The political battle escalated in Hartford Wednesday over federal rent subsidies received by Charlie Ortiz, the spouse of city Mayor Pedro Segarra.
Rep. Kelvin Roldan, D-Hartford, who is exploring a mayoral run against fellow Democrat Segarra this year, said he had filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents concerning Ortiz's dealings with the city through its administration of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Section 8 low-income housing program.
"The mayor has displayed a cavalier attitude toward public disclosure laws and has demonstrated over the past several years an alarming pattern of failing to disclose or delaying the disclosure of information required by the City's Ethics Code," Roldan said in a statement. "Given his persistent lapses on these issues, a formal public information request may well be the only way residents of the city will ever know exactly what the Mayor's household assets and holdings are."
Segarra's campaign manager, Phil Sherwood, fired back that Roldan is running "a smoke-and-mirrors campaign designed to distract voters from his history" as a former aide to Eddie Perez, who resigned as mayor last year after his conviction on corruption charges.
"Look at the circle of friends he's surrounded himself with," Sherwood said. He said Roldan and two other former Perez aides supporting him, Derek Donnelly and Matt Hennessy, are in "the same circle of people who surrounded [Perez] as he chose the path of corruption."
Sherwood also claimed Roldan's move Wednesday was timed to push Segarra to support paying Perez money the former mayor claims the city owes him for vacation and sick time. Sherwood said that is Perez-like, "old-style bullying politics."
Meanwhile, Segarra has amended his annual financial disclosures to the city's Ethics Commission for the years 2006 to 2009. An April 10 Government Watch column in The Courant said Segarra's annual disclosures hadn't shown that Ortiz collects $2,000 monthly in federal subsidies through "vouchers" for two low-income tenants in apartments he owns; his subsidies totaled more than $120,000 in the five years Segarra has been a councilman and now mayor.
Segarra's amendments, filed Friday, show subsidies for two recent Ortiz tenants — and a third for whom he apparently stopped receiving subsidies in mid-2010.
Also Wednesday, HUD said it has ended a review of the situation.
Spokeswoman Rhonda Siciliano, of HUD's Boston office, said Segarra had "requested a legal opinion under state ethics law to determine if there is a conflict of interest with his spouse's Section 8 contract with the City of Hartford."
But, she added, "to remove even the perception of a conflict of interest, the City has instructed its contractor, Imagineers, to transfer administration of the two vouchers to the [state] Department of Social Services. … That transfer has remedied any appearance of a conflict and we are no longer reviewing the matter."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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