State Contracting Standards Boards Takes ‘Unprecedented’ Step in Respler Case

After announcing a formal investigation into Jeffrey Respler to consider whether to disqualify him from bidding on state contracts, David Guay, executive director of the State Contracting Standards Board told CT Examiner that the pending decision would not affect Respler’s  agreement with the Town Groton to redevelop the vacant Mystic Oral School property.

Respler signed an agreement with the Town of Groton in February 2020, and was later revealed to have pled guilty to four misdemeanor counts of conspiracy in 2004 related to a contract to install water meters for the City of New York – a fact that could be used to justify disqualifying him from state contracts. 

The inquiry is unprecedented according to Guay, who said that the board had not held a hearing on disqualifying a contractor since it was formed in 2013. Guay said that although the investigation began in response to complaints regarding the agreement with the town, the board does not have jurisdiction over the contract.

If Respler is disqualified by the board, he would be disqualified from participating in state contracts, but would still be able to purchase the property from the state, would still be able to keep his agreement with Groton, and could still build the project if it’s approved.

Under the rules governing the investigation, Respler is considered a state contractor and subject to the board review, because he previously agreed to lease the Mystic Oral School property from the Department of Administrative Services.

In June, the Department of Administrative Services did not renew the lease to Respler, but a spokesperson for the department at the time said that Respler was negotiating to purchase the property.

The board has the power to disqualify a contractor from participating in any contracts with the state for up to five years if the contractor is convicted of violating any laws while trying to secure a public contract, or while working on a public contract, according to state statutes.

Guay said at Friday’s meeting that the fact that Respler pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor charges in New York in 2004 is “something that would possibly disqualify him as being a contractor” with the State of Connecticut.

“This doesn’t mean that he will be disqualified, that will be up to the panel. What I will do is present the panel with facts,” Guay said to CT Examiner.

In a call after the meeting on Friday, Respler said that he was not aware of the board, the meeting, or that they were investigating him. Respler said he had not been contacted by the board, and would have to talk to his attorney to find out more before he would comment.

A three-member panel, that includes Board Chair Fox, Bob Rinker and Donna Karnes, will convene a hearing to determine whether his guilty pleas warrant a disqualification from state contracts. 

According to Guay, it would likely take several weeks before a “show cause” hearing can be held.

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