Senator Wants Legislative Ethics Committee in Wake of News of Destroyed Documents

A veteran state senator says dealing with “ethical challenges” is not currently a priority in the Connecticut General Assembly and he will reintroduce legislation to create an ethics committee of the legislature. Sen. Ed Meyer (D-Guilford) has raised the idea of such a committee for eight years now only to rebuffed by his own leadership. Meyer tells The Hanging Shad the issue is now in the spotlight in the wake of the disclosure that the Office of State Ethics has been destroying some 25 years of public records regarding the finances of public officials. The revelation came in an article by the Hartford Courant’s Jon Lender who discovered the practice in the course of researching financial disclosures of US Senate candidates.

“I will certainly bring back the idea of creating a legislative committee on ethics that would preserve such records,” Meyer said. “I’m disappointed these records are being destroyed. Unfortunately, we still have ethical challenges but we don’t have a legislative vehicle to deal with them or to impose a proper penalty.” The Lender article points out that state statute allows the destruction of such documents with proper approval but certainly does not require it. Meyer points out that the records have historical value. For instance, the financial disclosure records of convicted felon John Rowland, the former governor, no longer exist.

Meyer is not optimistic about the success of his idea. “The senate president [Don Williams (D-Brooklyn)] was once supportive of the idea but changed his mind. He told the majority leader, Marty Looney [D-New Haven] and me that it should be handled in an ad hoc manner—taking each case as it comes—but not a standing committee,” he said. The General Assembly has seen no shortage of its members facing ethical problems that stem from lapses to full-out criminal acts.