SCOTUS ruling strikes blow to CT’s forced unionization scheme

As millions anxiously awaited the Supreme Court’s decision in Hobby Lobby v Sebelius (regarding the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that all employers provide contraception coverage despite religious objections) the Justices released their decision in another case that has quietly dealt a huge blow to public unions and to decisions made by Governor Malloy and the General Assembly.

In Harris v Quinn the Court ruled that home healthcare workers providing services to individuals who receive state or federal funding should not be required to pay dues to a union that represents public employees (mainly the SEIU and AFSCME). This precedent sends shots across the bow of public union advocates seeking to add to their political coffers by forcing anyone who operates near government money to pay some sort of union fee.

The details of this case should sound familiar to folks here in Connecticut. In 2011 Governor Malloy, via two Executive Orders, effectively forced individuals providing home daycare and home health care services similar to those in Harris to pay union dues, regardless of whether or not they wished to unionize. The logic behind this fiat being that since these employees, mainly mothers running daycare out of their homes and healthcare workers contracted by persons needing in-home care, often provide services for individuals who receive public money through Medicare, Medicaid etc. they should therefore be considered public employees.

Unions have tried this in numerous states claiming that these private employees are “free riding” on the collective bargaining efforts of local unions who are of course only seeking to ostensibly improve things for workers, society and the human condition. In reality anyone who follows the money can see that this is a strong arm tactic that enables unions swing the political pendulum in their favor by getting and keeping Democrats in office by expanding their donor base by force.

In response to Malloy’s Executive Orders a slew of lawsuits were filed against him in 2012. Among them was a suit filed by the Yankee Institute on behalf of Cathy Ludlum. Ms. Ludlum, who suffers from Spinal Muscle Atrophy, wished to prevent the twelve people she employed, who helped her with everything from running her business to eating, from being forced unwillingly into the SEIU.

At a personal level it was argued that this forced unionization scheme effectively changes the relationship between employer and employee. When a union attempts to inorganically force its way into this relationship the people who get pushed to the side are the ones that actually need care. Loyalty for the service providers is diverted from their employers, such as Ms. Ludlum, to their union bosses. It was also argued that Malloy’s actions intruded upon a constitutional authority reserved for the Legislature.

Unfortunately for Ms. Ludlum and her peers in 2012 the CT General Assembly, who could not pass up the opportunity for increased campaign support, passed a bill that concurred with Malloy’s executive actions. In late 2012 the State Superior Court ruled that the lawsuits against the actions were rendered moot by the passage of legislation.

Fast forward to Monday June 30, 2014 and it appears as if the suits filed against the Governor may have not been all in vain.

The SCOTUS ruling on the Harris case is extremely narrow and pertains to only home healthcare workers, preventing them from being considered state employees and therefore subject to forced unionization. However, it signals victory for those types of workers in CT like those employed by Cathy Ludlum who do not wish to pay union dues and will now be able to opt out.

While unions will react to this decision by saying it is anti-worker, anti-poor, anti-(insert sacred cow of the left here) those who truly understand the underbelly of union politics should take solace in the fact devious tactics used to expand union influence have been put on hold; for now. For every freedom loving individual the holding in Harris (and Hobby Lobby) represents just a little bit more decision making power returned to the hands of individuals. Such a nice Independence Day gift from SCOTUS!

Andrew is a Tax Consultant at Alternate Tax Solutions and a Summa Cum Laude graduate of CCSU.  

State awards another $10 million in stem-cell grants to the usual suspects

The state awarded another $10 million in stem-cell research grants Tuesday, but not a single private company benefited.

Like the $80 million awarded in the previous seven years, most of the money this year went to the University of Connecticut Health Center or Yale University.

The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine, already the recipient of $291 million in taxpayer largess, secured $1.1 million from this batch of stem-cell research funding.

In the history taxpayer funding of stem-cell research in Connecticut, only two private companies received grants totaling $2.4 million out of about $90 million, or less than 3 percent.

IT audit reveals state may owe $5.2 million for 4,500 non-compliant software licenses

A review by an unnamed software company found 4,500 improper licenses on state computers, according to the Auditors of Public Accounts, a failure that could cost more than $5.2 million.

Auditors, reporting on the state’s former information technology agency now spread across multiple state agencies, suggested the development of a process for disposing of computers and software products. When state agency’s questioned the value of developing the policy considering its costs, the auditors pointed out the manufacturer’s review.

“This is an example of just one software compliance audit,” the auditors wrote. “It would appear, based on potential, future compliance audits and penalties that the benefits of a central software acquisition, management, use, deployment and disposal platform and policy would far outweigh the costs of development and implementation.”

Auditors also found:

– Errors in longevity payments. The agency overpaid at least three employees and underpaid one by more than $12,000 over a number of years.

– Improperly reported cases of misused state resources. One employee had to pay back the state for using a state cell phone for personal calls while another received a 30-day suspension for viewing pornography on state computers, but the agency didn’t report either case to auditors or the comptroller, as required by law.

IRS has three-year-old, $50,000 tax lien against Sen. Fonfara’s Hartford home

The IRS has a $50,406.93 tax lien against the Hartford home of Democratic Sen. John Fonfara, chairman of the legislature’s finance, revenue and bonding committee which handles state tax policy.

The IRS filed a notice of tax lien in October 2011 with the Hartford City Clerk for unpaid personal income taxes in 2008 and 2009. No release of the lien was filed with the clerk as of Tuesday.

Fonfara’s spokesman did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

According to the IRS, tax liens remain in effect until the entire amount is paid off. If a person has made progress paying down their tax debt but hasn’t paid the full amount, there would be no change to the lien. Conversely, if a person has not made any payments, the amount owed could grow because of interest and penalties.

The lien on Fonfara’s 99 Montowese St. home breaks down the amount owed between the two years. The unpaid balance for 2008 was about $8,600. In 2009, the unpaid balance was a little less than $42,000.

The IRS took out an earlier lien against Fonfara at his 23 Fenwick St. address in 1997 for about $16,500. The lien was released within a month.

In addition to his salary as a state senator, Fonfara works in the billboard business.

Update: View the liens here, now with certain identifying information redacted.

Will government unions spend millions on Connecticut politics again?

Connecticut’s public employee unions are big players in the state’s elections, spending millions on their political operations, which may affect 2014 races.

The unions are a highly-focused, highly-motivated interest group when it comes to state-level elections, because the candidates who win will sit directly across the table from them during contract negotiations.

It can be a difficult task to “follow the money” when it comes to unions and campaign spending, but by searching the state’s online database of campaign contributions expenditures, a clearer picture of how much public sector unions are spending on state-level campaigns emerges.

In the two years between the 2010 and 2012 state elections, the largest public sector unions – including the Service Employees International Union (SEIU); American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); American Federation of Teachers (AFT); and the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) – spent $834,968.51, on campaigns for state and local offices, the vast majority of it going to candidates or committees from the Democratic and Working Family parties.

The two years between the 2010 and 2012 state elections were tumultuous for state employees – it was during this time that they were in heated negotiations with Gov. Dan Malloy over a new contract.

Contributions to PACs and to candidates made up most of the $800,000-plus in spending, which was given primarily to elect state representatives and state senators since there were no statewide races in 2012.

Federal law requires unions to file disclosures on their political spending. The Department of Labor makes those disclosures available through an online database –

According to the disclosures filed with the Department of Labor, Connecticut’s public sector unions SEIU, AFT and AFSCME (none were found for the CEA) spent $4,286,949.85 on political activities in the years 2011-2013.

Anything unions do to support candidates for federal or state office is included in that amount – including political contributions or political activities like getting voters to the polls on election day.

Agreement with parole officers restores nearly three years of expired time off

The Department of Correction agreed last year to restore nearly three years of expired time off for 40 parole officers, an average of 3.5 weeks each.

In 2011, auditors discovered an accounting glitch that allowed a small group of state employees to build up thousands of hours of extra time off. At least 40 parole officers kept compensatory time that should have expired.

The department fixed the error and time off started expiring for the parole officers. Their union negotiated the 2013 agreement to restore 5,800 of properly expired leave.

According to a list attached to the agreement, the Department of Correction reinstated time off ranging from half an hour for one parole officer to 688 hours – more than 17 weeks – for another.

In all, Connecticut owes its employees about $676 million for paid time off, down slightly from fiscal year 2012 when the value exceeded $700 million.

DOC had the parole officers in the wrong category. After auditors found the problem, DOC put the employees into the correct leave plan and opened negotiations with the union to determine how to handle the improperly-earned time off.

The department signed a March 2013 agreement with AFSCME Council 4 to resolve the issue by reinstating time off that expired between October 2012 and January 2013, which amounted to 147 weeks or nearly three years. The parole officers have three years to use the time off granted under the agreement.

DOC spokeswoman Karen Martucci said the agreement with the union set out to “address a discrepancy identified through an audit of the agency’s financial records.”

“Specifically, parole officers were entered into the payroll computer system coded into an incorrect leave plan, which wasn’t consistent with the compensatory time expiration language applicable to that job classification,” Martucci said. “The DOC and the union were in agreement to meet and discuss a fair resolution to the issue, which ultimately resulted in this signed contract.”

Correctional supervisors at top of pay scale get ‘lump sum payments’

Connecticut’s longevity pay for state employees – $13.8 million in April – is no secret, but a small group of state employees also get “lump sum payments” equal to 2.5 percent of pay.

While longevity payments go to union state employees based on the length of their careers, lump sum payments go to about 100 correctional supervisors who have reached the peak of the pay scale.

The state makes the payments whenever the supervisors, members of the SEIU Local 2001 NP-8 bargaining unit, would otherwise be eligible for an annual increment in their pay.

Due to the payment code used to process the lump sum payments, it is not possible to precisely identify the total cost. However, all payments in the category – which includes certain other payments, too – to eligible employees add up to $184,058.

Two years ago, the legislature ended longevity pay for non-union state employees only to give them a raise of the same amount.

No state money for Rock Cats’ move


Hartford is a city plagued with a variety of public policy problems — not least the misuse of city funds and other financial mismanagement.  And it’s afflicted by a host of urban ills – including a poverty rate second only to Detroit (as of 2012) and the highest unsolved homicide rate (45%) of New England’s seven largest cities.

Keeping all this in mind, ask yourself: If Hartford weren’t, in fact, broke and actually had $60 million dollars to spend, would those funds be best used to construct a new stadium — for a minor league baseball team to move a scant 12 miles down the road?  

Are . . .you . . .kidding?!

Sadly enough, no.  Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra and the owner of the New Britain Rock Cats have struck a deal to bring the team from New Britain to Hartford, on the condition that the city (using government, i.e., taxpayer, money) builds a new $60 million stadium. (They’d better not be counting on embittered former fans from New Britain to fill all those expensive new seats!).

And in point of fact, funds for the $60 million stadium probably wouldn’t actually come just from city taxpayers, given that without even incurring any new expenses, Hartford already collects a generous helping of state funds just to operate — almost half its city budget’s worth.

And recall that, in recent years, Connecticut has witnessed the unsavory spectacle of state money being used to subsidize other intra-state moves.  Is there any serious doubt that this unhappy experience could well be repeated, given that the agreement between the Rock Cats and Hartford’s mayor leaves the door wide open for city officials to seek state funds?

The governor insists that the state was not involved in discussions about the move.  Fair enough.   Now it’s time to ask him and all our state officials — along with every candidate for a state office — to pledge that state tax money — our money — won’t be blown on a(nother) $60 million government boondoggle.

VA in Connecticut avoids wait-time scandal but insects plague OR for 8 years; gives big raises

Federal healthcare facilities for veterans in Connecticut are facing their own problems, separate from an ongoing national wait-time scandal, with longstanding concerns over “intrusion of insects” in operating rooms and other cleanliness issues.

Meanwhile, some highly-compensated VA doctors received raises exceeding $30,000 last year.

The national scandal, compounded by revelations of employee bonuses while veterans suffered extended delays for appointments, led to the resignation of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki last week.

VA employees in Connecticut received modest bonuses in recent years, but some doctors stand out for getting large raises last year.

Sixteen VA employees in Connecticut, all doctors, earned more than $300,000 last year, according to transparency website Three of the 16 top-paid employees received large raises of more than 10 percent between 2012 and 2013.

Dr. Ashutosh Pathak received a $47,561 raise last year – going from a salary of $280,703 to $328,267 – or a 16.9 percent increase.

Dr. Steven Pfau received an increase of $36,923 (12.8 percent), while Dr. Albert Perrino received an increase of $33,295 (11.3 percent).

Pamela Redmond, spokeswoman for the VA in Connecticut, said the three doctors are “physicians in scarce medical specialties.”

“They include an interventional cardiologist, a radiologist and an anesthesiologist.  Salaries for these physicians were increased to remain competitive with compensation offered in the private sector,” Redmond said. “This increase was supported by regional independent salary survey data. The increases were reviewed and ultimately approved beyond the healthcare system at the VA regional level.”

Adam Andrzejewski, founder of, said high pay at the VA contrasts in many cases with poor service for veterans.

“Salary and bonus data at shows clear evidence that the bureaucracy served the bureaucracy, not veterans,” said Adam Andrzejewski, founder of “During the last seven years, the national VA system spent $136 billion on salaries and hundreds of millions on bonuses and veterans still had trouble seeing a doctor. It’s not question of money, but a systemic leadership problem.”

Last month, the VA Office of Inspector General issued a scathing interim report focused on wait times in Phoenix. The VA in Connecticut has avoided problems with prolonged waits. However, in February, the same agency reported on insect problems and cleanliness in the operating room.

“Flying and crawling insects have been an ongoing problem in the OR for about 8 years,” the report says. Staff told inspectors insect problems are seasonal and some believed the overnight cleaning staff ate food in the OR, contributing to the problem.

Complaints from employees in an anonymous survey prompted the review of operating room cleanliness at the VA’s West Haven campus.

“Cleanliness of the OR could not be assured,” the report says, citing inadequate staff and poor oversight. “Although our findings substantiated an increased risk to patients and staff, we found no conclusive evidence that the environment of care deficiencies in the OR resulted in negative patient outcomes.”

“Staff reported that when they arrived for the first cases of the day, they often found indications that rooms had not been terminally cleaned the previous evening. For example, they would find debris and dust on the floor under furniture and equipment, indicating that the furniture and equipment had not been moved to accommodate terminal cleaning,” the report says. “Also, trash was not emptied, and restrooms were not clean.”

One overnight cleaning position remained vacant from January 2013 at least until inspectors visited last summer. The vacancy reduced the cleaning crew from three to two employees. Attendance problems also contributed to problems, with one in five members of the cleaning staff noting report to work “on an average workday.”

Facility managers said human resources “has not been responsive in filling vacancies.”

“The human resources manager confirmed that delays within his department were a contributing factor and that they recently had been resolved,” the report says.

According to, the top-paid human resources manager in West Haven – with a salary of about $130,000 – received a $5,000 bonus last year, the second-largest award in Connecticut last year.

“The report is a thorough and honest snapshot from an inspection that occurred in June 2013,” Connecticut VA officials said in a statement after the release of the report. “The IG report states that it found no evidence that the environment of care deficiencies in the OR resulted in negative patient outcomes.”

The same statement said the VA fixed many problems before inspectors left the facility.

A September 2013 report found “community showers or restrooms on three of five inpatient units inspected were not clean.” According to the report, management immediately responded to the concerns.

Other recent inspector general reports made minor recommendations without finding serious problems.

With fewer served, costs rise at state-run homes for developmentally disabled

Fewer people with developmental disabilities in Connecticut need the highest level of care, but rising costs are growing the gap between high-cost treatment in state-run facilities and lower-cost private alternatives.

According to 2013 data provided by the Department of Developmental Services, the number of people in federally-designated intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities fell below 1,000 last year. The federal government reimburses half the cost of care at these facilities.

The cost of care is growing rapidly at state-run facilities. At the highest-cost regional centers, run by DDS, the average cost per person rose 10.5 percent in a year, from just over $400,000 to a little more than $442,000.

Costs at Southbury Training School, slightly lower-cost but still state-run, increased by more than 8 percent and now exceed $350,000 per person.

Private-run ICF-IIDs saw costs rise by a more modest 3 percent, nearing $165,000 or less than half cost of the state-run programs.

With more than 600 people seeking residential services from DDS as of December, private facilities offer the possibility of helping more people without increasing costs.

A DDS spokeswoman attributed the rising costs to “the drop in consumer counts.”

Recently, DDS has come under scrutiny for the death of a Southbury Training School resident and falling behind on its abuse registry.