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Monday, June 30, 2008

Lawyer's Phony Letter Could Get Her Disbarred

Lawyer's Phony Letter That Got Her Boss Fired Could Get Her Disbarred
The Connecticut Law Tribune by Douglas S. Malan - June 30, 2008

It started as a political story. Attorney Maureen Duggan was working for a state agency boss who, she claims, pressured her to go out for drinks with him, who worked fewer than 40 hours a week, and who played fast and loose with administrative rules in his position of power. As the sole provider for her family, Duggan told officials that she couldn't risk losing her job by challenging his actions. So she crafted an anonymous letter, filled with typos, purportedly from a parking lot attendant at the State Ethics Commission office in Hartford, and used it to kick-start a state investigation that led to the ouster of her boss, former Ethics Commission Director Alan S. Plofsky. Now, however, the focus is on Duggan and her future in the legal profession. Judicial Branch officials who investigate attorney misconduct say the reported fact pattern surrounding Duggan's case is extremely rare and most likely falls under Rules of Professional Conduct 8.4(3), which involves "dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation." Practice Book rules prohibit these officials from discussing particulars of any grievance complaint or investigation against an attorney until probable cause is found. But as for a scenario involving a deceitful letter, "it's really something that you don't see every day," said Michael P. Bowler, head counsel of the Statewide Grievance Committee. Bowler said he has seen instances of an attorney drafting fraudulent documents to cover their illegal or ethically questionable activities, "but when's the last time I saw this as a way to raise claims against his or her boss? Never," Bowler added. "It's almost impossible to classify something like this."

Governor's Review

While Bowler has the sole authority to suspend or revoke Duggan's law license, Gov. M. Jodi Rell's office is looking into whether Duggan, who now works for the state Department of Children and Families, can be disciplined as a state employee. Anna Ficeto, the governor's chief legal counsel, conducted a preliminary review and referred the matter to the state Department of Administrative Services for further investigation, said Adam Liegeot, spokesman for the governor. "Governor Rell requested the review to determine what, if any, action would be appropriate under DAS personnel policies," Liegeot said, adding that possible discipline include counseling, a reprimand, a demotion, a suspension, sanctions or dismissal. "DAS officials are reviewing the matter and it would be inappropriate to comment further until the review is complete." Duggan wrote the letter in 2004 when she was a staff lawyer at the Ethics Commission. After it triggered an investigation, Duggan and staff lawyers Alice Sexton and Brenda Bergeron then filed sworn whistle-blower complaints against Plofsky. In those complaints, the women described an unprofessional workplace in which Plofsky referred to female staffers with pet names and encouraged Duggan to leak information to the media that he believed would help him politically but that she believed to be confidential.

Federal Lawsuit

Plofsky eventually was fired. He appealed and was moved to another state job before retiring earlier this year. He is suing the Office of State Ethics in federal court in New Haven over his firing, a case being heard by U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall. A motion for summary judgment currently is pending, but Duggan's letter has no impact on that matter, said Gregg D. Adler, who is Plofsky's lawyer. The letter, however, could have an impact on a jury. "It's relevant in showing how the final events unfolded that led to Alan's termination," he noted.

In a deposition taken in January for that lawsuit, Duggan, who is now assistant legal director for DCF, revealed the genesis of the process by which Plofsky was removed from office. "I drafted this," she said, answering Adler's question about when she first saw the anonymous letter. "The only bit of good lawyering I did was moving through that answer and not acting surprised," he said. However, from the beginning, "it was really clear that [the letter] wasn't written by a parking lot attendant." Duggan said her husband at the time, Steven M. Regula, a lawyer for Chubb Specialty Insurance in Simsbury, knew about the letter and the work environment Plofsky created. "Ultimately I concluded that I couldn't send" the letter, Duggan said. "When I said I couldn't do this, what I intended to say was that I couldn't go through with going forward in this manner. What [Regula] took it to mean was that I couldn't do it and I needed his help. So he sent the letter."

Duggan and Regula are now divorced. Duggan declined comment for this story, as did her attorney, Hope C. Seeley of Santos & Seeley in Hartford. Regula did not return phone calls for comment. In her affidavit, Duggan said she took no steps to alert any of the ethics commissioners that she had written the letter. She said she was left with no choice but to use the letter to spearhead the investigation into Plofsky's activities. "I felt between a rock and a hard place," she said in her deposition. "I had a family to support and I couldn't walk away from my job. My husband wasn't working at the time. And on the other hand, I was going in to employment where I felt that the conduct and how the office was being run and how I was being treated personally by Mr. Plofsky was becoming increasingly problematic." When asked why she sent a letter supposedly written by a parking lot attendant rather than a letter with her name on it, she said: "I was very concerned for my financial well-being…and safety."


Anonymous said...

that's really cute..wish i had one too.

Anonymous said...

The nice thing with this blog is, its very awsome when it comes to there topic.

Anonymous said...

I filed a complaint with the Ethics Commission and quickly figured that all of the slugs were not going to do anything but con me. The whole thing became a big cover up, they just jerk me around. They should all go suck an egg.

Anonymous said...

attorney Duggan "drafts" a phony letter, what's the big deal? attorneys do that all the time, so tell me what's the big deal? She should get a metal for being creative.

Anonymous said...

anonymous - think you meant "Medal" not "metal" above - were you tired?

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