As a city, Hartford continues down the path of accepting poor leadership and apparently tolerating corruption, for some, if you belong on the right side of the political fence.
At last nights Hartford City Council meeting, appointments to the MDC were on the agenda. Among those named for re-appointment were William DiBella, Anwar Al Ghani, and Gertrude "Trude" Mero. Now Trude Mero I have no issue with, she seems to have done her time in Hartford politics and emerged unscathed by any scandals, from what I have been told. I actually met her for the first time last night and she seemed very cordial and we had a very good conversation. I look forward to speaking with her more in the future.
I prepared for the meeting with facts and figures as to why DiBella, a lifelong politician found guilty by a jury of his peers in Federal Court for being part of a fraudulent scheme to fleece the citizens of Connecticut of over $370,000 dollars, should not be re-appointed to the MDC.
I had high hopes that at least a couple of the members of the Council were starting to do what is right for Hartford after seeing their actions lately, especially demanding information into the finances of the Perez Administration. I had even higher hopes when I stopped by the Council Office before the meeting and saw one staffer working on information as to why Anwar Al Ghani would not be re-appointed because some councilmembers felt that the Hartford address he was using on Westland Street was nothing more than a maildrop scam to show Hartford residency, allowing him to qualify for a seat on the MDC. And furthermore, Al Ghani has allegedly been linked to the ongoing corruption investigation of the Perez Administration and his financial dealings with Digg's construction by apparently benefiting financially from his vote to appoint Digg's as the Hartford School building committee's construction manager.
Well, I figured I was on pretty solid ground opposing DiBella's re-appointment.
After all, if they were taking a hard line approach to someone only being rumored to be corrupt, they surely would take a stronger approach to someone who has been proven to be corrupt in Federal Court, after a trial by a jury of his peers, and after a Federal Judge called the funds he received from his "fraud scheme" the "ill-gotten gains" and ordered Dibella to re-pay almost $750,000 in fines. And if Anwar al Ghani's address was an issue brought into question because of a label on a mailbox, then most definitely DiBella's Federal Election Commission campaign filings
for his donations to both Senator Chris Dodd's campaigns and Congressman Chris Murphy's campaigns, listing his address as Old Saybrook, Connecticut should seal the deal. And if that wasn't enough, even the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission, in their filing of the fraud charges against DiBella, clearly list the defendant as "William A. Dibella, 59, a resident of Old Saybrook Connecticut".
I felt as though finally, Hartford's motto was going to start coming into play. "After the clouds, the sun" and the city that many of us care deeply about has been under a cloud of corruption for too long. Not only by the likes of Perez and his band of thieves (I guess I should say alleged thieves, unlike Dibella it hasn't been proven....yet), but also by the likes of William Dibella who have benefited throughout their political careers on the backs of some of the poorest people in the state of Connecticut.
I started adding the votes in my mind. I knew Council President Torres, Majority Leader Rosezina Winch and Councilman Boucher would vote true to form as King Eddie would instruct them. Vote yes for Dibella, a lifelong Democrat that may have been one of Perez's tutors on the fine art of public corruption. On the other hand Councilman Segarra has been leading the charge to bring the current administration's activities "out of the clouds and into the sun", so there is one vote. Councilman Kennedy has been very outspoken lately and helping to lead the charge for "all that is right and ethical for Hartford", so there is vote number two. Councilman Deutsch really does seem to get it, that he was elected to represent the people and seems to attempt to do what is right for them, even in light of the mindless majority leading the council, so there is vote number three. Councilman Cotto, seems to relish in being the champion for the "little people" without voices, so surely he wouldn't vote for someone that made over $370,000 for a few minute phone call at the expense of the "little people". That $370,000 "finder's fee" more than many of Hartford's residents would make in a lifetime at minimum wage jobs. So Councilman Cotto surely would be vote number four. And Councilman Ritter, a tough call for him. Ritter comes from the Democratic side of family politics who most likely worked along side DiBella in the legislature and have some strong connections to Dibella. I have the highest regard for Councilman Ritter and his potential as a future leader, but at this stage I don't think he is ready to make waves, he doesn't want to alienate any voter by aggravating them. I used to be like that,( I know, hard to believe) but as you get older you realize that principal accounts for something, you stand by it and at the end of the day, you can still feel good about your character and not being compromised.Councilman Ritter recused himself and abstained from the vote. And finally, we get to door number three, Councilwoman Veronica Airey-Wilson. Airey-Wilson is no stranger to the ongoing corruption investigation, her house was searched by Inspectors from the State's Attorneys Office, Public Integrity Unit. Although she appears to be a close ally of Perez, she also is rumored to be a Republican. Anwar al Ghani is also apparently a Republican and was rumored to be working hard to deliver votes for Airey-Wilson in her recent failed run for the state Senate. I thought that would seal the deal, vote number five.
Three votes from the Perez puppets in favor of DiBella's re-appointment, five votes against (with at least four of those votes doing it for the right reasons) and one abstention, motion fails.
Just when you think you have it figured out and as a city we are moving in the right direction, people are stepping up and forgetting the politics and doing what is right morally and ethically, the headlines were "DiBella re-appointed to Water and Sewer Board".
As one Councilperson explained to me, he thought Dibella has done a good job and politically they had to re-appoint him, other wise one of the suburbs might get the Chairmans seat, and we couldn't risk that. I guess if the yardstick we use to measure our public officials is not how corrupt or self serving they are, but whether they do a good job, Dibella's reappointment works. But in that case, shouldn't John Rowland, Joe Ganim and Buddy Cianci all still be in office?