Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Esty Death Watch

In case you missed it, there's a blockbuster story by Jon Lender in this morning's Hartford Courant (posted on yesterday) about the commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) who failed to disclose that he made hundreds of thousands in consulting fees from the parent corporation of CL&P, even as he intervened in favor of CL&P in a regulatory matter.

I'd say Gov. Malloy has done an OK job in filling his cabinet since he took over the reigns of state government in January. But this is really appalling. In his work as a consultant who helps businesses become better environmental citizens, the former Yale professor did so much work in the private sector that he had to recuse himself in advance from having anything to do with 26 organizations that might have matters before DEEP. That in itself should have raised all kinds of red flags.

But the fact that he never disclosed this bombshell is disgraceful:
State energy and environment Commissioner Daniel C. Esty — who sparked some official concern in recent weeks by halting state regulators' deliberations in a multimillion-dollar application by Connecticut Light & Power Co. — was paid $205,000 as a consultant from 1997 to 2005 by CL&P's parent company, Northeast Utilities.
Why did he fail to disclose this important relationship with the state's largest electrical utility when he was hired? Esty said via email, which was apparently the only way he would communicate with Lender, "NU is not on my recusal list because my relationship with that company ended more than five years ago. In addition, the senior managers and people I worked with at NU have all since left that company and this is an entirely new slate of personnel there with whom I had no business relationship."

My BS meter shot up as I read those words. Come on. The appearance of a conflict is still there. Might Esty want to re-establish his relationship with NU after his tenure at DEEP is over? After all, there's more money where that came from. Does he have recent clients whose businesses currently depend on the financial well-being of NU? Might Esty have failed to disclose his NU consulting fees because he feared it would be the straw that would have broken his candidacy for DEEP commissioner back in January?

The hiring of Esty, who was seen as a rising star, was touted as perhaps Malloy's best appointment. Now the thin-skinned educator looks like a ticking time-bomb. Malloy's young governorship faces a serious test. Worse yet, with all those corporate relationships on Esty's resume, will there be other revelations about past relationships and more opportunities for The Professor to exercise poor judgment in failing to disclose them?

In the best tradition of Tim Noah, the Estimable Esty Death Watch has begun.

P.S. Oh, and of course there's also this conflict of interest on the part of Chris Donovan. However, unlike the appointed Esty, voters can always send Donovan packing if they don't like the congressional candidate's role in congressional redistricting.


  1. Esty is yet another in a long line of Democrat elitists who believe that they know more than those whom they serve. Malloy would do well to invite his resignation and replace him with someone who doesn't have ties to the industry and company he once consulted for, and someone who doesn't forget who they work for.

    This stinks to high Heaven and people doesn't like it. Let's see if Malloy and his advisors have the intellect and ethical backbone to do the right thing, or if they will stay the course on this mistaken decision.

  2. Thanks for your summary and observation. What you overlook is analysis of Malloy's tolerance for ethical gray areas, especially when it involves big names in whom he has placed his "full faith and credit" by giving them big jobs. From what I have seen of Malloy, he is going to stand by his man and tell naysayers to buzz off. I have personally observed Esty, in part when he opined that the origin of the Mountain Lion was a released pet because it was incredibly unlikely the animal migrated, only to have his own naturalists reverse that for posterity. I am sorry to say that, this "best appointment" is a dud and while I don't know if this NU discolosure issue should cost him his job, I hope it injects some humility.