Reardon’s gone, but questions linger

We’re sure Tara Reardon learned quite a few things during her three-year stint as commissioner of the state Department of Employment Security.

Apparently, how to resign with dignity wasn’t one of them.

On Wednesday, the embattled commissioner submitted her resignation to the Executive Council amid accusations that she violated the state’s anti-nepotism law and the executive branch’s ethics rules by ordering a subordinate to lay off her daughter so she could qualify for unemployment benefits last summer.

Specifically, Reardon instructed the agency’s personnel chief to lay off her daughter, Whitney Flanders, from her part-time summer internship job in August 2011, according to a whistleblower complaint filed by two co-workers that was first reported Wednesday in The Telegraph. Ultimately, Flanders collected $1,010 in unemployment benefits over the ensuing eight-week period.

Hours after the story broke, the council accepted her resignation, effective Aug. 31, and placed her on paid leave until that time. Based on her annual salary of $99,200, she will collect another $11,000 before she officially ends what was to have been a five-year term due to expire April 1, 2014.

Reardon, who did not make herself available to answer questions afterward, instead issued a scathing 383-word statement that put the blame for this entire affair squarely on the shoulders of “disgruntled employees.”

“As the Commissioner of the Department of Employment Security, my responsibilities included imposing discipline on various employees of the department. Some disgruntled employees have waged a continuous effort to create divisions within the department and undermine my leadership,” she wrote.

“They have distorted the truth and fabricated a story to cover their own failure to do their jobs in a professional and competent manner. Although the list of their disciplinary and performance issues is lengthy, confidentiality of personnel matters prevents me from publicly addressing them.”

Reardon, 56, then detailed some of her major accomplishments in office before concluding her missive by saying her agency was “too important to be disrupted by my own personal desire to defend myself from these attacks.”

So, after being formally accused of manipulating the system to her personal advantage, her singular response was to attack the credibility of her unnamed accusers and to refuse to directly respond to the allegations.

In doing so, she didn’t do any favors for outgoing Gov. John Lynch, who nominated the former Democratic lawmaker to the post in July 2009. To his credit, unlike the accused, the governor refused to downplay the allegations, calling them “very serious.”

Serious allegations, indeed. And while Reardon may have done the right thing by stepping down, her decision to do so without so much a modicum of class or grace is sure to leave a sour taste in the mouths of state taxpayers, who have generously paid her salary and benefits for the past three years.

Ironically, Reardon is the second DES commissioner to resign under a cloud of impropriety. She replaced Richard Brothers, a former GOP lawmaker and later aide to Gov. Craig Benson, who stepped down after being accused – though he was later acquitted – of billing the state for $4,000 in mileage for trips he never took.

Apparently, it’s not a job for everyone.