The door had a new lock. Tenants got new keys. A stranger got into the building anyway—until he was caught on the stairs on his way to a suspected drug-dealing apartment.
That scene took place Thursday inside an elderly complex managed by a company run by Matthew Harp, the son of Democratic mayoral candidate Toni Harp.
It reflected his efforts to keep on top of the challenges of managing properties rented to subsidized tenants in low-income neighborhoods—and the continued challenges landlords face even after responding to problems.
The uninvited guest, a young man with a bicycle, was passing through the entrance of Robeson Elderly Apartments at Rosette and Dewitt streets in the Hill neighborhood.
The building is run by Matthew Harp’s Renaissance Management. Low-income seniors subsidized by the federal government’s Section 8 program live there. Conditions at the complex led a competing candidate, Kermit Carolina, at a mayoral debate to accuse the Harp family business of being a “slumlord.”
After this article revealed that non-tenants have used the building to use drugs and have sex and urinate in a mold-infected basement, Harp’s company—Renaissance Management—swung into action. It ripped out a basement wall to wrap sweating pipes that had caused the mold, then put up new sheetrock. It called the Otis company to fix the elevator so only staffers can get to the basement there with a special key. It replaced a glass frame to the building’s inside front-door entrance with sheetrock so intruders can’t break in. It put a new lock on the inside front-entrance door and handed out new keys to tenants to try to stop non-tenants from entering.
As Harp and his crew showed those changes to a reporter Thursday, several tenants walked through the front entrance.
Walking behind them was a young man with a bicycle. None of the Renaissance Management staffers present—Harp; maintenance supervisor Gerard Davenport, who has held the job for 15 years; and recently retired longtime senior property manager Arlene Davis—recognized the young man.
The young man stashed his bike by the stairway then started walking toward the second floor. Davenport asked where he was headed.
The young man named a second-floor apartment where drug-dealing has allegedly been occurring. According to Harp, the legal tenant is a woman who has been hospitalized, and a young family member has set up a drug-dealing business there in her absence. He said Renaissance has been alerting the police to the problem and has been seeking to evict the occupants.
Davenport told the young man on the stairs that nobody is supposed to be staying in the apartment. (Click on the video at the top of the story to watch part of the exchange.)
“The lady’s in the hospital. So nobody’s there. No one should be there,” Davenport said.
“I apologize,” the young man replied. He walked back down, grabbed his bike, and left.
The episode demonstrated two frustrations for Harp, who said he has been working hard to improve conditions at the properties he has taken over since his father (Toni Harp’s husband), Wendell Harp, died in 2011. As head of Renaissance Management, Matthew Harp is responsible for what he estimated as over 200 apartments in town. He said that around 95 percent of them are in “project-based” Section 8 complexes. That means that they are rented to people with low incomes who receive federal Section 8 housing subsidies—subsidies that are tied to the physical building, as opposed to portable vouchers tenants can take with them to different locations.
One of Harp’s frustrations is political. He called it unfair that the business’s name gets dragged through the mud in the context of a mayoral race. Toni Harp has repeatedly argued that she has had no involvement in her late husband’s and now her son’s real estate business, and that it’s unfair to blame her for conditions at the business’s properties.
Mayoral candidates Carolina and Henry Fernandez argue that she bears responsibility as a state senator and potential mayor for conditions at properties run by her family’s business. She has personally benefited from the income those properties produce and has had a conflict of interest as a state senator as the business has amassed the state’s largest unpaid-taxes bill after a lost legal challenge, the candidates contend.
“We had to shed some public light on these conditions for anything to change” at Robeson, Carolina said in an interview Friday. “Senator Harp should really be ashamed of herself for not holding her family more accountable. She claims to care about elderly residents, but she allowed this to happen under own nose. How can you protect the elderly, and you’re not willing to hold people in your household accountable first? Charity starts at home, and so does accountability.”
Asked about the issue again in an interview, Toni Harp (pictured) said that if elected mayor she would see no potential conflict of interest in the city’s dealings with Renaissance Management’s properties. She vowed she would ensure that Renaissance Management receives the same scrutiny as other landlords. “One standard for everybody,” she said. “A high standard for everyone—including my son. If there are complaints filed, they will be looked into for whoever the landlord is, whether it’s Mandy [Management] or Pike or Renaissance.” She also vowed to have city government’s anti-blight agency, Livable City Initiative (LCI), raise its standards in enforcing code violations.
Matthew Harp’s second frustration: That critics are tarnishing the reputation of a management company that he said keeps up properties well, earns good scores on inspections, and in no way operates like slumlords. Click here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here for stories about some other New Haven landlords who have been involved in far greater controversies in New Haven’s low-income neighborhoods. Those antics—some outright criminal or fatal—have not come up for discussion in this year’s mayoral campaign.
Harp assumed management of the company’s properties upon his father’s death and then partial ownership; he said he formed new partnerships with outside investors to buy the properties. “I didn’t ‘inherit’ them,” he said.
He did that partly to reduce the interest costs on the buildings, he said. He said his father’s company built many of the properties three decades ago and often got financing from lenders like the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA) at steep interest rates, leaving less money than is ideal to invest in the properties.
“I think what he did was fantastic” given the resources at hand, Harp said of his father. His late father did over the years have repeated run-ins, legal and otherwise, with government inspectors and lenders over lead paint and other complaints, and with legal-aid lawyers over tenant disputes. Over the past seven years, unlike some other major landlords of low-income properties in town, Renaissance has done well on its LCI inspections. A Freedom of Information request to review files revealed that only four properties have received official complaints to LCI; according to the files, the complaints were relatively minor, and Renaissance promptly fixed them. It has passed all its inspections for license renewals.
“Since Matthew has taken ownership [a year and a half ago], they’ve been more proactive,” observed LCI Executive Director Erik Johnson. “We do not get a lot of calls on Renaissance properties. I know they have tried to make necessary improvements. They still have some stuff they need to address.”
Harp said that he has found an opportunity to improve conditions at all the properties. Besides finding lower-cost financing, he has reduced the maintenance staff while making it more efficient, he said. He said that has improved performance—and freed up money to invest in the properties. Now, every time a tenant leaves an apartment, Renaissance is doing a dramatic overhaul, Harp said: New floors, Frigidaires and self-cleaning Tappan ovens, toilets and sinks, countertops, often new walls.
He offered a before-and-after tour of some of those apartments. He said modern, improved—and lower-cost—materials have enabled Renaissance to do more with less. In some cases, more expensive investments will produce longer-term results, he said. An example: For between $4 and $5 per square foot, Renaissance is putting in “DuraCeramic,” ceramic tile that doesn’t break when you drop something on it. Regular ceramic tile is cheaper (around 95 cents per square foot) and vinyl composite even cheaper (67 cents), but they don’t last as long, he said.
Often, he said, Renaissance does all it can only to deal with tenants who trash apartments and just recklessly cause problems. He toured an apartment at the 63-unit Presidential Gardens complex in Newhallville, where Renaissance had pleaded with a tenant to stop hoarding huge piles of stuff, Harp said. The woman refused. She unintentionally caused a fire recently that destroyed the apartment (pictured), he said. (She fortunately escaped unhurt.) As a result, that apartment is undergoing an even more extensive rehab than most units.
The day before the management visit, police (pictured) converged on the complex to respond to a mid-afternoon report of young men smoking marijuana on the premises. Presidential Gardens has an attractive landscaped inner courtyard. Davis said outsiders often converge on such areas and cause problems; management keeps no-loitering complaints on file with the cops so they can remove unwanted visitors.
Other tenants have stayed in the developments for decades. Some of them greeted Davis, the longtime senior property manager (pictured with Harp and Davenport, with hugs or warm hellos during the visit to several properties Thursday.
Harp showed this apartment belonging to a 27-year tenant of Westwood Village, which is also in Newhallville. It was immaculate and attractively furnished.
“Basic Human Dignity”
Underlying the debate over Renaissance’s properties is the standard by which it should be judged.
Candidate Fernandez argued that conditions at Robeson were unacceptable, even if the landlord has received passing inspections, which Renaissance has on the property, from both city government’s LCI and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. It scored 89 out of 100 on its latest HUD inspection.
Fernandez contrasted conditions at Robeson, which he called unacceptable, with those at Casa Otonal in the Hill, which is also a project-based Section 8 senior complex. It has not had the same kind of problems as Robeson. That proves Renaissance can and should do better, Fernandez said.
“The standard has to be basic human dignity,” Fernandez said. “If the director of LCI thinks this is a building that could pass inspection with people urinating and defecating on the floor and selling drugs in the building and no locks on the door and broken windows and mold over, I would suggest there would be very significant changes to whatever rules they believe they’re following with regard to inspections [if Fernandez wins the election]. This is just unacceptable and disgusting. No one should be profiting off of properties that are making people live in these kinds of dangerous and disgusting conditions.”
“We had to shed some public light on these conditions for anything to change” at Robeson, candidate Carolina said. “Senator Harp should really be ashamed of herself for not holding her family more accountable. She claims to care about elderly residents, but she allowed this to happen under own nose. How can you protect the elderly, and you’re not willing to hold people in your household accountable first? Charity starts at home, and so does accountability.”
Matthew Harp called Fernandez’s comparison “a false analogy.” Casa Otonal has 104 apartments to manage in one location. That means it can afford to have a full-time maintenance team and social services on site, he said. Robeson has 22 apartments. It doesn’t produce enough revenue to have full-time on-site management and maintenance, he said.
He noted, as well, that the mold found at Robeson was in the basement, not in people’s apartments. He said Renaissance therefore did not have seniors occupy apartments there. “We’re not having people living in places where we know there’s mold hanging about.”
Harp also argued that while Renaissance extensively screens tenants, it faces obstacles to dealing with those who cause problems once they start living in the properties. He cited the Robeson case. Renaissance is moving to evict the relative allegedly dealing drugs out of the elderly female tenant’s apartment, he said. But that takes a while, and even though the relative isn’t the legal tenant, a relative staying in an apartment with the tenant’s permission has rights protecting him or her against eviction.
Harp added that police know about the drug-dealing and could perhaps seek a restraining order or other legal means to bar the relative from the apartment.
Lt. Joe Witkowski, the neighborhood’s top cop, said he does know about the problems at Robeson. He said Renaissance has kept his cops abreast of problems. But it’s not so simple for police to obtain permission to search an apartment and get rid of problem tenants, he said.
Thanks to a standing trespass complaint from Renaissance, “we go in there pretty frequently. We do make trespass arrests of people who don’t live there. That’s the easiest way to get rid of” loiterers or others causing trouble, Witkowski said.
Asked if Renaissance has been a responsible landlord, Witkowski responded, “They’ve stepped up their game a little bit. Let’s put it that way. I think they’ve made some improvements, which is a good thing. We hope that continues.”
The Independent returned to Robeson on Friday. The occupant of the suspected drug apartment buzzed in a reporter without a question. He came out to greet the reporter on the second-floor landing. Informed the visitor is a reporter, he responded while returning to his apartment, “Nah, I can’t talk to you. See you later. We’re moving!” Then he shut the door.
Legal Aid Obstacles?
Matthew Harp also argued that legal-aid lawyers sometimes present obstacles to more frequent necessary evictions. He said he respects the job they do, and they do it well. But he also spoke of how problem tenants can get legal help for free, while the landlord will sometimes have to spend close to the equivalent of a year’s worth of rent on a private lawyer to press the eviction in court.
He cited the case of a woman living in Presidential Gardens. Five years ago, he said, police raided the apartment. They found guns and drugs for sale in clear sight. They arrested the woman’s grandson. She claimed not to have known about the dealing.
Renaissance sought to evict her. New Haven Legal Assistance represented the woman. They convinced a judge not to allow the eviction. Instead the parties reached an agreement to bar the grandson from the premises.
Harp said the family did not keep the agreement; recently the police made another bust there.
Here’s what legal aid responded when asked about it:
“The facts in the case are hotly contested, which is exactly why the tenant at issue needs representation. New Haven Legal Assistance is proud of its nearly 50-year history of representing low-income persons and families in a variety of courts. This includes housing court, where most tenants lack any representation. Landlords who cannot prove their case for eviction in court should not win their case for eviction in court. We are disappointed that Renaissance Management appears to be blaming New Haven Legal Assistance Association for problems that it is facing in its buildings.”
Quick Response This Week
A tenant at a Renaissance-run apartment building at 674 Howard Ave. in the Hill—who is under eviction proceedings—went to legal aid and the city this week with longstanding complaints.
The tenant, Zecolia Robinson (pictured), said that for years she has had mold in the bathroom, a problem for her young children, who have asthma. She said she had complained about a loose electrical socket (her pre-paid cellphone photo is at left) and about a hallway light that had been out since Hurricane Sandy. Renaissance would never fix it, she said, until her complaints this week to legal aid, the health department, and LCI. Crews arrived and painted over the mold and fixed the socket and the hallway light, she said.
Meanwhile, she said she still has problems with mice in her apartment; two nights ago she caught one headed toward her 9-month-old baby’s crib, she said. She also said she has complained, with no results, about a fire escape that, as a large woman, she can’t fit through; it’s a half-sized window that leads to exterior stairs.
“They know how to contact you when they want your money. When you contact them, they take their time,” Robinson said.
Renaissance has been seeking to evict her for nonpayment of rent. She said she fell behind because of an error with her Section 8 benefits—she hadn’t received for more than a year a credit for the birth of her second child. (She has three.) She said she is now in the process of paying back Renaissance for the past due bill.
Matthew Harp responded that what the woman called mold was a “speck” on the ceiling: “There was no damage. There was no mold issue. We’ve got pictures to justify that.”
He said Renaissance contracts with a pest-control company to spray buildings quarterly and then to respond ASAP to individual complaints of rodent or insect infestation.
Finally comes the question of tenants and unwanted guests: How do you stop someone from trailing tenants inside after you’ve put up a new door and new lock and distributed new keys?
Or how do you stop tenants from leaving a front door open?
That question arose at a Renaissance-run apartment building next door to 674 Howard, at 672. The building has a live-in tenant who watches the building for Renaissance and keeps the police apprised of problems.
The Independent stopped by there this week without Renaissance staffers present.
The front door was open. So was the interior front door.
Tenants answering door knocks said they are content with management for the most part.
Then a young man entered the hallway. He wore a “Vampers” T-shirt and pants partway falling down, revealing most of his underwear.
He said he has “no problems” with the management of the building. He also said he has no idea who the management is. He said he doesn’t live there. He didn’t say what he was doing there. He declined to pose for a photo: “too much police.”
He left the building. A few minutes later he reentered the front hallway. Then a woman in scrubs walked by from the direction of nearby Yale-New Haven Hospital, toward the building’s front door. She was asked if she lives in the building; she said no.
She greeted the young man in the foyer. They closed the front door. The front door opened a few moments later, and she left.
The front door was open again a few days later as the Renaissance team passed by on a tour of properties. Harp said his team tries to convince tenants not to leave interior front doors to the building open. That doesn’t always work, he said. But he’ll keep trying.
Sounds like this reporter should be more careful about his own personal safety, especially when writing articles set within some of the worst-managed, slumlord housing in the entire State.
The profits from which, mind you, clearly pay for enormous weekend fundraisers held at suburban houses, and free lodging for Toni Harp at one of the city’s largest mansions.
posted by: Atwater on July 26, 2013 4:00pm
The sad thing is that all of this attention and the progress thereof are only because of the election. The New Haven Independent has been guilty of hack journalism with this series on Mrs. Harp’s son’s business. Whatever Mr. Harp’s errors in judgement may be, they are his alone and do not reflect any aspect of Senator Harp’s public service record, ethics, or management ethos. The NHI seems to be drawing a non-existent connection between the son’s business practices and his mother’s mayoral campaign. As soon as the election is over and the publicity dies down the tenant’s will once again be left to deal with ineffective and negligent management, any progress made at this time is simply political whitewash meant to convey a reality that does not in fact exist.
posted by: anonymous on July 26, 2013 4:03pm
“Asked if Renaissance has been a responsible landlord, Witkowski responded, “They’ve stepped up their game a little bit. Let’s put it that way.”
Translation: According to the New Haven Police Department, things are bad. VERY bad. Even by slumlord-overrun, inner-city New Haven standards.
Politicians sometimes show their sympathy to the disadvantaged by living off of food stamps, or taking the bus, or trying to walk or bike in an area with inadequate infrastructure, for a month. As long as they don’t get killed, this is usually a good thing.
How about Senator Harp lives in one of her family’s burned-out, mold-filled, socket-failing, drug-infested, broken-doored apartments for the next month?
posted by: Noteworthy on July 26, 2013 4:12pm
Matthew Harp has taken over a bad situation but his continued effort to absolve his mother of alleged ignorance for the unpaid taxes or conditions of these properties taints everything he says.
CHFA financing is not that expensive. It’s the layers of debt that are. Constantly refinancing to pull out tax free cash as the value of these properties soared during the heyday and not reinvesting in these properties created this situation.
That cash built the mansion, the country estate and provided the best colleges while not taking care of the responsibilities.
I’m glad the apartments are improving. But Toni Harp gets no pass on the real estate or any of the myriad of tax problems, some of which she clearly knew about and did nothing to solve. She hasn’t been honest about any of it and continues to believe there are rules for others and special ones for her and her family - and then claims ignorance of any of those cynical political calculations.
posted by: ISR on July 26, 2013 6:20pm
“How about Senator Harp lives in one of her family’s burned-out, mold-filled, socket-failing, drug-infested, broken-doored apartments for the next month?”
That would “traumatize” her.
“Whatever Mr. Harp’s errors in judgement may be, they are his alone and do not reflect any aspect of Senator Harp’s public service record, ethics, or management ethos.”
Except when she wants to campaign on her husbands’s “legacy.”
posted by: Scot on July 26, 2013 6:27pm
@Atwater – “Whatever Mr. Harp’s errors in judgement may be, they are his alone and do not reflect any aspect of Senator Harp’s public service record, ethics, or management ethos.” If I understand it correctly, the business belonged to Senator Harp’s husband while it became the largest delinquent tax debt in the entire state. How can you say that doesn’t reflect on Toni Harp? Your spouse owes a million dollars in taxes and you don’t know anything about it? And you’re a state senator? The fact she won’t discuss it now (tell the voters how the bill got so big and why they don’t think they need to pay it) doesn’t help the situation in my eyes.
posted by: RCguy on July 26, 2013 6:52pm
They sound like basically every landlord in New Haven.
posted by: Curious on July 26, 2013 7:01pm
“Asked about the issue again in an interview, Toni Harp (pictured) said that if elected mayor she would see no potential conflict of interest in the city’s dealings with Renaissance Management’s properties.”
The fact that she sees no conflict of interest is enough to disqualify her as a serious mayoral candidate. That is INSANE.
posted by: Curious on July 26, 2013 7:10pm
Also, what is the point of this?
“She said she had complained about a loose electrical socket (her pre-paid cellphone photo is at left)”
Is NHI saying that’s her photo that she took on her prepaid cell?
Those are two iPhone chargers in that socket. Or an iPhone and iPad, or two iPads. Unmistakable.
posted by: Bill Saunders on July 27, 2013 12:01am
I would just like to know when NHI is going to give coverage to other candidates.
I didn’t know that Harp-Fest had taken over the political coverage. Indirectly, it seems that money buys press.
posted by: robn on July 27, 2013 12:18pm
Good point. I wonder how someone in the Section 8 program can afford two iPhones which cost $600-1200 per year? A prepaid would make much more sense but those are very clearly proprietary iPhone chargers.
One is $30/mo, which is pretty much in line with one could expect to pay with other kinds of pre-plans, if I’m not mistaken.
posted by: mstratton on July 27, 2013 9:14pm
What bothers me here is that Matthew acts like its so hard running this business. In fact Wendell Harp impoverished his estate just weeks before he died. He sold off most of his property to LLC’s controlled by his son Matthew. Matthew then promptly mortgaged these properties to the hilt through a NY hedge fund. & figure money was paid out. This meant that when Wendell"s estate is probated there will not be enough money to pay the overdue tax bills. Instead all the assets will be in liquid form held by Matthew.
Now Toni Harp says that she got nothing from her husband’s estate and relies on the charity of her kids. Of course she got nothing from the estate—it was emptied. What that really means is that her husband gave all his money discreetly to his son before he died. Who benefits? Toni Harp. Who loses? taxpayers. Its a clear scheme to evade paying taxes and put money in Toni’s pocket through back channels. How else could she pay the 10k a month mortgage and tax bill? She does not earn that. Matthew pays it.
There is also an interesting freudian slip: the three companies Wendell formed just before his death to transfer the properties to his son: HOW LLC; LEG LLC and ROB LLC—“How to legally rob!” I am not joking. This is dirty dirty business.
posted by: HhE on July 27, 2013 9:43pm
That lose electrical socket is a five minute fix with a screw driver.
Amazing the electronics one can buy if one does not pay for rent.
“We are upping our game….” to almost okay.
Governor HhE would solve Legal Aid with English Rule. (that would actually solve a lot of problems. Also, automatic eviction upon conviction for drug dealing, and civil eviction if drugs are confiscated from an apartment.
posted by: Wikus van de Merwe on July 28, 2013 1:26pm
HhE it doesn’t even look like that socket is in a box. Are you suggesting the tenants should fix it, or suggesting it’s and indicator of the laziness of the landlord given it’s such a simple repair?
Electronics are cheap, and don’t forget the landlord is taking plenty of government money to sit on a neglected property as well.
posted by: HhE on July 28, 2013 4:20pm
Quinn Meadows, fair question from a tier one poster.
Part One: there are three possible sources for the problem, from the photo, I cannot be dead certain which one. Most likely, the socket proper is not screwed down tight. With a slot screw driver, take the cover off, and tighten the two screws that a fix the socket to the box, and then reset the cover plate and screw. Worse case is that the box proper is lose. If this is the case, and it is a new work box, then the repair is tricky. One would need to screw the box to a stud. Definently turn the power off for this one. Remove the socket from the box, drill a pilot hole for the screw, and drive a screw into the stud. Replace the socket and cover plate, then turn on the juice. If it is an old work box, then there are two screws in opposite corners that need to be tighten down. The third possibility is that the cover plate is lose. It does appear from the photo that this is a contributing problem. Screws do work lose over time, so just tighten it down.
Part two: Unless this is willful or neglegence on the part of the tenent, it is the landlord’s responsability. As a former renter, as long as the problem was not a lose box, I would fix it myself. As someone who is rehabing a property in order to rent it, assuming I was not out of town that day, I would fix the problem the same day a renter told me about it. Eather way, unless the box is lose, this is five minutes or less with a Swiss Army knife.
posted by: cedarhillresident! on July 28, 2013 10:39pm
I am with others on the fact that it is really getting to be to much with the Harp fest. I know that Elicker is the good guy and has no dirt to grab the head lines. Why are the news sources of this city doing such and injustice to the people by not getting out all his 75 in 75 solutions for New Haven! http://elicker2013.com/75-solutions
To me a candidate that has a real vision is the biggest news New Haven has had in a long time! But again it is not a headline grabber.
I can see it now.. Good guy has great solutions for New Haven
Senator’s family have tax evasion issues and are slumlords.
Which would you choice for mayor by the headlines ?
posted by: Nashstreeter on July 29, 2013 12:50am
I think we’re starting to see some of the problems that a woman running for mayor has to face. It’s not about her; it’s about her dead husband and her son. She is who they are. She has no independent existence, no matter how hard she has tried to make one for herself.
I for one do not plan on making my voting choice on the basis of any of the candidates’ spouses or children. But, of course, the other (all male) candidates’ spouses and children don’t seem to have come up much in the discussion. I probably would not vote for Wendell Harp for mayor, or for Henry’s or Kermit’s or Justin’s or Sundiata’s wives or significant others or offspring either.
I do plan to vote for one of the actual candidates, especially whichever one has a critical assessment of the city’s and the state’s rush to privatize our schools with charters. I doubt that the spouses and offspring of the candidates will have much of an impact on that issue.
posted by: Nashstreeter on July 29, 2013 1:06am
And while I’m on the subject of spouses and children of the mayoral candidates, perhaps it would be useful for the Independent to spend an equal amount of reportorial energy on them—find their professional and/or domestic flaws or business mishaps, bad grades in school, failure to mind their daddies and husbies. And then try to imply some kind of connection from the family to the candidates’ suitability for public office. It’d be interesting.
posted by: Atwater on July 29, 2013 8:12am
@Scot: I still do not see the correlation between the late Mr. Harp’s tax bill and Senator Harp’s ability (or inability) to serve her electorate. As of now it is mere speculation and mudslinging. Does an irresponsible spouse make the other spouse just as irresponsible? If so, Hilary Clinton would have to be judged by her husband’s indiscretions and lies. The same goes for every other politician in our fair nation. We must hold individuals accountable only for their actions and not for perceived wrong doing. To my knowledge Senator Harp has done nothing wrong in regards to her late husband’s/son’s tax liability. I am all for judging those who stand for public office. But, the judgement should be based on relevant facts and issues, not on speculation and mudslinging. I do not think Senator Harp will be a good mayor; she is an ineffective State Senator and a career politician that seeks office for the sake of the office. She also seeks the expansion of the welfare state and if she becomes mayor than New Haven will only continue on the road to dependency on corporate and governmental gratuity.
posted by: robn on July 29, 2013 8:23am
1) Toni knew. Sen Harp has been in the state senate for 20 years now and is the chair of the appropriations committee. Her claim of NOT knowing about her husbands tax delinquency with the state is highly unlikely and if so, that makes her a liar. 2) Toni benefited/benefits. Sen Harp lives, rent and tax free in a mansion paid for by tax evasion.
posted by: Curious on July 29, 2013 10:24am
—-> What ROBN said.
Senator Harp lived and still lives large thanks to her husband’s sketchy business practices.
End of story.
posted by: Atwater on July 29, 2013 10:26am
@robn: Mr. Harp was never convicted of tax evasion. Yes, his company owes taxes, but as far as I know there is no charge of tax evasion. My main point is that Senator Harp’s viability as a candidate should not be determined by the actions of her late husband or her son. The NHI has unfairly focused on the Harp family and has ignored the families of the other candidates. It is a problem throughout all our elections. Red herring arguments, criticism of one’s family and general mudslinging, they all take attention away from the real issues facing the citizen. High taxes, high unemployment, high crime rates, ineffective schools, etc.
posted by: Curious on July 29, 2013 11:09am
You’re missing ROBN’s point, I think.
Harp did not get her husband’s company over a million dollars in debt, but she did benefit from his dealings, and continues to do so.
Claiming she didn’t do the deed is fine, but in Harp’s case, she also benefited financially from what her husband was doing, so it’s not like she is free and clear.
You can look the other way and not be involved at all and claim ignorance, but you can;t look the other way and reap the benefits at the same time…not without being dishonest.
An analogy to the Harp family business would a crooked cop…looking the other way while a mechanic uses his business to launder dirty money while the cop gets his family car serviced there for free.
posted by: robn on July 29, 2013 11:14am
1) The criticism is of Sen. Harp (not her family), because she benefits from questionable business practices.
2) If a business hasn’t paid taxes, its evaded taxes. Again, germane because Sen. Harp benefits from this evasion.
posted by: anonymous on July 29, 2013 11:33am
New Haven Register, Aug. 16, 1998
Husband’s deeds tarnish senator
“The senator, as any spouse would, benefits from her husband’s gaming the state and city governments — ducking his tax bills while winning lucrative contracts worth millions. Does she stand by her husband or stand up for her constituents?”
posted by: Atwater on July 29, 2013 11:55am
@robn: Again, the late Mr. Harp and his company have never been convicted of tax evasion. What he did, is what most corporations and business do, he played the system. I guess he wasn’t that good at it because now the company owes a lot of money. Sure Senator Harp does benefit from this, but she is not complicit in it and as far as I know, no crime has been committed. Again, why is Senator Harp the only candidate subjected to this level of scrutiny? The late Mr. Harp was a business man and his wife, like all wives, did benefit from his businesses. How he managed his businesses and conducted his affairs has nothing to do with Senator Harp’s suitability for office. I think many have missed my point which is, there are real issues in this race that need to be addressed. The NHI and others seem it wise to follow in the tradition of U.S. electoral politics and take aim at issues that are irrelevant to the management and government of the city. If Senator Harp is found guilty of corruption then my attitude might change. But, as of now, it is mere speculation and it seems to be an unfair and uneven standard applied to the Senator that other candidates are not expected to meet.
posted by: Curious on July 29, 2013 12:25pm
Senator Harp’s son, who pays for her house and taxes, is the state’s #1 tax delinquent. His business has more than the $1.1 million dollars it owes in back taxes available in just two real estate assets.
Why aren’t those being seized, or liened? I can think of one reason: Senator Toni Harp lives in one of them.
Toni Harp also said she sees NO conflict of interest in dealing with her son’s companies as mayor. It’s a CLEAR conflict of interest, considering she LIVES in one of his properties.
The fact that Harp doesn’t even acknowledge that conflict speaks DIRECTLY to her character as well as her ability to manage this city.
posted by: robn on July 29, 2013 1:47pm
The Harp business is at the top of CT’s summer 2013 list of delinquent business taxpayers.
This is required by Connecticut General Statutes Section 12-7a for delinquent state taxes unpaid for a period greater than 90 days after all appeal rights have expired.
The Harp’s are tax evaders (illegal).
To the next logical questions; why is noone is jail?; why aren’t liens put upon their properties? I would go with CURIOUS’s assertion that they are being shielded by Sen Harp.
Taxes are amongst the top 4 most important issues in the New Haven mayoral race (with safety, education, and economic opportunity). Sen Harp refuses to adequately explain this issue, it’s time for her to drop out of this race.
I emailed the CT Department of Revenue Services* about why this debt is allowed to go unpaid, and why RMS is allowed to operate with this kind of debt instead of having those assets seized or liens put on them, but haven’t received a reply in weeks.
Maybe someone like Mike Stratton, if he’s reading this, could have a go at it? I’m no lawyer….
@robn and curious: One needs more than an assertion of wrongdoing, or one should have more than an assertion before rendering a verdict. There is no proof and none has ever been presented that shows that Mr. Harp’s business is being shielded by the Senator. To my knowledge Mr. Harp is subject to the fines and penalties that all of the other businesses on that list are subject to. Again, one should have more than an assumption or an assertion before one declares a verdict. I am not a Toni Harp supporter. I think she would be a horrible mayor. But, I do believe in fair play. If Senator Harp is open to this level of scrutiny then so should all of the other candidates. So far the NHI and others seem to level their sights to Senator Harp more often. Clean and fair elections are about more than financing, they are about elections and campaigns run on the real issues, not on rhetoric or hype or mudslinging.
posted by: Curious on July 29, 2013 3:39pm
The New Haven City Code of Ethics/Conduct argues against even the appearance of conflicts of interest.
This isn’t a criminal trial, it’s not a math problem. What I am asserting is that since Wendell Harp racked up this crazy amount of debt (FACT), and since Toni Harp lives in a house he and now his heirs provide her for free (FACT), that she is morally obligated to recuse herself in matters where there might be a conflict of interest between herself as future mayor and her family’s debt-ridden companies. Moreover, it is unseemly that she continues to reap the benefits of her husband and sons’ business practices long after these facts have come to light.
I’m not a Harp supporter either, and if my preferred candidate had some similar skeletons in his closet, you had better believe that I would demand an explanation and not continue to support my candidate until I could make a more-informed decision.
What Harp is doing is dodging the issue, not owning it, and hoping it will go away. That’s pretty poor ethical behavior for someone who wants to be mayor. That’s a moral judgment, and I stick by it. I don’t need to prove that Wendell Harp broke the law, or that Toni knew, or that she is shielding her family’s companies. The fact is that the cat is out of the bag, the accusations stand, and she is doing nothing, nothing at all, to defuse the situation. She’s just hoping it disappears.
Someone else here likened this to the BIll Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal. There was nothing to that but assertions and assumptions, either, but that didn’t stop people from digging.
You can always contact the NHI editor direct and try to start a dialog….or trust that the other candidates are out there digging away themselves. I find that VERY likely, and if they find anything with teeth, I am sure it will make it into the NHI or NH Register.
posted by: Hieronymous on July 29, 2013 4:10pm
“There is also an interesting freudian slip: the three companies Wendell formed just before his death to transfer the properties to his son: HOW LLC; LEG LLC and ROB LLC—“How to legally rob!” I am not joking. This is dirty dirty business.”—mstratton
This is a pretty significant accusation, worthy of either being debunked or confirmed, depending on its truth.
posted by: All4mykids on July 29, 2013 7:56pm
HI I AM THE MOTHER OF THE 3 KIDS. HONESTLY TO CLEAR UP MY STORY, THAT NEEDS TO BE TOLD.YES GRANTED THIS IS MY FIRST APARTMENT. IN MARCH WILL BE 4 YEARS. THE REASON I FELL THAT MY STORY NEED TO BE HEARD NOT JUST FOR AOME PICTURES OR A LITTLE CONVERSATION. IT’S MORE TO THIS. IF YOU PAY RENT NO MATTER WERE YOU LIVE WEATHER IT’S SUBSIDY OR NOT, BE RELAXED. HONESTLY THEY LIE SO MUCH. I JUST GOT EVERUTHING GETTING FIXED. WHY? CAUSE I SPOKE UP. THE ONLY REASON THERE TRYING TO EVICT ME NOW IS BECAUSE I CALLED LCI AFTER WE HAD THE HURRICANE. And the water was cold for a week. Mind you I have a daughter that has severe asthma, I been in the hospital 9 times sience birth she is on 2 different prevention meds and has to be at a specialist for her lungs. No I don’t smoke around her. Her dr question me why she always having attacks? So yes I suspect mold, and yes we have mice that likes to jump on my 9 month old son. Need I say more I have prof of everything I say. Oh and the light sockets thing actually I have a regular I phone that was 99 cents that came up to 1.03 that my father pays for so we can communicate with my daughters dr. Also the sockets was all hanging they claimed to fix stuff but I had to go to a lawyer to get actions done. I left the lawyer and 5 min later they at my door to fix a light that been out for a year. In sept. seriously!! But I will not give up on me or my kids. I hate that they lied so much if u call painting and putting up these little thing what about everything else. I’m telling you this isn’t all that been wrong with my place. AND YET I TRY TO BE HUMBLE. THIS IS MENTALLY TEARING ME APART. Seriously. Thank you god for keeping me and my kids safe in this apartment. I’m a big girl as you can see I will And my kids will DIE IF THERE IS A FIRE HERE. And I’m all alone. I have people spend weekends with me because of fear of a fire. I almost been robbed twice did they mention that. I called them they do nothing about that I’m just saying this is my cry