Hartford Council OKs Rovella's Appointment As Chief
Free Lifetime Health Care 'Off The Table'
By JENNA CARLESSO
August 13, 2012
HARTFORD —— The city council on Monday unanimously approved the mayor's appointment of James Rovella as police chief, even though a contractual agreement with the new chief has not yet been reached.
Mayor Pedro Segarra said after the vote that he is close to reaching a deal on a four-year contract with Rovella, who has been the city's acting police chief since February.
The deal won't include free lifetime health care coverage, which Rovella had previously requested, Segarra said. Instead, Rovella will have the option of joining the police union's health-care plan. Segarra said details of the plan haven't been worked out yet.
Rovella, 54, would have to serve five years to qualify for the city's free lifetime health care benefit. Under the city charter, the maximum contract for a new police chief is four years.
"He is the most qualified, and I trust he's going to do a good job," Segarra said.
Segarra had faced criticism over the appointment process. The city concluded a six-month-long, national search for a new police chief in July, which produced three finalists. Rovella, who did not formally apply for the position, was named chief just hours after the mayor met with the finalists. The city paid a recruiting firm $50,000 to assist in the search.
"Each step along the way I did what I thought was reasonable and fair," Segarra said. "In hindsight, one could say I should have just made the appointment.
"I felt strongly that I needed to see the universe of candidates out there, but in the future, understanding the city's finances, I would get others to help. I would engage our corporate partners to pay part of a search and I would want to expand the [number] of applicants."
Rovella, who came to city hall Monday, said he was happy with the vote.
"I'm relieved it's over," he said. "I want to get to work. I've got a lot of things on the drawing board that need to come off the board, that I want to get into implementation."
He said he changed his mind about the requirement for free lifetime health care after learning about other "workable" plans.
Before the vote Monday, council members acknowledged Rovella's work with the police department during the last six months.
"I haven't heard anyone say the nominee is not qualified, not dedicated," Councilman Larry Deutsch, the panel's minority leader, said. "I think [Rovella] has many good qualities."
"We're at a crucial turning point. We need a great leader," Councilman Raul DeJesus added. "Chief Rovella, in many ways, has shown he can do this."
Rovella served 19 years with the city's police department, starting as an officer in 1981 and working his way up to homicide detective. He also worked as head of the Hartford shooting task force and as chief inspector for the chief state's attorney's office.
Rovella replaces former Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts, who resigned in December.
Council Majority Leader Alexander Aponte said Monday that he wasn't concerned about approving Rovella's appointment before his contract was finalized.
Aponte said Segarra indicated to the council before its meeting that he would not give Rovella any special deals as part of his contract.
"The mayor understands how we feel about that," he said. "A standard contract will make us happy; anything else won't."
Segarra said he hopes to reach a contractual agreement with Rovella this week. The city will likely hold a public swearing-in ceremony, he said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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