News reporters, government watchdogs and the general public are all instrumental in pointing out any abuse of taxpayers’ money through “sweetheart deals” with the politically connected. But from time to time, the brush with which former state workers are painted is so broad it’s simply unfair and wrong. Such is the case with recent reports about Edwin Maley, Jr.

Maley retired after 28 years in state service, much of it as a top-level staffer for the state Senate Democrats. Last Sunday, he was the subject of the Hartford Courant’s “Government Watch” column written weekly by reporter Jon Lender. There is no better reporter in the state than Lender and “Government Watch” is a must-read every Sunday. But in this case, Lender missed the mark.

Lender pointed out that Maley now has a state pension and has a private law practice (he saw the need to point out the practice is run out of Maley’s condo as if that makes is less legitimate). His clients include the city of Bridgeport whose mayor is former state Sen. Bill Finch and the water authority Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) whose board is headed by former state Senate Majority Leader William DiBella. He also holds a part-time position as a legislative commissioner. On its face, it may seem Maley parlayed his connections into easy money. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Shad worked for Maley for 6 years as communications director for the Senate Dems when Maley was chief of staff (and he is a good friend). There was no smarter, effective or valuable person in state service than Maley. It stands to reason that any entity—governmental or otherwise—would line-up for Maley’s services once he was available. Lender says Maley’s situation can be called “triple-dipping.” If a lawyer retired from state service, started a law practice and had four clients, would he be “quadruple-dipping?”

Each client mentioned in the Lender piece has made it clear that Maley’s effectiveness is well worth what they are paying him. He was instrumental in MDC getting $100 million in federal funds. Despite politically motivated protests there, the Bridgeport city attorney says the city is actually saving money by being able to do outside legal work that would otherwise take several lawyers to do. And since his institutional knowledge is unmatched anywhere in state service, he is a natural as a legislative commissioner. To Lender’s credit, he included all this in his article. The fact that Maley is making more money now than when he was in state service only shows that he was forgoing a lucrative private practice to serve in government.

The fact that Maley is “politically connected” benefits those who have worked with him and moved on (Finch, DiBella and the legislative leaders). That’s why those folks are in the positions they are in—they surround themselves with the most effective people possible.

Lender appeared on the WTIC-AM morning show with Ray Dunaway this morning (Thursday) to talk about Maley’s case. I’ll be on tomorrow (Friday) with Dunaway to give the other side; time TBA. That broad brush can sometimes be patently unfair.