The Partnership for Connecticut has come and gone, in less than a year, and it’s probably for the best.
Not to denigrate the good intentions or the generosity of billionaire hedge fund giant Ray Dalio and his wife Barbara Dalio, whose philanthropic foundation was prepared to match $100 million in state funding with the goal of improving the educational prospects of some of this state’s most at-risk students. But this unique arrangement to mix private and taxpayer funds and operate outside the state’s Freedom of Information Act was problematic from the start.
“The fact that tax dollars are involved, to me, mandates that there be transparency,” Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said last year. Candelora represents a part of Wallingford.
The Partnership was created without any debate by the General Assembly; then there was the quiet engagement of a public-relations firm run by a prominent Democrat; then there was the secret hiring of an executive director at a salary of $250,000, followed almost immediately by closed-door proceedings to get rid of her.
Not surprisingly, this exercise in mingling public and private money without transparency ended with more than a touch of bitterness. Barbara Dalio blamed “political infighting” and pointed a finger specifically at the top two Republicans in the House of Representatives for criticizing the effort. Her husband is blaming “politicians and the media.”
In fairness to the Dalios, it may be that what looks like “political infighting” to people in the private sector is simply the normal working of politics — which, as the dictionary defines it, is “the art or science of government.” It’s the often awkward and sometimes messy process by which the public organizes public life and spends public money.
Lamont said the Partnership was being dissolved “due to a breach of trust.” But didn’t its very creation involve a breach of public trust by skirting FOI rules?
As this newspaper editorialized last July, “While we would hate to discourage people with very deep pockets from exercising their charitable instincts, we trust that a way will be found to use this huge gift for the public good without keeping the public in the dark.”
Apparently that wasn’t possible, but let us learn from this mistake.