Hartford To Hire Independent Attorney To Clear Up Dispute Over Re-Hiring Retired Employees
By JENNA CARLESSO
April 22, 2013
HARTFORD —— The city council will hire an independent attorney to review whether some employees are in violation of an ordinance that says retirees cannot be re-hired for longer than six months.
The city's internal audit commission recommended earlier this month that the council hire a lawyer to render an opinion on the matter because Saundra Kee Borges, the city's corporation counsel — whose office would normally examine the legality of the situation — is, herself, a re-hired retiree.
In the meantime, the council postponed voting on the appointments of Kee Borges as chief operating officer and Juan Figueroa as corporation counsel until its next meeting in May.
Segarra appointed Kee Borges as chief operating officer effective March 18, but the council must approve the appointment.
Council President Shawn Wooden said members want to clear up the legal question of whether a retiree can return to the city's employ before the panel votes on the appointment.
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."
The city's deputy corporation counsel, L. John Van Norden, has said that the city charter supersedes the ordinance, giving the mayor the power to hire whoever he wants.
According to the audit commission, in addition to Kee Borges, at least four other city employees are retirees who've been returned to the payroll for more than six months: Police Chief James Rovella; Andrew Jaffee, head of emergency services and telecommunication; Linda Bayer, a civic engagement consultant; and Betty Szubinski, an administrative assistant.
Aside from the legal uncertainty, Wooden said, council members are still considering whether they want to approve Kee Borges' appointment because of concerns with city management.
Some members have expressed frustration over spending practices, such as the administration's decision to hand out bonuses over the last three years, he said. The council and the mayor ultimately agreed to abolish the practice of awarding bonuses, except for those already included in union contracts.
The council has 60 days to vote on Kee Borges' appointment from the time it gets the proposal. The council received the resolution appointing her to the position on March 25.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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