What Happens When Mayor Pedro Segarra's Paperwork is Filed in Error?
By Jon Campbell
March 22, 2011
Campaign disclosure documents filed in January by Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra failed to disclose that one of his donors is a major city contractor.
Segarra's “form 20,” the Itemized Campaign Finance Disclosure Statement, lists a donation from Carlos Lopez, a city contractor caught up in the legal investigation that ultimately ensnared former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez.
A portion of the disclosure form — which is filled out by the campaign's treasurer, according to Segarra — asks whether the person making a contribution has a city contract valued at more than $5,000. If a city contract exists for more than that amount — and if the donor's contribution exceeds $400 — the campaign must disclose that information to the public.
Despite his gift of $1,000, Segarra's form states that Lopez does not have a contract with the city in excess of the $5,000 threshold.
Lopez's company, Connecticut Parking Services, Inc., is contracted to manage the city's MAT garage. As part of their agreement with the city, CPS Inc. receives a $5,000 monthly payment from the city, as well as a percentage of the revenues from the garage; that income totaled over $125,000 in the past 14 months, according to city records.
Aside from the $1,000 donated by owner Lopez, the manager of Connecticut Parking Services, Nelson Carvajal, also contributed an additional $250 to Segarra's coffers. Since his donation didn't exceed the $400 threshold, Carvajal didn't need to declare his business interests with the city.
All told, the two men's contributions account for about 8 percent of Segarra's total campaign fund; the incumbent has raised $15,231 as of the last reporting date on Jan. 10.
After the discrepancy was pointed out to him by the Hartford Advocate, Segarra said he planned to amend the forms and correct the mistake, saying his disclosure documents “should be perfect.”
Segarra said the donor, Lopez, filled out his donation form himself at a fundraiser in January, and the discrepancy appeared when his treasurer Doris Rojas transferred the information to the state-mandated disclosure forms.
“It was a mistake, it's been corrected, and we'll be refiling the form … these reports should be exact, and whatever is in these forms should be correct,” said Segarra.
Segarra said he normally does not review his disclosure documents for their accuracy, relying on his treasurer to handle financial accounting issues like this.
“Now I'm a full-time mayor, I can't be a full-time treasurer and everything else,” said Segarra.
Lopez's name was in the news last year, after he was accused of fraudulently voting in Hartford, even though he's a Farmington resident. The charges were a byproduct of the investigation into former mayor Perez, and they were ultimately dropped, and Lopez was never accused of the kind of public corruption charges that brought down Perez.
Lopez is also currently involved in a lawsuit against the Hartford Parking Authority, challenging its decision to terminate his contract to manage the M&T Garage, another city parking facility.
After being contacted by the Advocate, Lopez said he checked with Segarra's treasurer, Doris Rojas, about the issue. He said Rojas confirmed that he had filled out his unofficial donation form correctly while at Segarra's fundraiser, and that the error was on the part of the campaign. Lopez echoed Segarra in saying the disclosure systems are important, and believed the documents filed should accurately reflect his relationship with the city.
Nancy Nicolescu, a spokeswoman with the State Elections Enforcement Commission, said a candidate can potentially be liable for a fine of up to $2,000 when they file inaccurate forms; Nicolescu stressed that she was not commenting on Segarra's case in particular, having not reviewed the details.
Nicolescu said campaigns are permitted to file amendments to their disclosure forms when discrepancies occur, and she described the practice as relatively common, given the complexity of the reporting process.
“It's common for a candidate committee to amend their disclosure statements,” said Nicolescu.
Connecticut law prohibits statewide candidates from accepting donations from contractors with state business, whether it's disclosed or not, but municipal candidates like Segarra are not subject to those restrictions.
As of March 21, Segarra's forms on file at the city clerk had not yet been corrected. The Hartford City Council is considering a local ordinance that would parallel the state's restrictions, barring officials from accepting donations from those who do business with the city.