Waterbury—The [Ethically Challenged] Center of the Universe

An economic development czar for a Connecticut city is paid a total of more than $350,000 for his work. The taxpayers pick up the bill for the position. Any taxpayer or media organization would be entitled to scrutinize the work that was done on the public dime, right? Not if the employee is former Gov. John Rowland and the city in question is Waterbury.

Rowland, fairly fresh out of federal prison, got the $100,000 Waterbury gig in 2008. He subsequently took another fulltime job as afternoon host on WTIC-AM radio. At the time, Waterbury Chamber President Lynn Ward told The Hanging Shad the business broup had no problem with Rowland doing both. Eventually, the city cut Rowland’s pay to $50,000. Now, the city is refusing to turn over his work material—emails, work schedules, expense reports, travel schedules—basically, what Rowland did for the city. Now, New Haven Register and (Torrington) Register Citizen contributing editor Andy Thibault a filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) complaint with the state Freedom of Information Commission.

Amazingly, the city might prevail because of the rather convenient arrangement under which Rowland was technically paid by the Waterbury Chamber of Commerce. The city would only produce general invoices for services. City attorney Kevin Daly is quoted as saying “As far as I know that’s all we have,” and that it’s possible Rowland “did not use email” as part of his job. What? Is he serious? That’s so laughable that if Daly is going to argue that, he ought to be replaced as well. Daly later clarified the comment, saying he was referring to then-Mayor Mike Jarjura possibly not having a city email account. Daly says he is continuing to search for Rowland-related material.

Meanwhile, the Register Citizen is out with a particularly hard-hitting editorial questioning why the city is protecting Rowland—a fair question, indeed. The newspaper, which has been at its best and in the forefront of coverage of the fifth district congressional race, also questions whether Rowland’s Waterbury job was of the no-show nature.

The Freedom of Information Commission should do the right thing and force the city of Waterbury to disclose to the taxpayers what they paid for.

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