Segarra: ‘For All Those Watching, They Know Who The Real Fool Is’

by Categorized: Budget, City Council, City Hall, Larry Deutsch, Pedro Segarra, Politics Date:

Things have been a little tense between Mayor Pedro Segarra and City Councilman Larry Deutsch, who on Monday raised concerns about Segarra’s proposed budget — specifically, his plans to sell city assets and cut positions.

Segarra unveiled his proposed 2014-15 spending plan on Monday. You can read about it here.

Deutsch, a member of the Working Families Party, fired off a series of emails to the mayor criticizing his proposal. In them, he asked questions and pushed back against calls for job cuts and the selling of city assets. He also complained about tax lien sales and purchasing card (or “p-card”) spending.

In one email, he wrote: “Yesterday you did as threatened: layoffs, again, as your means for forcing concessions. Balancing your budget on the backs of working or unemployed people. Applying proportional furlough days was a means, applied to well-paid non-contracted (non-union) city employees including yourself, and would be a modest ‘shared sacrifice.’”

He added: “So whether it’s you or some other lawyers and politicians who are supposed to represent and protect the city long-term, some may have to leave office if they can’t operate honestly. To recall Abraham Lincoln: ‘You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.’”

Segarra responded in an email today, copied to The Courant:

Larry,

I will not lend myself to your madness. I will deal with these items when we present to council. You offer no real solutions but a lot of cheap rhetoric. For all those watching, they know who the real fool is.

Mayor

You can read the chain of emails here: Emails

What do you think of Segarra’s proposed 2014-15 budget?

Auditors: ‘No Valid’ Purpose For $3K P-Card Charge

by Categorized: Internal Audit Commission Date:

Earlier this month, The Courant reported that Hartford’s acting chief operating officer had charged $3,000 to a city purchasing card to help cover funeral expenses for an employee whose daughter was killed.

In a legal opinion, Corporation Counsel Saundra Kee Borges said, “… even though the Mayor did not authorize use of a P-card to pay funeral expenses, it was nevertheless inappropriate to authorize payment of funeral expenses for an employee’s family member using City money. City monies should only be used for a valid public or official purpose.”

Kee Borges said that Jose Sanchez, director of Hartford’s management and budget office, had directed an assistant to make the $3,000 payment, but that a few administrators, including Controller Leigh Ann Ralls, had authorized the transaction, which violated the city’s p-card policy.

Sanchez has agreed to reimburse the city with his own money, officials said.

All this happened as the Hartford Internal Audit Commission was investigating the matter. On Monday, the group made its findings public. Echoing Kee Borges’ opinion, auditors wrote that they could “find no valid or official public purpose in the donation of funds on behalf of an employee under these circumstances regardless of the method of payment. Therefore, all monies paid on behalf of the employee for funeral expense must be repaid to the City by one or more of the people who are responsible for authorizing the payment.”

You can read the audit report here: FinalReportCityP-CardAudit#1415

Wooden Files Papers For State Senate Run

by Categorized: Shawn Wooden Date:

Shawn Wooden, the city council president, filed papers this afternoon to form a candidate committee to run for the State Senate seat held by longtime incumbent Eric Coleman.

Coleman, a Democrat and co-chairman of the judiciary committee, has served as senator for the 2nd District since January 1995. The district includes portions of Bloomfield, Hartford and Windsor. Before that, Coleman was a state representative from 1983 to 1994.

Wooden, also a Democrat, challenged Mayor Pedro Segarra for the city’s top job in 2011, but bowed out of the race before the primary at Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s request. He has served as city council president since January 2012.

Wooden, 44, is a lawyer at Day Pitney LLP.

More here.

Police Union Responds To COO Memo

by Categorized: Chief Operating Officer, Police Date:

The Hartford Police Union today responded to a city memo, written by the interim chief operating officer and sent to city council members, which said that four unions have declined to provide concessions. You can read more about that here and here.

Below is the union’s response (from union President Richard Holton):

IN RESPONSE TO THE RECENT ARTICLE CONCERNING THE HARTFORD POLICE UNIONS UNWILLINGNESS TO ENTER INTO CONCESSION DISCUSSIONS, AS THE PRESIDENT OF THE HARTFORD POLICE UNION I WOULD LIKE TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT.

THE CITY AND THE UNION ENGAGED IN OVER TWO YEARS OF NEGOTIATIONS FOR THE CURRENT COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT WHICH WAS SIGNED ON AUGUST 24TH, 2012. THESE NEGOTIATIONS RESULTED IN SIGNIFICANT CONCESSIONS MADE BY THE UNION WHICH INCLUDED INCREASED HEALTH CARE CONTRIBUTIONS AND INCREASED CO-PAYMENTS, TWO YEARS WITHOUT ANY PAY RATE INCREASE, REDUCED RETIREMENT BENEFITS AND INCREASED RETIREMENT CONTRIBUTIONS.

THIS UNION HAS CERTAINLY DONE ITS PART IN ADDRESSING THE CONCERNS OF THE CITY, WHILE MAINTAINING ITS RESPONSIBILITY TO ITS MEMBERSHIP. HOWEVER THE CITY’S EXPECTATIONS OF OBTAINING $3,000,000.00 IN CONCESSSIONS ARE UNREALISTIC, TO EXPECT US TO PARTICIPATE IN CONCESSION DISCUSSIONS IN A LITTLE OVER A YEAR OF SIGNING AN AGREEMENT THAT WE PERCIEVE EXTENSIVE IN THE AREA OF CONCESSIONS IS JUST NOT LOGICAL.

AS AN EXAMPLE OF THE DISORGANIZATION ON THE PART OF THE CITY, MR ILG’S MEMO REFERENCED IN YOUR ARTICLE CREDITS THE FIRE UNION WITH DISCUSSING AS PART OF A HEALTH CARE COMMTTEE COST SAVINGS. SINCE AT LEAST 1987 WITHIN THE POLICE UNION CONTRACT THERE HAS BEEN A PROVISION TO HAVE SUCH A COMMITTEE, DESPITE A NUMBER OF REQUESTS BY THE UNION, THE CITY HAS NEVER FUFILLED ITS OBLIGATION TO COMMENCE THIS COMMITTEE.

HISTORICALLY, THE CITY’S HANDLING OF CONCESSIONARY DISCUSSIONS HAS RESULTED IN THE ABUSE OF OTHER CITY UNIONS BY REFUSING TO DISCUSS THE ISSUE WITH A COALITION OF UNIONS. THEY HAVE CONTINUALLY EMPLOYED THE DIVIDE AND CONQUER APPROACH WITH OF COURSE THE THREAT OF JOB SECURITY.

AS A FINAL STATEMENT WE ARE PROUD TO SERVE THE PEOPLE OF HARTFORD, IN DOING SO WE EXPECT A FAIR WAGE FOR WHAT WE DO. I WOULD CHALLENGE ANYONE TO FIND OUR WAGES AND BENEFITS TO BE INEXCESS OF OTHER SIMILAR CITY’S AND TOWNS, UNLIKE OUR NON-UNION POSITIONS WITHIN THE CITY.

WE STAND READY TO ENTERTAIN LOGICAL DISCUSSION TO MAXIMAZIE THE CITY’S TAXPAYERS DOLLARS WITHOUT A PREDETERMINED FINAL RESOLUTION ($3,000,000.00 IN CONCESSIONS).

Interim COO: Four Unions Have Rejected Concessions

by Categorized: Pedro Segarra, Unions Date:

Four unions–including two of the city’s largest–have rejected Mayor Pedro Segarra’s request for givebacks.

Segarra is counting on $3 million in union concessions to help balance the budget this fiscal year. He approached the bargaining units in 2013 for increased health care contributions — a move he said would help control costs.

But at least four have declined.

In a memo to Council President Shawn Wooden and Councilman Joel Cruz, Interim Chief Operating Officer Albert Ilg wrote:

“The City, as part of the adopted budgeted for FY 2013-2014, agreed to seek $3 million dollars in union concessions. The management of the City scheduled meetings with the Union in the fall of 2013 to begin concession talks. Four of the unions, MLA, CHPEA, 1716, and Police, were unwilling to grant concessions. Contributions from the School Crossing Guards, who are part-time seasonal workers, would have been de minims and the City did not pursue concessions from this bargaining unit. The Fire union agreed to pursue savings by way of the Healthcare Containment Cost Committee and the City is actively working with the Hartford Fire Union to achieve future savings. Additionally, the Human Resources staff is in the process of negotiating with HMEA a new contract. The union, when approached by City management in the fall expressed its intent and willingness to explore concessions as part of the collective bargaining process. Because we are actively engaged in negotiations we are unable to provide details of those efforts.”

Segarra in June put forth a series of proposals designed to increase pension contributions and end expensive health care programs for non-union city employees. The city council approved the measures in December. Segarra also raised the health care contributions for non-union employees.

The mayor began talks with union leaders about proposed health care changes this past fall. He did not provide figures for how much of an increase he was looking to get in the contributions. The contributions differ depending upon the union, he has said.

Segarra told the Courant in December that although the city will receive more money from the state than it had planned this year, layoffs are possible if concessions aren’t achieved.

“We don’t want to continue to eliminate jobs,” Segarra said. “If a different contribution system [were in place], they could at least have some sense of job security. It could benefit both sides.”

AFSCME local 1716 and the Hartford Police Union each represent more than 400 city employees.

We’ll have more on this later this week.

City To Create Portal For Raw Data

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

The city will create a portal to house raw government data, including maps, charts and graphs, the mayor’s office said Thursday.

All departments will publish information. Beginning “in the next several months,” the city will release information on its budget, grand list, taxes, finances and assessments. Data from health and human services also will be posted. No firm date has been set yet for its release.

From the city:

Hartford Mayor Pedro E. Segarra announced today that he has signed an executive order mandating all city departments to publish raw government data on the city’s website.  The executive order authorizes collection of the data by the Chief Information Officer who will manage and update the information regularly. To kick off the effort, twenty data sets will be released in the next several months including financial, budget, assessors, tax, grand list, and health and human services information.

“This is about far more than transparency,” said Mayor Segarra. “Opening the door to public information makes our services easier to access, our City departments more efficient, and our collaborations with strategic partners more effective. Sharing data allows residents to understand how government works and gives them a chance to play a more active role in it. It will also allow us to come up with data-driven solutions for many of our most persistent problems.”

Mayor Segarra’s Executive Order No. 2014-1 establishes an Open Data Management Team made up of the Chief Information Officer and appointed representatives from each city department.

To implement the online portal the City of Hartford has signed a contract with Socrata, Inc. The open data will include maps, charts, graphs and it will integrate with the City’s enterprise Geographic Information System (GIS). The data will not include any personal or private records or any other personally identifiable information.

The Open Data Management Team will present its first report to the Mayor within 6 months and then yearly progress reports thereafter. Aligning with the State of Connecticut, Hartford is the first municipality to establish an Open Data Portal.

Wednesday COW Meeting On Budget Canceled

by Categorized: Budget, City Council, Eddie Perez, Finance, Pedro Segarra Date:

Tonight’s Committee of the Whole meeting, at which Management and Budget Director Jose Sanchez was to give the city council an overview of the current budget and next year’s projections, has been canceled.

Typically, the city holds public budget meetings with the council beginning in February. But this year’s meetings have been pushed back more than once due to scheduling conflicts, officials in the mayor’s office said.

Shawn Wooden, the city council president, said Wednesday that there was some confusion among council members after a cancellation notice was sent out for the meeting, even though the meeting was still planned to take place. Because of the confusion, the council ultimately decided to postpone the meeting until Monday (March 31).

The following e-mail was sent to the council from its attorney, Allan Taylor:

From: Taylor, Allan [mailto:Allan.Taylor@hartford.gov] Sent: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 1:01 PM To: City Council Subject: Schedule Update

  Due to the confusion created by the circulation some days ago from the Mayor’s office of an Outlook notice canceling the budget COW session scheduled for tonight, there will be no COW meeting tonight.  On Monday, there will be a special meeting at 4:30 followed by a COW meeting with the nominee for C.O.O followed by a COW meeting that will cover the matters that had been scheduled for tonight.  There will be a second COW meeting on Wednesday at 5:30 to cover the remaining budget presentations (debt service, capital fund, pension fund, etc.) that had been planned for Monday.

Allan B. Taylor

Legislative and Legal Advisor to the City Council

The mayor’s office in the past has stressed the importance of the meetings.

“It’s important that we have these workshops so that we know what to expect,” former Mayor Eddie Perez said during a budget meeting in January 2010.

For those people curious about the outlook for this upcoming fiscal year, the deficit is estimated to be about $44 million (Projected revenues are $531,095,693 and projected expenses are $574,985,000). The mayor’s office said it has paid off the first two installments of the $13 million it owes the treasurer’s office this fiscal year as part of a memorandum of understanding, meaning it has paid about half. You can read more about that, and the budget projections here.

You can also view a budget presentation prepared by Sanchez here: Budget_Presentation_02-27-14

Labor Department: O’Garros Must Pay $8K

by Categorized: Adam Cloud, Earl O'Garro Jr., Hybrid Insurance Group Date:

Officials with the state Labor Department said Wednesday that embattled insurance executive Earl O’Garro Jr. and his wife Kendra must respond by Thursday to a request that they pay $8,000 in back wages to former employees of their Middletown restaurant.

If they do not respond, the department will pursue arrest warrants for the O’Garros, said Gary Pechie, director of the wage and workplace standards division.

The department has received five complaints from employees of the now-defunct Us Restaurant & Lounge, who say O’Garro and his wife owe them wages.

“We have sent a demand letter for the wages to both Earl O’Garro and his wife requesting payment of about $8,000 by March 27,” Pechie said. “If we do not receive a response we will be seeking a warrant for the arrest of both of them.”

Earl O’Garro could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

Kendra O’Garro said that although she helped run the restaurant, the establishment was never in her name and Earl was responsible for payroll. She said Wednesday that she has filed a motion in family court demanding that Earl disclose his assets and pay the employees. She said she does not have the money to pay the employees.

Earl O’Garro filed for divorce in October. The case is pending.

Us Restaurant & Lounge, which opened in March 2013, closed in September.

Earl O’Garro is the chief executive officer of Hybrid Insurance Group and the target of a federal grand jury investigation. Officials have said he failed to pay $670,000 in premiums to insurers for the city of Hartford. He also is accused of not forwarding to insurance carriers hundreds of thousands of dollars more in premium payments that he received from other companies.

Segarra Names New Chief Operating Officer

by Categorized: Chief Operating Officer, Pedro Segarra Date:

Mayor Pedro Segarra on Wednesday named Darrell V. Hill the city’s new chief operating officer, replacing interim leader Albert G. Ilg. Hill is the first person to the fill the position on a permanent basis since David Panagore’s departure in September 2012.

Hill, 43, worked most recently as assistant city manager in Norfolk, Virginia, overseeing departments and financial operations. He joined city government there in 2009, serving previously as director of finance and business services.

Segarra said Hill has an extensive background in finance. In 2006, he was appointed executive director of the Virginia Resources Authority, the state’s pooled credit agency for local governments, by then-Governor Mark Warner. In that role he oversaw a debt portfolio of more than $1 billion.

Hill is a 1993 graduate of Hampton University. He was born and raised in Hampton, Va.

No start date has been set for Hill, though city officials said he is likely to begin work in early April. His appointment must be approved by the city council.

He will be paid an annual salary of $170,000.

The position of chief operating officer has seen its share of turnover. Corporation Counsel Saundra Kee Borges assumed the job on an interim basis after Panagore’s resignation. But she stepped aside in October, shortly after she and her partner were involved in a car accident with their city-owned vehicle. City hall officials have denied that the accident had anything to do with her leaving the role.

Ilg, who had been working part-time as a special assistant to the mayor, has since served as acting COO.

More soon on Courant.com.

Photo: ‘Slacklining’ At Elizabeth Park

by Categorized: Parks Date:

Zach McCulloch, 22, of Bloomfield walks a slackline between two trees Tuesday afternoon at Hartford's Elizabeth Park. RICK HARTFORD photo.

Courant photojournalist Rick Hartford brings us this photo and summary: Zach McCulloch, 22, of Bloomfield walks a slackline between two trees Tuesday afternoon at Hartford’s Elizabeth Park. “We’re always out here,” he said. The two-inch wide line was stretched between two trees for a distance of about 60 feet. Slacklining has been compared to being on a skinny trampoline, with enough slack to bounce and do tricks. McCulloch put a tarp between the line and the tree trunks to protect both the bark and the slackline, he said. He got on the line by sitting on it and bouncing up and down until he had the height and rhythm to leap into the air and land gently upon the line.