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An Honest Disagreement

The City Council argues over a lawyer

Daniel D’Ambrosio

April 20, 2010

City Councilman Larry Deutsch’s campaign to take a vote of no confidence in Hartford Corporation Counsel John Rose was tabled for the second city council meeting in a row last week, as Deutsch becomes increasingly isolated in his attempt to impose some sort of formal sanction on Rose.

The controversial Rose has found himself at loggerheads with many Democratic council members, including Matt Ritter, Ken Kennedy and current council president Pedro Segarra, most prominently over his handling of Freedom of Information requests.

Rose has generally been reluctant to fulfill FOI requests, refusing to produce information or failing to produce it for months on end. He has been eager, however, to appeal the decisions of the state Freedom of Information Commission, which has repeatedly ruled against him.

The city has spent tens of thousands of dollars on those appeals, angering many council members. The council’s frustration reached the boiling point last year when it named its own legal advisor, Allan B. Taylor of Day Pitney LLC.

With the exception of Deutsch, however, the council has accepted the reality that it does not have the seven votes required to sanction, or even remove, Rose.

Segarra, a former corporation counsel himself, takes it a step further, saying Rose is only doing the bidding of Mayor Eddie Perez.

“It’s sort of like shooting the messenger,” he says.

Segarra has been in direct discussions with Perez over just what role the corporation counsel plays in the era of a “strong mayor” in Hartford. Segarra says the two of them have arrived at an “honest disagreement.”

“The mayor seems to think of the corporation counsel as his chief lawyer, which gives [the mayor] wide latitude in terms of being able to control the office,” says Segarra. “I happen to think the office of corporation counsel has historically served as an independent office that serves more like the attorney general for the city.”

The Office of the Corporation Counsel, says Segarra, should “protect and preserve its integrity” by producing the best legal work possible for the city, “not any particular branch of government.”

Ritter, who has tried to rein Rose in on the FOI front by pushing for an independent Freedom of Information Advisory Board, says he’s satisfied with letting Segarra speak for the city council.

“I’m very happy with the leadership council president Segarra is providing,” says Ritter. “The Democratic caucus is confident he’ll handle the [corporation counsel controversy] appropriately.”

But Deutsch says he’ll be raising the vote of no confidence again at the next council meeting. And he’s hoping it won’t be tabled for the third time in a row.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Advocate.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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