Opinion Finds No Conflict In Housing Subsidy For Hartford Mayor's Spouse
May 12, 2011
Mayor Pedro Segarra did not violate the city ethics code when he failed to disclose that his spouse receives Section 8 housing subsidies as a landlord for low-income tenants, an independent attorney hired by the city said.
In a seven-page opinion, Matthew Conway said that although the mayor "should have included the HAP [housing assistance payment] contracts on his financial disclosures, there is no evidence that the omission was made knowingly or intentionally."
Conway was hired by the city to provide an opinion on whether the mayor has a conflict of interest because his spouse, Charlie Ortiz, collects Section 8 housing subsidies.
"We find, based on the evidence provided, that Mr. Ortiz's HAP contracts do not create a conflict of interest for Mayor Segarra," Conway wrote.
State Rep. Kelvin Roldan, D-Hartford, who is exploring whether to oppose Segarra, also a Democrat, in the November election, said he 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 housing program.
Segarra had not disclosed on his annual financial statements that Ortiz collects about $2,000 a month in federal Section 8 rent subsidies as a landlord for low-income tenants under a "housing choice voucher program" administered by the city.
Ortiz has received more than $120,000 through that arrangement since May 2006, when Segarra became a city councilman. Segarra took over as mayor last June when his predecessor, Eddie A. Perez, resigned after his conviction on corruption charges.
Roldan accused the mayor of displaying "a cavalier attitude toward public disclosure laws," and said Segarra had demonstrated "an alarming pattern of failing to disclose or delaying the disclosure of information required by the city's ethics code."
Segarra sent a letter to the city's corporation counsel last month requesting that an independent opinion be solicited about whether a conflict of interest exists, and whether he violated the city ethics code.
"The fundamental finding in this opinion is that no wrongdoing or inappropriate benefit was ever conferred or sought and that any oversight was corrected via the amended filings," Segarra said in a statement Wednesday. "[The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] also agreed that nothing inappropriate occurred. This city has huge challenges that are being addressed and political distractions like this only hurt the residents in the end."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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