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City Councilman Puts Focus On Budget, Mayor

Hartford

JEFFREY B. COHEN

November 13, 2008

City Councilman Pedro Segarra wants his colleagues to focus on the troubled budget and their role in city government.

In a series of 10 resolutions he put before the city council this week, Segarra the panel's budget chairman wants the city to address its budget and its deficits by suspending layoffs, instituting a nearly universal hiring freeze, stopping some capital improvement projects and new vehicle purchases, and mandating compliance with the charter and the city code when it comes to financial reporting.

In a resolution that sticks out, Segarra wants private access to all documents that Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez has turned over to state criminal investigators looking into allegations of corruption at city hall.

A discussion on the resolutions, which speak to a growing concern on the city council about Hartford's looming deficits and the panel's relationship with Perez, was postponed Wednesday night until the council's next meeting. Segarra says the resolutions come after nearly two months of hearings that his committee held on the budget's past, present and future deficits. He also says his intent is to get the council talking about its diminished role in government.

"It's pretty much been the mayor deciding, 'This is what I'm going to do,'" Segarra said. "If the council wants to defer totally to the mayor, then that's fine. But it should be a matter of public record, and it should be legislated."

As for his desire to the see subpoenaed documents turned over to state investigators, he wants to know if the probe includes a look at the city's finances, he said.

"Do we wait for this grand jury which seems to be taking an incredible amount of time to conclude and then react at that point to something?" Segarra asked.

Segarra's resolutions were met with various responses.

Perez declined to be interviewed. Sarah Barr, his spokeswoman, wouldn't address the resolutions. In a statement, she said Segarra can see any city document he wants except those prohibited from release by the chief state's attorney.

Democratic council President Calixto Torres said that all of Segarra's resolutions should be discussed, and Working Families Minority Leader Larry Deutsch said Segarra's resolutions have his support.

Councilman Kenneth Kennedy supports the resolutions, including the one seeking the documents turned over to investigators.

"The council should have the power so that we're not left holding the bag if the grand jury does come back with probable cause findings, particularly with respect to city finances," Kennedy said.

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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