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Your Emails are Being Observed': CT Environmental Official Resigns After Strange Message to Conservative Women's Group

Environment

"We are calling from the Democratic Electronic Monitoring Service. ... We wish you to know that your emails are being observed."

In late February, a strange series of events took place involving one of Connecticut's environmental officials who was accused of leaving an unusual voicemail for the leader of a conservative women's group. The result of this voicemail and subsequent investigation was a quick, 20-hour turnaround period before the official resigned from his post.

The Hartford Courant reported that Energy and Environment Commissioner Jonathan Schrag appears to have left a voicemail for Cynthia David who leads the Conservative Women's Forum. After news of this "menacing" voicemail was reported first by columnist Kevin Rennie, an investigation was launched into the call, which Schrag denies having left although he confirms it was his voice. Here's what the message, left mid-February and just before midnight, said:

"We are calling from the Democratic Electronic Monitoring Service. We understand that you are an emailer with respect to Democratic candidates. We wish you to know that your emails are being observed. Thank you."

You can listen to the message here.

The Courant reports that the women's group has called into question a recent environmental initiative, which it believes may have prompted this call. David said at the time that hearing her emails were being "observed" was unsettling. Shortly after the message was received and Rennie's column published with this information, Gov. Dannel Malloy's administration said they would look into the call. Here's what a spokesman said of the investigation:

"We take any allegation of inappropriate behavior very seriously," said Dennis Schain, spokesman for Schrag's boss, Commissioner Daniel Esty of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. "And [DEEP Commissioner Daniel] Esty will ensure there is a complete internal review of the circumstances surrounding this matter. As part of this review, we will explore all information — including Mr. Schrag's personal phone records — that can help clarify the situation."

Schain added: "At this point, we have issues raised by a newspaper column and Mr. Schrag's word that he did not make the phone call in question. No one should rush to judgment. Instead, we must take a careful look at the situation to determine exactly what occurred, and Commissioner Esty is committed to doing just that."

Schrag told Rennie that he was "concerned" and "confused" as to how a message with his voice was left and notes he doesn't "mean anyone any ill intent." Shortly after this interview, Schrag officially resigned from his position, although the Courant reports that the resignation was forced:

"Effectively immediately, I am resigning my position as Deputy Commissioner of Energy for the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection," Schrag wrote. "I am taking this step because of concern that my continued presence will be a distraction from the Department's efforts to create a new energy future for Connecticut."

David's response to the resignation, the Courant reports was one of relief: "I'm shaken, but just relieved that this is all out in the open."

It is still unclear how the leaving of the message actually took place. According to the Courant, Schrag had changed his position slightly, first stating that his cellphone had been lost and then saying his voice had been recorded in a public setting but he does not specify where, nor with whom, he was speaking.

Schrag received his appointment as Deputy Commissioner for Energy in Sept. 2011 to help develop the states energy strategy. Prior to this appointment, Schrag was the executive director to the state's Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a program working with 10 states as the "first regional, market-based regulatory program in the United States to address greenhouse gas emissions.

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