had "no intent to defraud anybody'' when they applied for benefits following the storm.

Malloy's chief legal counsel, Andrew McDonald, said he would not respond to Rochlin's contention - in a letter to McDonald - that the state employees believe they are the subject of "a political witch-hunt'' over food stamp fraud.

"Within half an hour of him sending this letter to me, he's posted it on his web site, and he's clearly trying to use the situation to develop clients,'' McDonald told Capitol Watch. "I'm not going to participate in his marketing efforts.''

During a 10-minute telephone conversation with Rochlin, McDonald said that Rochlin refused to tell him who his clients are. But Rochlin said he had not spoken to McDonald since Saturday afternoon, and clients have stepped forward on Sunday and Monday.

Rochlin is demanding an outside, independent investigation by Witt Associates - the same consulting firm that was summoned by the Malloy administration to examine the actions of the Connecticut Light & Power Company after the freak, pre-Halloween storm plunged much of the state into darkness.

He said employees of the Department of Social Services, which oversees food stamps, did not ask applicants to verify their income in the crucial period during and after the storm - specifically from August 27 to September 25.

"It was done hastily and without precision to a point where DSS workers were rushing people through the system like cattle and not asking people how much they made for the month of August 27 to September 25,'' Rochlin said Monday in an interview.

"The state has been heavy on dispensing information on folks that are high paid and little about how Malloy's government was ill-trained, ill-equipped, and inconsistent and pushed people through like cattle. Rather than holding a press conference on a Sunday before you leave for Beverly Hills, you should say we're going to take a hard look at how we handled this. It needs to be a comprehensive investigation. Take a look internally at your own administration. ... That requires some self-examination that politicians aren't always willing to do.''

Rochlin, a former partner at the Shipman & Goodwin law firm who now operates his own firm with a partner, added, "This shouldn't be about who can get the most political traction on this. ... Open everything up to an independent consulting firm. Maybe it'll completely exonerate the Malloy administration. I challenge them to do that. Allow themselves to be scrutinized and examined like CL&P. Let's do the same thing for government.''

Former Gov. John G. Rowland has called upon social services commissioner Roderick Bremby to resign because of his department's handling of the program and the lack of verification for many of those who applied.

Despite his criticisms of the department, Rochlin did not call for Bremby's resignation.

"We're not going to make any rush to judgment. We believe in due process,'' Rochlin said of the potential resignation. "That's very, very premature. We don't know the facts yet.''

A group of nine state employees, gathered together by Rochlin, spoke to The Courant in a conference room in West Hartford on Sunday night about their fears of losing their jobs.

The nine, including several single mothers with children, clearly are concerned about their future employment. Two of them cried as they told their stories about the confusion, chaos, and lack of information surrounding the process, saying they had been unsure of the rules. The official application form for emergency benefits never mentions the income guidelines.

The employees spoke on the condition of anonymity because they have not been publicly charged with anything and want to avoid potential retaliation by their supervisors, Rochlin said. By Monday, four of them had received written or verbal notices that they would be facing a disciplinary hearing.

One employee. who is a single mother, said she waited in a line outside a state office for two hours before going inside to speak with a Department of Social Services employee - and was quickly approved.

"I sat down with a DSS worker all of 40 seconds,'' the employee said. "She said, I don't need the overtime [for the income verification]. I was in there for like a minute.''