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Charter Revision Effort In Peril

JEFFREY B. COHEN

July 24, 2009

HARTFORD - When various members of the city council came to Richard Wareing last year to ask him to lead the city's charter revision effort, he gave them one condition.

"I told each of them," Wareing said, "don't waste my time."

"I don't want to go on this commission, go to meetings, give up nights, probably give up some weekends, take time out of my law practice," Wareing said, only to have all that work mean nothing.

But that may be just what has happened.

If city officials and several attorneys are reading state law right, a failure to hold a proper public hearing on the changes proposed by the Hartford Charter Revision Commission could mean the entire process will have to be scrapped.

"It's a disgrace," Wareing said, pointing a finger at the city council. "It's their job to meet these deadlines. I don't know who they hired to advise them. ... I really don't care. Because, at the end of the day, the buck stops with them."

State law says that the "appointing authority" has to hold a public hearing on the commission's proposed changes by a certain deadline. But the whole council didn't hold a public hearing; a committee chaired by Councilman Matt Ritter did. Now Ritter and Wareing say that's probably not good enough.

"Corporation counsel and the town/city clerk confirm that there appears to be no record that a formal public hearing was held," said Sarah Barr, a spokeswoman for Mayor Eddie A. Perez. But, she added, "there has been no determination that this is preventing the questions from going on the ballot."

"If they don't have the required public hearing, it's hard for me to see how they can put anything on the ballot," Wareing responded.

"It's a flawed process," Ritter said. "I think the end result is the thing is 100 percent dead."

"There will be no questions on the ballot," he said. "It really does no good to blame somebody for this. These mistakes happen and this was just somehow there was an oversight."

Efforts to reach Council President Calixto Torres and Democratic Majority Leader rJo Winch were unsuccessful. Minority Leader Larry Deutsch called the end result "an awful shame."

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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