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Some Democrats Want Marotta Out

By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer

February 22, 2008

Foes of veteran Hartford political figure Alphonse Marotta want him off the city's Democratic town committee so badly that they have complained about his residency to state election officials.

The complaint with the State Elections Enforcement Commission alleges that the South End political stalwart has no business being on the Hartford Democratic Town Committee because he now resides in Rocky Hill.

Rocky Hill officials say, however, that there has never been a certificate of occupancy issued for the large, two-story home at 22 Autumn Circle that Marotta is building with his wife. Construction began in 2006, and the house this week still shows signs of continuing work.

Marotta said that he may one day move to Rocky Hill to live with his daughter but that his current residency remains at 28 Eaton St. in Hartford.

"That's where I reside. That's where I pay my taxes. That's where my bedroom is. That's where I sleep. I have three cars registered there," Marotta said. "You're welcome to come visit my bedroom and see where I get my mail."

"I wouldn't ever think about running for re-election to the town committee if I didn't live in Hartford," Marotta said.

Marotta, 73, is a former city council member and state representative. He is now president of the Franklin Avenue Merchants Association, serves on the Metropolitan District Commission as a Hartford representative and sits on the Democratic town committee.

The elections complaint, which has been assigned a state investigator and was also filed with the city's Democratic registrar of voters, has its roots in a fight over membership on the 6th District of the town committee.

The original complaint that Marotta lives in Rocky Hill was filed last week by Lillian "Milly" Arciniegas, a member of the 6th District Town Committee. She and three others say they expect to lose their seats because of political maneuvering.

The complaint was amended Wednesday after The Courant questioned statements that Marotta was living in Rocky Hill. The amended version doesn't say that Marotta lives there but that the Rocky Hill address is Marotta's official residence.

The amended complaint alleges that Marotta intends to move out of Hartford and live in Rocky Hill and should therefore not be allowed to be a candidate for the city's town committee.

Undisputed is that Marotta and his wife, Lucy, own the Autumn Circle property and that in May 2006 they received approval from the town to build a home with an in-law apartment. The town's zoning code says owners of property with in-law apartments must live on the premises.

When he appeared before the town's planning and zoning commission in 2006, Marotta said that he planned to build the house for his daughter and that he would occupy the in-law apartment.

But in an interview this week, Marotta said that his plans changed, that he and his wife decided to stay in Hartford and that work on the in-law apartment stopped long ago.

His opponents say he's faking it.

"Al can stay wherever he wants, but he is officially a resident of Rocky Hill," said Alyssa Peterson, a resident who aided in the filing of the complaint. "He received a benefit as a resident of Rocky Hill. It's permitted, it's completed, it's assessed. He's officially of Rocky Hill."

Arciniegas said the zoning approval allowing the in-law apartment and the completion of the house's major construction make Marotta a Rocky Hill resident.

"The main thing here is, he got the benefit. He said it was for himself. And he's misleading people," Arciniegas said. "You got the benefit, go live there. What are you waiting around for?"

Rocky Hill Town Manager Barbara Gilbert said residency isn't legally determined by zoning approvals.

"It's where you're sleeping and where you're registered to vote," she said. "Unless he officially comes to Rocky Hill, registers to vote, moves in and hangs a toothbrush, for lack of a better term, he's not a resident of Rocky Hill. He's a property owner."

In general terms, a person can maintain two residences but have only one "bona fide" residence for voting purposes, according to Michael Kozik, managing attorney with the elections division of the secretary of state.

"But there is also an intent element," he said. "Someone could spend nine months of the year in Hartford and three months of the year at some shoreline town and decide that I care more about what's going on in the shoreline town and that's my bona fide residence and that's where I want to register. That would be OK."

And although Janet Appellof, a fellow member of the 6th District Town Committee, said she once had her doubts about where Marotta lived and his intentions, she doesn't anymore.

"The other morning he was dropped off some material for his campaign and he answered the door in his pajamas," Appellof said. "I don't think he's going to drive from Rocky Hill to Hartford in his pajamas.

"We expect him to be on the town committee for two years if, in fact, we are elected," she said.

Marotta said he plans serve a full term.

"If down the road in two years after my term is up, I'll take a look at the situation with my wife," Marotta said.

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