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Coventry woman says she will appeal ruling

January 19, 2010 Local News 3 Comments

ctflag1The Coventry woman accused of violating state ethic’s policy while working at the University of Connecticut Health Center is appealing the $15,000 fine issued to her last week by the state ethics board.

Priscilla Dickman is also accusing health center and Office of State Ethics officials of harassing and targeting her, adding they “manufactured” evidence in the case and acted unethically.

The OSE had charged Dickman with using state time and health center computers, the e-mail system, telephones, Internet access and printers for business ventures.

The state’s Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board issued the $15,000 fine Friday after ruling she had violated state ethics policies. It released the information Saturday.

But Dickman, who worked as a medical technologist at the health center from 1978 through 2005, denies doing any work while on state time.

She also said the health center had no policy in place prohibiting employees from using their e-mail accounts for personal reasons until after she retired and the OSE was using a policy from May 2006 in its case.

“You can’t put a rule in place after I leave and hold me to it,” she said.

OSE spokesman Meredith Trimble, though, said witnesses testified the health center had a policy on computer usage and supervisors instructed Dickman to stop using her e-mail for personal usage.

Dickman also accused OSE employees, including enforcement officer T.J. Jones, of “manufacturing” evidence and copying documents in order to provide “copious amounts” of the same data to demonstrate probable cause.
She also accused Jones of violating ethics policies pertaining to computer usage, saying she has obtained e-mails showing Jones spent “excessive time” addressing personal matters.

Dickman, who has started a blog to track her complaints, said she got the e-mails via Freedom of Information requests, but Trimble said she has not seen any evidence of wrongdoing by Jones.

Dickman also accused the OSE of changing statutes and policies during the process and even questioned the appointment of its chairman.

She said she and her attorney, John Geida, have already filed an appeal, and will take the case to any appropriate court, whether it’s an appellate court or the state Supreme Court.

Trimble, though, said she has not seen any information about an appeal or complaint from Dickman “in any official terms” and only heard of it through media reports.

Dickman has also filed a civil complaint in July against Jones, OSE investigator Michael Morrissey and seven health center officials.

Dickman said in the complaint health center employees discriminated against her after she suffered a back injury in 1979 that resulted in a disability and she required special accommodations.

In the complaint, she said health center officials failed to make such accommodations and questioned her doctor’s diagnosis, prognosis and directions, and she was forced to retire because of this in April 2005.

Dickman then filed a complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, leading to additional harassment from other health center officials, according to the complaint.

The complaint also alleges health center employees “manufactured” an ethics complaint against her and the OSE has continued to prosecute Dickman while ignoring similar activity by other health center employees.

Dickman said Tuesday her ethics complaint was put on hold pending the outcome of the advisory board’s hearing, but it is now “very much active.”

Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. priscilla says:

    Monday, September 27, 2010Ethics panel met illegally: FOI Commission

    The Journal Inquirer published the following on Friday, September 24, 2010.

    Ethics panel met illegally: FOI Commission
    By Alex Wood
    Journal Inquirer
    The state ethics board violated Connecticut’s open meeting laws when it convened behind closed doors to discuss a procedural issue during last year’s hearing on allegations that Priscilla Dickman of Coventry violated the state ethics code, the Freedom of Information Commission ruled Wednesday.
    By a unanimous voice vote, the commission adopted a proposed decision by one of its members, Sherman D. London, who presided over a hearing in the case last Dec. 30.
    The decision came in response to a complaint by a Journal Inquirer reporter about the closed session of the Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board, which occurred on the first day of the Dickman hearing, Sept. 11, 2009, in the same building where the FOI Commission met Wednesday.
    The commission, the ethics board, and several other state agencies are housed in a building on Trinity Street in Hartford, facing the east side of the state Capitol.
    The reporter requested no penalties against the ethics board, and the commission imposed none. But it did order the board to post minutes of the closed session, which lasted about 11 minutes.
    The commission found that the closed session violated both the Freedom of Information Act and the provision of the state ethics code under which the Dickman hearing was held, which requires all such hearings to be open.
    The ethics board, which is part of the Office of State Ethics, can appeal the decision to Superior Court.
    The board has vigorously litigated the freedom-of-information case so far. It submitted an 11-page brief at the Dec. 30 hearing. And Barbara E. Housen, general counsel of the Office of State Ethics, read an additional eight-page legal argument to the commission at Wednesday’s meeting.
    Housen argued that London’s proposed decision conflicted with provisions of the ethics code. She also stressed the unusual character of ethics board hearings, in which a semi-retired Superior Court judge presides while the board members fulfill a role comparable to that of a jury.
    “This unique and new ethics hearing model, where a Superior Court judge presides, simply does not neatly fit the typical ‘meeting’ definition under the FOI Act,” she said.
    After a number of days of hearings, the ethics board concluded in January that Dickman had violated the ethics code by running jewelry and travel businesses while working as a medical technologist at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington. It found that she used state time and resources, such as e-mail, in the operation of the businesses.
    The board fined Dickman $15,000. She is appealing the decision in New Britain Superior Court.
    The board also met behind closed doors to deliberate at the end of the Dickman hearing. The Journal Inquirer reporter has filed a second complaint with the FOI Commission over that closed session. A hearing on the complaint is scheduled for Tuesday.
    In addition, Dickman is raising the issue of the closed deliberations in her court appeal of the ethics board’s action.

  2. priscilla dickman says:

    October 9, 2010
    Governor Jodi Rell’s real legacy was to be the change she made for Connecticut by redefining the Office of State Ethics. That office with all the new statutes and regulations was to be the corner stone for the country to emulate as states began to revisit their own ethics divisions. Many states were looking to Connecticut to review this legacy of Governor Rell and begin to adopt these well publicized changes in their own back yards. Perhaps we all had better put the breaks on and wait to see what Connecticuts’ Governor is leaving behind as her legacy before adopting it in other states.
    I attended the Office of State Ethics five year anniversary. There was quite a build up and lots of talk of the upcoming five year event of this new and improved Office of State Ethics. Along with that there were all the bright yellow signs posted around the capitol, so, I certainly for one was dismayed Governor Rell was absent. Actually other than Senator Kissel, I saw no other legislators. Perhaps fifty people filled room 2C of the Legislative Office Building and maybe twenty of those folks were OSE employees. Ms.Bornhurst of the Citizens Ethics Advisory Board was the only board member present. Embarassing attention has been made to this office and the CEAB when the previous Chairman G.Kenneth Bernhard was forced to step down for giving political donations while holding office. He said he did not know and it was just a little mistake? If the Chairman does not know the rules then who should? Attorney John Geida, who represented me as the first respondent to have gone before this board for a trial has filed an appeal on a myriad of issues including the violation of Mr Bernhard having taking his seat on the board too early after his political career ended,in violation of the state statutes, the structure of this new body and the actions of the members of the OSE enforcement division in conducting their investigation. It seems now it is very difficult to fill the seats on the CEAB and everyone is scratching their heads as to why? I personally can not understand how could they have even begun to fill seats in 2005? How could they open up office and have begun to hold CEAB hearings on ethics violations if the CEAB board, OSE and Governor Rells’ office did not have a clue as to the most basic of questions-how to abide by the statues in filling the seats on this most important board in the first place? More importantly why has our Legislature not weighed in on the problem yet? Many commented they watched the CT.N coverage for many of the days it was televised.
    Personally, I believe the embarrassment caused by the last very public hearing was enough to make anyone run for cover and not want to step up and be a part of what seemed like a three ring circus. There the CEAB sat as the judge and jury along with a prosecutor who seemed to redefine the statutes as he went along or as was required to make a conviction possibly result. I dare say anyone who had thought of sitting on the CEAB now would think twice for fear of tainting their name and reputation if they were to be associated with this office in its present state. Or at least until the Office of State Ethics, Governor Jodi Rell and the legislative body in Connecticut goes back to the drawing board and fix all the flaws with this new Ethics office and Citizens Ethics Advisory Board. I would think they surely must realize that manufacturing evidence to attempt a conviction is unethical, that not following the rules of evidentiary and civil procedures is against the statutes and laws of this state. But most importantly the Legislative body needs to realize that the OSE Enforcement Division does not even itself understand the role of its office yet or that of the board. What arrogance when in arguments to the judge, Ethics Enforcement Officer T.J Jones states “ I submit that as a matter of law that’s wrong, your honor. 1-81-A-3 is the provision of the code that says the board shall interpret the code, and when it interprets the code nobody appeals it. The board is the trier of fact in this case, it is bound by the law. That means they are the end all and be all until some other body tells them otherwise” . In hearing that recited from the prosecutor of the OSE clearly demonstrates that he and his office have a total lack of understanding of what their role is and what the role of the CEAB is to be. The arrogance to think anyone office in the state can deny one of their Constitutional rights is absurd!
    Well maybe Governor Rell did not appear on the fifth anniversary, October 1, 2010 for Ethics Day Awareness at the LOB because she just did not want to get out of bed and face the facts that she and her office got it wrong again! That if anything she did not fix the problem with the Office of State Ethics when she came into office, she actually made it worse. Now with the opportunity and all their flaws visible to the public she has failed to do anything to correct it. Perhaps now that the results of this disastrous trial is now going before the Appeals Court the OSE will again undergo a transformation and this time for the better. They may get training in what the statutes mean, how to interpret the code and what their role is in the state. Someone should also remind this group, they work for us, the taxpayer, they are not self employed. This office is quick to point out as the Enforcement Officer stated in his presentation yesterday that the OSE was reorganized after the previous office was dismantled as a result of the Rowland scandal. Well, John Rowland paid his dues, I have heard him speak and he admits his errors, if the OSE had admitted theirs on the investigation into their case brought against me at least after Jones took my deposition on May 2009 we both could have saved the state a ton of money. But maybe this was meant to be. OSE is not functional if it is not functioning properly. Let us hope the legislature steps in and rights the ship. As Jones likes to say this ship has sailed, but unfortunately it has sailed off a cliff and Governor Rells’ legacy with it. Govenor Rell gets an “F” here for sure.

  3. Priscilla Dickman says:

    When fraudulent activity on the part of state workers was brought to the attention of Governor Dannel Malloy, he let loose a predictable thunderbolt:

    “I want to be very clear about something — if anyone in state government is aware of any fraud or abuse in any state agency, I want to know about it. Anyone with information should come forward so we can investigate it, and they should do so knowing that there will be no retribution whatsoever. I know that culture once existed in state government. It doesn’t anymore.”
    The program as set up by the Feds, designed to provide immediate relief to nutmeggers who lost food supplies in a harrowing early winter storm, operated as the social service equivalent of a speed trap. Frauds, some of whom worked for the state, were quickly identified after they had accepted payments to which they were not entitled.

    The governor is not the only one in state government familiar with a “culture” that punishes whistleblowers and frustrates responsible state fraud investigators.

    Fraud investigation is a thankless chore for a number of reasons.

    Once fraud is detected and reported, people lose their jobs, and job retention in Connecticut is of paramount concern to state unions, politicians whose candidacies for office are supported by state unions, and what one might call the culture of recurring budgets.

    Fraud detection necessarily involves a return of money to funding sources, either the state or federal governments. And a reduction in funding for the present year will affect funding in the coming year. No one in the state or federal government can be expected to work diligently to reduce budgets, neither those in the federal government who supply funding to states for federally mandated programs, nor the distributors of the funds — i.e. state bureaucracies — nor the recipients of the funds. Indeed, the only people who might be expected to send up a cheer at the prospect of spending reductions in programs are taxpayers who ultimately pay for them, and their council is not represented by any of the principals who move tax money through the spending chute.

    Truth be told, state fraud investigators and whistleblowers are occasionally punished when they do what is expected of them, because the money they save will not be available for future spending.

    The punishment usually is indirect but effective. Many are the ways used by program administrators to discourage whistleblowing. State regulations, constantly evolving, are such a tangle of abstruse nonsense that one or another law or regulation may always be found in the mess and applied, sometimes retroactively, to whistleblowers who threaten the hegemonic culture of corrupt activities practiced by outwardly upright administrators.

    That is precisely what happened to Pricilla Dickman, who ought to have been given a purple heart for exposing deficiencies at the UConn Health Center and the attorney general’s office under the sainted Richard Blumenthal. A record of the indignities visited upon her by Mr. Blumenthal’s office may be found here.

    That no one is appalled by the thus far successful attempt to destroy Mrs. Dickman is a measure of the force of the retaliatory arsenal confronted by anyone in state government who is so bold as to put his lips to a whistle in an attempt to rout out what the governor is pleased to call a “culture” of corruption.

    Part of the culture of corruption has leached into the attorney general’s office itself. The office is by statute bound to represent the state in any litigation involving whistleblowing. At the same time, the office is charged with representing whistleblowers, a clear conflict of interest that should not be allowed to stand. The attorney general’s office should not be permitted to represent the interests of both the defense and the prosecution in litigation matters. When Mrs. Dickman encouraged state legislators to end the practice and withdraw whistleblower oversight from the attorney general office, the full retaliatory power of the state was brought to bear against her. No one doubts Mrs. Dickman will be crushed the end, at which point the lesson will be broadcasted to other state workers who seek to save the state’s honor, not to mention its money: Just shut up.
    posted by Don Pesci at 12:23 PM on Dec 8, 2011
    6:22 PM
    Priscilla said…
    It took years for Connecticut to allow a study to go forward and publish what is sadly wrong with our whistle blower retaliation laws. It was not until Republican Tony Guglielmo requested the study be funded and the report to be issued in December 2009 that the state became aware of how former attorney general and present senator Richard Blumenthal controlled the reports and audits of any whistle blower complaint. It became apparent after sitting and hearing the report to anyone present why the whistle blower who dared reveal fraud in CT was a dying breed. That was because rather than being embraced and protected they were retaliated against for merely doing what they should be congratulated for being willing to take the time to do-a civic duty really. The study is available online, the CHRO was changed somewhat as a result of the study but we need Governor Malloy and the new Attorney General George Jepsen to put some teeth and muscle behind the bill. Now is the time to encourage and protect those who honorably speak out to help stop waste in state government. It was unfortunate that after numerous attempts Senator Guglielmo could never get the support of the powerful chair of the Labor Committee, Senator Edith Prague to endorse his proposed changes to the law. She acted very interested when pulling us all together to discuss what took place when I came forward as a whistle blower and testified before the committee. Yet when the problem seemed to land squarely at the door step of Mr. Blumenthal and his army of attorney generals, Ms Prague pulled her support. Merely trying to get the state auditors, Patti Wilson and Robert Jaeckle to release the report truthfully on what I had raised concerning theft of benefits by employees at the University of Connecticut Health Center (UCHC)my employer for 27.5 years, hit a brick wall. With no participation from Ms.Prague and Mr. Blumenthal’s refusal to attend meetings or send a representative as requested by the Committee caused little to no endorsement or participation by the Democratic House or Senate and the changes finally died a quick death. Maybe now is the time for the new administration to look more closely at how whistle blowers are addressed in the State of Connecticut. Perhaps an effort by both parties can be taken to add this as a priority to their list in the upcoming session.
    10:34 AM

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