40 more state workers reinstated after probe
Published 1:38 pm, Wednesday, July 25, 2012
An attorney for 40 state employees who allegedly lied last year to enroll in a federal disaster relief program claimed victory Tuesday after many of them escaped termination.
But Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's chief counsel said the arbitration process required under their contracts resulted in stiff financial penalties for those who were not fired in the so-called D-SNAP scandal that broke last December.
Richard A. Rochlin, a Berlin attorney, announced that about 40 additional state workers were reinstated, bringing the total to about 80 from the 103 targeted for firing after allegedly filing false income statements for the Disaster-Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program benefits after Tropical Storm Irene.
He said the remaining two dozen or so workers are awaiting arbitration hearings. Rochlin claims that the governor's attempt to fire the unionized workers was based on "inaccurate information and motivated by political desires."
About 800 state workers were among the nearly 24,000 households that received debit cards that averaged about $684 as part of the $12.4 million D-SNAP program.
Andrew McDonald, the governor's chief attorney, said that only 27 hearings were held last week.
"It is clear to everyone who has followed this case that the Malloy administration has been engaged in an orchestrated and coordinated effort to attack these state employees in order to score political points," Rochlin said in a statement.
Rochlin has claimed that some employees were coached by state Department of Social Services intake workers to apply for benefits even though their incomes might have succeeded minimums.
"All of the arbitrator's decisions confirmed that the decision of the governor to have these matters investigated was correct, and the arbitrator has agreed with the governor's position that these employees are guilty of substantial misconduct," McDonald said in a statement.
"The arbitrator has also agreed that the state employees' misconduct merits significant sanctions, imposing severe economic punishments of up to 12 weeks of lost wages," McDonald added. "While some of these employees still have their jobs, they have forfeited almost 25 percent of their salary. It's hard to see how this can be characterized as a `win.' "