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September 22, 2021

Former CRDA board member, Hartford city official Johnson pays ethics fine for revolving door violation

HBJ File Photo Erik Johnson.

A former Capital Region Development Authority board member has paid a $2,500 civil penalty for violating revolving door provisions, according to the Office of State Ethics.

In a statement, the agency said Erik Johnson, the city of Hartford’s former director of development services, violated a Code of Ethics section prohibiting members of quasi-public agencies from seeking, accepting or holding employment with a company that has  a contract valued at $50,000 or more, for a period of one year after the contract is signed when the member “participated substantially” in the negotiation or award of that contract.

According to the ethics office, Johnson, as a CRDA board member, deliberated on and voted on a resolution allowing the authority to enter into a contract to restructure an existing state development loan and to create a new entity in which the CRDA would have an equity interest. The contract, which was executed in December 2019, was valued at more than $50,000, and Johnson’s role in the deal constituted “substantial participation.”

Johnson was a CRDA board member at the time as a result of his full-time role as Hartford’s development services director. 

Johnson ended his term as a board member in July 2020, and in September signed a contracting agreement with one of the parties involved in the 2019 contract, ethics officials said.

The Office of State Ethics didn’t detail the particular deal Johnson was involved in. But Johnson left his role with the city in 2020 to become senior vice president of development for Shelbourne Global Solutions, downtown Hartford’s largest commercial landlord that has been the beneficiary of CRDA support.

Johnson sought advice from the Office of State Ethics’ Legal Division after being made aware of the revolving door rules and terminated the consulting agreement prior to receiving any payment, ethics officials said.

“When public officials leave state service it is critical for them to understand that there are very specific revolving door provisions, which ban particular actions,” said Dena Castricone, chair of the Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board.

The stipulation and consent order laying out Johnson’s penalty does not state what company Johnson had planned to consult for.

Michael Freimuth, the executive director of the Capital Region Development Authority, said the agency had no comment on the matter.

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