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Segarra Will Seek Ethics Opinion On Spouse's Rent Subsidies

Jon Lender

April 11, 2011

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra said Sunday that he will be amending his financial disclosures to the city's ethics commission, which have not mentioned that his spouse, Charlie Ortiz, collects about $2,000 a month in federal Section 8 rent subsidies as the landlord for low-income tenants. The subsidies are under a federally funded "housing choice voucher program" administered locally by the city.

Segarra also said he would seek a legal opinion about the situation.

The rental subsidies to Ortiz have amounted to more than $120,000 since May 2006, when Segarra became a city councilman, and were reported in The Courant's Government Watch column Sunday.

The column also said Segarra had not listed the subsidies on his annual statements of financial interests filed with the city ethics commission for the years since 2006. Segarra said he hadn't thought Ortiz's arrangement with the Department of Housing and Urban Development amounted to a city contract.

However, Segarra's potential opponent in this year's mayoral election, Rep. Kelvin Roldan, D-Hartford, called on the city's ethics commission and, if necessary, the state's top criminal prosecutor to investigate what he called Segarra's "failure to disclose over $120,000 in potentially illegal payments paid by the city to Segarra's spouse."

Segarra issued a statement Sunday saying: "While I think the premise of the story published in today's Hartford Courant has no merit, I pride my administration on being transparent and open." He said he will ask the city corporation counsel to solicit an opinion from one of the law firms on retainer with the ethics commission, to "determine if any violation of the City's Ethics code has occurred." He added: "I will be amending my ethics filings" next week."

"It's frustrating that while most of us are focused on moving this great City forward and changing the culture of city government, a small group is trying to use whatever they can for political gain," Segarra said.

Segarra clearly meant supporters of Roldan, who include allies of his predecessor as mayor, Eddie Perez, who resigned last June after a corruption conviction. Segarra became mayor after Perez's resignation.

City records showing the federal rent-subsidy payments to Ortiz had been requested from the city more than three months ago by Derek Donnelly, a former legislative aide to Perez who now supports Roldan. The Courant requested them later.

Roldan, who is considering a run for mayor this year, noted that The Courant column said HUD is reviewing whether Ortiz's subsidies pose a conflict-of-interest problem.

"If these payments have been ongoing for six years to a business being run out of his law office and the mayor was aware of them, his failure to disclose them is a serious violation of the public trust," Roldan said. "It is time long past time for our city government to make hard-working families and dependable employers its first priorities, rather than the friends and relatives of those who hold political power."

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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