CT Progressive Democrat

News and Views from CT State Representative David McCluskey / Democrat - West Hartford

Monday, July 16, 2007

Legislature needs to establish a uniform investigatory process

Having served on at least three investigatory inquiries (the CRRA and the Lisa Moody ones in the Government Administration and Elections Committee and the I-84 DOT Construction one in the Transportation Committee), I believe that the General Assembly MUST develop a format to properly do investigations. In most circumstances, this format should be as bi-partisan as possible.

I believe whenever an Executive Branch investigation is authorized, usually by the Chairs of the Committee of cognizance, that a formalized process should kick in. Partisan and non-partisan staff should be specifically assigned to work on the inquiry. The Program Review and Investigations Committee (PRI)'s staff and expertise should be utilized as well as that of the Office of Legislative Research and the State Auditors. Often times, PRI and the Auditors have already done basic reviews of the state agency in question that would help with the inquiry.

Too often the legislators in such investigatory hearing lack the specific knowledge of the agency, how it works and what the normal business practices are in that field (e.g. how transportation construction contracting works). As a result, value time is lost with bringing legislators up-to-speed in the middle of the investigation. The Legislature is supposed to be a check on the Executive Branch, but right now our ability to conduct oversight and investigations is too limited and unfocused.

It MIGHT be the case that the Legislature should revise the mission of the Program Review and Investigations Committee so that its regular agency/program studies are driven by the Leadership of the 4 legislative caucuses. We MAY wish to better coordinate PRI's work with that of the State Auditors and the new Appropriations Subcommittee on Results-Based Budgeting so that each can support and learn from the others efforts.

The Public should have confidence that the Legislature can and will effectively investigate allegations of wrong-doing in the Executive Branch agencies. The General Assembly must restructure and standardize its inquiry process so that this important check in the constitutional framework can be accomplished.