Commission: Hartford Retirees Illegally Employed By City
City Attorney Says Charter Supersedes Ordinance
By JENNA CARLESSO
April 09, 2013
HARTFORD —— The city's internal audit commission has found that six city employees — including the chief operating officer and chief of police — are unlawfully employed because they are retirees who have been back on the city payroll for more than six months, in violation of a city ordinance, according to a source familiar with the investigation.
A city ordinance enacted in 2005 states that retired city employees "shall only be eligible to return to city employment in a temporary … position for a maximum of six months in a fiscal year." Members of the internal audit commission received an anonymous complaint asking them to look into the possibility that some employees were in violation of the ordinance, and found that six retirees have been hired for terms of longer than six months. They are Saundra Kee Borges, the city's corporation counsel who was recently named chief operating officer; Police Chief James Rovella; Andrew Jaffee, head of emergency services and telecommunication; Nancy Mulroy, a police department spokeswoman; Linda Bayer, a civic engagement consultant; and Betty Szubinski, an administrative assistant.
Members of the audit commission are planning to send letters to Mayor Pedro Segarra, the city council, Treasurer Adam Cloud and the corporation counsel's office notifying them. The commission will not make any recommendations as to how city officials should remedy the problem, sources said.
In an e-mail exchange with members of the commission, Deputy Corporation Counsel L. John Van Norden wrote that the city charter supersedes the ordinance, giving the mayor the power to hire whoever he wants.
"[The ordinance] is one discrete provision in a much larger comprehensive revision of the city personnel policies and procedures which the council codified in 2005. It is an ordinance and as such is superior to a resolution but subordinate to federal and state law and to the charter," Van Norden wrote to the commission. "To the extent an ordinance is in conflict with federal or state law or the city charter, the superior laws prevail."
"The charter vests the mayor with authority to make appointments with only one restriction, confirmation of certain executive level appointees (but not all) by the council," he continued. "Thus, at least for department heads and direct mayoral appointees, the restriction on rehiring city retirees arguably usurps the mayor's authority since the charter contains no such restriction on eligibility."
H. Patrick Campbell, the commission's chief auditor, did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday. Cloud could not be reached for comment.
Maribel La Luz, Segarra's spokeswoman, said Tuesday afternoon that the mayor hadn't yet received a letter from the audit commission, but she added: "The mayor can nominate whoever he wants based on experience and qualifications. All of the employees [targeted in the investigation] were confirmed by the council. There's no interference needed at this point."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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