Category Archives: Uncategorized

City To Create Portal For Raw Data

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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.

Attorneys Spar Over Asset Disclosure

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Attorneys for Earl O’Garro Jr. and AmTrust E&S Insurance Services returned to court Wednesday to address a motion for contempt filed against O’Garro after he failed to disclose his assets.

O’Garro and his company, Hybrid Insurance Group, are being sued by AmTrust, which has claimed that O’Garro made false statements and sent forged e-mails purportedly from AmTrust employees. The lawsuit also says that Hybrid received at least $300,000 for premiums on several policies, but did not forward the money on to AmTrust.

Andrew O’Toole, the attorney for AmTrust, has said that O’Garro did not disclose his assets until after a contempt motion was filed on Jan. 13. Superior Court Judge Carl Schuman had ordered that O’Garro disclose his assets by Jan. 8.

O’Garro eventually submitted a form listing assets, O’Toole said, but he omitted information and failed to address many “crucial” questions in the document. Among other omissions, O’Toole has said, O’Garro failed to identify 83 Johnson Road in Marlborough as property he owned; failed to provide the address for a condo he owned in the Dominican Republic; and checked “no” as to whether he operated a business.

On Wednesday, O’Toole told a Superior Court judge that O’Garro had not disclosed bank accounts for Hybrid and two other companies named in the lawsuit: Blaque Rock Capital and Marlbro’s Restaurant Group.

O’Garro testified that he did not have a majority stake in Marlbro’s Restaurant Group, and could not obtain Hybrid documents because he has not been able to access the company’s former office at 30 Lewis St. Sanford Cloud Jr., who owns 30 Lewis St. along with his sons Christopher Cloud and city Treasurer Adam Cloud, has said he took steps to evict Hybrid.

O’Garro said he tried twice in December to meet with the property manager, but the manager canceled both times. He testified that he did not attempt to access the building in January or February.

“The property manager indicated he would contact me,” O’Garro said.

Kevin Roche, O’Garro’s lawyer, called the asset disclosure form “vague” and “ambiguous” and said O’Garro filled it out to the best of his ability.

O’Toole has asked the court to find O’Garro in contempt, and require that he disclose the bank accounts for Hybrid, Blaque Rock and Marlbro’s, as well as pay the attorneys’ and court reporter’s fees for a deposition that took place outside of court on Monday and Tuesday.

No ruling has been made yet.

O’Garro Attorney: ‘Good Luck’ Attaching Assets

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Attorneys for Earl O’Garro Jr. and AmTrust E&S Insurance Services — the insurance company suing O’Garro — have been locked in a battle over the young executive’s failure to disclose his assets.

AmTrust filed a lawsuit in October charging that O’Garro’s company, Hybrid Insurance Group, received at least $300,000 for premiums on several policies, but did not send the money to insurance carriers. The suit also says that O’Garro made false statements and sent forged e-mails purportedly from AmTrust employees.

A Superior Court judge had ordered that O’Garro disclose his assets by Jan. 8. After he failed to do so, Andrew O’Toole, a lawyer for AmTrust, filed a motion for contempt against O’Garro. O’Garro’s attorney, Kevin Roche, has objected to that motion.

New documents filed by O’Toole this week include a series of emails between the attorneys. In one of them, Roche admonished O’Toole for disclosing his emails in a previous motion, and wished O’Toole “good luck” in his pursuit of O’Garro’s assets.

“It is inappropriate for counsel to use emails as exhibits in motions,” Roche wrote in an email dated Jan. 13. “I suggest you refrain from doing so in the future or I will be forced never to respond in writing.”

He added: “Good luck in your continued attempts to attach assets that either no longer exist or have already been seized.”

Roche declined to comment Friday.

In a memo to Roche dated Jan. 31, O’Toole indicates that O’Garro responded with a disclosure of assets statement, but he said O’Garro omitted information and failed to address many “crucial” questions in the document.

“The disclosure of assets statement produced while we were in court on [Jan. 27] to argue the plaintiff’s motion for contempt does not comply with the court’s order,” O’Toole wrote. “The statement is inadequate and only further demonstrates Mr. O’Garro’s continued disregard for the court orders. … Mr. O’Garro fails to respond to many crucial questions, and his responses to other questions are incomplete, omit requested detail and are purposefully evasive.”

O’Toole provided a list of what he called omitted or inaccurate information in O’Garro’s statement, including that O’Garro:

* Failed to identify 83 Johnson Road in Marlborough as property he owned

* Failed to provide the address for a condo he owned in the Dominican Republic (Sources have said O’Garro owned a condo at The Ocean Club in Puerto Plata)

* Checked “no” to whether he operated a business

* Failed to provide where the businesses were registered

* Failed to provide the names of banks and other financial institutions with which he and Hybrid Insurance did business during the past three years

* Failed to indicate whether he has an individual retirement account or certificate of deposit

* Failed to identify any transfer of personal property in excess of $1,000 in the last five years

* Failed to itemize his expenses, but indicates that they are less than $6,000 a month. “He also indicates he has no income and no bank accounts,” O’Toole wrote, “and receives $200 from ‘relatives/friends.’”

O’Toole could not be reached for comment Friday.

You can read O’Toole’s affidavit, series of emails and letters to Roche here: affidavit for contempt motion

Hartford Snow Removal Efforts

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Public Works employees are spread out across the city, plowing all roads curb to curb, officials said Wednesday afternoon.

Acting Public Works Director Keith Chapman said around 2:30 p.m. that all city roads were “passable.” They are expected to be plowed curb-to-curb by 10 p.m. Wednesday.

About 8 inches of snow fell in Hartford as of mid-morning Wednesday, according to a report from the National Weather Service. A winter storm warning has been issued for the state from midnight Tuesday through 6 p.m. Wednesday.

You can read more here.

In November, the city announced it had revamped its winter storm procedures. It is now operating under its new plan. You can read more about that here.

Below are some photographs of the city’s road clearing operations today. Thanks to the city for sharing with us (photo credit: Maribel La Luz).

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CIP Audit Released

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The city’s internal audit commission has reviewed Hartford’s Capital Improvement Project expenses and found that about $1.6 million may not have been spent appropriately.

Nearly $1 million in employee salaries and about $683,000 designated to cover repairs, supplies and other items were classified as capital improvement costs when in fact they may not be, auditors said.

We’ve written before about concerns raised over the $683,000 in capital expenses (you can view that story here). City treasurer Adam Cloud told council members in October that the $683K should have been classified as operating costs.

Jose Sanchez, Hartford’s director of management and budget, said at the time that the city had already offset $200,000 of the $683,440 in question by securing grants. He said officials would either request a transfer to cover the remainder of the costs or not make the purchases.

With regard to the nearly $1 million for employee salaries, auditors wrote: “Based on reviews and discussions with [bond counsel] … unless there is some mitigating reason for doing so, it would generally not be appropriate to charge LSNI salaries to a CIP account or pay for them with bond proceeds.  … These expenses would have to be reviewed in more detail to determine if they are eligible to be charged and accounted for in this manner.”

They added, however: “We were informed by Finance Department management that it is acceptable to charge salary to a CIP account when an employee works directly on the CIP project.”

One thing that stands out in the report is a caution to the city: “We … noted that actual and planned uses of CIP bond proceeds were not in accordance with federal tax regulations and requirements. As a result, the City of Hartford is at risk of losing the tax exempt status of certain bond issues.”

To read the full report, click here: CIPSpecialReviewMemorandumFinal

Mayor’s Comments At Rising Star Breakfast Spark Debate

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Tweeting from a breakfast with Hartford business leaders Tuesday, the official account of Mayor Pedro Segarra commented that Hartford had no homicides during the first six months of 2013. But the statement isn’t true.

Segarra was speaking at the Rising Star Breakfast organized by MetroHartford Alliance at the Hartford Marriott Downtown. Communications Director Maribel La Luz later tweeted a correction to Segarra’s tweet: “That’s inaccurate. Jan – mid March no homocides.” And later, she tweeted: “It’s accurate that it was 6 months- two 3 month periods.”

That isn’t exactly accurate either.

The last homicide of 2012 took place on Dec. 23, when Jazzy Delgado was shot in the chest on Hillside Avenue. The first homicide of 2013 took place 66 days later, on Feb. 27, when Sawarie Krichindath was stabbed in the neck. Police found her body on March 16.

Later in 2013, there was a full 3-month stretch with no homicides — from Sept. 19, when a 39-year-old was shot in the back on Marshall Street, through Dec. 20, when Angel Vasquez was found in a parking lot on Adelaide Street with a gunshot to the head.

The first mention of two 3-month periods with no homicides came from Hartford Police Lt. Brian Foley in a Jan. 7 email to the media, when he stated “Specifically, there were two separate 3 month+ periods with no homicides (January through March and Mid-September through Mid-December).” That was repeated in a Jan. 13 story in The Courant. The story has been corrected.

Read: Serious Crime Down In Hartford In 2013

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Van Norden Resigns

by Categorized: City Hall, Uncategorized Date:

The city is seeking applicants to fill the position of deputy corporation counsel, following the resignation of L. John Van Norden.

City officials said Van Norden has resigned effective Jan. 24. He is moving with his family to the Florida Keys, they said.

The city has listed the position as open on its website, and is seeking applications until Jan. 10. Applicants should have a Juris Doctor degree from an accredited law school and at least seven years’ experience as a practicing attorney, according to the posting. The annual salary range for the position is $103,040 to $156,800.

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City Job Posting

Van Norden could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

An investigator with the state’s office of the disciplinary counsel said in February that he would open an investigation into Van Norden, who at the time was not licensed to practice law in Connecticut, documents stated. A complaint submitted to the office noted that Van Norden at that point had worked for the city for a year, but still was not licensed to practice law in the state.

But city officials said Van Norden had been conducting day-to-day administrative duties, such as document work — not practicing law. He was admitted to the state bar on April 1.

In the job posting for deputy corporation counsel, the city noted that applicants “must be a member of the Connecticut Bar.” The appointee also must establish residency in Hartford within six months of being hired.

Perez Attends MARG Party

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Several people who attended the Maple Avenue Revitalization Group party Thursday at St. Augustine Church said they spotted a familiar face: former Mayor Eddie Perez.

In case you missed it, the appellate court on Monday overturned Perez’s five felony corruption convictions and ruled that he should receive two new, separate trials.

Following that, some began to speculate about whether he would make another run for the city’s top office.

Our colleague at FOX CT, Jeevan Vittal, asked Perez Monday whether he would run again. Perez dodged the question, saying he is focused on work and family. Perez opened an insurance agency on Park Street this past fall.

But on Thursday, Perez turned up at the MARG community holiday party, shaking hands and handing out business cards, according to several people who attended. It was the first time many had seen him in a while.

Meanwhile, prosecutors on his case are weighing whether to challenge the appellate court’s decision, or proceed with two more trials.