‘PIZZA CHEF’ HIRE/FIRE THE LATEST EMBARRASSMENT FOR RELL

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s new commissioner of agriculture is giving the boot to a state civil service worker Gov. Rell recently hired despite the woman’s experience consisting largely of working as a pizza chef and school bus driver, the Hartford Courant reports.

Jon Lender writes, “A former school bus driver and pizza restaurant chef, hired into the state’s permanent civil-service workforce as an agricultural inspector last July by the Republican administration of then-Gov. M. Jodi Rell over higher-rated candidates, was told Tuesday that she will lose her $61,664-a-year job a few days short of completing her six-month probationary period, officials said.
“Debra Hinman, 55, of Burlington, had been hired last July 16 by F. Philip Prelli, Rell’s appointee as commissioner at the state Department of Agriculture. Hinman is the mother of Jamie Hinman, who worked several years ago in the governor’s office as an aide to Rell’s powerful chief of staff, M. Lisa Moody. But both Moody and Prelli now are gone-and…Malloy, has named his own commissioner, Steven K. Reviczky, who is on the job while awaiting legislative confirmation,” Lender reports.

It’s hard to determine which is worse—Hinman’s hiring to the inspector’s job in the ag. department (do we grow pepperoni in Connecticut?)—or Rell’s response when they were “found out.” She basically blamed her own commissioner. Nice.

The move is reminiscent of the flap over Connecticut being literally wiped off the map in a regional tourism publication because we didn’t pay the $115,000 in dues to the group. The publication is designed to market New England to European and other travelers.

In a radio interview, Rell blamed the state commission on culture and tourism saying, “It was their decision [to not pay the dues].” Problem is, that’s not true. E-mails later surfaced that showed it was Rell’s people that specifically directed the cut.

The point is that when things go wrong, Rell’s m.o. was to place blame elsewhere but readily accepted credit for success she had little to do with. Many post-mortems of the Rell administration gave it credit for “calming” the state after her partner-in-government Gov. John Rowland resigned and went to jail. That’s something for which she rightly deserves credit in a Gerald Ford-after-Richard Nixon sort of way. But stunningly, Rell was able to ride the “I’m not John Rowland” train all the way to the end, maintaining high approval ratings.

For instance, one Rell administration wrap-up gave her credit for the historic campaign finance reform law that included publicly financing for candidates. That’s a stretch at best. She vetoed the first version and then vetoed the “fix” last year after the court struck down part of the law. She claimed the fix granted more money to publicly financed candidates for governor which by that time was only Dannel Malloy because Tom Foley was self-financing. The reality is that the fix reduced the maximum amount of money a candidate could get.

Another feather placed in her bonnet was the $100 million in funding for stem cell research. The fact is that credit belongs to state Senate President Don Williams. Rell wanted to spend a relatively paltry $10 million for one year. Williams had the vision to push through $100 million over 10 years on the cutting-edge, potentially job-producing and life-saving technology.

There are other examples. The state’s film tax credit law—that was Jim Amann’s; state contracting reform—she repeatedly vetoed a clean contracting bill; saving the submarine base in Groton—that was a joint effort of just about every lawmaker in the state and the base may not have gotten to the brink of closing in the first place had she taken the opportunities she had to go the Washington to meet with Bush administration big shots and the president himself.

Rell did in fact bring a warm, friendly, every-day person approach to job and chilled us out in general after a string of scandals. However, we now know that’s not enough.