Two Dem Clerks in Connecticut Disciplined For Sifting Through GOP Desk

State Capitol police determined Friday that no criminal laws were broken when two Democratic clerks were seen on a surveillance tape rifling through a Republican clerk's desk and moving papers last week.

But both workers, overseen by the Senate Democrats, are being disciplined for the incident.

The clerk of the legislature's Government Administration and Elections Committee, Stephen Palmer, will be reassigned to another committee, while Richard Lopes, assigned to the Transportation Committee, was suspended for two weeks, according to a Senate Democrats official with direct knowledge of the discipline, but who requested anonymity because it is a personnel matter.

Juliana Simone, the Republican assistant clerk of GAE whose desk was rifled, filed a complaint with the Capitol police after discovering items on her desk had been moved after she went home for the day on Jan. 24. She told the police she felt violated and harassed and works "in a hostile work environment," according to the police report.

That prompted House Minority Leader Lawrence J. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, to publicly call on Senate Democrats to fire the men. Cafero, who watched the video, called the acts "overt harassment."

Lopes, who is seen on the video sitting at Simone's desk for several minutes moving around various papers, told police he was only pulling a prank. Palmer, who is seen on the video watching Lopes during the incident and later sitting at the desk moving around papers, said he tried to put things back in proper order afterward.

Cafero acknowledged there has been tension between Democrats and Republicans in the committee offices. According to the police report, the Democrats suspected Simone of searching through their desks in the past.

The Senate Democrats issued a statement Friday calling the clerks' behavior "unprofessional and unacceptable."

The GAE committee has dealt with some dicey partisan issues in recent years, including some spirited hearings held last summer regarding the actions of Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell's chief of staff, M. Lisa Moody.

Capitol Police reviewed the surveillance tapes and interviewed numerous legislative employees, as well as at least one lawmaker, as part of their investigation.