Rell unsure if she'll OK funding for criminal justice system
When she signed a package of criminal justice reforms in January 2008, Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell called it legislation "that our citizens want and our state needs" and said the changes would make Connecticut safer.
Lawmakers at the time were reacting to the home invasion and triple homicide in Cheshire that took the lives of Dr. William Petit's wife and their two daughters.
But during a stop in Fairfield Monday morning, the retiring Rell was not prepared to say whether she will move forward with $23.4 million worth of comprehensive information technology improvements mandated by the reform package before leaving office Jan. 5.
As reported Sunday by Hearst Connecticut Newspapers, design of the Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS), intended to enhance communication between 11 state agencies charged with public safety, has been bogged down by unforeseen complexities and inter-departmental squabbles even as funding remains uncertain.
Connecticut is facing a budget deficit now estimated at $3.4 billion.
"This process has been frustrating," said Sean Thakkar, the technology czar from California hired in 2008 for $132,455 annually to oversee the CJIS project.
In late October the CJIS Governing Board, co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele, in a letter asked that Rell at her next bond commission meeting borrow the first $8 million for the project so the state could solicit bids from interested contractors.
Rell's office declined comment late last week. But during a brief stop in Fairfield Monday the governor, who leaves office Jan. 5, said she is planning one final bond commission meeting for Dec. 10.
Rell said the agenda, which she as commission chairman sets with her Office of Policy and Management, will likely be a large one, but could not state whether CJIS will be part of it.
Asked to comment on the CJIS board's request for the $8 million, OPM spokesman Jeffrey Beckham in an e-mail Monday wrote, "We never disclose our recommendations to the governor. The agenda is set when she decides it's set. It is sent out a week before the meeting."
Rell said she might consult with incoming Democratic Gov.-elect Dannel Malloy on some possible bonding items, including CJIS.
Not only will Malloy inherit the completion of CJIS, but he would also have to fund ongoing operational costs, estimated at around $13 million spread over five years.
But proponents argue CJIS will create $58.9 million worth of efficiencies.
Malloy on Thursday said he supports CJIS' goals but would like to understand and vet the project. But he did not suggest that Rell delay funding until he is sworn in.
"There's one governor at a time. She'll do what she feels is appropriate," Malloy said.
CJIS was proposed after the discovery that a sentencing transcript in which a judge described one of the Cheshire co-defendants -- parolee Joshua Komisarjevsky -- as a "calculated, cold-blooded predator" never reached the parole board.