Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Town soliciting for lobbyist

By Max Bakke
Journal Inquirer
Published: Tuesday, February 3, 2009 11:59 AM EST

VERNON — The town has issued a bid for lobbying services to advocate for its interests at the state Capitol this legislative session.

The bid was published in last week’s Rockville Reminder newspaper, seeking services that Mayor Jason L. McCoy hopes will squash the persistent burden of unfunded state mandates that impact local budgets.

The $30,000 budgeted for the lobbying contract would supplement work already being done at the Capitol, the mayor said in an e-mail Friday. The town is a member of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, a special-interest group clamoring for lawmakers to delay these mandates and advocating that they provide for regionalization.

“As mayor, I want to stop talking about this and start taking action on every level,” McCoy said in the e-mail.

During a recent Board of Education meeting, local officials pleaded with the town’s legislative delegation for aid in dealing with an influx of state mandates that are swelling its budget, including requiring in-school suspensions, and asked for an enrollment cap at area magnet schools.

The $30,000 earmarked for lobbying services drew criticism during the town’s budget process last year and raised Democratic Councilwoman Marie Herbst’s eyebrows at a council meeting last November, when the mayor alerted the council to a $400,000 revenue shortfall in the current fiscal year’s budget.

Herbst criticized McCoy during that meeting for not eliminating the funds, opting instead not to fill several positions to close the gap, including $30,000 for a new police officer.

McCoy has had previous experience with lobbying services and has touted the benefits service would have on achieving town goals.

The Connecticut Office of State Ethics lists McCoy’s law firm as a client in 2005 and 2006 of former Republican lawmaker and party chairman-turned-lobbyist Richard Foley Jr.

Foley was a five-term state representative when he was convicted of bribery and sentenced to 40 months in prison in 1993 after accepting $25,000 from banker-developers to influence banking legislation in 1989. He maintained that the payments were consulting fees and Foley was released in 1994 after serving only four months. The conviction ultimately was overturned.

McCoy said Foley was doing governmental relations for his law firm during a year stretch starting in 2005.