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Thursday, February 24, 2011


The reactionary finger pointing that we have sadly become accustomed to in Hartford government is running forward at full speed. Was it Mayor Segarra showing that he does have a spine and standing up to the Board of Education that torpedoed the appointment of Dr. Kishimoto? Or was it Board President David McDonald proving that he doesn't have a spine by knuckling under to Segarra's demands?

The answer is probably quite simple, but I think we have lost sight of the real culprit. If Mayor Segarra expects us to believe that he first learned that the selection process was flawed just moments before the cheese and cracker platters were being delivered for Dr. Kishimoto's coronation, he really needs to rethink that. The talk in the community for weeks has been how Adamowski was hand picking his successor and if the Mayor wasn't privy to any of those conversations, he is drastically out of touch with his constituents.

The wrangling that went into the selection process and even the e-mails flying back and forth between parents, councilpeople and others painted a picture of a done deal for Kishimoto from day one.

The revelation of the $2.7 million dollars in bonuses revealed here a few weeks ago I'm sure didn't ease any tension between Segarra and Adamowski. The Mayor was actually forced into addressing the issue publicly after it was posted, even though I find his claims of ignorance to the process somewhat surprising.

The final straw though in the derailment of Kishimoto's appointment wasn't Segarra or McDonald. It was from the Trojan horse hiding within the Adamowski/Kishimoto inner circle. It was from one of their own loyal and faithful apostles of the Gospel of Perez, David Medina.

For those not familiar with the name David Medina, here is a quick education. David Medina is a former editor from the Hartford Courant. Medina was a member of the Courant's editorial board at the same time that the editorial board surprised many when they endorsed former Mayor, and now convicted felon, Eddie A. Perez for re-election in 2007. Even though Perez's home had been searched by State Inspectors and even though they were aware that a criminal investigation was in full gear, the Courant's Editorial Board endorsed the future felon Perez for re-election.

After that endorsement by the editors, it wasn't a huge surprise when one of the reported authors of the endorsement, David Medina, landed a $100,000 a year plus job as spokesperson for the Hartford School System. Actually his official title is "Director of External Communications".

From what I hear from most media people I speak with, former media people make terrible "spokespersons" or "external communicators". That seems to be true with the "former media person" in the Mayor's Office as well as the Board's choice of Medina. They both seem to have forgotten where they came from.

In Medina's case, boundaries and ethics seem to be foreign to him. That lack of boundaries on Medina's part was most likely the straw that broke the camel's back in the Kishimoto appointment.Not McDonald and most likely not Segarra either as the finger pointing would suggest.

On Tuesday, WNPR's Jeff Cohen reported on Medina's antics in his willingness to make phone calls and political arm twisting to garner support for Kishimoto's ascension to the Office of the Exalted Ruler at 960 Main Street. You can read Jeff's initial story here, and his follow-up story here

It seems that only after Jeff's story was posted that Mayor Segarra was forced to play his hand and step up and address the issue. The timing was highly suspicious and no matter what the Mayor's intentions were, it just looked like a political move to most peeple. And as you can tell, I am not a supporter of Kishimoto or Adamowski, but to eliminate the choice in the final hour is a showing of a total lack of respect for Dr. Kishimoto.

I do agree that a larger search is definitely in order.Did Mayor Segarra suddenly have some miraculous epiphany at lunch on Tuesday to call a hastily planned "media event" to derail the selection process that he had weeks to weigh in on? Who knows.

The one thing that makes me think it wasn't political on the Mayor's part or re-enforces that Segarra has terrible political advisors is this: If Segarra was actually interested in using the process for political gain, the smart choice would have been to support the only other candidate, Tim Sullivan. Sullivan's mother, Geraldine Sullivan, who also happens to be the sister of the late former Mayor Mike Peters, is still a political force to be reckoned with that can deliver votes.

Most people I have asked have told me that Tim Sullivan is a capable and qualified individual to be the Superintendent of Schools. Not all teachers support him because he apparently sided with Adamowski on the hotly contested issue of assigning seniority for teachers by individual schools rather than by district wide rankings. But even teachers that disagreed with his position on that issue agreed that he could be a good Superintendent.

My point is that if it was a political move, it would have been a no brainer for Segarra to push for Sullivan and most likely garner vote support for making the hometown kid and product of Hartford's Schools himself, the next Superintendent.

But then David Medina decided to throw all the boundaries and ethics away and let his fingers do the walking as he made his improper phone calls. And as anyone knows, apparently except for Medina, nothing in Hartford stays quiet. The word got out, the Mayor was forced to re-act, the Board and its new President had no backbone to stand up to the Mayor. The cheese and cracker platters and the fruit platters were assembled but left unused because the Kishimoto Coronation was cancelled.

And the rest is history, history as only Hartford can let it play out. And finally, for his role in the whole matter, David Medina has been "reprimanded" according to McDonald. Luckily for Medina, in most other places in the real world, Medina would have been terminated and escorted out of the building for unethical behavior like he showed here, especially when it ruined the appointment of his current boss's hand picked successor, embarrassed the Mayor and the Board of Education, a perfect trifecta.

Helen Ubinas also has written her column Thursday about the selection process,another blackeye for Hartford. Click here to read Helen's column


Anonymous said...

Kevin: It is naive to think the mayor didn't know anything until Tuesday afternoon. For all we know, he was trying for the past two weeks to get the board to reconsider their decision because it was obviously flawed in many ways, Adamowski's bonus manipulations notwithstanding, and upon being unable to do that diplomatically, he was forced to go the public opinion route. It is likely he worked until the last minute to persuade the BOE, and only upon meeting a deaf ear, did he call the press conference to get the results we now thankfully have. Nobody asked him how long he was working this problem before calling the press conference, and as you well know, when you can't get people to come to the table, getting your position before the public(via the press)is the time honored method of political last resort.

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable, Kevin. The story couldn't have been better told plus great opinion and rationale. Only point missing was one captured by Jeff Cohen of NPR regarding the influence of Elizabeth Horton-Sheff and others involved with the historic lawsuit and state takeover of Hartford schools. This quasi-secret coronation was an affront to that mostly open process that took place over many years.

All politicians can be accused of poorly handling situations, including Dr. Kishimoto. Her unsavvy comments reported in de la Torre's Courant article rule her out for future consideration.

As for Pedro, he had enough with the bogus bonuses, the incredibly inappropriate internal lobbying, as well as concerned phone calls from those who have been involved with the Hartford public school makeover for years. So he blew, albeit late as per usual.

Another day, another Hartford political debacle. Let's move on and see if Hartford can't get a search done correctly for these kids and if more overdue changes are made at the school board's HQ.
I'm willing to bet you'll have more dirt to report shortly, Kevin, so let's all stay tuned.

The King said...

David Medina is an incompetent hack. He should be fired.

Sick of Hartford Politics said...

The first Anonymous is right. More had to happen in the last week or two.

"It is likely he worked until the last minute to persuade the BOE, and only upon meeting a deaf ear, did he call the press conference to get the results we now thankfully have. Nobody asked him how long he was working this problem before calling the press conference, and as you well know, when you can't get people to come to the table, getting your position before the public(via the press)is the time honored method of political last resort."

Try and get the real story. This could not have been some last minute thing by Segarra.

peter brush said...

I think we have lost sight of the real culprit.
Personally, I'm not looking for culprits. What this episode demonstrates is not news; the chain of command within Ct. school districts, particularly Htfd.'s, is a confusing tangle.
Pedro probably honestly believes he has some sort of authority over the schools, and the board probably believes it owes some duty to him as the CEO of the municipality.
Even with those erroneous understandings of their roles, our guys could have avoided a wreck. Pedro should simply shut up about the selection process, or made a "request" with less fanfare at an earlier date. Alternately, the Board should have politely thanked Pedro for his advice, and given Kishimoto a three year term. Any hub-bub of outrage would have died out in due course.

Medina probably was out of line, but it's not at all clear to me that the situation has been improved by the Mayor. Look at it this way. The Board had conducted a valid "search;" one meeting State rules. It had a candidate who was qualified, who had experience with the Hartford school system, and who understood the "reforms" underway. Let's imagine, without asserting, that the Board is not the most competent organization that ever came down the pike. Is it obvious or even likely that the Board will a.)avoid botching a second search, and b.)come up with a candidate manifestly superior to Kishimoto?

peter brush said...

"All these years we were going back and forth, back and forth, without any stability," said Ross-Ellis, the president of the parent-teacher organization at Weaver High School. "Stability is what I was looking for."
Sounds reasonable to me. I had a kid in the system not that many years ago; rotating Supers, State "takeover" (as if the State weren't in charge in the first place). There's a (conservative) virtue in stability, continuity. I really think Pedro and McDonald owe a fuller explanation.