Mayor Pedro Segarra's former chief of staff is under investigation by city police for using a city vehicle two weeks after he left city employment.
Jared Kupiec's possession of the city vehicle came to the attention of Hartford police Monday morning as they investigated several car break-ins along Capitol Avenue near Main Street.
An officer noticed the break-ins and determined that one of the cars broken into was registered to the city, said Lt. Brian Foley, head of the department's major crimes division.
The mayor's office, in a statement released Monday night, said Kupiec was using the city vehicle "after the conclusion of his employment with the city of Hartford without authorization." Kupiec's last day was June 21. He received 2 1/2 weeks' severance pay. His salary was $115,000 a year. Kupiec lives at 17 Capitol Ave.
"I am deeply disturbed and disappointed by this news," Segarra said in the statement. "We're getting all the facts and will act accordingly."
Foley said the police department's internal affairs division was assigned to investigate the matter, which was first reported on city resident Kevin Brookman's We the People blog, http://wethepeoplehartford.blogspot.com/
Kupiec, 30, did not respond Monday night to a voicemail left on his personal cell phone.
Maribel La Luz, Segarra's spokeswoman, said Monday night that Kupiec initially told investigating officers he did not know how the city vehicle ended up in front of his building, but later admitted to police that he'd used it. She said Kupiec turned in his city property on June 21 and said he'd left the vehicle in a city parking lot. City officials checked and found it parked in the lot, La Luz said. Officials are now working to determine when it was removed, she said. Later Monday, La Luz said she was not sure whether anyone checked if the vehicle was in the lot.
Police Chief James Rovella said Monday night that the internal affairs division was assigned the case, because it handles most investigations relating to city government. The leased Ford Explorer was initially assigned to the police department fleet, but in October 2012, was turned over to the city department of public works, which then assigned it to city hall, Rovella said. The officer who came upon the car break-ins wrote in a report that Kupiec denied knowledge of how the car got on the street near his home; the officer notified a supervisor and the evidence unit, the chief said.
"It's very early yet," Rovella said. "We'll have to see how it goes. We'll take a long look at it."
In a memo to city staff two weeks ago, Kupiec said he would begin preparing for law school and a career outside politics.
Kupiec had been criticized in recent months for charging a $700 dinner at Max Downtown on New Year's Eve to his city-issued credit card. The meal was for eight people, including the mayor, who dined on caviar, rack of lamb and oysters, records show. Kupiec and Segarra later reimbursed the city for the meal. He was also criticized by the city's chief auditor, H. Patrick Campbell, for having access to a gym at the city's new public safety facility.
Campbell asked Rovella to revoke Kupiec's access to the gym because it raised issues of fairness since other city employees do not have access to the gym. Access was subsequently revoked.
Fox CT's Laurie Perez contributed to this story