OPINION: Lembo objects to ‘pall of secrecy’

Kevin Lembo seems to be a pretty even-keeled guy. No muss, no fuss. Maybe that’s why he’s the state comptroller, chief watchdog of the public purse.

He’s also been a consistent advocate for open government. Lembo found himself at odds with former Gov. Dannel Malloy, for instance, over state officials’ use of private email accounts to conduct state business, and he opposed secrecy about the details of the tax breaks, loans and grants given to businesses.

Lembo’s office also provides something called Open Connecticut, an online guide to where our tax money comes from and where it goes, covering not only local and state government but also quasi agencies — under this slogan: “It’s your money. You have a right to know.”

And now he’s speaking out about the “Partnership for Connecticut,” a nonprofit corporation created by the General Assembly in response to a proposal negotiated by Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration with Dalio Philanthropies, established by wealthy financier Ray Dalio and his wife, Barbara, to bolster education in our state, particularly in areas of high need — as it has already done through its RISE Network in places including Meriden.

Which is all well and good. “At the end of the day I support the mission and I am personally grateful,” Lembo told the CT Mirror.

But he objects to the unnecessary “pall of secrecy” that’s been pulled over the whole operation. The way it was set up, this quasi-public agency will be allocating $100 million in taxpayer money (along with $100 million from the Dalios and possibly another $100 million from other donors) in a way that would be exempt from state ethics and freedom of information regulations.

Lamont, Malloy and too many other state officials have made closed-door expenditures like this a steady habit — all too steady. Despite promises of regular updates and reports to the public, no one has committed to opening the meetings to the public.

And it isn’t just outcomes that matter, Lembo told the Mirror; it’s also important for taxpayers to hear the discussions about those decisions. For example, why did one public school receive funding and another did not?

Lembo isn’t asking for new legislation, just “a reasonable level of disclosure” to increase public confidence and comfort.

Is that so much to ask?


GEESE UPDATE: The geese that I wrote about recently are still goosing around near the Stop & Shop in Berlin, swanning around the ponds and open fields along Veteran’s Way and sometimes venturing into the roadway, where they still present a challenge to motorists.

But they’re not yet cooked. The lifelike fake coyote that was installed near one of the ponds in an apparent municipal effort to scare them off has failed utterly. In fact, on recent inspection the coyote was tilted on its base at an alarming angle. It’s almost as if the statue of a hated tyrant had been partly pulled down during a peasant revolt.

(I would have written “pheasant revolt,” but that would have been too punny.)

If it becomes necessary, maybe the town will have to deploy the fearsome Goosinator, from Timberlin Golf Club. This bright-orange foam device, which buzzes loudly and moves around threateningly, seems to be the only thing that really scares them critters off.

Reach Glenn Richter at grichter@record-journal.com.


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