Recently departed Department of Transportation Commissioner Joseph Marie reached out to me this afternoon following Governor M. Jodi Rell’s decision to release the details of his abrupt resignation last Wednesday after two years on the job.
“I’m deeply disappointed that the governor’s office determined that they should expediently release this information,” an often emotional Marie said, referring to Rell’s admission, first to the CT Mirror and later to the rest of the state media, that Marie’s departure was related to a harassment claim.
Rell after giving an interview to the CT Mirror subsequently issued a statement in which she explained that her legal counsel had “conducted a preliminary inquiry into” allegations by a DOT employee “who alleged inappropriate behavior by the commissioner.”
“No formal complaint of any kind was ever filed and no formal investigation was ever conducted,” Rell said. “However, at the conclusion of the preliminary inquiry, Commissioner Marie was offered an opportunity to resign and he did so. He also signed a stipulated agreement that required him to return all state equipment … and barred him from contacting or criticizing any state employees or administration officials.”
Marie, whom Rell hired from Arizona after a nationwide search to reform the DOT, told me he was never given the opportunity to defend himself when he was called to meet with administration officials last Tuesday.
“I was told the governor wanted me to voluntarily resign or resign on the basis of inappropriate behavior. I asked the question ‘what is the nature of the inappropriate behavior? I need to be provided with specifics?’ I was not provided with any specifics. I was not provided with any information. I asked a very plain question – ‘is there not some due process here? Do I not have the opportunity to respond to this?’ And the answer was: ‘No. Either sign the agreement or the governor’s going to say that you were asked to tender your resignation as a result of inappropriate behavior’.”
Marie signed the agreement and the storyline he and Rell provided the media at the time was that, as a result of Rell’s retiring, Marie had decided to pursue some long-term job opportunites and spend time with his family rather than hope he would be reappointed by whoever is elected governor in November. He until now lived up to his side of the bargain and has not criticized the administration in interviews with reporters.
Marie said that after the CT Mirror asked Rell about the harassment claim today, he was contacted by the governor’s attorney and told Rell’s powerful chief-of-staff, Lisa Moody, wanted to release the information.
“And despite my attempts – I contacted an attorney to try to have that not released – they still decided to release it,” Marie said. He said he is shocked by how quickly the administration decided to go public despite assurances this would remain a private personnel matter.
“It appears to me that despite the fact that they had the opportunity not to release this immediately, that decision was made to release it as soon as possible. And I view that as being unfortunate and unfair,” Marie said, adding: “My reputation is really hurt. It’s probably destroyed as a result of something I had no opportunity to respond to.”
Asked why he signed the agreement in the first place, Marie said: “I signed the agreement because I believed the administration would respect my privacy. I also was fundamentally emotionally spent … It’s a very challenging job and quite frankly the environment was – not so much in the office place, but … Look, I was so astonished when I walked into that room. So completely and fundamentally shocked that thinking rationally was very, very difficult.”
Marie insisted “I am absolutely certain if there is any behavior issues that were ever presented against me I would prevail. I’m absolutely certain of that.”
He is unsure what his next step will be.
“I wish I had the opportunity to respond to any assertions. It’s unfortunate that I didn’t, but there are legal channels that can be pursued and myself and my attorney are talking about that now,” Marie said, adding: “This much I do know. I have always conducted myself in a very honorable and ethical way.”
I’ll have a full report later on.