Leaders in government have a fiduciary duty they owe to the public. Part of that duty is to place the public’s interests before their own. Another part of that duty is to be accountable for their actions, to be transparent in what they do and to follow the law and the rules that have been agreed on.
For the second time in the last legislative session, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Joseph Aresimowicz, breached his fiduciary duty to the public. The first breach we have already chronicled, namely in refusing to bring to a vote the renomination of Superior Court Judge Jane Emons. The second occurred as the horn was about to sound ending the legislative session. Just 15 minutes before the session ended, an otherwise dormant and lackluster bill passed without debate, discussion or public scrutiny. The problem tacked on to that bill, which ironically purported to be about the public’s access to governmental information, is a provision that assured that UConn football coach Randy Edsall’s son’s job as the team’s tight ends coach would not only be renewed, but protected from scrutiny by the state’s ethics agency.
Earlier, the ethics agency had opined that the employment of Edsall’s son breached state ethics rules prohibiting family members from working together to avoid problems with nepotism. Edsall was so upset with this opinion that he wouldn’t sign his contract to be paid a $1 million salary per year. Aresimowicz, who himself is a football coach and friends with the Edsalls, spoke to Edsall about this son’s situation at a dinner. Aresimowicz decided to put his interests in helping out his friends over the public’s rights to be informed. He also betrayed the public trust in that bill by creating an exemption for state employees in higher education from being subject to state ethics laws and the agency that enforces those laws.
Rather than propose a separate, stand-alone bill where it would be noticed and subject to debate, Aresimowicz tacked onto an uncontroversial bill, Public Act 18-175, what is essentially a provision designed to protect Edsall’s son’s job. And he did this in the chaotic final days of the session where such a move would likely go undetected.
We are not criticizing the Edsalls’ coaching abilities. Although we have focused our criticism on Aresimowicz, he did not act alone. He had the full bipartisan support of other governmental leaders, including Len Fasano and Themis Klarides. Our aim is to question this action, which is a betrayal of the public trust on a number of levels. It is no secret that we are facing hard economic times in this state. In such times, the public’s trust in its governmental leaders is held in a delicate balance amid fears and angst over what lies ahead. Aresimowicz has not once, but twice, upset that delicate balance. He owes it to the public to restore that balance by being held accountable for the manner in which he has betrayed the public trust.