Mayor Pedro Segarra has formally requested that the city's ethics commission seek an opinion from an independent law firm on whether he has a conflict of interest because his spouse collects Section 8 housing subsidies as a landlord.
But the commission said it would first investigate whether it needs to hire an outside firm.
Segarra has not disclosed on his annual financial disclosures that his spouse, Charlie Ortiz, collects about $2,000 a month in federal Section 8 rent subsidies as a landlord for low-income tenants under a "housing choice voucher program" administered by the city.
Ortiz has received more than $120,000 through that arrangement since May 2006, when Segarra became a city councilman. Segarra took over as mayor last June when his predecessor, Eddie Perez, resigned after his conviction on corruption charges.
Segarra sent a letter to the city's corporation counsel on Monday requesting that an independent opinion be solicited about whether a conflict of interest exists, and whether he violated city ethics code provisions. He requested that an outside law firm be hired to look into the matter.
"As you know, I take great pride in running a city government that is open and transparent and I believe that I have been honest and forthcoming in filing previous years' disclosures," Segarra wrote.
The issue is scheduled to be discussed by the ethics commission May 10, but members said they might not have a decision about whether outside counsel is needed by that time.
"It's too premature to hire an outside attorney at this point," said ethics commission member Arnaldo Sierra.
Segarra has offered to pay for retaining outside counsel, commissioners said, but they declined.
"That would be a conflict of interest within itself," Sierra said.
Earlier Tuesday, Rep. Kelvin Roldan, who is considering a run against Segarra in the upcoming mayoral election, said: "Mayor Segarra needs to take responsibility for his actions and — in the interest of transparency — disclose all federal, state and city payments to members of his household; all property owned by members of his household; and all affiliated business interests since he became a member of the city council in 2006."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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