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Ron Responds

February 25, 2008

Henrici Harmful to Hamden

By Ron Gambardella

About six months ago I had to put my 13-year-dog, Rocky, down. As any pet owner knows, it is a dreadful day. My wife and I had been discussing Rocky’s deteriorating condition. His heart was fine, he was attentive and alert, but his body was failing. He could no longer stand without assistance and had a malignant, inoperable tumor. Even with all this, you continue to hope. He was part of our family.

We heard about a veterinarian who made house calls. We thought that it would be less stressful for the dog to be in the only home he knew and loved. We made the call. Upon the veterinarian’s arrival, Rocky licked her hand in a friendly greeting completely oblivious to what was about to occur. After conducting an examination the vet requested that we provide Rocky with a blanket. We led Rocky to the blanket where I spoke tenderly to him to lay down. We said our goodbyes and the vet administered the injection as he slipped peacefully away.

Rocky was then wrapped in the blanket where his body was properly disposed of by a loving and caring vet. It is still painful to recall.

Contrast this scene with the Henrici Administration’s new animal control policy. It appears that the primary reason for the mayor’s new policy of dumping animals out in the open is to produce taxpayer savings of about $30 per animal. Presumably, this offsets the cost of up to $700 a month for his mileage reimbursement.

Friends, the picture here is clear. Mayor Henrici’s decision-making ability seems impaired. His ability to lead is shortsighted, uninformed and seriously deficient. Just look at the result of his decision to fire a fully competent animal control officer and hire his unqualified friend to do the job. How are we to trust his decision-making ability when it comes to navigating through the complex construction of the police station in the center of town? This will surely cost taxpayers more than what his current projections dictate.

You may say to yourself, “This is not my beautiful town.” You may ask yourself, “How did we get here?” Friends, this would not have been possible without the determined assistance of key council members -- Finance Chair Curtis Balzano Leng, Council President Al Gorman and Majority Leader Matt Fitch. These men are inextricably tied to the mayor and his policies. Their rationalizations, minimizations and justifications for the mayor’s past actions relative to failed appointments, fiscal mismanagement, internal controversies and unfulfilled promises have all contributed to embolden the mayor to act with impunity culminating in this latest fiasco.

The mayor and these men in particular have abandoned all the principles that have made the Democratic Party great. They are self-serving. They are opposed to open government, charter reform, budget referendums and anything to do with sharing power with the people who elected them to office. They have disgraced their positions and have shown nothing but distain for anyone who voices an opinion contrary to their own.

Friends, the winnowing fan beckons. Soon the wheat will be separated from the chaff. The things the mayor and his co-signers have discussed in the secrecy of the caucus or behind closed doors will be exposed to the light of public scrutiny for all to bear witness. In the end, the town of Hamden’s fall will rest squarely at their feet. Folks, we can, and must do better.

Former Republican Councilman and '07 mayoral candidate Ron Gambardella will comment on town affairs in this column. He can be reached at rongam@yahoo.com.

February 8, 2008

Henrici’s Example, Bad for Town

By Ron Gambardella

Unfortunately for the taxpaying public residing or doing business in Hamden, the Henrici Administration is about to unleash another round of tax increases when he submits his new budget -- education, new construction, pensions, energy, inflation, etc, etc, etc. There doesn’t seem to be any end to the excuses to raise taxes.

If this isn’t bad enough, you have a mayor who submits undocumented mileage reports and receives reimbursement with no questions asked. You have an open investigation into the Parks & Recreation Department that will, at the very least, cast a shadow of doubt on the fiscal integrity of town departments.

Just when you thought things were nearing rock bottom, the next headline proves you wrong once again.

Recent audit findings uncovered the fact that the “Parks and Recreation Department employees received reimbursement for expenditures without proper documentation.” When Mayor Henrici does the very same thing by submitting unsubstantiated mileage reports, we have the Council Finance chair looking the other way. There wasn’t a call for an investigation, no grandstanding and no outrage.

Conversely, when employees from the Parks & Recreation Department follow the mayor’s example, Mr. Leng vigorously calls for a thorough investigation. What for? These folks are only following the lead set by the mayor’s office. Mr. Leng is either unaware of the mayor’s new policies or he chooses to compromise his position as finance chair to protect the mayor. In either case, he has lost all semblances of credibility, confidence and public trust.

Let’s take a look at how the mayor’s office is handling the situation. Try to keep a serious face when reading the following quote by the mayor’s chief aide Scott Jackson when asked to comment about the recent debacle in Parks & Rec: “We’ll look forward to responding in an appropriate fashion if and when the police issue a report.”

The first thing to notice is that he is unsure if the police will issue a report. The second thing to notice is that there appears to be no urgency in the matter. Why react now? The police may not take any action. After all, we are only talking about taxpayer dollars. No need to worry, there are more where they came from. Scott Jackson’s entire response is completely inappropriate and seems to reflect his boss’ overall philosophy of showing utter contempt toward the folks who pay his salary. That would be you and me.

Now add Leng, Council President Al Gorman and Matt Fitch to the mix and you can expect taxpayers will have the “best” minds on the job -- the situation is hopeless! The hypocrisy is suffocating. Confidence in this administration’s ability to lead us out of this mess is waning. All of this translates into more pain for the taxpayers. We, of course, will continue to pay for the incompetent, fiscally challenged individuals who are leading us into a pit of despair. I hope I can be more optimistic in my next article, but somehow I doubt it.

Former Republican Councilman and '07 mayoral candidate Ron Gambardella will comment on town affairs in this column. He can be reached at rongam@yahoo.com.

January 18, 2008

Hamden’s 3 Blind Mice

By Ron Gambardella

Wall Street abhors surprises. Uncertainty is generally associated with increased risk. Increase risk translates to lower stock prices. This reaction to surprise is an attempt by investors to mitigate the potential for loss. Savvy executives will do all within their power to remove the element of surprise in an effort to keep things moving forward as smoothly as possible. This of course makes sense if you are at all concerned about the various stakeholders.

Now contrast what a savvy executive will do against the Henrici Administration’s penchant for surprise. He has recently pulled several surprises out of his hat. For example, “Surprise!” you’re fired. Or “Surprise!” we overestimated revenue. “Surprise!” we have created a new position. Or again “Surprise!” we’re not sure of the funding.

Folks, this is no way to run a government.

The recent personnel moves by the Henrici Administration undermine taxpayer confidence (click here and here for background stories). There doesn’t appear to be any effort on the part of the administration to keep the citizens of Hamden informed. In fact, the administration seems to relish secrecy. Requests for records frequently require Freedom of Information mandates before any records are released for public scrutiny. Any opposing views from town employees or reporting sources such as the Hamden Daily News are quickly removed or barred from information.

Is it too much to ask for open and honest government? Why must it be so difficult?

To better understand how the mayor is able to do what he wants without opposition from the Council, we need only look at a child’s nursery rhyme (modified for clarification and understanding, of course).

Original Rhyme                              Modified Rhyme                       

Three blind mice,
Three blind mice
See how they run,
See how they run!

They all ran after
The farmer's wife.
She cut off their tails
With a carving knife.
Did you ever see
Such a sight in your life?
As three blind mice?

Three blind mice,
Three blind mice
See how they run,
See how they run!

They all would like
The mayor’s life.
They cut up the truth
With a carving knife.
Taxpayers again
Will pay the price.
Because of three blind mice.

And just who are the three blind mice? Why none other than Council Finance Chair Curtis Balzano Leng, Council President Al Gorman and Majority Leader Matt Fitch. These men blindly support the mayor’s agenda in hopes of greater rewards. By their aiding and abetting in the mayor’s schemes, the good taxpaying citizens of Hamden don’t stand a chance for a fair deal. If the citizens of Hamden want an open and honest government, then we really need to wipe the slate clean beginning with the three blind mice -- and of course the mayor.

Former Republican Councilman and '07 mayoral candidate Ron Gambardella will comment on town affairs in this column. He can be reached at rongam@yahoo.com.

January 14, 2008

Crunch the Numbers, Folks

By Ron Gambardella

The mayor recently unveiled his plan to build a new $20M police facility in the center of town. Clearly, Hamden is in need of a new police station. Few will argue this point. My concern is the cost and the impact on the taxpaying public. The Council and the mayor’s office appear to be moving forward without the necessary due diligence a project of this magnitude requires and deserves.

Let me explain.

Hamden is currently in the unique position of having an alternative to the mayor’s proposal. I speak of the property on Putnam Avenue. At the very least, an alternative cost comparison should be conducted that could quantify the differences between both proposals. For example, issues such as calculating the cost to move a fully functioning police department to a temporary location could be compared to keeping the current building operational while a new facility is constructed. The cost of building an underground garage could be compared to constructing a parking lot on readily available space.

Additionally, one could compare the cost of integrating a new police facility into a building completed in the 1920s versus all new construction.

Fiscally responsible overseers typically research issues such as these when new construction projects are proposed. I have used these comparative techniques hundreds of times when conducting my own financial reviews of projects proposed by SNET’s (now AT&T) engineering department. These time-tested methods aid in ascertaining the most cost-effective approach to major project construction.

Unfortunately, the mayor falls short in the area of fiscally responsible oversight. I need only point to his lack of accounting detail on his mileage reports, his rationalizations when confronted, his readiness to blame others when cornered and his defiant responses when confronted with the issue.

How do you think he will react when/if this project should overrun?
If he cannot be trusted in small matters, how are we, the taxpaying public, going to trust him in larger, weightier matters such as the multimillion dollar construction of a police department?

Now take this a step further. Consider the fact that the finance chair, majority leader and Council president will cosign most anything coming from the administration, and you now have the first step toward a fiscal nightmare.

I am not naïve enough to believe that my suggestions of a comparative study will ever be seriously considered by this administration and Council. They would argue that it would be a waste of time, money and effort. I would argue any incremental cost to study the alternative would be dwarfed by the potential for prematurely committing to a project that has a far greater risk to overrun the mayor’s proposed $20M construction cost.

In the end, you and I will pay.

Former Republican Councilman and '07 mayoral candidate Ron Gambardella will comment on town affairs in this column. He can be reached at rongam@yahoo.com.

December 17, 2007

Ship Henrici is Sinking

By Ron Gambardella

Sharon Bass has done a nice job providing details about the mayor’s mileage reimbursement. In her story, Sharon included the actual mileage reports so that the citizens of Hamden can draw their own conclusions relative to the mayor’s recordkeeping abilities.

At the surface the mayor appears to be utterly perplexed and unable to complete a thorough fiscally responsible travel report to document his mileage for reimbursement purposes. If we go below the surface, it would appear that there are accounting irregularities coupled with a lack of fiscal oversight within the mayor’s administration (no surprise there).

It is too early to talk about intent or collusion; we will have to wait to see how the story plays out. However, if history is any predictor of the future, rest assured the key council members and the mayor will do everything in their power to spin this story into a positive for the taxpayers of Hamden.
Let’s take a closer look at what we now know.

According to a story in another local paper about the mileage reimbursement, the mayor seems to be unaware of whom to ask for guidance in matters pertaining to the proper filing of a mileage report. When questioned, it was reported the mayor attempted to implicate (pardon me, ask) Council President Al Gorman and Majority Leader Matt Fitch for their advice on the proper accounting for mileage. From my past experience on the council, I do not believe either man has any expertise in these matters. From the looks of the report the mayor filed it would seem my suspicions are confirmed. Neither the mayor nor the two men advising him seem to have a rudimentary understanding of basic accounting principles.

All this begs the question, why not ask Finance Director Mr. Betz? But alas, he does not seem to have the necessary expertise either; otherwise the mayor would have or should have consulted with his finance director as his first choice. The signatures appearing at the bottom of the mileage report for both the employee and department head look nearly identical. If this is the case then we have introduced yet another problem -- lack of fiscal oversight and control.

At this point you might be thinking the whole system is broken. Wait a minute! Now just hold on one minute. What does seem to work well is that once the mayor submits his “unsubstantiated” travel log report, a check on his behalf is promptly issued from taxpayer funds. In fact, the only complaint about process comes directly from the mayor who insists that he is losing money in this arrangement.

Now I ask you, doesn’t this at least qualify for an informal inquiry? We haven’t yet heard word one from Finance Chair Curtis Balzano Leng. As they say, something is rotten in Denmark. It is just this sort of hypocrisy that will be addressed as we move toward the next election. The actions of Finance Chair Curtis Balzano Leng, President Al Gorman and Majority Leader Matt Fitch will be scrutinized and exposed for what it is. The inaction of these men only reveals their self-serving interests. The concern for Hamden taxpayers is nonexistent.

The public must decide if this is what they want for the future leadership of Hamden. Friends, this is going to be a very long two years. We have only just begun and the ship is already sinking. Before all this ends, I am sure we will see more twists and turns that will come out of the sordid details.

Former Republican Councilman and '07 mayoral candidate Ron Gambardella will comment on town affairs in this column. He can be reached at rongam@yahoo.com.

December 7, 2007

Curtis Leng-Who?

By Ron Gambardella

I recently read a thank you letter from a Curtis Balzano Leng. At first I thought, who is this? Then I realized it was none other than Curt Leng. It seems Curtis Balzano Leng is on to something. Over the past four years, the finance chair has always been known to the council as Curt Leng. However, I now realize this was just a shortened form of his actual name: Curtis Balzano Leng.

If I didn’t know better, it would seem the elongated form of his name has made its first public appearance in order to broaden his appeal to a specific nationality. For example, if Mr. Leng was considering a run for mayor in 2009 it would make some sense to ingratiate himself to his constituents by relating to them on a more familiar basis.

Let me explain. Let’s suppose Mr. Leng believed there is a disproportionate number of Italian voters in the Hamden area as compared to other nationalities. If Mr. Balzano-Leng believed his opponent was Italian, then in a close race he would believe he was at a disadvantage. However, by showing a family heritage that would appeal to this same base he would have effectively neutralized any perceived advantage his opponent may have.

If I was to follow similar logic, then during my campaign for mayor this year I was shortsighted by simply introducing myself as Ron Gambardella. I should have used a more appealing-to-all name. Something like Ron Gambardella-Kennedy-Osama-Clinton-Schwartz. If I left out any nationalities, I apologize, but I think you get the point.

As you can see, an attempt by me or anyone else to appeal to voters simply based of race, creed, nationality or gender would seem insincere. Let’s hope this is not what Curtis Balzano Leng has in mind.

Former Republican Councilman and '07 mayoral candidate Ron Gambardella will comment on town affairs in this column. He can be reached at rongam@yahoo.com.


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