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Group's Leader Says No To Perez

Head Of Nonprofit Turns Down Campaign Co-Chairman Offer

April 12, 2007
By DANIEL E. GOREN, Courant Staff Writer

The president of a local nonprofit organization Wednesday turned down co-chairmanship of Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez's re-election campaign because his bosses said the campaign post was a conflict of interest.

Ted Carroll, president of Leadership Greater Hartford, a 30-year-old leadership training organization, said the nonprofit's board came to a "clear consensus that it was not a good idea for me to do this, and they asked me to decline the role."

"They were concerned that some people might confuse my personal support with a kind of organizational endorsement," Carroll said Wednesday.

Carroll's refusal of the position raised questions about the two remaining co-chairmen of Perez's campaign - both leaders of nonprofits in the city. But one has received permission from his board, with some limitations.

Meanwhile, the Perez camp strengthened its political muscle by hiring two staffers from Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman's recent re-election campaign.

Kenneth Curran, now Perez's campaign manager, worked with Lieberman during both the Democratic primary and his independent push for office; and Dan Gerstein, a paid consultant with the Perez campaign, was Lieberman's communications director when the senator beat endorsed Democrat Ned Lamont in the election.

The connection between Perez and Lieberman is well known in political circles - the mayor's chief of staff, Matt Hennessy, is married to the daughter of Sherry Brown, the senator's state director. Perez backed Lieberman in the primary and election.

Curran said Wednesday he understood Carroll's decision and appreciated the work done by Leadership Greater Hartford.

In a press advisory before Perez announced his candidacy Monday, his campaign identified Carroll as a co-chairman and highlighted his involvement, along with co-chairmen Luis C. Caban, executive director of Southside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance, and the Rev. Alvan N. Johnson, Jr., who has led the Bethel AME Church of Hartford and Bloomfield for almost three decades.

But Carroll said Wednesday that campaign materials naming him as a co-chairman caught him by surprise because he had not yet formally agreed to be involved.

"Honestly, we hadn't fully circled back with one another before his campaign issued a statement that named me as a co-chair," Carroll said.

The release also described Carroll as a resident of the South End, though he said he moved to Asylum Hill a month ago.

The day after the release was issued, Carroll discussed the matter with Leadership Greater Hartford's board. The group decided any involvement by Carroll in Perez's campaign would violate the organization's conflict of interest policy, which it adopted in January.

It was important for the organization to remain nonpartisan to ensure effective relationships with all its constituents in Greater Hartford, representatives said.

Caban's bosses, meanwhile, set ground rules for his campaign work but are allowing him to participate.

J. Kevin Kinsella, chairman of SINA's board and vice president of Hartford Hospital, said the organization's board had discussed Caban's involvement with Perez's campaign, and applied some caveats to Caban.

"We made it very clear to Luis that he could not do any of this from the SINA phones, stationery, or anything like that," Kinsella said Wednesday. He also must "keep very accurate records for when he is working on the campaign," and clock himself out from SINA during those times. They also asked that Caban not use his SINA title when introducing himself in his capacity with the Perez campaign.

"We've made the determination, at least for SINA, that the employees are going to be able to participate with political things on their own time," Kinsella said.

Caban said Wednesday he was sensitive to people's perceptions but did not see any conflict.

"I'm sensitive to that stuff, and I wanted to make sure my board was comfortable," he said. "Folks will perceive a lot of stuff, but there is nothing inappropriate with it. In fact, I would feel that my rights of a voting resident of this city would be impinged upon if I was not able to take part in something I'm very passionate about."

Before becoming mayor, Perez held Caban's position with SINA. According to recent campaign finance reports, Kinsella donated $1,000 to the Perez campaign, the maximum amount allowed by state election laws.

Johnson and officials from the AME Church headquarters did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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