EXCLUSIVE: Watchdog Leader on Esty: “She Needs to Be Held Accountable”April 6, 2018
Reclaim Connecticut spoke with Kendra Arnold, the leader of the group filing a complaint against Elizabeth Esty, on Friday.
“She needs to be held accountable.”
That was Kendra Arnold’s take on Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.), in the wake of reports Esty helped an abusive ex-chief of staff with a soft landing even after she learned of some of the allegations against him.
Arnold is the executive director of The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), the group that filed an ethics complaint against Esty on Thursday. Arnold spoke to Reclaim Connecticut in an exclusive interview on Friday.
WHAT FACT DOES
FACT “works for and promotes government accountability, ethics, and transparency,” Arnold said.
“Our main purpose is monitoring our elected officials.” When officials are not following ethical rules and guidelines, Arnold said, “we act, and we file complaints and write letters and do FOIAs [Freedom of Information Act requests] to investigate.”
FACT filed a complaint against Esty, Arnold said, because “[Esty’s] handling of the situation” – including her current chief of staff threatening a media outlet with Capitol Police – was concerning to the organization.
Another reason was because Esty’s behavior “exemplifies what a lot of citizens feel” about Congress, Arnold said.
They feel there are “no rules or standards applied to members of Congress and their employees,” the FACT executive director added.
“You are [left] speechless,” Arnold said.
She suggested that most people believe if the incidents involving Esty’s chief of staff had happened in the private sector, the chief of staff would not have received monetary benefits, nor a “glowing letter of recommendation” from the boss.
“I think there’s a lot of things here that make the normal citizen say ‘this exemplifies what is wrong with Congress,'” Arnold concluded.
Reclaim Connecticut asked Arnold how long she thinks it will take for the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) to rule on FACT’s complaint.
“It always depends,” Arnold replied. “It depends on the facts that they have, and then the investigation that they need to do.”
She said that it could take anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years.
But, Arnold added, “[i]t is a prominent case.”
“In this case the facts are pretty straightforward,” Arnold said. “They know what happened, she’s gone on-the-record … I don’t think this case will actually take the Ethics Committee that long.”
And what happens when OCE rules?
“The OCE is the first step in the House ethics process,” Arnold said. “They do an investigation. They produce facts and a recommendation to the Ethics Committee.”
The Ethics Committee then decides whether or not to move forward with the case, Arnold said, and would then determine if a punishment comes down.
“A VERY IMPORTANT CASE”
Asked for her final thoughts on the complaint against Esty, Arnold put it in the larger context of the demand for accountability on sexual harassment in Congress.
“In this case, I do think it is a very important case,” Arnold concluded. “FACT has been working in this area for awhile now. We’ve called on Congress to release all of the names of the Congress members who have utilized this system to maintain secrecy.”
“We think that this is one example of why those names need to be released,” Arnold said. “This is a very egregious case.”
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