Hartford's part-time city council members surely don't all need those full-time aides. The council, however, won't cut back on these patronage jobs, despite the city's money woes.
The city council last month let die a proposal to change the ordinance that allows every one of its nine members to hire a full-time assistant.
This is an unnecessary perk. Rank-and-file members of the state House of Representatives share assistants — about one constituent aide for every five legislators — and those House members serve nearly twice as many constituents as Hartford council members do.
It's just this kind of waste that will come up the next time Hartford argues that the state must bail it out of its financial troubles.
Mayor Luke Bronin was contemplating a bankruptcy filing for Hartford this year until the state legislature rescued the city with $40 million — in return for the state's financial oversight. Clearly, oversight is needed. Moody's Investors Service said last month that the city faces operating deficits of up to $80 million per year through 2036, mostly because of such fixed costs as city pensions, city benefits and city debt.
This really isn't a good time for the city council to insist on such excesses.
Two Responsible Leaders
Not all Hartford city councilors have aides. To their credit, Majority Leader Julio A. Concepcion and Assistant Majority Leader John Q. Gale have been without assistants for months. During their first year in office — 2016 — they shared an aide, but when she left in the spring, they didn't replace her, The Courant's Jenna Carlesso has reported.
Aides make about $50,000 each in salary. Benefits are generous. For these political-patronage jobs, appointees don't have to take civil-service tests, unlike their counterparts in larger New Haven.
Danbury's 21 city councilors share a single aide.
Not only does the Hartford city council have too many executive assistants, a few of the assistants have apparently behaved unprofessionally.
One aide, Kelly Kirkley-Bey, remains on the job even though the city's corporation counsel recommended in June, following an investigation, that she be fired. Ms. Kirkley-Bey, assistant to Democratic councilwoman rJo Winch, is accused of sexual harassment by another city employee, Kenneth Blue. A call to Ms. Kirkley-Bey was not returned.
Late Monday night, Ms. Winch released a statement that said in part: "I had already given Ms. Kelly Kirkley-Bey a letter of reprimand back in January for engaging in an argument with Mr. Blue where both of them said things that were unbecoming of an employee. So, in my opinion, to reprimand her again for the same behavior would be unfair."
Haywood R. Hicks, aide to Cynthia Jennings of the Working Families Party, lives outside of Hartford, although city ordinance requires council appointees to live in town. A call to Ms. Jennings was not returned, and she was not in her council office Monday morning. Mr. Hicks, reached at his Bloomfield home, said he could not talk about the matter.
The large number of executive assistants in city hall isn't the only city expense that raises eyebrows.
Hartford Public Library has the largest payroll of library systems among Connecticut's biggest cities, The Courant's Vinny Vella reported in September. In the library's defense, Chief Executive Officer Bridget Quinn-Carey points out that Hartford operates more branches than the other cities.
Also, Hartford's senior administrative assistants are among the best-paid of their peers, according to an arbitrator's recent analysis.
Plus, there are dozens of six-figure salaries in the schools, writes blogger Kevin Brookman.
If city councilors can't cut their own expenses, however, why should any city department bother?
"When will Hartford officials stop gorging at the shrinking public trough?" The Courant asked in an editorial last year. We're still wondering.
This editorial was updated Tuesday morning with councilwoman rJo Winch's statement and details concerning the statement.