WATCHDOGS: Bureaucrat raises red flags on grant

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Mark Tapscott

When tax dollars end up in the wrong hands, a bureaucrat usually ends up getting grief - or worse - about it, but there are also times when somebody in government says "whoa" before a questionable grant is approved.

Mary Plaskonka retired in March after 39 years with Connecticut's Department of Social Services (DSS), the last 19 as a grant reviewer. When she learned about a grant proposal for $300,000 to the New Haven People's Center, which is operated by the state's chapter of the Communist Party USA, she could have kept quiet and left her retirement undisturbed.

Instead, she contacted state legislative officials and encouraged them to look more closely at the proposal before giving it a green light.

“I am requesting that you review and deny this item,” Plaskonka wrote, according to Raising Hale, the blog of the Yankee Institute on Public Policy.

“Is the state in a position to use public funds to support the renovations of a Communist Party Political Center in the amount of $300,000? Why can’t that party raise their own funds to renovate the building? It appears they lack the financial resources to operate this facility to begin with,” she asked.

Since the top officials overseeing the center were part-time volunteers, Plaskonka also questioned whether it would be possible to insure adequate oversight of the grant.

Evidently Plaskonka saw a lot of bad grant proposals during her 19 years with DSS, as she told Raising Hale that the "shenanigans" with state money "were enough to make you want to vomit."

For more from Raising Hale's Zachary Janowski, go here.


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