A state police trooper has been fired following an internal affairs investigation into how he received emergency food stamp benefits following Tropical Storm Irene, a state police source said.
Trooper Noel Jimenez, a 13-year veteran, was terminated last month following a wide-ranging state investigation that has led to 27 firings, 10 retirements, and 5 resignations of state employees who allegedly falsified their incomes to obtain emergency benefits, officials said.
Public records show that Jimenez earned more than $124,000 during the last fiscal year in salary, overtime, meal allowance, shift differential, and longevity payments. He earned nearly $115,000 in the previous fiscal year in those five pay categories. He was one of four state troopers who were under investigation for possibly filling out fraudulent applications to receive the emergency federal benefits following the storm. The other three cases are still pending.
Jimenez worked an overtime shift at a state Department of Social Services satellite office in Norwich in September. State officials needed to call in extra security because of the large number of people who applied for the benefits and were waiting that day on long lines. Jimenez could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Sgt. Andrew Matthews, the president of the state police union, would not confirm or deny Wednesday that Jimenez had been terminated.
“I actually don’t comment on any issues pending with our members until it’s completely done,” said Matthews, who is an attorney. “We ask that people reserve judgment until it is over.”
Attorney Rich Rochlin, who represents about 30 state employees who have been investigated for food stamp fraud, said Wednesday that Jimenez is not one of his clients.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration announced last month that 42 state employees had left their jobs, including five who had resigned their positions instead of going through the long process of hearings and arbitration in order to try to save their jobs. All 42 former employees are potentially subject to criminal sanctions, but no arrests have been announced.
The employees were fired because the Malloy administration says they falsified their financial information when applying for emergency benefits under the federal Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is known as D-SNAP. The program began following Tropical Storm Irene, which ravaged the state and knocked out electrical power to thousands in late August. The emergency money was designed not only to replace lost food, but could also to cover storm-related expenses like property repairs and temporary housing costs such as hotels. Actual food stamps are no longer issued, and recipients instead received debit cards with a specified amount of money allocated to the account.
After saying for months that about 800 state employees were involved, Malloy also announced that an additional 250 state employees had filled out applications for benefits. As such, an overall total of 1,053 state employees actually sought to receive emergency benefits.
So far, 128 state employees have been referred to their supervisors for potential disciplinary hearings. Of the more than 1,000 state employees involved, 685 have been cleared of any wrongdoing, according to a previous count by the Malloy administration.
The vast majority of state employees who applied “were honest” about their incomes and liquid assets in bank accounts, according to Malloy.
The Malloy administration has declined to release the names of any state employees who have been fired, citing a three-page memorandum by the attorney general’s office regarding confidentiality.
From The Hartford Courant.