Aiming to send a message to the city council, Hartford’s Internal Audit Commission voted Wednesday to seek an update on key staffers’ compliance with the city’s residency requirement.
Commissioners Bruce Rubenstein and Ted See both supported a motion that would compel Mayor Luke Bronin’s office into soliciting affidavits of residency from all nonunion, unclassified employees, a group that includes major department heads. A third commissioner, Kyle Bergquist, abstained because he “has had a real estate [agent] relationship with multiple people subject to the city residency requirement.”
In the past, city administrators have required employees subject to the residency requirement to annually submit signed affidavits confirming they’re adhering to the requirement. It is not stipulated in the municipal ordinance governing residency.
Records from the city corporation counsel show that process was completed in 2014 and 2015 by then-Mayor Pedro Segarra’s administration. It was repeated in 2016 by Bronin. But, as confirmed by an attorney working in the corporation counsel’s office, the affidavits were not compiled in 2017.
Rubenstein further amended his request to include any “supporting documents” to prove residency, which under city ordinance is defined as having a mailing address in Hartford, registering to vote in Hartford and paying car taxes in Hartford.
“We’ll take a disciplined, objective look at these, and if there are any questions about a particular employee, we should invite them here and have them answer questions,” Rubenstein said.
The omission in 2017 is glaring, especially after several news outlets reported that Sean Fitzpatrick, the former director of development services, listed his permanent address as a social club in the Asylum Hill neighborhood while also owning a home in Simsbury.
Fitzpatrick later resigned after the Internal Audit Commission initiated an investigation into the issue. Notably, Fitzpatrick signed an affidavit in 2016 listing the club as his address. The form includes boilerplate language saying that “any false of misleading statements will result in immediate disqualification or dismissal.”
Despite the seeming oddity of listing his address as a social club that only rents rooms on a temporary basis, Fitzpatrick was deemed in compliance of the city’s residency policy by Corporation Counsel Howard Rifkin.
Still, critics have rejected that opinion, saying the residency policy allows employees to violate the “spirit of the law” by simply renting properties they do not actually occupy on a regular basis.
Some have insinuated that other high ranking officials in Bronin’s administration, including Rifkin himself, are guilty of this— Rifkin, who lists his address as an apartment downtown, also owns a home in West Hartford near the city border.
“We should stop making a joke out of the residency ordinance,” Kevin Brookman, a local blogger, said at the Internal Audit Commission meeting. “Especially if we’re not going to enforce it and adhere to it—and we know this is not a new situation, this has been going on for years.”
Brookman, who first reported on Fitzpatrick’s residency concerns, suggested using more advanced electronic tracking means— including cell tower “ping reports”— to determine where city employees truly reside.
“That’s much more beneficial than someone saying take ‘Oh, take my word for it, I live on Park Street,” Brookman said. “There are plenty of other ways that we can tighten this stuff up.”