When I first heard that the retiree ordinance was becoming an issue, I was told that the City Auditor was going to get an opinion from the Corporation Counsel's office, specifically L. john Van Norden..
The first thing that came to my mind was "isn't that a conflict of interest?"
Since when could van Norden issue an opinion that directly effects his boss, Hartford's Corporation and Acting COO Saundra Kee-Borges? The decision would also effect his secretary who is also listed as one of the retirees that may be "double dipping" in violation of City ordinance 2-370. It seems that even the most credible attorney could have their decision questioned based upon their bias or impartiality. And remember . we are talking about the Corporation Counsels Office here , so credibility isn't even an issue, it has very little based upon past practice.
L.John van Norden was only recently allowed to be admitted to the Connecticut Bar, as of April 1st, 2013, Is he now going to become our little April Fool's joke on the people of Hartford?
Any lawyer worth their weight tries to stay clear of conflicts of interest, and this one doesn't seem as though it could be any more obvious.
The Internal Audit Commission apparently was able to grow a backbone in record time and today issued their memorandum to Mayor Segarra and the City Council detailing their findings in relation to "double dipping" city employees.According to the report "Based
on our very strict interpretation of this section of the Municipal Code and review
to date it would appear that these employees are currently working under
conditions that are in violation of the Municipal Code."
Apparently the Audit Commission members also see the conflict, in their memo they are requesting that the opinion and legal direction be set by "outside Counsel". This matter will most likely end up in Court eventually, and I think the City needs to take any and all steps to make sure that what ever action they take is based in law, not just Mr. vanNorden's possibly "Biased" opinion.
The memo below from VanNorden to Hartford's Auditor Patrick Campbell is questionable. There is no case law cited as is typical in an opinion and seems to be based more on protecting Kee-Borges ascension to COO than it is to determine lawful facts.
At the end of the memo is also an e-mail from Campbell to Van Norden. it is both interesting and somewhat flattering that what "Mr. Brookman and a Courant reporter" are asking about seems to be driving City Policy. What about doing the right thing , whether I know about it or not?
It is also interesting that the City Council didn't seem to ask any tough questions at the Ascension hearing on Wednesday for Kee-Borges.Since it her job to represent the City and advise on legal matters, was she ever aware of the ordinance barring retirees from returning for longer than 6 months? Isn't that her job to be familiar with Hartford's ordinances. As the old saying goes, "ignorance is no defense under the law", there seems plenty of ignorance here to go around.
Also, the P-card issue is going to come down to management or the lack of. Kee-Borges has been the COO for close to a year now. Under her watch most of the p-card issues arose. Was it not her responsibility to supervise the Finance Director, who quite possibly was asleep at the switch when it came time to reconciling and verifying that all purchases were appropriate?
Stay tuned ,the retiree issue is not going away