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Mayor's Spouse's Housing Assistance Contracts Do Not Create A Conflict Of Interest, Attorney Says

By Jenna Carlesso

May 11, 2011

The contracts that Mayor Pedro Segarra's spouse, Charlie Ortiz, has with the city's Public Housing Authority do not create a conflict of interest for the mayor and don't violate the city's code of ethics, an attorney hired to investigate the matter said.

In a seven-page opinion, Attorney Matthew Conway said that while the mayor "should have included the HAP [housing assistance payments] contracts on his financial disclosures, there is no evidence that the omission was made knowingly or intentionally."

Conway was hired by the city to investigate whether the mayor has a conflict of interest because his spouse collects Section 8 housing subsidies as a landlord.

Segarra had not disclosed on his annual financial statements that Ortiz collects about $2,000 a month in federal Section 8 rent subsidies as a landlord for low-income tenants under a "housing choice voucher program" administered by the city.

Ortiz has received more than $120,000 through that arrangement since May 2006, when Segarra became a city councilman. Segarra took over as mayor last June when his predecessor, Eddie Perez, resigned after his conviction on corruption charges.

Segarra sent a letter to the city's corporation counsel last month requesting that an independent opinion be solicited about whether a conflict of interest exists, and whether he violated city ethics code provisions.

"There is no evidence concerning the mayor's reasoning for omitting the HAP contracts from his initial filings," Conway wrote in a letter to the city's corporation counsel. "Since it is the tenants who lease the properties from Mr. Ortiz and not the city and it is Imagineers who sends the housing assistance payments to Mr. Ortiz, it is not unreasonable to believe that the city's involvement in the process was not at the forefront of Mayor Segarra's mind when he made his initial filings."

Segarra has amended his annual financial disclosures to the city's Ethics Commission for the years 2006 to 2009. Segarra's amendments show subsidies for two recent Ortiz tenants - and a third for whom he apparently stopped receiving subsidies in mid-2010.

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