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Hartford Councilman Sees Retribution In Ethics Code Proposal



October 24, 2008

Everyone at Hartford City Hall is concerned about ethics.

Last week, city Councilman Kenneth Kennedy introduced a change in the ethics code that would take away the pension of city officials convicted of a crime related to their public service. Kennedy says he was thinking of the taxpayers not of Mayor Eddie A. Perez, who is under state criminal investigation on allegations of corruption.

This week, Perez and council President Calixto Torres introduced a change in the ethics code that could force Kennedy to disclose that he has a child out of wedlock. Torres said they were thinking of open government not of Kennedy.

Kennedy says this isn't about open government at all. It's about payback.

"This administration, I think, is concentrated far less on policy and far more on retribution," said Kennedy, who also has introduced a measure to force Perez and a city attorney to reimburse the city for appeals of cases they've lost at the state's Freedom of Information Commission. "Every time you think there's some real decency within the mayor and you have some sympathy for whatever he's going through, you then see this and it makes you realize why we're here in the first place."

The city's ethics code now requires all city officials to disclose any violations. The Perez amendment also would require some of them to disclose whether they've been sued, while in office, by the state for "recovery of public funds." A review of the state's online judicial docket shows that that provision could apply to Kennedy but seemingly no one else now in elected office.

Kennedy is married with three children and has a fourth child with a woman who is not his wife. He was sued by the state and the mother of his child for back child support in 2006. Kennedy says he has always paid child support, but there was a disagreement about the amount. Kennedy eventually agreed to pay the state back roughly $1,500.

Perez declined to be interviewed. In a statement, he stood by his ethics code amendment and made no reference to Kennedy.

Torres and council Majority Leader rJo Winch said the mayor asked them to support his amendment to further openness in government. "Let's open it up for everybody," Winch said. "The grand jury has been investigating the mayor on rumors for the last two years."

Torres, who said Kennedy was personalizing politics, said he did not know of the state's suit against Kennedy. After learning about it, though, Torres said, "What's good for the goose is good for the gander, I guess."

Kennedy is considering a run for mayor in 2011. He said the issue of his out-of-wedlock child stopped him from running in 2007.

"This is a private family matter," Kennedy said. "I am deeply sorry, beyond words, for the pain that I have caused my wife and my kids and my father and what I've done to his name."

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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