Thursday, May 13, 2010
BUDGET HEARINGS GO NUCLEAR TONIGHT
Where do I even begin on this one?
I guess a quick re-cap of the basics would help. In 2007 the Working Families began to make in-roads into Hartford politics. In that election, the WFP won two of the three minority seats on the Hartford City Council, leaving only one Republican survivor.
In November of 2008 an unsuccessful candidate for Council in the 2007 election ran for Registrar of Voters as a third party candidate. Under state statutes, Urania Petit found a way to legally run and fulfilled all of the requirements and was elected as the first third party Registrar of Voters in the State of Connecticut.
Petit apparently was born and raised in the West Indies and hails from Saint Lucia. When you first meet Urania and begin talking about voting rights and democracy, her passion is overwhelmingly obvious . It is not uncommon to see her eyes begin tearing up as she speaks about everyone's responsibility to vote.
Since day one in the Registrar's office, roadblock after roadblock has been put up in front of her. To her credit, she has pushed forward and shows her professionalism every step of the way. As an example, even though she is equal in authority to the Democratic and Republican Registrar's, she has not been treated that way. When it came time for an office after her election, the vacant office of former Democratic Registrar Shirley Surgeon was not given to her.
Instead, a small cubicle, smaller than most people's closets, was constructed in the middle of the Registrars Office. Originally the "cubicle" had no air conditioning and was extremely uncomfortable after anytime with the door closed. Surgeon's former office was instead given to Democratic Deputy Registrar Garey Coleman.
Next, was the issue of furnishing the office. Petit was not provided with any office furniture even though I'm sure there was plenty available furniture after lay-off's of numerous city hall employees. After repeated requests for a desk and chair, Petit eventually went out and purchased her own office furniture.
The relationship has become more contentious month after month with regular accusations being lobbed at Petit by the Democratic Registrar Olga Vazquez. I could go on and on about the behavior of Vazquez, but if anyone followed the nonsense and fraudulent behavior during the processing of the 5th District Town Committee petitions, you already understand what makes Vazquez tick.
Let me fast forward to today. Over a week ago I had made an FOI request for the time records of Deputy Registrar Garey Coleman, I'll keep you in suspense for the reason for the request, but it should be good when it is done. Anyways, despite numerous requests, the documents haven't been provided by Olga Vazquez. Today, I made an additional request for the records to both Republican Registrar Salvatore Bramante and WFP Registrar Urania Petit.
The reason was that since the Registrar's Office is supposed to be non-partisan, both Bramante and Petit have an obligation to provide the documents which are maintained in their office.
Petit responded to my e-mail FOIA request, cc'd to Bramante and Vazquez. Petit apologized and stated that she was not given access to "MUNIS", Hartford's "do-all" database where payroll records are entered. I was able to verify that Petit was being truthful and she did not in fact have MUNIS access. Why that is so, even though Bramante and Vazquez have access, is another issue.
I replied back to Petit, cc'd to the others, and thanked her and advised her that since she was not in "care and control" of the requested documents as outlined in the FOI Act, I would omit her from any FOI complaint and/or request for fines.
Once again, fast forward to the Council's Budget hearing tonight.
Before the hearing began, I had gone into the Council's Conference room behind the Council Chambers. Several people were sitting in there including Urania Petit. I made some small talk and we were talking for a couple minutes and I noticed tears began running down Petit's cheeks. I asked her what was wrong and after some prodding she told me I "got her in trouble" today.
She related that apparently by being honest with me about her MUNIS access and my response back, that she was being too truthful. When Vazquez received her copy of the e-mail between Petit and myself, Vazquez apparently confronted Petit and called her a "rat" for giving me honest information. Yes, you read that right, this is our Democratic chief election administrator calling Petit a "rat" for being honest with me.
Petit also relayed to me that she wasn't comfortable testifying on the Registrar's budget because she essentially had no involvement in the budget process and planning. She also stated that she wasn't allowed to make any office expenses either, even though she is one third of the administration of the office. Repeatedly she has been rejected by her counterparts when she submitted receipts for reimbursement.
Quite simply, I said to Urania that enough was enough. I told her that if she wasn't comfortable with the process, then say so when asked. And that is exactly what she did. Much to the dismay of her counterparts, the fire in the Saint Lucian was lit.
And then the question about the use of consultants and the large amount of money spent for them in the Registrar's office came up. After the lies and the fraud were exposed after the 5th District petition debacle, you would think Olga would have learned that basic lesson that "honesty is the best policy". Nope, not Olga.
She spoke in defense of the hiring of "consultants". In the Registrar's Office. "consultant" has traditionally translated into "payback for political cronies and hacks". Just think back to the last election for the Board of Education where Hartford's "Queen of Absentee Ballot Fraud" Prenzina Holloway was hired as a "consultant". Enough said.
Round two for the WFP Registrar Petit. "And in this corner, wearing the colors of Saint Lucia, Uraniaaaaaa Petitttttttt" . Lets get ready to rumble.
Petit described how the consultants are nothing more than a waste of the taxpayers money. She stated that with three Registrars and each Registrar having a Deputy Registrar, there was no need for "consultants". You have six people able to do the work, again, no need for any consultants. It was obvious that Vazquez was in the final seconds before ballistic launch and Bramante was laying his head down on the table to try to stop the room from spinning,
by the looks of it.
Could it be that the patronage factory we call the "Registrar of Voters Office" was finally being exposed?
I for one am extremely proud of the courage Ms. Petit showed tonight. I see now why she has not been embraced by Hartford's entrenched political operatives. She has the potential to derail another car on Hartford's gravy train. Next stop ........an Honest Hartford City Hall.