Malloy’s ‘Esty Problem’ Won’t Go Away

Gov. Dannel Malloy’s latest distraction created by Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) Dan Esty once again involves Esty’s past interests in outside energy companies. This time he held a conference call with investors of UBS, an investment back which has an interest in Northeast Utilities (NU). This is just the latest in a series of incidents that have been unnecessary problems for Malloy. There’s an “energy policy epidemic” in Connecticut and Esty is driving the monkey to the airport.

The conference call came on the eve of a vote on a new energy bill. NU paid big bucks to Esty for speaking engagements before he was DEEP commissioner. In the end, Esty said he didn’t reveal any inside information on the call but admitted he shouldn’t have participated in it given the timing. Debate on the bill was postponed.

Freedom of Information (FOI) requests are now flying around the Capitol like baseballs at Fenway. All the usual suspects are lining up to get a look at all documents pertaining to Esty and his work on energy issues. They even want his work schedule. Could there be meetings that we should know about?

Even Esty’s wife US Rep. Elizabeth Esty has had to give back campaign donations from NU. Political opponents have tried to make hay out of energy interests’ support for the congresswoman. Not good.

The Shad rattled some cages back in October of 2011 when I wrote that Malloy should get rid of this major distraction. No doubt, Esty is a nationally renowned Yale professor, author, lecturer, consultant and top expert in his field. That doesn’t necessarily make him a good state DEEP commissioner. In fact, it’s those very accomplishments that have caused the problems and the appearance of a conflict of interest.

As I wrote back then, Malloy should have seen this unneeded problem coming when back in April of 2011, Esty co-authored an op-ed piece in the New York Times entitled, “Pain at the Pump? We Need More.” Whether one agreed with the argument in the article is irrelevant. The fact is, when a Malloy administration commissioner pens such a piece, one automatically assumes it reflects Malloy’s views. We don’t see any other commissioner going off the reservation, giving personal views in a major media outlet.

That was just the beginning of the Esty problem. He subsequently had to constantly explain away the appearance of conflicts of interest. And now this.

Dan Esty is brilliant. But at what point is that outweighed by the distractions and conflicts that don’t ever seem to go away?