Malloy rounds out top policy and politics jobs

The top public policy and political ranks of Gov.-elect Dan Malloy's administration took shape today with the appointments of his legal counsel and communication strategist, followed hours later by other key posts at the Office of Policy and Management.

Malloy named two close advisers, Roy Occhiogrosso of New Britain and state Sen. Andrew McDonald of Stamford to his senior staff. Deputy Comptroller Mark Ojakian of Hartford, state Rep. Michael P. Lawlor of East Haven, Gian-Carl Casa of Hamden and Anne Foley of West Hartford are filling the other top policy jobs at the Office of Policy and Management.

The appointments of McDonald and Lawlor, the co-chairs of the legislature's judiciary committee, will set off a scramble for two of the higher-profile committee assignments at the State Capitol. Lawlor is the committee's longest-serving co-chair.

Lawlor is one of the legislature's leading opponents of capital punishment. Lawlor and McDonald, who are both openly gay, also helped lead the legislative push to legalize same-sex civil unions and then codify in state law a court decision legalizing gay marriage.

Occhiogrosso, who was Malloy's media adviser for his gubernatorial campaigns in 2006 and 2010, will be the administration's communication strategist. McDonald will be general counsel.

"Roy and Andrew have provided me professional guidance on a number of issues throughout the years, and their acceptance of these offers will allow me to rely on a senior leadership team in my office ripe with experience inside and outside of state government, cognizant of the great challenges that lie ahead for us, and uniquely prepared to deal with them effectively and efficiently," Malloy said in a press statement.

Occhiogrosso, McDonald and Timothy Bannon, the chief of staff, all will report directly to Malloy.

With his inner circle complete, Malloy''s transition office named the four other advisers who will be based at the Office of Policy and Management, which is state government's budget office and often acts as its think tank, providing policy advice directly to the governor's office.

Ojakian, who is now the deputy to Comptroller Nancy Wyman, the incoming lieutenant governor, will be the deputy secretary of the Office of Policy and Management. Malloy previously had named Ben Barnes, a top aide during his mayoral administration in Stamford, as OPM secretary.

"I'm grateful that these public servants have agreed to join my staff at such a critical juncture in our state's history," Barnes said.

Placing Ojakian at OPM serves at least two purposes: one, it gives Barnes, a newcomer to the Capitol, a deputy well-versed in the political players, as well as fiscal issues; two, it reinforces Malloy's promise that Wyman will play a policy role in the administration. Ojakian is Wyman's closest adviser.

Lawlor, Casa and Foley will be undersecretaries, each overseeing areas of public policy. Lawlor will be the undersecretary for criminal justice, giving him an opportunity to shape Malloy's approach to sentencing and prison issues.

Casa, the top lobbyist for the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, will be the undersecretary for legislative affairs. He is a former colleague of Barnes, whom Malloy hired away from CCM to join his mayoral administration.

Foley, who already is a senior policy adviser at OPM, will be the undersecretary for policy development and planning. She has worked at OPM for 23 years.

The vacancies caused by the coming resignations of McDonald and Lawlor will force the first of several special elections. Others are expected.

Rep. John Geragosian, D-New Britain, the co-chairman of the appropriations committee, is a top contender for the job of Democratic state auditor, a post appointed by the House speaker and Senate president pro tem, with the consent of the legislature.

Rep. Jamie Spallone, D-Essex, has been offered a job by Denise Merrill, the incoming secretary of the state, as her deputy. He is the co-chairman of the government administration and elections committee.

Legislative leaders have delayed making committee assignments until they see who leaves for the executive branch.