Commission’s resignation comes two days after FIO request

From Jon Lender’s January 24, 2016 Government Watch column in The Hartford Courant…

Word of [Andres Ayala Jr.’s] resignation [as Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles] emerged this past Wednesday, two days after The Courant submitted an FOI request and questions on a subject that might have become the latest political headache for him and the Malloy administration: DMV’s hiring in November of an Ayala associate from Bridgeport — who pleaded guilty in 2006 of felony drug charges in Superior Court and served time in prison — as a $36,000-a-year office assistant in the commissioner’s office.

The aide, Carlos Cosme, 39, worked for two years as a $40,000 staff member of the state Democratic Senate Caucus, starting in January 2013, then switched to DMV while Ayala was in charge.

Cosme initially was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2006 on charges of possession of drugs with intent to sell, but that term was reduced and he was released in 2009 to supervised parole that ended in 2011, records show. Cosme was not available for comment.

Personnel records obtained late in the week show that Cosme was hired at DMV on Nov. 13, although state comptroller’s records initially said it was early in 2015, and that he was rated as one of two top applicants by a three-member department panel that included Mildred Torres-Ferguson, the former top aide to the state Democratic speaker of the House who is now executive assistant in the DMV commissioner’s office.

The November hiring was Cosme’s second try at employment in the DMV commissioner’s office; it turns out that Ayala had attempted to hire him at DMV in January 2015 on his way in as commissioner, a top state official said.

Ayala’s predecessor, Melody Currey, told Government Watch on Friday that in her last days as motor vehicles commissioner a year ago (she’s now Malloy’s Department of Administrative Services commissioner), the newly arriving Ayala “wanted to hire” Cosme for a politically appointed position — a clerical job.
Ayala was “comfortable” with Cosme through his work with him as a Senate aide, Currey said. But when the DMV performed its standard background check on Cosme, it turned up the criminal history, Currey said. She said she talked that over with Ayala, and “it was a mutual decision not to bring him in.”