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Thursday, December 31, 2015

BRONIN ANNOUNCES KEY APPOINTMENTS

(HARTFORD, CT) – Mayor-Elect Luke Bronin today announced his intention to nominate the following individuals to lead departments in his incoming administration, subject to approval by the City Council:

•  Sean M. Fitzpatrick, JD, Director of Development Services

•  Reginald D. Freeman, MS/CFO/FIFireE, Fire Chief

•  Melissa McCaw, MPA, Director of the Office of Management and Budget

•  Gary Rhule, MD/MPH, Director of Health and Human Services


•  Howard Rifkin, JD, Corporation Counsel

Marilynn Cruz-Aponte, who currently serves as the Acting Deputy Director in the Department of Public Works, will serve as the Acting Director of the Department of Public Works.

Mayor-Elect Bronin intends to renominate Dr. Jose Col√≥n-Rivas, Director of the Department of Families, Children, Youth and Recreation, and Sabina Sitaru, Chief Innovation Officer, Metro Hartford Innovation Services.  Police Chief James Rovella will continue to serve under his existing contract with the City of Hartford.

“I’m proud to have recruited a experienced and diverse group of nominees who are committed to building a stronger Hartford,” said Bronin.  “This is a terrific team, and I look forward to working with them in the months and years to come to bring leadership, accountability and action to Hartford’s City Hall.”

For a biography of each new appointee announced today, see below.

Marilynn Cruz-Aponte has held public works leadership positions in Hartford and New Britain over the course of her twenty-six year career, specializing in solid waste, fleet and streets operations planning including policy, procedure and program development, review and implementation. Her earlier career was spent working for nearly ten years as an Environmental Aide to Connecticut Governor William A. O’Neill.  She prepared and successfully advocated for the United States’ first mattress recycling law, and she drove the implementation of Hartford’s single-stream recycling program in 2008, which increased recycling by 111% that year and has resulted in waste disposal savings of more than $3.2 million over the past seven years.  She holds an MA in Social Work Administration from the Catholic University of America and a BA in Sociology from Saint Joseph College for Women.

Sean M. Fitzpatrick most recently served as Chief of Staff to the Chairman of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, appointed to lead reform efforts at the agency in the wake of the 2013 “Bridgegate” scandal.  Before entering government service in 2014, Mr. Fitzpatrick spent two decades in the insurance industry in Metro Hartford and New York, helping to establish one of the region’s most successful insurance start-ups, Executive Risk Inc., in the 1990s and later serving in senior executive roles with Chubb and The Hartford.  Mr. Fitzpatrick has served as chair of Simsbury’s Economic Development Commission and was named “Business Leader of the Year” by the Simsbury Chamber of Commerce in 2000 in recognition of his work on retail development and zoning reform. Mr. Fitzpatrick has served as a board member of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and as an adjunct professor at UConn Law School.  He is a graduate of Amherst College and Harvard Law School.

Reginald D. Freeman currently serves as Fire Chief for Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth. Prior to this appointment, Chief Freeman served as the Assistant Chief/Deputy Director of Emergency Management for the City of Hartford as well as Fire Chief for Lockheed Martin in Marietta, Georgia, where he was named Professional of the Year in 2009.  Chief Freeman served in Iraq as a civilian Fire Chief for the U.S. Department of Defense and coalition allies from 2004 to 2008, providing all-hazards fire and emergency services to forward and continuing operating bases throughout Iraq.  He received a BA from Bellevue University and earned his masters in Executive Fire Service Leadership from Grand Canyon University.  He is a graduate and Fellow of Harvard University’s Senior Executives for State & Local Government program at the Kennedy School of Government.

Melissa McCaw is a seasoned professional with fourteen years’ experience in budgeting, finance, data analytics and strategic leadership. She currently serves as the Budget Director for the University of Hartford. In this capacity, Ms. McCaw also co-chaired Strategic Planning initiatives to strengthen the University’s financial and business model, maximize the use of assets and technology, and streamline operations.  Previously, Ms. McCaw worked at the State Office of Policy and Management Budget and Financial Management Division for eight years, developing her expertise in government budgeting, policy analysis and legislative affairs. She graduated from Wesleyan University and received a masters in public administration with a certificate in public financial management from the University of Connecticut.

Dr. Gary Rhule is a former emergency room physician who has also worked in community medicine, managed care, and in health care consulting. In addition, he is the author of Sailing on Broken Pieces: Essential Survival Skills for Recovery from Mental Illness, an award-winning literary work depicting the intersection of emergency medicine and mental illness. Currently, Dr. Rhule works as a medical director consultant for Community Health Network of Connecticut. Previously, he has served in several leadership roles, including as Vice President of Health Care Services and Medical Director for Charter Oak Health Care Center in Hartford, CT. Dr. Rhule is a graduate of Weaver High School, Amherst College, and the University of Rochester School of Medicine. He also holds a masters in public health in healthcare policy from the Johns Hopkins University and an MBA in Finance and Healthcare Management from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.  He is involved in several non-profit boards, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Connecticut Chapter; the Jacob L. and Lewis Fox Foundation; and the Friends of Keney Park.

Howard Rifkin has spent more than 30 years serving as a policy and legal advisor to several elected officials in the State of Connecticut, including as general counsel to Governor William A. O’Neill.  He has also served as deputy to Secretary of the State Miles Rapoport, and deputy and counsel to Treasurer Denise Nappier.  Most recently, he joined the staff of Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman as legal and policy adviser.  Prior to his role in Lt. Governor Wyman’s office, Mr. Rifkin served a three-year tenure as executive director of the Partnership for Strong Communities, a nonprofit group with a focus on creating affordable housing and ending homelessness.  In this role, he and Mayor-Elect Bronin worked together on Governor Malloy’s initiative to end homelessness among veterans.  Mr. Rifkin has a B.A. from the University of Connecticut in Political Science, a J.D. from Cumberland School of Law, and attended the John F. Kennedy School of Government program on State and Local Government.

In addition, to the aforementioned nominees, the following individuals will be joining the incoming administration:
  • Kiley Gosselin, Deputy of Development Services.  Kiley Gosselin most recently worked as an analyst at the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.  Prior to that role, she was an associate for 6 years in the low-income housing tax credit syndication group of Holland & Knight and a policy analyst at the Partnership for Strong Communities. She is a graduate of Rice University and UConn Law School.
  • David Tanner, Deputy of Public Works.  David Tanner spent the past seven years as an attorney for the U.S. Green Building Council, helping develop policies and procedures associated with the LEED certification programs and advising on the mission and operation of the organization.  He has experience in construction and transportation policy and is a graduate of the University of Colorado and UConn Law School.




  • Jamie Bratt, Director of Planning and Economic Development.  Jamie Bratt was most recently the Director of Economic & Community Development of Trumbull, CT, and previously worked for a Washington, D.C.-based business improvement district focused on smart growth and for a large private development firm.  She is a graduate of Trinity College and of Virginia Tech, where she received a masters in planning.


  • Donald Chapman, Director of Small Business and Community Development.  Donald Chapman is a management professional with over 30 years of experience.  Currently, Don serves as a Principal Planner with the City of Hartford Planning Division.  He is a graduate of Dartmouth College.


  • Dianne Jones, Director for Re-entry Services and Promise Zone Community Empowerment.  Dianne Jones has most recently helped promote nonviolence as a trainer and community liaison for Connecticut Center for Nonviolence, and she has been very actively involved in local nonprofit community organizations.  She holds a degree from the University of Missouri and is obtaining a masters from Cambridge College.



THE FLOOD GATES ARE OPENING, AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL

 I guess I am not the only one optimistic and hopeful about the future of Hartford.

The last couple of days have seen my volume of phone calls greatly increase with information. Most of those calls have been from people involved or knowledgeable of City operations . They all know I protect my sources, but it still takes guts to make the call.

Whether it is about pay raises going under the radar for the HR Director or last minute spending by the acting Assistant Fire Chief. ( For some reason that Acting Assistant Fire Chief may soon be named Acting Chief until the replacement for Huertas arrives. Again , why I am not sure  because sources have told me actively campaigned for Segarra with the rank and file) Burt back to my point, apparently the Acting Assistant Chief has been spending money the last couple weeks like a drunken sailor ( sorry to any sailors) in an effort to circumvent any belt tightening that is expected by a new Administration.

I am also being told that Fire Chief Huertas's last day with HFD will be January 13th, 2016. His replacement  will take office January 25th reportedly. That only leaves HFD with two weeks under direct Union control and the acting Chief..

Many of the tips received recently are still in the process of being researched and obtaining documents. So if you haven't seen your info posted here yet, rest assured I am working on them. I appreciate all of your help. None of this would be possible without your help. In closing, a new Administration does not mean your diligence is no longer need. We heard the word "accountability"
quite often during the campaign, and even though things appear to be  going in the right direction, proper accountability will keep that progress moving.

Thank you all again, readers and contributors and commenter's alike, A  healthy and Happy New Year to you all. And special best wishes to our New Mayor Luke Bronin and especially his family who will have to put up with his call to service once again.

And to our new Council Members, never forget the great trust the people of Hartford have placed in you. Never let them down but more importantly, never forget why you are there

HARTFORD'S CRIME PROBLEMS: DID ANYONE SEE IT COMING?

The short and quick answer is yes.

Through an FOI request to HPD I had asked for documentation on any requests related to Police Staffing and the need to hire police officers in Hartford.

The responsive documents went back as far as 2013, when Chief James Rovella and his staff began raising the red flags for City Hall. The e-mails and documents from the request are rather voluminous, but they portray the scene of a Council and Mayor that should have been fully aware of the ramifications that drops in staffing would cause.

I guess it came down to priorities, and apparently shootings and homicides were not a priority.  If only some of the money that was disbursed through apparent fraud for the Dillon Stadium project and the debt that has been and will continue to be incurred by the Yard Goats project had actually been put into priorities, imagine how different things might be. How many families would still be celebrating holidays and the lives of loved ones taken by crime?

 It makes me wonder why we spend the money on a Police Chief and his Command Staff if the Council and Mayor choose to disregard his professional advice.


How many homicides could have been prevented if only Chief Rovella's proposal had been properly considered by Council President Wooden and Councilman Kennedy. If the money wasn't there for hiring, that is one thing. But if the money was there and instead  funneled to sweetheart deals like Dillon Stadium, that is shameful, and may actually prove criminal as the Grand Jury results move forward.

The documents are voluminous, but they interesting reading and show the number of attempts by HPD to get City Hall to see the light and avoid the impending disaster of an understaffed Police Department. Its where we are today and we are now paying the price for inaction by our so called "leaders"

I can only hope the next City Council and Mayor pay attention to Chief Rovella's recommendations.

All that we are asking  is give Peace a chance

For more on Police staffing, you can read the consultants report below



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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

COLLATERAL DAMAGE ?

I fully understand the severe housecleaning that is going on at Hartford City Hall. It is long overdue and I commend Luke Bronin for hitting the ground running. We need it.

Word this afternoon is that Darryl, COO is out. That makes sense since Hill was supposedly in charge of the oversight of many of Hartford's bad deals. He also serves on the Stadium Authority, supervising a project that is at least $10 million over budget and most likely much more by opening day. Hill was a signatory on most of the Dillon Stadium payments now being investigated by a Federal Grand Jury.

Word is that Hill cleaned out his City Hall Office this past weekend.

Kejuan Dillard is another City Hall staffer shown the door, long overdue. Dillard began his career with the City after great success in putting up lawn signs during the first Eddie Perez campaign. His reward was a high paying job in the former Mayor's Office.Dillard then went on to prove his benefit to the taxpayers of Hartford by neglecting to bill contractors for more than $3 million dollars in invoices for City services provided by HPD and other agencies for special events.

 Nelky Maldonado , the daughter of State Representative Millie Gonzalez has also been shown the door. Nelky landed in the Segarra Office just in time for campaign season. She has been bouncing around City Hall for years but could never find her niche, but having Minnie as your mother apparently equals job security... until now.

Several other separations from City service I can fully understand and appreciate.

One I can't understand is the reported termination of Licenses and Inspections Director Dan Loos. I don't know if it is fallout from the Deller fiasco. But I know Dan Loos as the ultimate professional in his department. My relationship with Loos could have been a very difficult.

As an outspoken critic of City Hall, it could have potentially put me in a difficult  position as a licensed contractor that needs to obtain electrical permits from L&I to get my "real" job done. It had been a problem in the past, but never under Dan Loos. He always seemed to be very professional and never political.

Under Loos, building permits that used to take months to get now just took days .Inspections for completed jobs now took a matter of hours to get scheduled and have an inspector show up, not weeks.

Several advancements took place under Loos's direction that helped to make Hartford appear as a business friendly City. One project currently under way between Loss , L&I and MHIS is the on-line permitting process. This was supposed to be "live" sometime in February. Who knows now.

Loos could frequently be seen around the City on nights and weekends checking on permitted projects like block parties and other events to make sure they were in compliance with their permits.

There may be reasons I am not aware of, but Dan Loos always appeared to me to be the type of City employee we would want.

WILL HR DIRECTOR BURGOS NOW FOLLOW ADAM CLOUDS LEAD?

After a public(and political outcry) Hartford Treasurer Adam Cloud today announced that he will be giving up and repaying any payment already received of his $20,000.00 pay increase. The increase raised many questions about the process, but now at least one more raise issued to a department head should be raising some red flags and even more questions about the process.

It now appears that Hartford's Human Resources Director is not immune to the pay raise bug. It appears that HR Director Henry  Burgos has received several raises in his short tenure with the City of almost  $20,000.00. Actually close to the amount received by Cloud. Burgos was a vocal critic of the Cloud raise, but apparently has no trouble keeping his own pay bumps quiet.

In documents uncovered today by 'We the People" , Burgos received a pay increase shortly after being hired.

Burgos was apparently given a pay raise of  $4,000 shortly after being hired , 4 months later was given another $10,000 raise , 6 months later he was given anther $3,000 raise for a total of $17,000 in less than 2 years

Burgos's pay raises have totaled $17,000 in the short time he has been with the city, only a couple thousand less than the $20, 000 raise Cloud proposed for himself. Burgos's raises also don't have any air of transparency around them either.

Burgos was originally hired at a salary of $140,000. but in a very short time increased his annual salary to  almost $160,000 according to the City's documents. That would put Burgos on par with the City Treasurer's salary if the Treasurer hadn't done the right thing and given up his increase.

The HR Department has approximately 16 employees. That is far less than the Police Department at over 400 sworn and Civilian employees and the Fire Department with similar numbers, yet Burgos is being paid substantially more than either the Fire Chief or Police Chief.

It is unclear at this time what process was followed for Burgos's raises. Did he do it himself or did someone higher up sign off on the raises and why? The City's "form B" which will show who initiated the raises and who signed off on them have been requested but haven't been provided as of yet.

And why should Adam Cloud be any different than Henry Burgos .

And if that isn't enough, I'll be looking at Henry Burgos's travel records , his recent trip to Las Vegas ,with him and his secretary on the City's dime, another interesting travel companion, also paid for by the City and the potential connection to the Dillon Stadium Grand Jury and James Duckett.

Stay tuned.


HARTFORD TREASURER ADAM CLOUD'S STATEMENT ON RESCINDING HIS RAISE

Hartford City Treasurer Adam Cloud today issued a statement that he will not be taking a raise after much discussion amongst City Hall politicos and media. Cloud's statement is below followed by the statement of Mayor elect Bronin and a request for the Internal Audit Commission to investigate the circumstances of the raise from outgoing Councilperson Ken Kennedy.

Thank you Adam for doing the right thing.






Mayor-elect Luke Bronin today released the following statement: 

"I'm glad that Treasurer Cloud has made the decision to reject the raise and reimburse the taxpayers.  It’s clearly the right decision.  I’ve had conversations with Treasurer Cloud, and he recognizes that whether or not the raise was legal and whether or not a raise was justifiable, the process was simply not transparent or proper.  Taxpayers deserve transparency and accountability, and while the Treasurer is fully entitled to ask the City Council to review his compensation in the future, there needs to be an open, thorough process before the public eye.  As I prepare to take office, I plan to lead by example.  Under the City Charter, the Mayor’s salary is set at the level of a Superior Court Judge, which would be $167,634 at the beginning of a new term.  As we prepare make hard choices to address a substantial budget deficit, I will work as many days unpaid as are necessary throughout the year to return $20,000 of my salary to the taxpayers, so that my salary will remain at the level of $147,600."



Tuesday, December 29, 2015

JUST A THOUGHT

 In this morning's Courant there was an article by Steve Goode about last nights Council resolution to rescind Adam Clouds raise. The author of that resolution, Councilman Ken Kennedy was quoted in the article.

"Kennedy said that if the raise is not challenged, the city's credibility with voters and staff members will be called into question and a precedent will be set for department heads to award themselves raises that are buried in their department budgets or have them approved clandestinely."

Does the Councilman not think that dirty deals like Dillon Stadium and the Yard Goats Stadium have  not eroded trust and confidence in Hartford City Hall. The Dillon Stadium deal has actually led to an investigation by a Federal Grand Jury and may actually ensnare more in Hartford City Government and damage "credibility with voters".  And not just voters, all Hartford residents as well as our suburban neighbors  as well .

And as I recall, weren't the Yard Goats approved "clandestinely".

Just a thought,

Monday, December 28, 2015

COUNCILMAN KENNEDY'S LAST OFFICIAL ACT (HALLELUJAH)


UPDATE:9:00pm, Once again, Councilman Kennedy showed his effectiveness as a Councilperson and his resolution failed to gain the votes to pass. Two of the co-authors abstained from the vote and Councilman Deutsch was a no show for the meeting.

COUNTDOWN TO A NEW BEGINNING

MY CRYSTAL BALL IS OUT OF ORDER

My crystal ball doesn't seem to be working right. The majority of the calls I have received recently have been in regards to the future of City Hall with people asking me "What is Luke going to do?". The answer is, I don't know.

I have high hopes for the future of Hartford, starting right away on January 1st.. My immediate response would be that the bar hasn't been set too high  by the Segarra Administration. With that being said, there is so much work to be done, it is going to take a concerted team effort by the best that Mayor Bronin can find to begin immediate progress.

Department head choices will be very important to bring both continuity and accountability to City Government. I think the biggest flaw by Segarra, besides his lack of leadership, was his inability to make proper choices  and select competent department heads  for all city agencies.

Too many departments were in constant flux or void of any direction by poor choices. Several key departments had "acting" department heads for most of Segarra's term. DPW and Finance are two of those Departments. Most people, including City employees want leadership and direction, and with that comes accountability. "Acting" positions don't bring that to the operation.

The finance department, with some solid leadership would have avoided many of the pitfalls that proved embarrassing to Segarra. P-Cards and insurance payments are two instances that come to mind. If the City credit cards were being properly monitored and audited, rather than receipts being kept in a shoebox on a shelf, someone might have noticed caviar and rack of lamb charges before it became a huge mess.

If proper procedures were being followed, no checks would have been cut for the O'Garro insurance payments. If the warrant for payment had not been attached to the request for payment, no check could have been cut. The policy was in place, just no accountability to following it. We need a finance director who is more concerned about Hartford's actual finances rather than how many Girl Scout cookies are sold out of the office.

Department of Public Works- Where to begin here? Proper management and accountability is key here. I think it may have gotten a little better under its "acting" Director, but it needs steady, strong management. This is one of the high profile departments that tell our neighbors whether Hartford is being run properly or not. Are the streets being plowed? Are potholes being repaired? Are our parks in decent condition?

It is a tough Department to manage. It is difficult to motivate employees if they feel they aren't being respected. Workers comp claims and injuries are high, much of that because of the nature of the work. In a cash strapped City, we need a Director who has an eye toward automation on some of the labor intensive processes such as trash pickup . The "one arm bandit " type trash pickups would eliminate the human factor in  much of the trash operation  as well as the back injury type claims. It wouldn't require any lay-offs, but may free up workers for other duties and attrition would solve some of the issues.

An "adopt -a spot-program", similar to those used in many other City's and towns would also help keep our parks and public spaces presentable. I have tried several times to present such a program, even provided Council members with an outline and all of the release forms used in Waterbury, but it has never gotten off the ground here.

The next DPW Director also needs to make Hartford's Flood Control a serious priority. It has been ignored for far too long, to the point some question its stability as to where there are questions if it will actually hold up, or can we make downtown a marina after the next disastrous flood.

MHIS- Aside from the updated name change, no real changes needed here. With the exception of the 311 system. Either get it fixed or scrap it and allocate the savings somewhere else where it is needed. I haven't been hearing the complaints regarding 311 that I used to get regularly, so maybe the move out of the Dispatch Center control to MHIS is working.

Hartford Fire Department- Where do I begin on this one? HFD needs something it hasn't seen in years... solid leadership, strong management and much better decision making. Assuming that there is a change in management (I don't see how there can not be ) the next Chief needs to be a top notch manager.

I don't think we need a Fire Chief that knows how to hook up to a fire hydrant. We need a fire Chief that understands labor law and proper decision making to start avoiding many of the law suits and labor claims that have been the hallmark of HFD for several years now. We need the type of decision making  and leadership that you often see in the Corporate world where poor decisions are hardly ever rewarded , but do result in unemployment slips.

Poor decision making on many labor issues have been overturned by the Labor Board and Courts to the tune of hundreds of thousand dollars in back benefits and legal costs, and that number promises to escalate as more of these poor decisions move through the legal pipeline.

HFD alo needs to establish a " community policing " type plan for the Fire department. Firefighters need to get out of the firehouses more and start interacting with the Community. Whether that is sometype of fire safety inspections or even attending more community meetings and events. We have seen the number of fatal and serious fires increasing.

If there isn't enough budget money to make the state mandated annual inspections, "walk thoughs" of a building by firefighters can locate and identify serious deficiencies fur further inspection by the Fire Marshall's Office.I routinely am in buildings with serious issues, locked or blocked emergency exits are just a couple things that even I can identify, a firefighter walking though surely could.

Remember after the Station Nightclub fire in Providence several years ago, the City routinely showed up at bars and places of assembly checking for occupancy and safety issues,. When was the last time you saw or heard of that happening in Hartford ?


I think the next leader for HFD needs to understand that the Firefighters Union has a role in protecting its employees, but Union leadership is not charged with management or day to day operations.

HPD- It has been a bad year for high profile crime in Hartford, homicides and shootings to be specific. This is one of those cases where doing more with less just doesn't work. City hall, specifically the Council needs to step up and do their part. As of today HPD is apparently at 389 officers, far short of the 482  officers most say they should be at. (A few years ago, Hartford took Federal money "COPS Grants" and agreed to maintain staffing level of 465 officers. we are no where near that now)

Trips to the White House do nothing, unless you are returning with checks to hire cops. Chief Rovella and his forward , creative thinking deserves to continue.  He needs the support of the Council, not just support or lip service at budget time or election time. Rovella has had a strong impact on the safety of Hartford by creative programs like the Shooting Task Force , and his support of Project Longevity and Prosper. The latter two being programs that will continue to show the benefits years from now as the culture of lawlessness is changed in Hartford.

And for those that think they are ready for "prime time" and Rovella's job, think twice. Your time may come, but right now we need a Chief with Jim Rovella's management qualities.

In the current climate of Law Enforcement in this country we should be thankful we have a Chief Rovella type at the helm. Community policing and relationships are clearly a priority in Hartford, and you can see that first hand by watching our CSO's interact with community members at various meetings across the City.

The mounted unit is also an example. Despite numerous attempts to eliminate  them at budget times, the horses ( and the officers that ride them) are one of the best public relations tools that money can't buy. It is probably an important time to start a real effort for corporate sponsorships for the mounted unit to avoid any attempts to cut spending and eliminate the unit.

Corporation Counsel- An effort needs to be made to find a City Attorney that can better evaluate and staff the Corp Counsel Office. I think even as far as labor law, much better decisions can be made . Possibly lawyers with more precise expertise in certain areas, such as ;labor law, need to be recruited. Corporation Counsel Office can no longer be the clearing house for  political patronage and payback for well connected law firms.  Things as basic as real estate closings  and FOI complaints should be handled in house by staff. Either that or eliminate staff, it doesn't make sense to have both.

I am going to stop here, because these are the Departments that I feel comfortable writing about, but all departments are important when it comes to the proper functioning of City Hall. It needs to be an entire team effort and accountability needs to be the key phrase. Accountability to the overall operation and accountability to the people the departments serve.