An amendment to an unrelated new state law is being cited by UConn as a reason that football coach Randy Edsall’s son should be allowed to keep his coaching job.
It's a last-second legislative move that state ethics officials warn will significantly harm efforts to curb conflicts of interest.
Randy Edsall is a graduate of Susquehannock High School.
The state board of ethics issued an opinion last July that stated the negotiation of Corey Edsall’s job, as well as his place on his father’s staff, violated ethics laws but ruled that Corey Edsall could keep his job as tight ends coach for the 2017 season so long as he does not sign another contract. Corey Edsall was working on a one-year, $95,000 contract. In December, a judge ruled Corey Edsall could keep his job through the appeals process, which is taking place in Superior Court.
In June, lawmakers passed Public Act 18-175 which is primarily focused on how the state manages its data and ways to give public access to it. But the last paragraph of the 11-page bill, approved earlier this month apparently unbeknownst to even Edsall’s attorneys, has nothing to do with data storage.
The amendment reads in part that “a state employee who is employed at a constituent unit of the state system of higher education and a member of the immediate family of such state employee may be employed in the same department or division of such constituent unit.”
The amendment says the arrangement is legal as long as the “constituent unit has determined that procedures have been implemented to ensure that any final decisions impacting the financial interests of either such state employee, including decisions to hire, promote, increase the compensation of or renew the employment of such state employee, are made by another state employee who is not a member of the immediate family.”
The amendment is cited in a 36-page brief by the attorney general’s office, which is representing UConn in a civil action against the Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board. It is not clear which lawmaker authored the amendment.
Removing ethics board from the process? In the brief, Assistant Attorney General Kerry Anne Colson argued that the law, which took effect on June 7 when it was passed unanimously by legislators, allows not only for Corey Edsall to keep his job but also removes the ethics board from the process completely.
“In amending the statute, the legislature reiterated its approval that immediate family members at institutions of higher education are permitted to work in the same department or division,” Colson wrote.
Colson also said the new law makes it clear that the ethics board has no say in whether a family member can work for another family member.
“Notably, the legislature has vested the constituent unit of the state system of higher education, not the defendants, with the authority to determine the appropriateness of procedures put in place to ensure any final decisions impacting the financial interests, including the hiring, promotion, increase in compensation, renewal of employment, of an immediate family member are made by another state employee,” Colson wrote.
Ethics board caught by surprise: Carol Carson, the executive director of the state board of ethics, said Monday her office had no knowledge of the amendment until it was referenced in the court filing. She said the board has scheduled a special meeting for 3:30 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the issue.
“We have no idea how the amendment came about,” Carson said. “You could assume it was written for this case but it creates a very broad get ‘out-of-jail-free card’ for people within the higher education system in this state to be involved in decisions involving family members as long as they aren’t the ones making the final decision.”
UConn and Edsall have both filed appeals of the advisory board’s opinion on Edsall’s son’s employment.
Superior Court Judge Joseph Shortall has scheduled a hearing on the arguments for July 18. On Monday, he issued an order telling the attorney general’s office to submit a shorter brief by July 5. The ethics board will then have a week to decide whether to reply to that brief.
Plan called "a sham:" The board has agreed not to pursue Randy Edsall for what it considers a breach of ethics codes while the case is pending in superior court. UConn claims to have a management plan that removes Randy Edsall from a place of influence over Corey Edsall’s career advancement and potential earnings. The ethics board has called the plan a “sham.”
Edsall, who has agreed to a five-year deal and a $1 million salary, has not signed a contract nearly a year after being hired, mostly due to the situation with his son.