Senator says bye bye to controversial aide
HARTFORD — State Sen. Alex Bergstein no longer has an extra Capitol office employee paid out of her own pocket, a decision that sparked recent controversy over potential transparency issues.
Nichola Samponaro was Bergstein’s co-campaign manager and briefly worked for the Greenwich Democrat in the legislature. The party caucuses hire staff for them, but Samponaro was an additional aide, funded by Bergstein.
Samponaro’s employment ended in late February, Bergstein said Wednesday. A 31-year-old Stamford resident, Samponaro says she is employed as a real estate agent on her LinkedIn.
“It was always intended to be short-term,” said Bergstein. “When the press printed her name in a negative context and with factual errors, she decided it was time to move on.”
The Office of State Ethics issued an informal opinion last week that Samponaro’s employment by Bergstein was not a violation of state ethics law.
Carol Carson, executive director of the Office of State Ethics, said in an interview Wednesday that there is no state law that covers a case of a lawmaker who hired someone with their own money.
“Ethics statutes are for instances when a public official or state employee is using their office for gain,” she said. “And here you’re talking about a legislator who’s spending, not receiving money.”
Bergstein requested the ethics opinion in late February.
Some watchdogs said Samponaro’s unusual employment by the first-term senator raised transparency issues. But Vincent Mauro Jr., chief of staff for the Senate Democrats, said in February dozens of legislative workers — most of whom are unpaid interns — are in similar positions.
“There are currently about 60 badged, non-program legislative individuals working in the state legislature, according to State Capitol Police,” Mauro said. “This is not unusual and is a long-standing practice in the state legislature.”
firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @emiliemunson