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Town Government

June 29, 2007

Heroin Bust on Webb

From the Street Interdiction Team:

At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, the Street Interdiction Team concluded a three-week investigation of heroin sales with the arrest of Jose Santiago of Webb Street. During the investigation, a member of the team posed as a narcotics buyer and made numerous purchases from him.

Santiago was also observed selling narcotics in the lower State Street area of Hamden.

Last night, an undercover officer arranged to make a narcotics purchase from Santiago in the parking lot of Krauser’s on State Street. The officer purchased heroin and left the area. Shortly afterwards, other members of the team took Santiago into custody. Search and seizure warrants were simultatiously executed on Santiago’s vehicle and apartment.

Sixty-eight folds of heroin were found with an approximate street value of $800, along with a small amount of cocaine.

Santiago, 46, of 69 Webb St., second floor, Hamden, was charged with
possession of narcotics, possession of narcotics with intent to sell, sale
of narcotics and possession of drug paraphenalia. He was held on a $100,000 bond and is scheduled to appear at Meriden Superior Court July 10.

Pot Bust on Concord

From Capt. Ron Smith:

On June 27, the Street Interdiction Team in cooperation with the DEA executed a controlled delivery of approximately 6 pounds of marijuana to 2 Raccio Park Drive.

An officer posing as a parcel delivery employee delivered the package, which contained marijuana. As the package was delivered and accepted, officers secured the business. Further investigation led to a search and seizure which was executed at 16 Concord St.

Three men were arrested.

Frankin Chin, 30, of 16 Concord St., Hamden, was charged with possession of over 1 kilogram of marijuana with the intent to sell, conspiracy to possess marijuana with the intent to sell, conspiracy to possess over 4 ounces of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. He was detained on a $200,000 bond.

Lamar Mack, 27, of 284 Augur St., Hamden, was charged with possession of marijuana and was released on a written promise to appear.

A New Haven man was also arrested. All are due in court on July 11.

June 28, 2007

Man Flees, Strikes Cops

From Capt. Ron Smith:

On June 21 at approximately 7 p.m., the Street Interdiction Team observed narcotic activity in the area of Treadwell Street and Dawes Avenue.

Police approached a motor vehicle that was operated by Randall Link. Link allegedly attempted to flee in his vehicle, while officers opened the driver's side door. Link struck two officers with the door as his vehicle was traveling in reverse. He then evaded police, traveling on Treadwell Street, and was eventually apprehended on Putnam Avenue.

Link, 21, of 290 Treadwell St., Hamden, was charged with two counts of assault on a police officer, two counts of reckless endangerment, interfering with a police officer, reckless driving and disobeying an officer's signal. He was detained on a $50,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in Meriden Superior Court July 10.

June 25, 2007

On the Prowl

Town interviews license-plate hunters

By Sharon Bass

Three men are expected to face town officials Wednesday to explain why they should get the job to hunt down cars parked in Hamden that are not registered in Hamden but should be. And hopefully, by June 30, 2008, find enough to generate roughly $1.3 million in new property taxes.

According to Purchasing Agent Judi Kozak, three firms responded to a request for proposal the town advertised earlier this month. After finding a $2 million-plus hole in the new budget because the fixed medical costs were accidentally left out, the administration told the Town Council that $1.3 million in revenue could be realized if vehicles registered elsewhere were made to register in town. Since the firms charge about 30 percent in commission, another $390,000 or so would have to be collected to meet the revenue goal. (Click here for related story.) The measure was approved on May 7, though some councilmembers expressed serious doubt the money would be collected.

The mayor’s office then put together a panel of Chief Administrative Officer Scott Jackson, Tax Collector Barbara Tito, Chief Tax Assessor Jim Clynes, Finance Director Mike Betz and Kozak to interview the candidates.

The Wannahunts

Tax Data Solutions of Derby, Municipal Tax Services of Huntington and CTTFB of Monroe are on the panel’s menu for tomorrow.

In response to the RFP, Robert Berke, president of Tax Data and an attorney, wrote: “Tax Data Solutions is committed to providing the Hamden Assessor with the most advanced technology and sophisticated process to identify taxpayers who have intentionally or negligently avoided paying motor vehicle property taxes … Our investigation will exclusively utilize infrared digital video equipment coupled with the Red Hen Global Positioning System, to document every vehicle observed and its exact location in the Town of Hamden. The use of infrared cameras permits our investigators to conduct investigations in complete darkness without attracting attention.”

Tax Data charges 35 percent commission on motor vehicle taxes, interest and penalties collected by the town. Unlike a standard bid, with an RFP the lowest bidder is not automatically chosen. "We look for the best qualifications: experience in the service, a proven track record and knowledge of federal and state laws," said Kozak.

License hunters drive up and down streets looking for out-of-state registered cars. They may not go on private property, such as driveways. They jot down the suspect license plate number and try to find the owner’s address. Some people are exempt from having to register their vehicles in town, such as full-time college students with a legal address outside of Hamden, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

To bring in $1.7 million, over 7,000 additional vehicles would have to be registered in Hamden in the next fiscal year. Clynes said 42,462 motor vehicles are currently registered.

Carl DeProfio of Municipal Tax Services also touted high technology. DeProfio is a retired state cop and a licensed private eye. He charges 30 percent commission.

In his response, he said his firm uses the Platefinder system. “The system was designed to read license plates at 60 times per second through its infrared optical character recognition feature. The device resembles a radar gun …” DeProfio wrote.

But Harry Mottram, president of CTTFB, said high-tech gizmos are more for show than getting the job done. The retired state cop owns seven residential properties in Hamden, although he doesn’t live in town, and asks for a 28 percent commission.

Mottram argued that the RFP should be rewritten to emphasize “achieving voluntary registration and compliance” rather than just trying to catch registration scofflaws.

“Targeting the symptom without addressing the cause is inefficient and costly. A process which is less intrusive, clearly informs and make it easy to comply will be less costly and better received by the deserving citizens of Hamden,” he wrote in his reply. “The original process used for these investigations (which is still used by the competition) contributes little towards increasing compliance. It may be dressed up in technology enhancements with lots of bells and whistles … but it is still the same process.”

Mottram said the process of finding the cars to collecting the taxes takes a long time. And that he will find “lots of cases of cars” not registered in Hamden but sitting on town streets -- even overnight -- which belong to nonresidents. Such as himself.

Brown on 3rd

Business owner Ozzie Brown. Photo/Sharon Bass

By Sharon Bass

Vowing to dive into the guts of the 3rd District -- “I’m going to serve the people. I’m going to find out what their gripes are” -- Ozzie Brown said he hopes his name will make it onto Democratic ticket at the July 23 convention. It's expected it will.

Berita Rowe-Lewis, who currently represents the Highwood district, said after two terms she’s resigning from the Legislative Council to care for her mother.

Brown, 65, said he was approached about running for office. “A few people asked me. So I give it some thought and I said yes. Since I’ve lived here so long I know quite a few people in the district,” he said.

He and his wife moved to Long Meadow Avenue from New Haven 17 years ago. Both are on the Democratic Town Committee. They have eight grown children and 15 grandkids. Brown owns a “material handling equipment business,” Advanced Lift Truck Service, located in the Sherman Avenue industrial park. He’s been a member of the Economic Development Commission for eight years.

“It’s a tough job,” serving on the Council, said Brown, who grew up in Jamaica. “I see what’s needed to be done. Not that the person [Rowe-Lewis] wasn’t trying to do her best but I will pick up where they left off. We’ve had some roads paved. Some new businesses moved into the district.” He mentioned the artist housing and retail space that’s going up on the former Johnson factory property on lower Dixwell Avenue.

But Brown said there’s more to do. “Get some more roads paved. Some street signs replaced. Some stop signs replaced. Make sure everything is being taken care of,” he said.

“Ozzie is a wonderful person, a hard worker, dedicated and will do a wonderful job,” said Rowe-Lewis, who said she will remain in her Warner Street home and stay active in Hamden politics, including working on Henrici’s re-election campaign.

“[The Council] was a great experience. A wonderful time to help individuals that I can help,” she said. “[Brown] has my blessings.”

June 22, 2007

Henrici Goes to Bat for Y Kids

The town scrambles to find someone to take over the violation-riddled daycare at Alice Peck; a parent claims the state has been too harsh on the Y

By Sharon Bass

Parents whose kids go to the YMCA daycare program at Alice Peck have been telling Mayor Craig Henrici “they love it." They don't want it to fold.

But due to numerous and serious violations the state has found there over the last several years (as reported by the HDN earlier this week), the daycare is closing down July 20. Some 90 kids are affected. And Henrici said he’s working hard and fast to find someone else to take over the operation.

“Our interest is not just in the revenue aspect,” he said. “Our interest is in helping the 90 families that have a stake in this matter.” He was unsure how many live in Hamden.

The “revenue aspect” is the $8,500 monthly rent the Hamden/North Haven Y is contracted to pay the school department to use part of the former Hillfield Road elementary school. A three-year lease was signed on July 31, 2006. But per the new town budget, all school revenue will flow into the town purse starting July 1 (the beginning of the new fiscal year) including the rent.

Henrici said a request for proposal might go out today for a licensed daycare provider to take over the Y program. If a new contract is needed, it would require Town Council approval. The hope is to have everything in place by July 20 for a seamless transition.

But Purchasing Agent Judi Kozak said there isn’t time for an RFP. “If this has to be done by July 20, we can’t possibly do an RFP,” she said. A request for proposal needs to be advertised for 10 days, followed by the selection process and Council vote.

“I think to facilitate this it has to be in an emergency manner,” Kozak said. That would mean in lieu of an RFP, a one-day advertisement would be placed asking interested parties to “contact us right away by the end of June,” she said.

“With children involved we have to make sure [the daycare providers] are certified and all,” said Kozak.

“It’s been fantastic”

Scott Moroz of Hamden is one of many parents who give the Y daycare a glowing review. Moroz’s 2-year-old son has been going there for about 14 months.

“You can ask any parent now that at no time they felt their child was in any kind of peril or anything else,” he said. “It’s been fantastic. The atmosphere there is so great. The staff is really there for the kids. I’ve never had a bad feeling about the place.”

Moroz said his son has “a sense of confidence that’s pretty unparalleled in a 2-year-old,” which he in part attributes to the daycare. And said he's worried about his toddler being in a new childcare program.

“There’s not enough daycare in the local towns to fill all the [Y] slots,” said Moroz, who just secured a spot in a North Haven daycare. “I’m definitely not happy about it. I had to make a decision in about two minutes,” he said.

Moroz said he went to the North Haven center at 10 a.m. this past Monday to vie with six other parents over one opening, so he had to make a snap decision. He was first in line and quickly called it. But if a new provider takes over the Y operation at Alice Peck by July 20, he said he’d consider it “very seriously.”

Big Black Y Eye

A few weeks ago, the Hamden father said he got a certified letter about a June 13 hearing in Hartford with the Department of Public Health about the fate of the childcare program. Moroz said he, Y directors and lawyers and other parents went to the hearing.

“When we got there the state’s attorney pulled their [YMCA’s] attorneys aside and told them there’s not going to be any hearing. You either surrender your license or we take it from you,” said Moroz.

He speculated that the DPH called off the hearing and made the ultimatum about surrendering the license because a former Y director was untruthful to the department several years ago, which put “a big black eye” on the Y.

“We were told by the present interim director that the director of the YMCA at the time lied at a hearing at the Department of Public Health and admitted to it, and consequently was terminated the next day,” said Moroz. “Everything stems from that point forward. Obviously there was a big black eye there for the Y. The facility they were in at the time was not the greatest [995 Sherman Ave.]. The state was checking on them monthly.”

Moroz said he was surprised when he learned of the child abuse and neglect, unsanitary and unsafe conditions and other chronic violations the department found at his son’s daycare.

“That’s the state’s prerogative [to shut down a facility]. But I don’t think they gave enough consideration to the family members affected,” he said.
June 21, 2007

The Fightin’ 5th

Kelly McCarthy in her Treadwell Avenue home. Photo/Sharon Bass

McCarthy's running

By Sharon Bass

Two years ago, Kelly McCarthy and Kath Schomaker seemed to be on the same page. The Whitneyville friends were supportive of each other when Democrat Schomaker ran (successfully) for an at-large Legislative Council seat and McCarthy, a Green, ran (unsuccessfully) for her district seat.

The page has turned. This November, the two women will fight it out for the 5th.

“It’s a political party move to attempt to shut me down,” said McCarthy of Councilwoman Schomaker running for district instead of at-large again. “The Democrats figured I wouldn’t run against Kath.”

McCarthy, 29, pulled in 40.3 percent of the vote in ’05, a healthy number for a third-party candidate, especially considering two years ago Mayor Craig Henrici was elected with 81 percent against Republican Dick Reilly. Henrici’s coattails inarguably helped bring victory to all of the under-ticket. Democrat Willie Mewborn won the 5th D with 49.2 percent and Republican Henry Platt got 10.4 percent. (Neither man is running this year.)

This time around McCarthy said she feels more empowered.

“I didn’t even have the tax issue in 2005. People won’t tolerate tax increases,” she said. “I feel a lot more confident about this campaign because I know what I did wrong last time. Kath has a record and I think she needs to be held accountable.”

McCarthy, who lives on Treadwell Street, tutors schoolchildren for a living. She’s co-chair of the Clean & Green Commission, chair of the Whitneyville Civic Association’s traffic division and a member of the grassroots tax-relief group Hamden Alliance for Responsible Taxation. She has a master’s degree from Yale Divinity School.

The Green Party candidate said the Henrici Administration has been more about keeping the Democratic machine in power and handing out favors and jobs to friends than helping the everyday Hamdenite.

“It’s been glaringly obvious to me that this administration does not have the needs of the citizens of the town in mind,” McCarthy said. “There were lots of campaign promises of things that won’t be done. ‘I won’t put my needs before the citizens.’ And he asks for a [$570 monthly] car allowance. ‘I’m not going to take a [town] car.’ Lots of broken promises.”

She said she’s likewise disappointed with Schomaker. “We thought she would be a champion of the people,” said McCarthy. “But that didn’t happen.”

She said her district’s needs have been largely ignored -- crime is increasing, there aren’t enough cops around and sidewalks need repair.

Broad Coalition

McCarthy expects support from the district Democrats who rallied around her in ’05 as well as from Republicans.

“No one expected me to do as well as I did [in 2005],” she said. “It showed Hamden that independent candidates are a viable option. I know people in Hamden are disheartened about how things are run. It’s healthy to have different opinions -- and not opinions based on a party agenda.

“I am an adversary to the mayor and to the people sitting on the Council,” McCarthy continued. “As a concerned citizen, I shouldn’t be. But I’m viewed as someone who’s challenging so therefore they must discredit me, take me down.

“The average resident in my community loves me and the person who attends all the DTC [Democratic Town Committee] meetings hates me. There are exceptions. But the rubberstamp types are absolutely against myself and members of HART or anyone who says anything against them.

“You have to be willing to be hated by the people who are desperately trying to maintain the status quo. Until there is reform in the very basic structure of how Hamden government runs, we won’t see the improvement we need.”

Tax activist Mark Sanders is McCarthy’s campaign manager, and Diane Hoffman is treasurer.

Westervelt Calls it Quits

The councilman is stepping down. Photo/Sharon Bass

By Sharon Bass

Sitting comfortably on a chair outside the Maple Leaf lunch joint yesterday, Bob Westervelt was in his signature pose: calm and reserved without a seeming care in the world. In a soft, even voice, the two-term 9th District councilman said he’s not going for a third. He’s done. He’s through. Oh, yah.

“I never planned on it being a long-term thing,” said Westervelt. “I didn’t plan on being a career politician. So I’d like to give someone else a shot.”

Actually, the retired Hamden fire marshal considers himself a public servant, not a politician. “Maybe that’s why I didn’t last more than two terms,” he said, adding that Councilman Matt Fitch initially encouraged him to run.

Typically non-confrontational on the Legislative Council, Westervelt made a splash last year when he aggressively came out against the mayor’s pick of Brian Badamo for fire chief. The controversial appointment was never voted on.

“I’m glad I was here so the town ended up with a qualified, competent fire chief,” said Westervelt. David Berardesca from Wallingford became chief last summer.

“It’s nice to get along and agree with the administration, but we’re not there to agree on all the opinions,” the 9th D councilman said. “We have to do the best for the taxpayer.”

And one thing Westervelt doesn’t think is best for the taxpayer is Mayor Craig Henrici’s push to borrow $55 million for the pension fund. “I can’t see burdening the taxpayer with that kind of debt,” Westervelt said.

Born and raised in Hamden, the 56-year-old real estate agent was co-captain of the Hamden High ice-hockey team in 1969. He joined the Fire Department in 1973 and retired four years ago.

Asked what he learned about town politics during his legislative tenure, Westervelt said, “It’s a very slow process.” He said the Town Charter, last revised in 1983, is becoming obsolete. Among other changes, he said he’d like to see a provision for a budget referendum to get people more involved in town government.

“They don’t get involved until it’s too late. Something gets voted in and people come out of the woodwork,” he said.

On the Bench

During his first term (2003-05) Westervelt said, “People looked at you at that time as an Amento Democrat or a Henrici Democrat. Amento asked me for my support and I stuck with it,” while other Council Democrats turned against the former mayor.

Otherwise, Westervelt said his terms have been “pretty much the same. I think they are pretty civilized councils compared to the ones I’ve heard about in the past. We can argue about issues without getting personal.”

Yesterday afternoon's conversation then shifted to this year’s mayoral race between Democrat Henrici and Republican Councilman Ron Gambardella.

“It’s definitely going to be an interesting election year because of the increase in taxes and what appears at this point a pretty strong Republican candidate,” Westervelt said. “I think Ron Gambardella has some great ideas but you can’t arbitrarily negate union contracts because it’s an election year and you’re running for mayor. You just can’t start spouting off at election time.” (Gambardella has repeatedly called for changing the town workweek from 35 hours to 40 hours and reducing the labor force.)

Westervelt credited Henrici for steering new hires into the state pension program to start taking some of the burden off the local retirement fund. “I think it’s very difficult for any mayor to get anything done in two years. In some areas, he’s done very well,” he said.

Any regrets about stepping down? Westervelt moved slightly forward in his chair outside the Maple Leaf and said, “No.”

June 19, 2007


Council strikes and restores a Fire position

By Sharon Bass

Deeming two Fire Department secretaries are overkill, Mayor Craig Henrici eliminated one from his ’07-’08 budget. The Legislative Council approved the cut almost unanimously during May budget deliberations.

But last night, at a special meeting, it did an about turn. Also nearly unanimously, the Council voted the secretarial spot back in. Reportedly, Henrici thought the secretary, Fran Monaco, was retiring. She’s not. At least not right now. And as Chief Administrative Officer Scott Jackson explained, if the post was not restored Monaco would have given the boot to another town secretary with less seniority since there are no vacancies. Jeanine Aceto is the other fire sec.

All councilmembers but Ron Gambardella agreed it was a good idea to put the $44,922 job back into the budget and said it was an error to have deleted it in the first place.

“I’m happy this has been restored,” said Republican Councilwoman Betty Wetmore.

Democratic Councilman Curt Leng asked Jackson why.

And Jackson told him the mayor thought the secretary was going to retire. “Instead, this would have resulted in a lay-off situation and the mayor’s intention was not to have any layoffs in the budget,” he said.

But Gambardella wasn’t quite buying it.

“It sounds like what you’re saying is the position is not really needed but because no one is retiring … So the mayor thought the Fire Department could operate with one secretary,” he said.

“That’s right,” said Jackson.

“So it’s not required,” said Gambardella.

Jackson paused and then said, “I think the way to phrase it is there are competing interests at play.”

Wetmore asked Fire Chief Dave Berardesca if he needs two secretaries.

“One girl, one secretary, cannot handle all the duties,” he said. Monaco and Aceto are in charge of payroll, the Office of Emergency Management budget, preparing and reviewing reports that go to the state, ordering uniforms and handling other administrative functions, Berardesca said. The duo takes care of a force of 80 firefighters (should be 92) as well as the chief, deputy chief and fire marshal.

“There’s things they do that I don’t even know about, which is indicative of a well-run operation,” said Berardesca. “They’re the backbone of the office.”

Retired Hamden Fire Marshal and Democratic Councilman Bob Westervelt said the department has had two secretaries for 25 to 30 years. “This isn’t Hooterville anymore,” he said. “We’re a small city. To operate with one secretary is ridiculous.”

“I appreciate your input but that information [from the mayor] meant we don’t need a second secretary,” said Gambardella, who’s challenging Henrici this November.

“The mayor’s asking us to restore one of [436 town-side positions] because he erred,” said Democratic Councilman John Flanagan. He told Gambardella to take his campaigning outside.

Democratic Councilman Mike Germano also told Gambardella to campaign somewhere else. Sporting a green Henrici for mayor T-shirt, Council President Al Gorman reprimanded Germano for wearing the T and told him to never again wear it to a Council meeting.

“I disagreed with Mayor Henrici,” Germano said of killing the position. “I’m glad that 50 percent of the Republicans agree” that job is needed.

Democratic Councilman Matt Fitch said he, like most of his colleagues, voted to eliminate the position but “sometimes we have to say let’s try something different and put it back. We need to recognize that we erred and there’s not a vacancy [for Monaco to fill].”

Only Gambardella voted against the job restoration.

June 18, 2007

‘I Think It’s Brave that He’s Running’

Republicans respond to Mayor Henrici’s bid for re-election

By Sharon Bass

When asked for their reaction to Craig Henrici’s decision to go for term No. 2, Hamden Republicans say they like the Democrat all right, but not as mayor.

“Personally speaking, I think Craig Henrici is a good person. I’ve know him for a long time,” said Craig Cesare, a Planning & Zoning commissioner. “But I think it’s brave that he’s running because he hasn’t made any major accomplishments.”

Cesare, echoing his GOP peers, said Henrici has misspent money and not paid close attention to taxes, which have risen 31 percent under his mayoral watch. “For instance, I don’t think we need a help desk -- which was a political payback -- to tell us our sidewalks need to be paved,” said Cesare, who plans to run for an at-large Council seat this November. “There’s been no effort by the Henrici Administration to make any cuts. Nothing.”

“The concern that I have about his first term is that our taxes have escalated beyond what people would have expected,” said Republican Town Committee Chair Mike Iezzi.

Councilman Ron Gambardella is Henrici’s Republican challenger this year. Politicos on both sides of the fence predict a lively fight between the passionate, outspoken councilman and the conservative, diplomatic lawyer.

“This election is going to be very interesting because we now have a major issue on the table -- and that issue would be our taxes have increased over 30 percent during the mayor’s term,” said Iezzi. “We have to worry more about the taxpayers’ needs than political agendas.”

“Craig is a nice guy but I have differences in the way the administration is governing the town over the last two years,” said Austin Cesare, Gambardella’s campaign manager and a Board of Ed member. “I believe first and foremost the huge tax increase the mayor imposed on Hamden residents during his two years in office is a tremendous detriment to our taxpayers. When coupled with the fact that he asked the Council for a raise and a [$570 monthly] travel allowance just shows that unfortunately our mayor is out of touch with the average Hamden voter.”

Austin and Craig Cesare are brothers. Their father was the late 2nd District Councilman Frank Cesare, who served from 1993-1999.

Republicans say they are looking forward to the debates between the mayoral candidates.

“I’d like to challenge the mayor to as many debates as possible. Hamden residents deserve to know what happened during the last two years,” said Austin Cesare. “I’d like to challenge him in debates from Highwood to Sleeping Giant and every neighborhood in between. All neighborhoods were impacted during his first term.” He said he’s looking at having five or six debates in locations across town, in church basements, at civic associations and outdoors at Meadowbrook.

“If Mayor Henrici believes the last two years have been successful, I’m fearful of what the next two years will bring,” said Cesare.

Slightly tweaking Ronald Reagan’s famous statement in the 1980 presidential debate against Jimmy Carter, Cesare said: “Ask yourself if Hamden is better off now than it was two years ago.”

June 8, 2007

One More Dime

By Sharon Bass

The Town Council unanimously gave Levitsky & Berney its fourth straight contract this week to audit Hamden. Though the vote was unanimous, opinion wasn’t. Feelings differed on the value of using the same Woodbridge accountants again. But regardless of thought, the legislative body agreed to put the job out to bid next year.

“Being familiar can be a double-edged sword,” said Councilman Jim Pascarella. “They know the stuff but can develop trust” with the town and school officials they work with and not probe as deeply.

He also noted that West Haven and North Haven stopped using Levitsky & Berney for their audits.

“My thought is this audit firm had difficulties in two communities,” Pascarella said. He agreed to give the firm one more year. But just one more year, he said.

Councilman John Flanagan said the same. One more year.

“There’s no question that Levitsky & Berney will operate in an independent way as they have in the past,” said President Al Gorman. “And you shouldn’t believe everything you read in the newspaper,” referring to stories about the aforementioned towns. “In North Haven, because of the problems with officials, they didn’t hire Levitsky & Berney this year.”

An audit subcommittee of Ron Gambardella, Curt Leng, Carol Noble, Mike Germano and Flanagan chose Levitsky to do the 2006-07 books. The firm will be paid $38,000 for the town side, and an additional amount (unknown to the HDN) for the school department.

Messages left for Robert Cappelletti at Levitsky were not returned.

Gorman said Levitsky was chosen for two reasons.

“A lot of firms are getting out of municipal auditing. And their price was still in the ballpark,” he said. “No. 2, all the people we interviewed wanted multi-year contracts. The feeling of the audit committee and Council people in general, this would be the last year.” Gorman said a bid for a multi-year contract will go out next year.

“And we’d like them to follow the work on the Board of Education,” the president said. The Woodbridge accountants found several incidences of improper purchasing and other financial procedures when doing the school’s 2005-06 audit. As a result, the school board adopted more stringent purchasing protocols.

The town books are supposed to be closed on July 1. The audit is then due to the Council by the end of December, but has been late the last few years, said Gorman. Last year’s was held up because of the problems found in the school department. In ’05, outside consultants had to be brought in to help because the report was so late. And the 2002-03 audit didn’t reach the legislative bench until April, four months past deadline.

But Gorman said “this is not the end of the world. You notify the state for an extension.” There are no financial or other consequences for being late.

39-Year-Old Caught With Child Porn

Richard Bove. Courtesy photo

From Capt. Ron Smith:

On Jan. 22, Hamden police responded to a domestic disturbance at 96 Lakeview Ave. During the course of the investigation, officers ascertained that resident Richard Bove might be involved in storing  pornographic Web sites on his computer.

A search warrant was subsequently executed for his computer. As a result, at least two child pornographic and another 84 suspected child pornographic image files were recovered.

Bove, 39, was charged with possession of child pornography in the second degree. He was detained on a $5,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in Meriden Superior Court on June 20.

June 6, 2007

Table Fixture

Riccitelli in her Government Center office. File photo

Council still won't vote on the Riccitelli raise

By Sharon Bass

The emotionally charged issue du jour on the Town Council is whether to give Pat Riccitelli a big raise and new job. Or job upgrade, depending on which councilperson you ask (a new job would have to be posted for others to apply). The mayor proposed upping the Finance Department supervisor’s salary from $63,733 to $70,111, and each time it’s brought up, it’s put aside for another time. Another meeting.

And déjà vu last night, when after a quickly escalated verbal fight the Council tabled the budget amendment.

Those for and against the mayor’s request seem evenly split. Councilmen Matt Fitch, Curt Leng and Mike Germano have spoken in defense of it; and councilmembers Betty Wetmore, Ron Gambardella, Jim Pascarella and Mike Colaiacovo against.

Finance Director Mike Betz said in restructuring his department he saw the need to promote Riccitelli because of the extra duties she’s taken on. The new job or job title is operations manager. Betz said because of the restructuring his budget has dropped from about $743,000 to $698,196 in the new fiscal year.

“If we do this, we’ll be saving the town money,” Germano said of paying Riccitelli, his next-door neighbor, more.

Fitch said Betz thinks that the salary hike and new job description are in the best interest of the department “and if it gets voted down, it could be grieved.” That’s if the new position is considered a job upgrade, as Betz and the mayor are couching it. But others, such as Chief Administrative Officer Scott Jackson, say it’s a new position. And if Council approved would need to be posted.

“I see it as a new position,” Jackson said. And to “err on the side of caution,” the job would be posted internally. If Riccitelli didn’t get the new position, she would be offered the job of the town employee who did.

“What’s the probability that someone else will get the job?” Gambardella asked rhetorically. “As soon as this job is posted …”

And Fitch, Leng and Germano hastily cut him off, blasting him for his remarks. The four men began yelling at each other in such fury it was impossible to make out their words. When President Al Gorman quieted them down, Gambardella asked if he could resume speaking. Gorman said if it’s relevant.

“I thought we were going to consolidate the town and school finance departments,” Gambardella said of the proposed move of central office to Government Center. “Wouldn’t it make more sense to wait until the” move occurs?

“I wouldn’t wait and the reason is the town and school finance departments have [their own] well-defined structures,” said Jackson.

Gambardella argued that some things are the same or similar, such as payroll procedures. Betz said it’s difficult to combine the departments because there are different union working conditions.

“So you don’t think there could be some collaboration and eliminate some expense?” said Gambardella.

“I don’t even know how they’re [school finance department] structured. Maybe they’re shorthanded. The question is not about payroll,” said Betz. “Can the two come together properly? We’ve got some younger employees and some seasoned employees. This [new job and bigger salary] is the final step of 18 months of [restructuring] work.”

Further fueling the opposition’s wrath is that Riccitelli’s pay went up $6,038 this fiscal year, when her long-expired labor agreement was renewed and she received retroactive pay. Her proposed raise would be on top of the $6,038.

“She just got a big raise last year,” said Wetmore.  

“I agree with my colleague Ms. Wetmore,” said Noble. “As far as Mr. Germano, he doesn’t understand the savings [in the department] have already taken place. I am not in favor of moving forward on another position.”

Pascarella pointed out that the Finance Department budget shrank about $45,000 in the 2007-08 budget because a $52,000 network manager position was moved from that department to the Mayor’s Office.

“So there really isn’t any savings per se,” he said.

“I think you’re half right,” Leng interrupted. An accountant’s position was cut from the new budget. “The department is working well. Wall Street says it’s working well.”

Leng turned to Fitch and crossed his finger over his neck.

Fitch then said, “I’ve heard a lot of discussion tonight and I’m more confused now. It’s not that I’m uncomfortable with this position.” He made a motion to table the item in order to get “more information” -- as was the stated reason for the past three times this item has been either tabled or removed from the agenda.

Fitch’s motion passed 11-2-1 (Berita Rowe-Lewis was absent). Germano and Leng voted no and Gorman abstained.

After the meeting, a councilperson, who asked not to be named, told the HDN that Leng was signaling to Fitch (finger-neck death sign) that they didn’t have enough yes votes.

June 5, 2007

2 Busted for Weed in Car

From Capt. Ron Smith:

On June 2 at approximately 3:30 p.m., Hamden officer Jomo Crawford observed a motor vehicle traveling on Davis Street. The operator was not wearing his seatbelt. Upon speaking to the operator, Thomas Redfearn, the officer detected the odor of marijuana.

Investigation led to the search of Redfearn and his vehicle. Police located 3.3 grams of marijuana. Three grams were located in Redfearn's possession. The remainder was found inside the vehicle.

Redfearn, 24, of 151 Grandview Terrace, Hamden, was charged with possession of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, failure to wear a seatbelt and operating a motor vehicle without a license. He was released on a written promise to appear and is scheduled to appear at Meriden Superior Court on June 15.

Also on June 2 at approximately 7 p.m., Hamden police observed a drug transaction around Goodrich and Newhall streets. A motor vehicle stop was subsequently conducted on Newhall at the New Haven city line. Upon speaking with the operator, Marcus Little, police detected the odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle.

Investigation led to the search of the two occupants and the vehicle. Six plastic vials of marijuana were found on Little. The pot weighed 11.2 grams. A search of the vehicle led to the recovery of 25 baggies containing crack cocaine and a small amount of marijuana. The cocaine weighed 5.8 grams; the marijuana 7 grams. The drugs found inside the vehicle were located where a New Haven passenger was seated.

Little, 21, of 375 Mill Rock Road, Hamden, was charged with possession of marijuana, possession of marijuana with the intent to sell, possession of drug paraphernalia and failure to wear a seatbelt. He was detained at police headquarters on a $1,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in Meriden court June 15.

June 4, 2007

Craig Wants a Second

Max Jackson stomps for his daddy’s boss yesterday.

Story and visuals by Sharon Bass

A Who’s Who of state and local Democrats filed into the Hamden Elk’s Lodge Sunday to give their blessings to Mayor Craig Henrici for a second term.

Henrici talks about his first-term accomplishments and his vision for the next two years. Click arrow to listen in.

Former Mayor John Carusone (left) talks with AG Dick Blumenthal about the proposed Farricielli land deal.

“Craig has the courage to make a decision and stick to it,” said Attorney General Dick Blumenthal. “At a time when some of our political leaders have been ethically challenged, you can trust him and believe in him. He fights for the public interest. You can never be doubtful of his integrity.”

Democrats Blumenthal, 4th District Councilwoman Gretchen Callahan and (behind her) husband Bob Callahan, at-large Councilman Jim Pascarella, Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz and former Mayor Carl Amento.

Next up was Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz. “Craig is committed to education. He just loves this town,” she said to the 120 or so who were listening while chowing down on tuna, crab salad and ham and cheese sandwich quarters, stuffed bread, green salad, cubed cheese and crackers and huge cookies (surprisingly purchased at a discount house).

“Craig has a strong fiscal responsibility. He has had two straight balanced budgets -- and a surplus,” Bysiewicz said. “Bond rating agencies are looking very favorably at Hamden. Craig is especially blessed to have hardworking people working side by side with him. I look forward to a huge victory celebration.”

State Sen. and Majority Leader Marty Looney and Rep. Brendan Sharkey discuss, discuss. The men are facing more long days and nights in Hartford trying to wrap up the '07-'09 budget and leftover bills. Looney said a special session is quite likely.

In 2005, Henrici won his first term with 81 percent of the vote. This year Republican Councilman Ron Gambardella promises to give him a feisty fight unlike the ’05 gentlemanly election against Dick Reilly.

Gambardella is running on a platform of lowering or stabilizing taxes and streamlining Town Hall. Henrici is promising to improve the fiscal health of the town and complete projects.

Henrici speaks.

“Over the past decade, the town has faced a series of financial challenges that were best expressed by our auditors and bond rating agencies,” the mayor addressed his friends and fellow politicians. “They said that Hamden’s fiscal position was deteriorating … They cited poor liquidity in our general fund. They noted the turnover in our Finance Department. Most importantly, they noted the large and growing larger deficits in our pension and medical self-insurance fund …

“And look at where we’ve come. Our fund balance is stable and healthy now. We have had the same finance team in place for almost two years. Last year’s budget was balanced and our current one will produce a slight surplus. For the first time in eight years, our medical self-insurance line will show a surplus … And just as important, we’ve repaired miles of sidewalks, paved dozens of roads and tackled the issues that may not resonate beyond a single house or a single block, but have a dramatic impact on the social fabric that is Hamden.

Former Police Chief Jack Kennelly, town employee Don Werner, Police Chief Tom Wydra and Pascarella.

“The Louis Astorino Ice Rink is now officially complete … the Hamden Middle School. I am pleased that the school opened in time for this school year without requiring any additional funds …"

Henrici continued. “The largest albatross hanging over our head is, of course, our pension fund deficit. Let’s be clear on one thing: This is not optional. Years of under-funding may have kept the tax rate lower but …”

Law student Ricky Baltimore, 8th District Councilman Mike Germano and former Councilman Henry Candido.

Then he made his sole reference to Gambardella.

“Perhaps the most troubling thing is that my distinguished opponent had primarily one suggestion to lower our taxes this year. Does anyone want to guess what it was?” said the mayor. “Yup, skip $4 million of our obligated pension contribution and let the deficit grow worse for future generations. Didn’t we already try that? Remember, those who don’t understand history are condemned to repeat it. Or to put it another way, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Henrici receives a standing ovation after he concludes his speech.

Among the Democratic crowd of state reps and councilmembers were a few Republicans. Former GOP Mayor John DeNicola Jr. said he came out to support Henrici because they’re personal friends.

“Craig reminds me very much of my father [Hamden’s first mayor John DeNicola Sr.],” said junior. “My father was a people person and Craig is a people person.” Asked why he didn’t attend Gambardella’s May 24 announcement for his mayoral bid, the former mayor said he didn’t know about it.

Former Councilman Pat Corso and his wife, Gloria, hang with state Rep. Peter Villano.

Republican Police Commissioner Meg Nowacki was also there. Two years ago she switched to D to vote for Henrici in the primary, but is again a registered R.

“I continue to support Craig and the efforts he’s made,” she said. “He works well with the Board of Education. They [Henrici and BOE Chair Michael D’Agostino] worked together and a good budget was presented. Craig supported the full budget.”

Nowacki said “no comment” about why she didn’t attend Gambardella’s campaign kickoff. “I continue to support Craig,” she said.

New Girl on the Trail

Rachel Gillette met Henrici two years ago when came a knockin’ on her door for her vote. This time around she’s his campaign manager. She said 1st District Councilman Matt Fitch suggested it. (Fitch managed Henrici’s ’05 race.)

“Our focus will be on the good Craig has done for the town and the good he will continue to do,” said Gillette. “All in all, it will be a positive campaign.”

This is Gillette’s first go at running a campaign, although the 2007 Quinnipiac School of Law graduate said having grown up in Washington, D.C., “politics runs in my blood.” She also has an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Colorado. During her second year of law school, she said he volunteered in the mayor’s office.

“I have to say I definitely have a lot of help from Matt,” said Gillette, a mother of two. “I really support Craig. I think he’s a fantastic mayor.” She lives in the 1st District and sits on the Democratic Town Committee.

Committee Chair Joe McDonagh echoed her words. “He’s got a terrific track record to run on,” he said. “He’s a gentleman.”

Perennial mayor Johnny Carusone says Henrici has bitten the bullet and is getting Hamden out of fiscal danger.

No matter which way he turns, Max can't stop showing off his Craig for Mayor stickers.

The End.

June 1, 2007

Sneaky Thieves

From Capt. Ron Smith:

On May 30 at approximately 2 p.m., Hamden police were dispatched to Bob's Store, 2300 Dixwell Ave., on a shoplifting report. Police ascertained that two men stole a pair of sneakers and were confronted by store security outside of the store.

One of the subjects, Mario Varriale of 44 Battis Road, Hamden, allegedly pushed a security officer to the ground, while threatening bodily harm. He and the other subject, from New Haven, then fled on foot.

Varriale was apprehended by police after a foot pursuit in a wooded area near Connolly Parkway. The New Haven man was hiding inside a bathroom at Popeye's restaurant when he was apprehended.

Varriale was transported to Yale-New Haven Hospital with a medical condition. When he is released, he will be charged with robbery in the third degree, larceny in the sixth degree and conspiracy to commit larceny in the sixth degree.


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