Wednesday May 27, 2009 10 p.m.
And the Blogster just finished transcribing tape of a Marx Brothers-like encounter Senate President Don Williams, D-Brooklyn had earlier tonight with the magpies in the Capitol Press Room.
Reporters asked him about the seemingly bicameral ethics of the state Senate.
Reporters recalled Sen. Lou DeLuca, R-Woodbury, who resigned after copping a state misdemeanor plea and asked Williams to put that case in context with Wednesday’s State Elections Enforcement Commission ruling penalizing Sen. Joe Crisco, D-Woodbridge, $4,000 for signing the names of his campaign officials on documents he had used to apply for up to $85,000 in taxpayer funded campaign cash.
Crisco’s embarrassing case arrived almost two months after Sen. Tom Gaffey, D-Meriden, was fined $6,000 by the SEEC for using campaign money for personal purchases.
Reporter A: What is going to happen in the Joe Crisco case?
Williams: I don’t foresee other action being taken over and above the very thorough and lengthy investigation that was conducted by Elections Enforcement.
Reporter B: They said he signed falsely several times for other people on sworn documents and stood there while they were notarized. And they didn’t use the word forgery. That’s the word (State GOP Chairman) Chris Healy used. But how is that not forgery in your mind.
Williams: You know, from my understanding, from what I’ve been told, they did not find… they didn’t have a finding against Sen. Crisco in terms of unlawful behavior…
Reporter B: That’s not true.
Williams: Is that not true?
Reporter B: They said he violated the campaign laws.
Reporter C: Numerous state laws.
Reporter B: Numerous times, yeah.
Williams: Well…in terms of what we do as a Senate, our tradition has been to weigh these issues very carefully and look at the specific conduct in terms of criminal law, in terms of the reflection on the chamber…This was exhaustively investigated by Elections Enforcement and Sen. Crisco has accepted responsibility for that. I don’t believe that further action is necessary.
Reporter D: Not even a Committee of Inquiry to look into it?
Reporter E: How about Sen. Gaffey? Where do things stand with that?
Williams, exhaling: Same, same…
Reporter E: You don’t see anything going with him either?
Reporter B: So you’re still satisfied with him in his leadership position?
Reporter B: How much extra does he make for that?
Williams: I don’t know.
Reporter B: What would you guess? $5,000?
Williams: I wouldn’t want to guess.
Reporter B: So Gaffey makes about a few thousand dollars extra?
Derek Slap, Williams communications director: I’m sure I could find that out.
Reporter B: You’ll find that out?
Reporter E: Don, in terms of ethics discussions with Senate Republicans, where do they stand?
Williams: They’re filed amendments to many GAE bills and we plan on taking up one of those bills, most likely the Senate vacancy bill and having a debate on their amendments sometime this week. Maybe as early as tomorrow.
Reporter E: So ‘debating their amendments.’ So there is no agreement? Because your agreement at the beginning of the session was ‘if we reach agreement we’ll open up the rules and change them.’ So now it sounds like there’s not going to be an agreement and you’re going to give the Republicans their debate and vote?
Williams: Right. That was always the agreement: that we would give them an opportunity for a debate and a vote.
Reporter E: But only if you couldn’t come to an agreement.
Reporter E: So there is no agreement?
Williams: At this point in time there is no agreement. Correct.
Reporter F: Do you regret not having a special committee formed this year on ethics?
Williams: No, no.
Reporter F: Maybe I should ask how badly do you regret.
Williams, laughing: But I don’t regret it, Ken.
Reporter F: Well, you’ve got a senator, Crisco, who’s admitted forgery. I can’t even count the number of times there. Is like, what’s the line? If he were Republican it would be OK because the state SEEC performed its duties?
Williams: My view would be the same there. There’s a specific professional commission that’s set up for campaign and elections issues and violations. They conducted a lengthy investigation and Sen. Crisco has admitted his mistakes and he’s been fined and he’s moving on.
Reporter F: So the Senate doesn’t have higher standards than a state agency, then?
Williams: What do you mean a state agency?
Reporter F: Shouldn’t the Senate have higher standards than the SEEC?
Williams: Our policy has been to respond in those fortunately rare instances where a case rises to a level over and above what may already be out there in terms of a law- enforcement issue, a campaign-bookkeeping issue, an ethical issue, et cetera.
Reporter G: But by your own logic you’re saying Elections Enforcement, a specific designed to look into something like, they investigate, they come up with a resolution and that’s it?
Reporter G: But you don’t apply that logic when you’re talking about state prosecutors and Lou Deluca? How is that remotely consistent?
I mean, Lou DeLuca said ‘hey I’ve dealt with law enforcement. I’ve pled guilty to something. I’m done. But it was that important for your own internal purposes to mete out some justice of your own.
Reporter G: How is that consistent with what you just said?
Williams: I’d rather not go back into the Lou DeLuca case and talk in detail about that case. I think there are striking differences and it rose to the level when both Sen. John McKinney (R-Fairfield) and I came together, after a time, I mean not immediately thereafter. As you all recall, quite a bit of time went by as we considered the matter and as additional details came out. And I really don’t want to get into it further than that other than to say the differences in my mind are very significant.
Reporter E: Are you disturbed, though, by a member of your caucus that actually falsified signatures that were notarized…
Reporter G: …on a piece of paper that said it’s against the law.
Reporter E: … on a piece of paper that said penalty of the law?
(A vote is called down in the third-floor Senate chamber)
Williams: yeah. I think this was a matter that was taken up by the Elections Enforcement Commission and I’m satisfied that their resolution, you know, puts this to rest.
Slap: You have to vote.
Williams: Do you want me to come back?
Reporter F: Wait for the bell before you say you are saved by it.