Hartford Council Approves Segarra, 4 Others For School Board
By JENNA CARLESSO
February 02, 2012
HARTFORD — The city council on Thursday approved Mayor Pedro Segarra's five nominees for the board of education, though some members expressed concern about the candidates' potential for conflicts of interest.
The five new board members will serve for four-year terms that run through Jan. 31, 2016. They are: Jose Colon-Rivas, the city's director of families, children, youth and recreation; Matthew Poland, CEO of the Hartford Public Library; lawyer Richard Wareing, a partner at McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter; Cherita McIntye, a director of executive learning and development at ESPN; and Segarra himself.
In about 30 minutes of discussion before the votes, some council members said they were worried about the conflicts that might arise from having city officials — such as Segarra, Poland and Colon-Rivas — serve on the board.
"I'm troubled by the overall message that the mayor's nominees send to the community," said Councilman David MacDonald, who voted in favor of appointing Wareing, McIntye and Segarra, but abstained from voting on Poland and Colon-Rivas.
MacDonald, a former Hartford school board chairman, said that appointing some of the candidates, such as Colon-Rivas, "creates an apparent conflict of interest by default." Some council members have pointed out that Colon-Rivas works for the mayor, and said he may have trouble acting independently on issues that arise. They noted that Colon-Rivas also oversees grant programs that involve the school system.
MacDonald said he was also disappointed by a lack of racial diversity among the candidates, and noted that none of them have children in the school district.
Councilman Luis Cotto was the only one to vote against Segarra on Thursday. Councilman Larry Deutsch was absent. Deutsch sent a memo to his colleagues earlier in the week suggesting that they put Segarra's appointment of himself on hold.
Segarra said he was pleased with the outcome.
"I think [Cotto] has a strong conviction on what the charter should be, and I tend to look at the charter for what the charter is," he said after the meeting. "We take positions sometimes that are different, but we still have a lot of respect for each other."
Asked about the candidates' potential conflicts of interest, Segarra said: "It doesn't trouble me; it's just something to be mindful of. The people that have those conflicts are intelligent enough to be mindful of them."
Councilman Kenneth Kennedy said he voted for Segarra — even though he did not support former Mayor Eddie Perez when Perez appointed himself to the board of education — because Segarra didn't intend it as a power play.
"I abstained from voting for Eddie because he wanted to be chair [of the board]," Kennedy said. "This mayor has made it very clear he does not want to be board chairman.
The school board's first meeting is scheduled for Feb. 21.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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