The gap between state government and the people it serves grew wider this week. As the state’s finances continue to deteriorate and hundreds of thousands struggle with unemployment, state employees received $350 million in raises.
No state employee got a better deal this week than Hartford State’s Attorney Gail Hardy. The veteran prosecutor was suspended from her powerful position for four days in June in the aftermath of The Courant revealing last fall that Hardy had taken as long as a decade to complete mandatory reports on four police-involved shootings in the Hartford region.
In a statement accompanying the announcement of her June suspension, Hardy wrote, “I extend my sincerest apologies to the family members of the deceased. There are no words that can ease the pain that they feel in missing their loved one. My failure to complete the reports in a timely fashion only compounded their pain and for that I am deeply sorry.” She continued, “To the police officers involved, I apologize as well. They deserve to have their cases resolved in as timely a fashion as possible.”
In the aftermath of the scandal, Hardy appeared to be on the verge of being bounced from her job by the state’s Criminal Justice Commission on Monday. As the commission was meeting out of the public view on her reappointment to another term, Hardy withdrew. She will enter a previously unknown safe harbor created for her by Chief State’s Attorney Richard J. Colangelo, Jr.
Essential details on the sweet deal are scarce but we know this. Colangelo announced on Monday that Hardy would become an executive state’s attorney for diversity, inclusion and retention in his office. Colangelo admitted he never created a written description of the job Tuesday but said in a telephone interview that it is “an initiative I have been thinking about.”
Most jobs in state government, especially new ones, are accompanied by a posting because we want to find the best people to exercise public trust and authority, especially in criminal justice. Of course, a description that reads “I want to get the Criminal Justice Commission out of a bind and provide a soft landing for a colleague and vanquished rival by creating a job for which she is singularly unsuited” was going to cause unfavorable comment.
There was something Colangelo described Tuesday as a job interview for the position without a description, though he’s the only one who would describe it that way. He said Tuesday, “From the whole time I’ve known [Hardy] I’ve been interviewing her.” They have known each other for 22 years, according to Colangelo, who won the top job in January, not long after Hardy withdrew from contention. That 22 years long interview must have come as a surprise to Hardy as her record was about to cause her removal. Colangelo said Tuesday he spoke to his one and only candidate for the job without a description for the first time on….yes, that’s right, Monday, the day he offered the pension protecting lair to her.
Hardy’s new job will include her overseeing four groups that Colangelo will establish to work with community councils regional state’s attorneys have created. The groups will included faith leaders, education, youth issues and social services.
When they are constituted, maybe Hardy can recruit Wilson Ramos to serve. His brother Jose Maldonaldo was killed by an East Hartford Police officer with a taser in 2016. Hardy investigated and released a report finding the death justified. Ramos told the Criminal Justice Commission, according to a Courant report, “The report was released 38 months later … there was significant stonewalling, indifference and no sign of urgency,” Ramos said. “This caused a great deal of pain and suffering to my family because this is not what we thought the legal system has to offer…I met with Ms. Hardy several times over the span of 38 months. My initial impression was she had no interest in taking this case serious, instead she had the full intent of rubberstamping the full police narrative.”
The NAACP and the Connecticut chapter of the ACLU, as well as some Hartford area faith leaders, opposed Hardy’s reappointment. In his 22 years long interview for the job with no description, Colangelo ought to have been able to find time to interview them.
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Kevin Rennie is a Hartford Courant columnist, South Windsor lawyer and a former Republican state senator and representative.