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State Comptroller Kevin Lembo is resigning due to a severe heart condition

State Comptroller Kevin Lembo’s office announced Friday that Lembo will step down due to health reasons.

Lembo’s resignation will take effect at the end of the month. His office says he has “a serious and debilitating cardiac condition that has recently been worsening in intensity and severity.”

In a statement, the office says doctors recommended that Lembo stop working. Lembo expressed appreciation for voters who “took a chance on a gay, vegetarian nerd that had never run for office in his life.”

He has three children with his spouse, Charles Frey.

Before being elected comptroller, Lembo served as state health care advocate. He grew up in New Jersey and got involved in public health advocacy during the AIDS pandemic.

Gov. Ned Lamont will name a successor. The comptroller’s office provides accounting services to state government. The office also oversees state employee and retiree payments and benefits.

“It is with incredible sadness that we receive this news,” the governor said. “Throughout his entire public life, Kevin has dedicated himself to looking out for others, and in his time as comptroller, he has been committed to righting the fiscal ship of Connecticut and fighting to implement policies that tame the state’s revenue volatility and bring financial stability.”

“Kevin Lembo’s service to Connecticut has been remarkable, and his resignation is a huge loss to the state,” stateDemocratic Chairwoman Nancy DiNardo said. “He came here from New York and jumped into public service as the state’s first health care advocate and for the past 11 years as comptroller, fighting for transparency, smart budgeting and health care.

“Kevin is a colleague and a friend, and his voice will be greatly missed in the public arena.”

“Kevin Lembo is one of the most knowledgeable and dedicated policy wonks and leaders I have had the honor to serve with,” said Attorney General William Tong. “His fight for transparency and open government has made us all better public servants, and our state government is stronger because of him.”

Lembo fought throughout his tenure to bring greater stability to the state’s budget. With its large financial services sector and huge pockets of wealth in Fairfield County, Connecticut’s tax revenues have been on a roller coaster for decades, subject to the highs and lows of Wall Street.

Lembo’s efforts culminated in 2017 with enactment of a new savings program that greatly restricts the legislature’s ability to spend state income tax receipts tied to investment earnings. This program not only has helped Connecticut amass one of the largest budget reserves in the nation but also to deposit nearly $1.7 billion in surpluses as supplemental payments into its pension fund.

The comptroller launched the state’s searchable online database on spending and revenues, a network that has grown significantly during his tenure, also including public-sector salaries, pensions and contractual information. And Lembo also bumped heads with former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to mandate independent analyses of the hundreds of millions of dollars in economic incentives Connecticut provides annually to businesses.

“I’m extremely proud of what we’ve accomplished together during my three terms in office,” he said. “While I’m disappointed that I’ll be unable to complete this term, the work that’s been done in the last 11 years has made Connecticut a better place to live, work and raise a family, and that’s why I wanted this job in the first place. I feel confident that whoever follows me in this position has all the resources in place to continue this work and build on our successes.”

Lembo became the first openly gay person to hold a statewide elected office in Connecticut when he was sworn in as comptroller in January 2011.

Before being comptroller, Lembo served as Connecticut’s first health care advocate, spearheading a proposal to hold big pharmaceutical and insurance companies accountable for excessive prescription drug costs and profiteering.

He continued his pursuit of health care initiatives as comptroller, working with labor unions to implement the state’s first Health Enhancement Program, a preventive care and chronic disease management initiative that has improved patient health and saved on long-term costs.

During his tenure, the state also extended its health benefits to tens of thousands of teachers, emergency personnel and other employees at the municipal level. Lembo also has consistently fought to offer similar options to small businesses, nonprofits and individuals in the private sector.

“Everyone deserves access to quality, affordable health care,” said Lembo. “I’m fortunate to have the best doctors in the world to help me navigate this illness. The level of care you receive, and what you’ll pay for it, should not be dependent on where you work. I’ve done my best to wield the power of the office in a way that helps level the playing field for everyone in Connecticut, but there’s far more work to be done.”

Copyright 2021 Connecticut Public Radio

Matt Dwyer produces The Wheelhouse, WNPR's journalist round table and news analysis show. He also and reports for the station. Counting his time in college, Matt has been doing news on the radio in Connecticut since 1996, at stations including WTIC AM, WILI AM/FM, and WHUS FM. He has won regional Murrow Awards and Connecticut AP Awards.
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