A $220 thousand dollar contract between the Rell Administration and a UConn professor has prompted two state investigations. The probes come after a New London Day article yesterday, which revealed that the public policy project was providing political information to the Governor. WNPR's John Dankosky reports.
The University of Connecticut's Office of Audit Compliance and Ethics handles only about 20 to 30 cases a year, but a UConn spokesman says it's "very rare" for them to handle a case of possibly partisan conflict like this.
Ken Dautrich, a well-known pollster and political commentator on WNPR and other news outlets, took the contract with the Office of Policy and Management to conduct a 30 month study to streamline state government. But as The Day reported, that taxpayer-funded work included the use of a focus group - which was asked specifically political questions about the Governor and possible political rivals, regular communication with top Rell advisor Lisa Moody, and the suggestion of a full-blown voter poll, which was never conducted.
The University's code of conduct states that employees cannot "engage in partisan political activities while on state time" or "use university resources for the purposes of influencing a political election." That's prompting the University probe. The other investigation is being conducted by the bipartisan Auditors of Public Accounts and the state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who describes it simply:
"Our joint investigation will focus on possible misuse of state tax dollars and how state tax dollars were used."
Blumenthal has long been thought to be a Democratic challenger to Rell, and "focus group" members were asked specifically about their reactions to him. His reaction to being part of the poll? "I can't comment on any of the details of the investigation."
For WNPR, I'm John Dankosky.