Is Ron Armstrong a commissioner on the Metropolitan District Commission, or isn't he?
The Hartford city council approved his appointment last month, and last week the commission swore him in. But on Monday, both the city and the MDC agreed that they had acted in error.
"I just found out that I'm not [a commissioner]," Armstrong said when reached at home Monday afternoon.
When the council appointed Armstrong to the regional water and sewer authority, he was a Democrat. But his appointment made him the fifth Democrat of six appointees, a violation of the state's minority representation rules. Despite the fact that Armstrong changed his party affiliation to the Working Families Party last week, by Monday, both agencies said the city will likely have to reconsider Armstrong's appointment because there's a mandatory 90-day waiting period before a political party change becomes official.
"It's up to the city of Hartford," said R. Bartley Halloran, a lawyer for the commission. As the city figures out its next move, the commission seat will revert to Republican D. Anwar Al-Ghani, who held it before Armstrong, Halloran said.
As for Armstrong, "They would have to go through the council again and reappoint him," Halloran said. "The state statute trumps everything."
Hartford's representation on the MDC board currently consists of six council-appointed representatives and three appointed by the governor. According to Halloran and MDC Chairman William A. DiBella, only the six council-appointed commissioners figure into the state's minority representation rules.
DiBella and Commissioner Trude Mero were recently reappointed to the board by the city council. Armstrong was appointed last month to replace Al-Ghani, who could not get the requisite council votes for reappointment.
The MDC is in the beginning stages of its decade-long, $2 billion clean-water project to repair and rebuild the region's sewers. Some in Hartford, particularly Armstrong and the Greater Hartford African American Alliance, have expressed concern that the project isn't doing enough to hire minorities and city residents.
According to Urania Petit, the city's registrar of voters from the Working Families Party, Armstrong registered with her party last week.
Armstrong said he would contact the secretary of the state's office and the attorney general's office to discuss the matter.
Mike McGarry, former Republican city councilman and current Republican town committee chairman, said Monday that if the MDC wanted to reappoint Armstrong after the 90-day waiting period was over, he would not object, but suggested that the right thing to do would be to choose a Republican.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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