As usual, tonight was another eye-opener in Hartford. I had planned on attending the 6th District Town Committee meeting for a while and then run over to City Hall for the Cotto ordinance public hearing to protect Hartford's "lily white" folks (his words, not mine) or whatever he was trying to accomplish.
I never made it to the hearing but from what I hear, it was about 50/50 split with speakers in favor or against. One observer did tell me that the majority of the speakers against the ordinance were actually Hartford residents, while many of those in favor were from outside Hartford.
The 6th District Town Committee was like watching a train wreck that you knew was inevitable, but you just couldn't turn away from it. Hartford politics being what it is, the fact that the meeting was called in the first place was surprising enough. There was probably 15 or 20 people there and Jan Appellof, the 6th District spokesperson hosted the meeting at her home. Appellof as well as many others in attendance seemed to feel betrayed that Robles had apparently lied directly to them only a couple weeks before the IAD report was released
First up was Marie Hamilton who claimed the meeting was a "witch hunt" and she would not participate. Before leaving the meeting she vowed to work against the members supporting the meeting at election time as she had done to get them elected in the first place. As she started to leave she stopped in front of me and I thought I was the next one to suffer her wrath. Instead though, she told me how much she loved the blog and that was the only way she knew the meeting was being held because she read it here.
The cast of supporting characters continued to trickle in, Al Marotta, Lou Watkins, Jean Holloway, Alyssa Peterson and I can't forget Hallie Jackson from Channel 3 who was already there when I arrived. (Hi Holly)
Next up was Al Marotta who voiced the typical "innocent until proven guilty" defense as the proposed reason for taking no action. He perfected that during the Perez trial, I hope he will notify us when the first prayer vigil for Hector is being held. Marotta was also indignant that outsiders were in attendance. How could they possibly conduct a meeting with members of the Public and the media present. I guess that whole open and transparent idea is beyond his comprehension.
The focus of the meeting quickly turned to the perceived impending arrest and all of the "what ifs" that an arrest would cause. I made a comment at that point that I thought it would evolve into a witch hunt if they started to consider , as the lawyers say, facts not in evidence. I do believe that if the justice system does actually work and the facts are even close to those laid out in the IAD report, an arrest is 99.9% coming sometime soon. The focus should be on the IAD report which seemed pretty clear as to what Robles had been accused of and admitted to already.
I listened to the conversation though and began to think when is enough enough? What degree of criminality do we need before we feel that our trust has been violated enough to ask a public official to step down? Does it take a conviction on a Class A felony or just an arrest? Is a conviction on a misdemeanor enough or can we ignore an arrest or two? Maybe a DUI? Maybe possession of crack cocaine? Or once we feel as though a public official has violated our trust, damaged the integrity of the system of democracy and disgraced himself and their office can we call for their resignation?
Innocent until proven guilty is a cute catch phrase, but if no charges should arise does that mean people like Robles or Perez or other untrustworthy politicians be allowed to remain because they never faced a jury. Aren't we the voters allowed to determine their fate when they violate our trust?
For me the decision regarding Hector Robles was clear after he lied to me twice regarding the accusations. As a friend, he spouted off to me the same misleading statements and lies he has given to the media and others. He stated it is all administrative and he had actually been cleared and it was a misunderstanding. He was right in one aspect, it was administrative to a certain degree. All IAD investigations could technically be called administrative, those "administrative" investigations many times unfortunately evolve into criminal cases.
That is the situation that Hector finds himself in now as his fate is being considered by the Office of the Chief States Attorney.
Unfortunately, as evidenced at the meeting tonight, people that may have stood behind him if he had told the truth are now calling for his resignation. Anyone who has read the IAD report can read that Robles was very aware of the facts and that he admitted his actions constituted larceny, he knew he was "double-dipping" and he readily admitted to providing false time records.
It is not a matter of if or when he is arrested or convicted. It is a matter though of how willing are we to tolerate the violation of our trust by a corrupt politician. The cloud of corruption was just beginning to lift after the Perez trial and conviction. Mayor Segarra had just begun to restore some confidence in the operations of Hartford government. Now Hector Robles has made that dark cloud over the city even darker by not only blemishing the image of the Police department but calling into question his integrity as an elected official and a member of the Hartford Legislative delegation.
It shouldn't be only the 6th District Town Committee calling for Robles's resignation. Any member of the Hartford delegation who hasn't benefited through corrupt activities should be calling for his resignation. That might be difficult for some, you know that old "people who live in glass houses" thing, but there are others who actually have integrity and should be offended by Robles's activity.
Most importantly all of us who get out and vote should be leading the charge for Robles to resign. This is another slap in the face to every voter who takes the 5 or 10 minutes to actually vote and it contributes to the increased sense of voter apathy and the feeling that all politicians are corrupt. By the 6th District taking swift, yet fair and thought out action, they can start sending a solid message of their own. To do nothing sends the message that it is "business as usual" for corrupt activity in Hartford.
The old style politics that have contributed to Hartford's increasing apathy need to end. It is our system, we need to take it back and we need to actually find the leaders that are willing to take a stand and confront corruption head on. Corruption will not go away if we continue to allow those that tolerate it to be our "leaders".
Those that remain silent or oppose action are the ones getting the bus contracts, the do-nothing City jobs, employing their relatives or have greatly benefited by a corrupted government.
It is time to speak up and say enough is enough. Let the Democratic Town Chairwoman and the members of the 6th district DTC know you are fed up and want change. Feel free to post your comments here, I know most of them read the blog.
And Hector, I know you read the blog also. Remember the words I spoke to you that you told me kept running through your mind for the DTC vote the second time around? I hope they are running through your mind now and you pay attention.