Sarah Kaufman lets out a long sigh before recounting her experiences as communications director for Connecticut’s Department of Revenue Services.
“It’s a lot of personality at work, basically who’s in and who’s not in at DRS,” Kaufman said. “Once you fall out of favor, then you see things happen very quickly, things change in your position and status at the agency.”
Kaufman is Press Secretary for the Connecticut Senate Republican Office, but before she took that position, she was Director of Communications at DRS for sixteen years. During that time she worked with both Tax Legal Director Marilee Corr Clark and General Counsel Louis P. Bucari Jr..
Clark claims Bucari used his influence at the agency to effectively freeze her out of her job in favor of another attorney, whom Bucari propositioned for a romantic relationship in 2014. Since then, Clark says, the atmosphere at DRS has been "hostile" and "inappropriate," and filed a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.
Kaufman says she is choosing to speak out because she witnessed the change in Clark’s treatment and worries that Clark’s allegations may affect her ability to get a job in the future.
“Marilee has really put her neck out there in doing this,” Kaufman said. “If you’re a woman who has filed a sexual harassment complaint, companies are going to think about whether or not to hire you based on that.”
Bucari denies Clark’s claims, stating it is an attempt by Clark to advance her career, but Kaufman says employees began to feel uncomfortable with Bucari’s relationship with Erica McKenzie, a subordinate tax attorney.
“Before I even left people felt uncomfortable at times around them and the way they acted together,” Kaufman says. “There were certainly people who believed or suspected that there was something less than a professional relationship going on between the two of them.”
In a complaint made to the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, Clark claims she confronted Bucari regarding his relationship with McKenzie, a relationship both he and McKenzie deny.
Afterwards, however, Clark says Bucari began to reassign work away from Clark and interfere with her job.
Clark went to DRS Human Resources in 2015, which conducted an investigation and determined Bucari had "exercised poor judgement" in several matters.
Although, Bucari was directed to attend leadership and skill building training and attend mediation meetings between himself and Clark.
Both attorneys say DRS never followed through with its own directives.
Former DRS Commissioner Kevin Sullivan moved Clark to head of the Office of Legal Affairs and Research where she would report directly to Deputy Commissioner Joseph Mooney rather than Bucari.
Clark filed her complaints with the CHRO in January of 2017.
For his part, Bucari has fought back against the CHRO complaints, issuing a response and submitting affidavits from Sullivan, Mooney and former head of Human Resources Jeanette Perez.
Kaufman says Clark is not the first person to be pushed aside by Bucari at the agency. John Bashar lodged a similar complaint against Bucari in 2016.
“John Bashar was definitely frozen out,” Kaufman said and she believes Clark faced similar circumstances.
Kaufman was let go from DRS in 2016 after the legislature and Gov. Dannel Malloy declassified the position and communications directors became political appointees.
However, before Kaufman left she noticed Clark and Bucari’s working relationship had gone south. “She was not as favored by him anymore,” Kaufman said. “I do regret not reaching out to her more professionally and in a supportive way.”
“People don’t always realize the risk and ramifications for people who come forward and speak out,” Kaufman said.