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Ethics hearing under way for former university employee

September 14, 2009 Local News 2 Comments

uconn-logoThe public hearing into ethics charges against a former University of Connecticut employee will continue Wednesday after proceedings began Friday.

Priscilla Dickman, a former UConn Health Center employee, is facing eight charges accusing her of using state equipment and time to conduct work outside of her role at the Farmington-based health center.

Her public hearing, which began Friday after Judge Trial Referee William Wollenberg ruled last month that UConn had probable cause, is before the before the Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board, the first for the board.

The advisory board, a nine-member panel of appointments by the governor and the legislature, was included as part of the Office of Ethics in 2005 and serves as the jury in such public hearings.

Dickman’s hearing will continue Wednesday in the same building housing the state Office of Ethics, which is located on Trinity Street in Hartford.

The hearing, which is open the public, must reach a conclusion within 90 days of commencement, ethics Education Director Meredith Trimble said.

According to UConn officials, Dickman worked as a medical technologist at the health center from 1978 through “at least” June 23, 2005, and was considered a state employee during this time.

UConn is accusing Dickman of using health center equipment to conduct business for each of her private ventures, a violation of state law.

Dickman also faces allegations of conducting private business while being compensated by the health center and the center states Dickman failed to perform her official duties during these times.

In addition, Dickman is charged with of knowingly acting to her own financial benefit while utilizing state time and resources.

She could face fines of up to $10,000 or be forced to pay back damages for each charge.

Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. priscilla dickman says:

    Ethics board’s closed deliberations illegal, FOIC says
    But $15,000 fine levied against Coventry woman left standing
    By Alex Wood
    Journal Inquirer
    Published: Monday, January 31, 2011 11:18 AM EST
    The state ethics board violated Connecticut’s open meetings law when it went behind closed doors a year ago to deliberate ethics charges against a Coventry woman who had worked at the University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, the state Freedom of Information Commission ruled Friday.

    But the commission declined to void the actions taken by the Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board at the closed meeting on Jan. 12, 2010.

    The ethics board concluded during the closed session that the former Health Center employee, Priscilla Dickman, had violated the state ethics code by using state time and resources, such as e-mail, to run jewelry and travel businesses. It fined her $15,000. Dickman is appealing the decision to New Britain Superior Court.

    A Journal Inquirer reporter had filed the complaint with the FOI Commission and argued Friday that the ethics board’s action should be voided to make the board aware “that a violation of the Freedom of Information Act can have consequences.”

    But the three members of the FOI Commission who were present at Friday’s special meeting — rescheduled from Wednesday because of bad weather — unanimously approved a decision proposed by the commission’s hearing officer, rejecting nullification of the ethics board’s action.

    “The commission does not believe that justice would be served by the consideration of such a remedy in this case, which involved a long, difficult, and conscientious hearing into the Dickman matter,” the decision says.

    The ethics board’s hearing on the charges against Dickman occupied a total of eight scattered days, between September 2009 and January 2010.

    Most of the hearing was open to the public and was broadcast by the Connecticut Network, or CT-N. But the ethics board, which performs a role roughly comparable to that of a jury in such hearings, went behind closed doors twice: to discuss a procedural issue on the hearing’s first day and to conduct its deliberations at the end of the hearing.

    The JI reporter complained to the FOI Commission about both closed sessions. The commission had previously ruled that the closed session on the first day of the ethics hearing was illegal. The ethics board is appealing that ruling to New Britain Superior Court.

    A semi-retired Superior Court judge, known as a “judge trial referee,” is assigned to preside over ethics board hearings.

    On Jan. 12, 2010, the final day of the Dickman hearing, there was a discussion of whether the ethics board’s deliberations should be open or closed to the public.

    A transcript of the hearing shows that Dickman’s lawyer, John Geida, argued that the deliberations should be open. But state Ethics Enforcement Officer Thomas K. Jones said, “The board should be able to deliberate in the manner that it deems most appropriate,” whether that be in public or in private.

    Barbara E. Housen, who is the board’s general counsel and a former staff lawyer at the FOI Commission, told the board that “these proceedings are not governed by the Freedom of Information Act.”

    G. Kenneth Bernhard, who was then chairman of the ethics board, expressed the view that closed deliberations would be in the best interests of the parties and the public. “I think it adds to the fair and open exchange of information and points of view with the members if we’re not being held accountable for every statement and observation to the public,” he said.

    Judge James G. Kenefick Jr., who was presiding over the hearing, then said, “It’s my opinion that the board may deliberate in private, and they do so starting now. So the public portion of the hearing is closed.”

    During the subsequent case before the FOI Commission, Housen argued that the judge’s ruling left the ethics board no choice but to deliberate behind closed doors.

    But the FOI Commission ruled that, while Kenefick approved of the ethics board deliberating in private, he didn’t direct or instruct the board to do so. Moreover, the commission said, Kenefick had indicated that his role ended when the board began its deliberations.

    Victor R. Perpetua, a senior staff lawyer at the FOI Commission, presided over the hearing in the JI’s complaint last August and wrote the decision ultimately adopted by the commission.

    Copyright © 2011 – Journal Inquirer

    Posted by Priscilla Dickman

  2. Ct retiree says:

    Here in Hebron, they insist “volunteers” sign an ethics code even for a study group. Yet the floating rumor states even a couple of members of an influential board in town REFUSED TO SIGN IT. What a town! Rules and ordinances are NOT APPLIED TO ALL RESIDENTS,

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