But when the commission met earlier this year to appoint 21 new marshals, its choices included the mayor of Rocky Hill, several insiders already working for marshals, and four members of Republican town committees, including a former Stamford pastry chef who is also the lieutenant governor's nephew.
Two of the high-scorers said they were never even offered an interview, the second part of the hiring process.
"To almost ace the exam and then never get a call back, it's pretty obvious to me that the fix was in," Craig Sinon of Madison, who scored 99, said in an interview this week.
Among the men scoring 84 or lower was an East Hartford resident whose grade was lower than three-quarters of the 245 applicants, but who also listed as a reference the former top official of the state Republican Party, Herbert J. Shepardson — who now serves as chairman of the marshal commission.
Also chosen as a marshal was John Corelli of Stamford, the pastry chef at his family's business until it closed a few years ago. In addition to his relationship to Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele, Corelli serves on the Stamford Republican Town Committee, as does another appointee, George Christiansen.
Fedele said Thursday he did nothing to help his nephew get the job.
"I was aware that John got selected but I didn't get involved with this at all," Fedele said. "It was something that John wanted to do and he worked hard for and I'm proud of him."
Fedele said he didn't call anyone from the commission and never spoke to Shepardson about Corelli's application.
Corelli, who also is a part-time constable in Stamford, did not list Fedele as a reference. The lieutenant governor is not directly involved in selecting marshals, although the governor appoints a member of the marshal commission, and Corelli acknowledged on his application that he had donated money to Gov. M. Jodi Rell's 2006 campaign.
Under state law, any person who works for or contributes to someone with appointing authority for the marshal commission is not eligible to be a state marshal for two years, which would make Corelli's donation far enough in the past to make him eligible.
Corelli said he purposely didn't list Fedele as a reference to avoid any appearance of favoritism. Corelli said that when he went for his interview he submitted references from 15 attorneys for whom he had done work as a constable and never mentioned his connection to Fedele.
"He [Fedele] had no bearing on this whatsoever," Corelli said. "I worked hard to get the job and it took a long time to do it."
Shepardson said he became aware that Corelli was related to the lieutenant governor after he was interviewed but that he never talked to anyone, including Fedele, about it and the relationship didn't influence his decision to appoint Corelli.
Corelli scored a 91 on the marshal's test, a lower score than at least six other applicants in Fairfield County, records show. Although Corelli wasn't close to the best score, he did better on the test than several other people who also were appointed, records show.
Three men chosen to be marshals scored 84 on the test and one scored an 83, records show.
• Peter Privitera of Wethersfield, who listed three current state marshals as references, including his boss, State Marshal Joseph Antinerella.