Photographer Michael McAndrews documented Monday’s CityMusic recital, the culmination of an El Sistema-style, after-school music program at Burns Latino Studies Academy that is a partnership between Hartford Symphony Orchestra and the city school system. (We wrote about CityMusic in fall 2011.)
Burns students played the drums, violin, trumpet and recorder, and also sang for guests, which included parents and teachers, according to McAndrews. Check out his photo gallery.
Jared Kupiec, Mayor Pedro Segarra’s chief of staff, has resigned his post, city officials said Monday. His last day has not yet been determined.
Kupiec, 30, was appointed chief of staff in December 2010. Juan Figueroa, a former state representative and founding president of the Universal Health Care Foundation, will serve as acting chief of staff, officials said.
Figueroa will be on contract with the city for six months to assist in the transition. He will be paid $64,750, with the option to renew his contract at the end of the six months, officials said.
Kupiec has drawn criticism recently for charging a $700 dinner at Max Downtown on New Year’s Eve to his city-issued credit card. The meal was for eight people, who dined on caviar, rack of lamb and oysters, records show. Kupiec and Segarra later reimbursed the city for the meal.
He was also in the news last year after Segarra awarded him a $20,000 pay raise at a time when the city faced a more than $50 million budget deficit. Last month, the city’s chief auditor raised concerns about fairness after learning that Kupiec had been given an access card to the public safety complex, where he was using the gym for workouts. His card was revoked.
Maribel La Luz, Segarra’s spokeswoman, said Monday that it was Kupiec’s decision to leave his post. He plans to attend law school, she said.
Kupiec did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Kupiec announced his resignation in an e-mail to city employees Monday, saying that he would help ensure “a seamless transition and a full recalibration of the mayor’s administration.”
“I have thought a lot about this decision and know that it is the best one for me at this time,” he wrote. “My next step will be to prepare for a new career outside of politics and law school, which has been a life-long ambition that I have put off for far too long. I will always be loyal to our capital city and am eager to continue championing its incredible potential. I look forward to seeing some of the projects I pushed forward grow and develop but there are new challenges and opportunities that I feel compelled to pursue.”
Segarra, in a prepared statement, called Kupiec “a loyal and dedicated worker.”
“I truly respect his desire to tackle a new challenge,” Segarra said. “I sincerely thank him for all his work to my administration and the critical projects that would not have come to fruition without him.”
Segarra said the resignation will give him an opportunity to re-build his team at city hall.
Following Kupiec’s departure, two high-ranking city positions will be vacant. Former Chief Operating Officer David Panagore left his post in September. Segarra appointed Saundra Kee Borges, the city’s corporation counsel, to fill Panagore’s position, but later withdrew the nomination at Kee Borges’ request after city council members said she did not have their support. The city council must approve the appointment for chief operating officer.
The city has hired former Windsor Town Manager Albert G. Ilg on a temporary, part-time basis to assist with the transition and search for a new chief operating officer.
La Luz said it was not yet clear if the city would conduct a national search for a new chief of staff, but that Segarra would seek candidates with ample experience.
Prior to joining the city as chief of staff, Kupiec worked as a deputy campaign manager for Ned Lamont, who lost the Democratic primary for governor in August to Dan Malloy. He also served as campaign manager for David Zoni, who lost the 16th Senate District race in 2006, as a political action committee treasurer for state Rep. Ryan Barry, D-Manchester, and as a paralegal and office manager for the Hartford-based Katz and Seligman law firm.
Kupiec replaced Jose Colon-Rivas, who served as acting chief of staff shortly after Segarra took office in June 2010.
Full text of the e-mail that Kupiec sent to city employees today:
From: Kupiec, Jared W.
Sent: Monday, June 03, 2013 11:30 AM
To: Everyone (City Only)
Subject: A Fond Farewell
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
It is with a mixture of joy and sadness that I announce my resignation today. I will not be leaving immediately, however, as there is need to allow for a seamless transition and a full recalibration of the Mayor’s administration.
It has been an absolute pleasure to serve the City of Hartford. I have learned a tremendous amount working alongside all of you and am grateful for all the work we’ve accomplished together.
I have thought a lot about this decision and know that it is the best one for me at this time. My next step will be to prepare for a new career outside of politics and law school, which has been a life-long ambition that I have put off for far too long. I will always be loyal to our Capital City and am eager to continue championing its incredible potential. I look forward to seeing some of the projects I pushed forward grow and develop but there are new challenges and opportunities that I feel compelled to pursue.
I have to once again thank Mayor Segarra for giving me this special opportunity. It has been a tremendous journey to work for someone with real vision and passion.
Thank you all for your tireless dedication to the City of Hartford and I look forward to staying in touch.
Check back for updates.
Did you go to Saturday’s parade? Check out the Courant’s photo gallery.
The Hartford Parking Authority’s board of commissioners has named Carey E. Redd, the authority’s associate director, as acting executive director effective June 14.
Redd will lead the authority while it searches for a replacement for current CEO Mark K. McGovern, who has taken a job as director of community services for West Hartford. He leaves the parking authority on June 14.
Redd, who joined the parking authority in 2002, has supervised the operational staff and is the authority’s contact for on-street parking enforcement and citation management programs.
Mayor Pedro Segarra does not have the authority to reject or amend the city council’s $8.6 million in budget cuts, an independent lawyer hired by the council wrote in an opinion issued Thursday.
Attorney Steven Mednick of New Haven was hired by the council earlier this week to provide an opinion on whether Segarra has the power to “disapprove” — or reject — cuts made to his $543.9 million spending plan. The council last week cut $8.6 million from Segarra’s proposed budget, including reductions of $2 million to the police department and $1 million to the fire department.
The mayor responded by rejecting more than half of those cuts, opting for $3.9 million in reductions instead of $8.6 million.
Mednick wrote in a judgment submitted to the council Thursday that the mayor can disapprove any “new items of expenditure” and may reduce any “increased items of expenditure,” but that there is no reference in the city charter to “the mayor’s ability to otherwise modify, resurrect or restore” items that are reduced or stricken by the council.
All of the council’s actions last week fall within the category of decreased or stricken items, Mednick said.
“What is more, while the mayor purports to disapprove, he is actually disapproving, in part, and modifying, in part, by proposing an alteration to the amount of reduction proposed by the council,” he wrote. “There are no words in the charter which give the mayor the ability to propose such modifications as a counterweight to the council authority to decrease or strike items of expenditure.
“There is no authority for the proposition that a mayor may disapprove (or modify) items reduced or stricken by the council.”
Mednick added that the council “acted clearly within the parameters of its authority” and concluded that, “If the drafters of the charter wanted to confer upon the mayor the authority to ‘disapprove’ an item or items of expenditure ‘reduced’ or ‘stricken’ by the council, they could have done so.”
Council members raised concerns about whether Segarra has the legal authority to disapprove the cuts. The city charter states, “The mayor may reduce or disapprove any item or items of expenditure in any proposed appropriation.”
In an internal memo sent to some council members last week, Jonathan Beamon, a senior assistant corporation counsel, said, “The mayor appears to retain the power to reduce or disapprove of items in a proposed appropriation. The council would need seven affirmative votes to override the mayor’s reduction or disapproval of the item or items.”
The city’s deadline to adopt a budget is Friday. Council members have a called a special meeting for noon that day to address the budget.
We’re waiting to hear back from the mayor’s office and city council members. You can read the opinion here: Hartford Council Opinion.Mayoral Disapproval.30 May 2013
The city’s deputy chief auditor, Craig Trujillo, has informed the school system, the Hartford Public Library and the Hartford Parking Authority that expenses on their city-issued credit cards will be audited. The purchasing cards are used for dining, travel and other expenses.
Here is the main text of Trujillo’s email sent this morning. A copy of the internal memo was provided to Cityline.
We will be starting an audit of the Procurement Card usage and operations at the Hartford Public School System, Hartford Public Library and the Hartford Parking Authority. The purpose of the audit is to evaluate and test internal accounting and operating controls, the accuracy and propriety of transactions processed, and the degree of compliance with established Procurement Card Program operating policy and procedures, and to recommend improvements where required.
If there are any areas you would like us to include or place special emphasis on during our audit, or if you have any questions regarding this audit, please feel free to call me.
Trujillo addressed the memo to city schools’ Chief Financial Officer Paula Altieri, library CEO Matthew Poland and parking authority CEO Mark McGovern.
Last year, we revealed that the city revoked a school principal’s purchasing card after finance officers flagged multiple spending items, such as a $150 expense from the upscale handbag store Coach. Pamela Totten-Alvarado has since retired as principal of Kinsella Magnet School of the Performing Arts. (She also was the focus of a controversy several months ago over missing PTO funds.)
UPDATED: Here’s the full story on the new audit.
Members of the Working Families Party plan to rally outside the Hartford Courant’s building on Broad Street today at noon to protest the possible purchase of the Tribune Co., which owns The Courant, by the billionaire Koch brothers.
According to the Working Families Party Facebook page, “We’re rallying at the Hartford Courant on Wednesday to demand the Tribune Company not sell the Courant and its other papers to the Koch brothers.”
Such rallies have taken place around the country at other Tribune Co.-owned newspapers. Hartford city Councilors Larry Deutsch and Cynthia Jennings, both members of the Working Families Party, are expected to participate in the protest Wednesday.
Council members on Tuesday introduced a resolution opposing Koch Industries’ potential takeover of Tribune. The resolution states that council members support “professional and objective news coverage.” The measure was referred to the panel’s operations, management, budget and legislative affairs committee for review.
It has been reported that Charles and David Koch have expressed interest in buying all eight Tribune Co. papers, — the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel and Hartford Courant — as a package. The Kochs have not commented.
Gary Weitman, a spokesman for Tribune, declined to comment Wednesday on the Hartford protest, saying a statement released by Tribune Company Chief Executive Officer Peter Ligouri on May 15 best addresses the situation.
Liguori’s statement is below:
“There’s been a lot of noise recently about the possible sale of our newspapers and speculation on who the interested parties might be. From the get go, such speculation has been and is premature. A sale transaction is only one of our possible strategic options, and there are many others.
Such speculation is understandable, as over the past several weeks we have received a great deal of unsolicited interest in our publishing businesses, which says a lot about the strength of our brands, the outstanding journalism you deliver, and the talent and dedication of each of you.
I’ve promised that we will be as transparent as possible about the strategic review, so I want to get you up to speed on where we are now.
First and most important, thanks to your hard work and innovation, our newspapers are performing well and we’re ahead of our 2013 financial plan. We’re delivering compelling journalism, which drives readership, circulation and advertising. Our sales force’s creative, performance-oriented advertising programs are delivering results that are above expectations. Finally, we’re engaged in thoughtful, efficient business practices and managing our publishing operations better than ever.
As we’ve discussed at our employee town hall meetings, we will continue exploring all strategic options to maximize shareholder value, including retaining and operating our publishing assets. The process is ongoing and no decision to sell our publishing assets is imminent.
An important element in maximizing value, of course, is continuing to do the incredible job you’ve been doing since the start of the year—delivering great content, expanding our reach, and developing new products. The Board of Directors and the leadership team is extremely grateful for everything you’ve enabled us to accomplish so far.
Mario Marrero, who teaches fourth-grade at Betances STEM Magnet School, was named the city’s teacher of the year during an awards banquet Thursday night. You can view a video of the announcement here.
We wrote about Hartford’s three finalists recently and heard from students who love Marrero and his disciplined classroom.
Marrero joined the school system soon after graduating from college in 2006. For four years he taught at Milner School, where his mother was once a vice principal. He came to Betances STEM after Milner became a turnaround school in the state Commissioner’s Network last summer.
Marrero said it was difficult to leave Milner, where he tutored students after school and coached the middle grades basketball team. But he considers the move a “blessing in disguise.”
The other finalists were Joe Battaglia, an English teacher at Opportunity High School, and David Mangus, the lead science teacher at the Academy of Engineering and Green Technology at Hartford Public High School. Superintendent Christina Kishimoto noted earlier this week that it was unusual all three finalists were male.
Congrats to everyone for a well-deserved recognition.
Mayor Pedro Segarra on Thursday rejected some of the $8.6 million in budget cuts made by the city council earlier this week, saying he would approve about $3.9 million in additional cuts. He originally had proposed a $543.9 million spending plan.
Segarra said he would maintain a $1 million cut to the proposed police department budget; the council had approved a $2 million cut to police. The mayor also vetoed a plan that would require all non-union city employees to take progressive furlough days, meaning the higher someone’s pay scale, the more furlough days he or she would have to take.
You can view Segarra’s full budget message here: 5.23.13 PES FY 13-14 Budget Response Message
Council President Shawn Wooden did not immediately return a call seeking comment this morning. We’ll have more on this on the Hartford Town Page later today.
You can also view the mayor’s press release below:
MAYOR SEGARRA RESPONDS TO CITY COUNCIL’S PROPOSED BUDGET CUTS
— NEWS AND COMMUNITY STATEMENT—
(May 23, 2013) – Today, Mayor Pedro E. Segarra filed a response to City Council’s recommended budget cuts and made the following statement:
”What I submitted to Council today represents the compromise necessary to keep City services and public safety in tact in the way our constituents need and deserve. Council proposed $8.6 million in additional cuts but did not factor in attrition therefore the total reduction is approximately $7 million. I am proposing a net decrease of approximately $3.9 million for a total spending reduction of over $50 million dollars for FY13/14. Accordingly, the anticipated drawdown balance of the Fund Balance will be approximately $9.7 million dollars (a reduction of $3.87 million dollars and will leave a fund balance of approximately $16 million dollars). As promised, there will be no mill rate increase. The proposed modifications were done in consultation with my finance team and reviewed by Special Assistant Al Ilg.
“I have heard over and over from residents that public safety is critically important. And I have been very clear that in balancing the budget, I will not jeopardize the security of our city. Economic growth, a thriving entertainment district, developing our population is entirely contingent upon Hartford being safe. This year, we had no gun violence until mid-March – something that had not occurred in 30 years- and through the funding of new police efforts we attained a 35% reduction in homicides. While we cannot eliminate all violence, we can’t go backwards. There is simply no compromise to be made when it comes to the safety of our residents.
“While it is entirely appropriate for Council to make additional cuts there are some areas that would jeopardize the overall health and development of our City. Details exist in the formal response, but the main changes I propose are:
• A $1MM reduction to the Police Department instead of $2MM. Two million along with additional cuts to special events overtime would mean less police presence in all neighborhoods and minimum to no presence for special events. It prevents the hiring of a new police class, forces the elimination of the mounted patrol and results in job loss for many Hartford residents. It will risk us having to return millions in federal grants, effects future funding and will ultimately result in increased overtime. For many of the same reasons, I have reduced the proposed cuts to the fire department.
• No additional Departmental cuts or staff reductions. The furlough days proposed is unprecedented. We are already eliminating a substantial number of vacant positions, including non-bargaining unit employees referred to in Resolution #6, and asking all employees for $3MM in concessions.
• A $150,000 cut to Human Resources instead of $500,000. The Human Resources Department is mandatory and essential and this cut, in addition to the elimination of unfilled positions, would leave the City of Hartford without a functional department.
I share Council’s concern about the importance Fund Balance; one of the reasons I worked hard to increase it by over $8MM during my tenure. These modifications are responsible and will not harm the delivery of services or the quality of life of residents and visitors. Hartford, like all cities, has been doing more with less and yet given that reality we’ve accomplished new growth in the last three years that includes a financial surplus, new business development and an increase in the Fund Balance. We should be proud that we’ve been able to do what others haven’t in difficult financial times. I look forward to working with Council to strengthen the City’s finances and meeting the challenges that lie ahead.”
Attached is a copy of Mayor Segarra’s response filed with the Town Clerk.
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