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Silent Treatment On State Rep.'s Ethics Fine

Rep. Minnie Gonzalez: Agency fails to report state lawmaker's admission, fine

Hartford Courant

June 05, 2010

In May 2009, state Rep. Minnie Gonzalez, an influential Hartford politician, paid a $300 fine to the Office of State Ethics after admitting that she failed to completely fill out required financial disclosure statements for the years 2004 through 2007. Omissions included her husband's income and rental income from several properties.

But the public didn't know about Ms. Gonzalez's admission and fine because the ethics agency didn't report it in a press release, as is generally its practice.

This was not a grave matter as ethics violations go, but it should have been reported.

The public learned of Ms. Gonzalez's $300 fine last week only because The Courant had requested a list of all fines paid to the ethics agency since Jan. 1, 2009, in preparation for writing another story.

The list included $2,200 in smaller fines paid by eight state employees and officials for what the ethics office considers technical or administrative violations, said Carol Carson, executive director of the Office of State Ethics. Ms. Gonzalez was one of the eight.

Ms. Carson said it wouldn't be a good policy to single out prominent officials in press releases that wouldn't also be issued in the case of average state employees.

She's wrong. The disposition of cases in which officeholders skirt ethics laws should be publicly reported. If that means all violations and fines are made public, so be it.

By announcing all such fines, the ethics office would make it clear that it is not protecting powerful politicians. Making the fines public also has a salutary deterrent effect.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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