Search This Blog

Friday, April 12, 2013


There is a quote engraved in the stone walls at the Mark Twain Visitor's Center here in Hartford. I saw it while there for a recent police promotion ceremony "If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything." Too bad more people at that ceremony weren't reading the walls also

Last week when the stories began to erupt regarding Hartford's problem with use  (or misuse) of city credit cards, WFSB's Len Besthoff was working on the story. He interviewed  Mayor Pedro Segarra regarding one of the charges that raised some eyebrows. Is a charge for the Mayor's New Years Eve dinner that was put on his Chief of Staff's City Credit card for $707.21

When asked about the dinner charge by Besthoff, Segarra replied angrily "I paid for half that dinner, half that dinner". You can view the interview and Mayor Segarra's exact words here on I'm not sure why, I just don't believe a lot of what is coming out of City Hall these days so I asked the Mayor's Office for documentation of the payment, when it was made and a comment as to why the Mayor thought it was necessary to make the payback in the first place.

I had hoped that maybe the payback was made January 1st or 2nd after the wine cleared and someone realized it was wrong for Hartford's taxpayers to pay for the Mayor's Dinner as well as the Mayor's partner, and his Chief of Staff and a female acquaintance. Last Friday , April 5th. I made my request through e-mail to the Mayor's Communications Director Maribel LaLuz. She replied asking me to giver her until Monday. That was fine, it was Friday afternoon, and Happy Hour at Salute was just around the corner.

Monday I received an e-mail from LaLuz informing me the information wouldn't be coming Monday because " Am working on getting this but due to POTUS visit may not get to it until tomorrow.
Keep you posted. M. "
On Tuesday another e-mail, but still no verification" Mayor was in budget meetings all day and did not bring the statement in. I've requested it for tomorrow. Will keep you posted..M
From that point on, nothing until late today
This afternoon another e-mail with a couple receipts attached arrived, and this is where the confusion begins. Despite the fact that the Mayor had stated to Besthoff that he paid half the bill, the receipts were dated today, and for 1/3 of the bill , not half. I guess anyone can make a mistake, but Segarra was so adamant and visibly upset, I had hoped he was telling the truth.
The explanation given by LaLuz also seemed to confuse me somewhat."Attached and below is the requested documentation regarding the Mayor’s dinner at Max on New Year’s Eve. It’s important to note that once Mayor Segarra realized that the charge was done incorrectly and not as he requested, he called MAX on Feb 28 at 11:00am and asked them to fix it- hence Adam’s apology below. There are telephone receipts confirming that request. That was before any reports surfaced about p cards.  To be clear, Segarra paid $205.76 on his personal card and Charlie paid $250.76 on his personal card. "
Why did it take two months for the buyers remorse to kick in, no one at that table realized that night it was wrong? And the scans provided showed only one charge for $250.76 and a credit for $250.76. In trying to make sense, I can only assume the charge was to Segarra's AMEX card and the credit was back to someones City Credit Card apparently, but only for a third of the bill, not half as was stated in the interview. No documentation was provided for the charge claimed to the Mayor's partner, Charlie Ortiz..

I guess it is troubling to me as to why Mayor Segarra would make the statement to Besthoff that the bill had been repaid when it clearly hadn't and why they would string me along for a week saying that the receipts were coming. The Transaction hadn't even been done yet.
I probably would believe it more if he had said he needed to go to the Credit Union for a loan after the request for receipts had been made


Earlier this week, I posted an e-mail from Hartford's acting COO written to Deputy Corporation Counsel L. John VanNorden questioning the mental stability of Councilman Raul deJesus.You can read that e-mail here

Now pursuant to an FOI request, I have obtained another of Mr. Van Norden's e-mails that apparently forced City Hall and Mayor Segarra into damage control mode.. Internal Audit Commission member Bruce Rubenstein sent van Norden an e-mail requesting information regarding issues that were raised in an audit report into the operations of Keney and Goodwin Park Golf Courses.

I am a friend of Rubenstein's and I try to look at these things with an open mind. Rubenstein's request , to me, seemed proper as a Commissioner of a Board he appeared to be doing his due diligence and following up on a Commission recommendation to ensure that the City's interests were being properly protected.

There are still numerous issues with the vendor managing both courses. One of the most troubling was Van Norden's report to the Commission that the vendor apparently did not seem to have the required insurance to run the courses or provide verification to the City that coverage is in place. That means without the proper liability insurance, if someone is injured on the course or if a golfer rolls a cart over and is hurt, the taxpayers of the City are on the hook for the claims.

Now there probably hasn't been anyone on the audit Commission in years that has stepped up and done what they are there to do and I know Rubenstein is touching nerves that haven't been touched in years.It is exactly what the City of Hartford needs right now as we spiral out of Control.

As an example, an employee pointed out cash thefts from the Tax Collector's Office a couple years ago. The Auditor's, as well as the Audit Commission were aware of the thefts. Former COO Lee Erdmann even testified at a Labor Board hearing, under oath, that over $10,000 had been stolen in a 2 week period from the Tax Collector's Cashier's Office.

The Audit Commission did nothing, the Hartford Police were never brought in to investigate and a City employee was a few thousand dollars happier. With a couple other Commissioners like Rubenstein, I am pretty confident the outcome would have been much different..

Apparently Mr. Van Norden can't stand the heat rising at City Hall, it is clear from his e-mail his disdain for Mr. Rubenstein and his level of expected accountability.

In doing more research though and obtaining information from my "alternative means" a pattern seems to be established that makes me wonder if anyone did a background investigation into Mr. van Norden's past. Where was our COO doing her  hiring process investigation.As taxpayers in this City we deserve a Corporation Counsel who is capable of interviewing and vetting candidates and finding the most capable person. That doesn't seem to be the case here.

Is anyone running this City?

It seems , according to media reports that van Norden abruptly departed his previous position as City Attorney for Schenectady , New York. The departure seemed somewhat suspicious. In December 2010, Schenectady media began to raise questions regarding van Norden. van Norden the city's top legal official at the time had been receiving his $96,373-a-year salary for the past six months even though he had been absent from work, and a replacement had been hired to do his job

Read more:

van Norden's legal credibility had also been questioned when he was sanctioned  by the Supreme Court of New York when he was sued for paternity and the Court ruled his actions to avoid a blood test were frivolous and sanctioned him in the amount of $5000.00. You can view that ruling here

In the ruling from the Supreme Court of New York. it is stated that "L. John Van Norden testified that he prepared the papers in support of this application while emotionally upset and angry and did not realize that he was using an outdated section of the Family Court Act". In looking at the e-mail to Rubenstein and the comments he made about the mental stability of Councilman DeJesus, is it possible that those anger issues and the emotional upset are regular behavior?

Here is another media report on van Norden's disappearance from Schenectady City Hall

A request for comment from Mayor Segarra's office regarding van Norden's email  to Rubenstein was not returned.see update below

Here is Van Norden's e-mail provided to me through FOI.

From: Van Norden, John L.
Sent: Tuesday, April 09, 2013 4:34 PM
To: ''; Campbell, H P.
Cc: Segarra, Pedro E.; Kee Borges, Saundra; Kupiec, Jared W.;; City Council;;; Cloud, Adam
Subject: RE: City of Hartford Keney and Goodwin Golf Course Management and Operations ...

The Office of the Corporation Counsel is not accustomed to receiving direction or inquiries from individual commission members, a commission being a body that acts as such and derives its authority as a body. We are accustomed to Pat Campbell serving as the spokesperson for IA. Has there been a change in organization? Does Mr. Rubenstein now serve as the IA spokesperson or director? Does he speak for the Commission? Perhaps I missed that appointment.

I am also constrained to officially raise an issue with Internal Audit that I had hoped might be resolved with less formality. Mr. Rubenstein continues to represent litigants in suits against the City. I had my staff run a review of our records and we count ten(10) active and pending lawsuits of claims filed by Mr. Rubenstein or his office. We have raised this issue in the past with Mr. Rubenstein who indicated he intended to reconcile the ethical dilemma by abstaining from any investigation of the Corporation Counsel Staff. In the course of researching an opinion request to the City Ethic’s Commission, we became aware of a specific statutory restriction, applicable to IA Commissioners, which is implicated by Mr. Rubenstein’s representation of parties with adverse litigation interests to the City.

Chapter 2, Article II, Section 2-41(c)(3)(f) of the City Code provides that “No member [of the Internal Audit Commission] shall: * * * (f)

Hold any financial interest in any work or business of the city or official action of the city”. Mr. Rubenstein’s financial interests as an attorney for parties adverse to the city appears to represent a violation of this restriction. The Office of the Corporation Counsel, mindful of its ethical obligation to maintain the appearance of propriety and to protect the public interest in the perceived integrity of government processes, requests that the Internal Audit Commission initiate an investigation into the eligibility of Mr. Rubenstein to serve as a member of the commission and determine the scope and applicability of Section 2-41(c)(3)(f). As we have previously indicated to Mr. Rubenstein, we will also be asking the Ethics Commission to evaluate the ethical duties of a City Commissioner in this context so that the Corporation Counsel is guided in its handling of matters in which Mr. Rubenstein represents adverse interests..





550 Main Street

Hartford, Connecticut 06103

Telephone (860) 757-9700

Direct Line (860) 757-9710

Mobile (860) 462-0876

Facsimile (860) 722-8114


Mayor Segarra's Office responded with the following comment at 6;15PM

Van Norden takes full responsibility for his email, he stands by the issue he raised regarding the statutory restriction and doesn't agree that his tone was offensive. The tone was direct and professional and discretely addressed significant legal and administrative concerns to a specific and limited audience with jurisdiction over the issue presented. But you should also know that Jared responded to his email and had an amicable exchange with Rubenstein. That email is below…

----- Bruce:

I cannot speak for DPW, Finance or Corporation Counsel, but this is an issue that Van Norden and I have tracked very closely, especially over the last year. In fact, it was at our request that this audit was pursued. You may or may not be aware that an RFP for a new management company was recently released and responses are due back April 18 ( The deadline, based on number of responses, may be extended. Traditionally appropriate Department Heads work with Internal Audit staff to verify follow-up on recommendations and same is tracked through the City's HartStat process. Pat has been very helpful in this regard and is quite vigilant to ensure that proper protections and protocols are instituted to address areas of concern. I suspect (and expect) the same will occur with respect to this audit. -J -- Jared W. Kupiec Chief of Staff Mayor Pedro E. Segarra City of Hartford


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

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


For regular readers of the blog, you most likely remember me writing about my nephew Andrew. Andrew suffers from, let me correct that, Andrew lives with Cerebral Palsy. He has become a great skier and is in training to eventually compete in the Paralympics. He has had numerous articles and news programs done about him detailing his efforts. Recently the Springfield Public television spent some time with Andrew and his mother, my sister Sheryl. The story is embedded below and go to the last segment, about a third of the way through. Much more can be found about Andrew's efforts at

Andrew's younger brother Ryan has also grown up facing his brothers issues and has also followed him into skiing and volunteers regularly mentoring handicapped and disabled skiers  at Mount Snow in Vermont.

For some reason I can't resize the preview screen, but if you click at the top of the embed on the link where it says Watch Connecting Point 4/9/2013 it will take you to their ful size viewer and you can fast forward to Andrew's segment

Watch Connecting Point 04/09/2013 on PBS. See more from Connecting Point.


This afternoon  I was working on installing security cameras at the new HPD substation at Trinity College at the corner of New Britain Avenue and Broad Street. And before you start the negative comments, I donated the majority of the system to HPD.

While I had gone out to my truck at one point, a small dog passed by me on the side walk, unfortunately a few minutes I heard a dog squealing and yelping and seeing that the same dog had just been hit by a truck. The operator of the grey pickup truck with a ladder rack  , obviously knew he hit the dog, since he initially stopped before speeding off west on New Britain Avenue.

Another driver got out of his car and despite the dogs growling, he picked the dog up and brought him to the curb. The dog was walking, although with a limp, but I didn't want him heading back into the street. I picked him up, grabbed a blanket out of my truck, and took him inside the substation to keep him from running off.

I called the police department Dispatch Center. Technically not a part of HPD  but sadly a separate agency that doesn't answer to the Police Chief. I explained that the dog was hit, the driver took off and I needed an animal control officer. The operator, took the address and my cell phone number and said I should get a call back from an Animal Control Officer. I guess we no longer call them dog wardens.

With the dog curled up on the blanket, I waited over an hour for a call or someone to show up to deal with this injured animal. After an hour I called the dispatch Center and spoke to a rude operator who stated "we are busy dealing with life and death situations right now". I asked him when was the last time an ACO had handled a life or death situation?" I asked him if I should just watch this dog die here wrapped in a blanket. He continued his rudeness , at which point I asked him to speak to a supervisor.

It should be no surprise to anyone that he put me on hold and no supervisor ever picked up the phone.

And this is where, I will readily admit, I have a luxury that most people being treated rudely by the Dispatch Center don't  have. I have the personal cell phone numbers of just about everyone at HPD from Chief Rovella, the Deputy Chief's, and most Lieutenant's. The shift Lieutenant, Charles Cochran intervened and even though the dispatcher said everyone was tied up, within a few minutes a patrol car showed up.

By this point the dog was starting to shake  and would wimper occasionally, I guess for a small pup getting hit by a truck he wasn't doing all that bad but he had been in discomfort for well over two hours now.

I found out later that apparently the ACO had signed off at the dog pound in Bloomfield but was unreachable for over two and a half hours. This would appear to also be a problem with supervision in the Dispatch Center. If someone was unreachable by radio for well over two and a half hours despite repeated attempts to raise him, shouldn't that have raised a red flag that someone should be sent to check on him? What if he was mauled by a dog at the pound and was injured?

It is just emtremely frustrating  that this Administration seems as though it can't get anything right, even dispatching assistance for an injured dog. Where is the accountability? We know the Department head was probably at home in Suffield by this point.

Depending on how the dog's trip to the vet went , and if he survives, my short interaction would make me think this this pup would be a great rescue pet for anyone, Even after getting hit by a truck and most likely he was in pain. He was never aggressive and layed curled up in my lap with his head resting on my arm like he had been around me forever. Please consider an adoption if possible


In looking into and reviewing the documents from the "SAMA Deal"numerous very interesting e-mails were turned over to me pursuant to an FOI request. One though will most likely ruffle some feathers and shine a light on how this administration views Hartford's legislative body.

At least two Council people, Raul deJesus and David MacDonald expressed concerns about the legality of the land deal and whether it was proper.

Numerous documents and opinions will show that it most likely was not completed in accordance with State statutes, but as Councilman deJesus pressed on with his insistence and need to feel comfortable with his decision on the manner, both Deputy Corporation Counsel and Corporation Counsel Saundra Kee-Borges  both seemed to joke about Councilman DeJesus's mental stability and wrote back and forth about it in the e-mail below.

After DeJesus stopped by the office of Deputy Corporation Counsel L. John vanNorden, Van Norden fired off an e-mail to his boss corporation Counsel Saundra Kee-Borges he expressed his frustration with DeJesus's insistence for documents, which apparently Van Norden thought were trivial.

Kee- Borges replied to Van Norden, "OMG" which for those not e-mail or text savvy, is known to mean "Oh My God". The VanNorden  replied back within minutes to Kee-Borges "Seriously! Is he unstable? I mean this is monomaniacal". Kee-Borges replises 2 minutes later "I think he has problems" Van Norden's response eight minutes later was in reference to deJesus suffering from mental illness was "Apparently. This is obsessive".

Since when has a Councilperson doing his due diligence before a vote become a sign of mental illness. Maybe the stability of two City attorneys actually putting something like this in writing for public view and drawing the mental stability of someone who is their boss as a member of the Corporation's Board of Directors should be questioned.

I don't always agree with MacDonald or DeJesus, but I do commend them  for standing strong when the stink gets too strong to ignore


I have been working on a land deal between the City of Hartford, the Spanish American Merchants Association and Hartford Hospital for several months now. The City has been slow complying with my FOI requests ( surprise, surprise) but there are thousands of documents and e-mails to review and make sense of.

In the meantime, Len Besthoff has also been digging into this and his report aired last night.

There is much more to this that will eventually come out, but in the meantime take a look at Len's report and see what you think by clicking here

Monday, April 8, 2013


Newtown, Newtown, Newtown. No one can deny that was a terrible tragedy, but is it any worse than the hundreds of shootings and deaths that take place every year in our urban areas? Do Hartford parents feel any less pain when their children are murdered at the barrel of a gun than parent's in Newtown?

Today as the President of the United States visits Hartford, media accounts have stated that his visit is not open to the public. Only University of Hartford Students and faculty, Newtown parents and invited guests will be in attendance. What about the parents or family members of Hartford homicide victims. Are their deaths any less tragic than the children of Newtown?

Or is it because , as I am sure most people outside of Hartford assume, our victims are drug dealers and gang members who just happen to fall as victims of their lifestyles so the violence is just expected in our urban areas. Children in Newtown apparently don't deserve their fate to be determined by a firearm as so often happens to loved ones in Hartford.

Hartford;s mothers and fathers shed the same tears as Newtown parents. Hartford;s parents also have to face the same realization that their loved ones will never be coming through the front door again. Hartford;s pain is no less than Newtown's and our victims deserve the same recognition until real change in gun laws happens

To overlook Hartford;s families is just plain wrong. They should be in the audience today also

Sunday, April 7, 2013


A Hartford resident and regular reader of WTP sent me an e-mail tonight detailing discounts at the Hotel Palomar for Triple A members. Why is it that our residents get it when City Hall doesn't? Oh right, because they have to live within their means. Too bad though,  Jose Colon Rivas maybe could have used one of the animal print bathrobes , grrr, available in the rooms with the triple A discount. Although the 42" flat screen television is smaller than the one the Mayor's Chief of Staff purchased for his office on the p-card.

Toggle available room typesBest Available Rate: starting at USD 249.00
Our best most flexible rate. 10% commisionable

Toggle available room typesAAA and CAA: starting at USD 224.00
Valid for card carrying AAA or CAA members. Must show membership card at the time of check-in.

  • Deluxe Guest Room with Two Double Beds

    • 2 Double Beds
    • 350 sq. ft.
    • Legendary Italian Frette Linens
    • Animal Print Bathrobes…grrrr!
    • Etro Bath amenities, ooh la la!
    • 42" LCD flat-screen TV
    • Oversized Desk (postcards anyone?)
    • iHome docking station
    • In-room recycling program
    • Organic Honor Bar
    • Free Wi-Fi for Kimpton InTouch Guest Loyalty Program
    • Hosted Evening Wine Reception
    • All rooms are non-smoking
Daily Rate:
USD 224.00
Nightly Taxes:
USD 34.87
Total Stay:
USD 258.87


 It appears as though we will soon find out.

According to section 2-370 of the Hartford Municipal code, this ordinance labeled "Retired  employees", states "retired classified or unclassified  employees of the city shall be eligible to return  to city employment  in a temporary classified or unclassified position for a maximum of 6 months in a fiscal year".

It would seem that several current City hall employees are in violation of this ordinance, among them Hartford's Corporation Counsel and acting City Manager Saundra Kee-Borges. The matter is coming to a head after a quasi -anonymous complaint was made to City Auditor Patrick Campbell. Campbell stated at a recent internal Audit Commission meeting that he was aware who was making the complaint, but they wished to remain anonymous.

Hartford Ordinance 2-370D
The Internal Audit commission (IAC) authorized Campbell to conduct an investigation and determine if any Ordinances were being violated. According to sources, that report has apparently been completed   and the results will be apparently be  given to Mayor Pedro Segarra tomorrow.

This would seem to potentially put Segarra in a tough spot. If the ordinance is found to be violated, Segarra is bound by Hartford's Charter to act.. Chapter V, section 2.b of the Charter, clearly states   that " in addition to the powers and duties specified elsewhere  in the Charter or in the Constitution and General Statutes, the Mayor shall take care that laws and Ordinances be faithfully executed within Boundaries of the City, in so far as it is the obligation  of the City and its employees to do so."

From Hartford's City Charter , Chapter 5, section 2b
If Kee-Borges and others  are in fact in violation of the ordinance, it doesn't seem to give the Mayor much "wiggle room" other than to enforce   the ordinance.

Section 2-370C of the code also states that any 6 month appointments of retirees under the ordinance "will expire automatically at the end of 6 months and shall not to be subject to renewal"

It will be very interesting as to how this plays out, but the code seems to make it pretty clear as to the violation.

It would seem that our Corporation Counsel  would be, or should be, aware of ordinances on the books in Hartford, especially when it applies to her.

The ordinance was updated by the Hartford City Council in August of 2005


Below is the City's report for all credit card users. Feel free to comment on any purchases. Much more to come on this I am sure.