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Harp Would Make Rizzo Pay

by Thomas MacMillan | Jul 26, 2013 7:12 pm

(22) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: City Hall, Campaign 2013

Under a Harp administration, retired building official Andy Rizzo would have to register as a lobbyist before he could seek zoning relief on behalf of a housing agency, and the city’s Board of Ethics would have more power to go after him if he lobbied improperly.

Mayoral candidate Toni Harp made that assertion Friday afternoon as she unveiled her “Ethics Reform Position Paper.” She announced a seven-part strategy aimed at improving accountability, transparency and efficiency in city government.

Harp also weighed in on a recent apparent breach of the city’s code of ethics: The case of Andy Rizzo.

Rizzo retired from his post as city building official in April. By June, he was lobbying the Board of Zoning Appeals on behalf of Mutual Housing, a client to his new consulting business. That action appears to have violated a law that bans lobbying by a former city employee for one year after his or her employment.

Asked how her ethics overhaul would address a situation like this, Harp said Rizzo would have been required to register as a lobbyist if he’s seeking relief for any project worth over $50,000.

“The board would recognize that there is a bright line between what it is that he used to do when he came to talk to them and what it is that he does now as someone who operates on behalf of an agency that is seeking relief from that body,” Harp said.

Rizzo would still be prohibited from lobbying the city for a year after his retirement, she said. And, she said, the city’s Board of Ethics wouldn’t have to wait for someone to file a complaint if it found out he was lobbying before that, as it does now.

“A complaint could be suggested,” she said. If board members read about or hear about any apparent violation, “it should be something that they look into.”

Harp said people would be more likely to make complaints anyway, under her new plan, because whistleblowers would be fully protected from retaliation.

Harps seven-point ethics reform plan includes:

• Regulation of lobbying and lobbyists: Lobbyists would be required to pay $300 and register as such and annually file information on their “compensation arrangement” with their client. They would have to file quarterly reports on their lobbying activity.

• Putting more information online about contracts, salaries, and ethics.

* Protecting whistleblowers from retaliation.

• Requiring ethics training for city employees every two years.

• Prohibiting officials and employees from using “nonpublic information” to benefit themselves or others. For instance, a City Hall staffer would be prohibited from tipping off a friend about an upcoming sale of city property.

• Giving the Board of Ethics independent enforcement powers and staff.

• Reforming the procurement process to ensure that city workers aren’t favoring people they’re connected to when it comes to contracts or purchases.

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posted by: Curious on July 26, 2013  7:32pm

...but she doesn’t see a conflict of interest in dealing, as mayor, with her own son’s rental property companies.

I like this idea, but it’s pretty rich to hear ethics stuff coming from Harp.

How about the fact that the current director of the Housing Authority of New Haven is serving in a key capacity on Harp’s campaign team?  Karen Dubois-Walton is HANH director, and as such is appointed by the mayor. 

Is it ethical for her to have such a black and white, cut and dry, conflict of interest? 

Or is that another matter in which Harp sees no conflict?

posted by: Indigo on July 26, 2013  8:01pm

Talk is cheap. We all know that Justin Elicker is the only candidate who would actually implement ideas like these.

posted by: Amityboy on July 26, 2013  9:07pm

The NHI’s coverage of this election has become borderline disgraceful. Elicker publishes a comprehensive policy statement every single day, yet none of them get coverage. Harp’s occasional drive-by bullets get reprinted verbatim. Yesterday, Elicker released a 75 Days, 75 Solutions post about pay-to-play politics which covered many of the very same issues as Harp’s release. Why wasn’t there a story about that? Or about his economic development plans? Or about his public crime platform? A reader of the NHI could be forgiven for thinking that Harp is the only one in this race with ideas—a laughable reversal of the reality.

posted by: Hieronymous on July 26, 2013  9:48pm

Though you wouldn’t know it from reading the Independent, which apparently will only run a story on a policy proposal if its explained to a reporter in person, Justin today described his new urbanism platform, which, standing alone, is enough to set him apart from the other candidates. No one, including Fernandez, and certainly not Harp and Carolina, has as keen an understanding as Elicker of what makes a city work. I really think if people knew his vision for the city, this election would be a no-brainer. But because he doesn’t level calumnious accusations against his opponents or stage frivolous press conferences to accompany his every pronouncement, he’s become the least reported-on candidate in this race.

Whether that’s his campaign’s fault or the press’s is a matter of debate, but it’s a shame. It would be a great service if, before its too late, NHI would simply line up the candidates’ policy proposals next to each other so we could see who’s really thought about what we can do to make this city better and who just wants to be mayor. I can anticipate the rejoinder: they’re all democrats so their platforms are the same; thats why this campaign has become one of personalities. I think that misses the point: the other candidates may not oppose Justin’s ideas (including on ethics, as Harp purports to) but he’s the one who actually thinks about these things.

We have an opportunity to have as mayor someone who is actually at the forefront of the urban renewal movement, the kind of person who in most cities is on the sidelines advocating potentially transformative ideas that are ignored by the people who actually hold power. Elicker could be our Theo Epstein. I hope we don’t miss this opportunity because we’re distracted by the pettiness of the other candidates and left uninformed by a press that is more comfortable reporting on politics as usual.

NB: I recognize this comment is unfair to NHI. It’s bc you’ve raised the bar that we aim to set it even higher.

posted by: Wikus van de Merwe on July 26, 2013  9:55pm

Ideas?

Regulation, registration, training, “more” transparency, insider trading, no pay to play.

This should be the bare minimum baseline.  It needs to go much further.

How about accepting gifts in the form of free housing and party space from tax evaders and slumlords?

posted by: stick21 on July 26, 2013  10:01pm

Indigo, you are right, he would implement “Senator Harp’s” plans.

posted by: robn on July 26, 2013  10:38pm

Irony alert!!!

Would Harp also make it illegal for a State Senator to vote on tax relief if her family business was the biggest tax dodger in the state?

posted by: Bill Saunders on July 27, 2013  12:13am

Why is everything that Harp puts out there a ‘Position Paper”?

This isn’t High School.

posted by: Curious on July 27, 2013  6:38am

Stick21, the idea that Harp has introduced any kind of “plan” before Elicker is literally hilarious.  Thank you for starting my day with a laugh. 

It’s quite honestly the opposite way around in every case.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on July 27, 2013  7:22am

The Charter Revision Commission’s failure to recommend a stronger Ethics Ordinance and enforcement (currently left to the Mayor!) need to be addressed and Sen. Harp’s position is a good start.
The point is not to have a “gotcha” headline, but to advise city officials, members of boards, etc. before they make a mistake.
This is an important item for Sen. Harp to make a statement on as part of her campaign.
Has one other candidate taken a position on improving our Ethics Board?
Let’s have a real competition of ideas on this and forget the other distractions.

posted by: Noteworthy on July 27, 2013  7:58am

Corrupticut and Phoney Campaign Releases Notes:

1. For 20 years, Senator Toni Harp has thrived in a “culture of corruption” in Hartford and a recent article noted that what is standing in the way of real ethics reform, is in fact, the Legislature - in other words: Toni Harp and Friends.

http://www.connecticutmag.com/Connecticut-Magazine/August-2013/Connecticut-cant-shake-corruption-as-leaders-resist-reform/

2. The campaign is manufacturing press releases that sound good and mean nothing - kind of like eating air, especially given the candidate’s own legislative history.

3. This year, Harp voted to gut campaign finance reform which was enacted after the Rowland scandal. In doing so, she ignored former speaker Donovan’s campaign finance scandal.

4. Then there is the secret lawmaking - no hearings, no public input - Keno, FOIA changes, and other secret laws that had hearings but were crafted in hiding, sprung on the public at the last minute with details not even the legislature understands.

5. Harp’s ethics “reforms” are tinkering and have very little to do with real ethics. If you don’t understand the concept, you probably shouldn’t issue a press release on it.

posted by: Amityboy on July 27, 2013  9:27am

Dwightstreeter—In Elicker’s 75 Solutions post on Conflicts of Interest, he talked about the Ethics board. That was last week. This is exactly what I’m talking about. The NHI’s irresponsible coverage is actually misleading voters at this point.

posted by: Curious on July 27, 2013  9:45am

You mean like this?

http://elicker2013.com/solution/end-pay-play

Also, and of the “quasi-public agencies” that run substantial programs in New Haven, like the Housing Authority, should ALSO be subjected to the same ethics code that the city has…not their own home-made and less effective one.  That’s BS.  If you’re appointed by the mayor, you should have to follow the same code as all city employees.

posted by: True that on July 27, 2013  9:54am

Harp and ethics are like oil and water.  First, as noteworthy eloquently alludes to, Harp, to this day, has not said one word about former Speaker Donovan’s illegal behavior. As much as she limes to talk about her influence at the state level, why no leadership in the area of ethics?

Is it ethical for her family to have people living in the atrocious conditions on Rossette Street?

Is it ethical for her to run for Mayor while her family owes more than 1 million dollars in unpaid taxes?

Is it ethical for her not to rightly take the consequence of the DTC ‘s gross incompetence, and live with being last ballot?

Is it ethical to accept support from the Democratic Town Committee when she is not their endorsed candidate?

Is it ethical for her to say that she would not run unless struck by lightening, and then run without being struck?

Is it ethical fir her to endorse Gary Holder-Winfield on a Friday, and then turn around run herself on Monday without even contacting him first?

Tony Harp and ethics, a bad mix.  It is also important to note that the Elicker campaign is not the only one whose press releases and ideas go uncovered by the media.  The Carolina campaign has many press releases, a platform and other materials that neither paper chooses to cover.  The releases can be found on its website, Carolinaformayor.com.

posted by: FrontStreet on July 27, 2013  10:46am

On the subject of ethics and transparency, wish some reporter would ask 3 simple questions:

How much did Toni Harp make as director of Homeless Health at Cornell Scott Hill Health last year?

How many days was she actually at her desk at Cornell Scott Hill Health last year?

How much money, over the past 10 years, has she helped to appropriate to her employers (or did she recuse herself from voting on grants given directly to Hill Health and so avoid conflict of interest)?

posted by: ISR on July 27, 2013  10:50am

“The NHI’s coverage of this election has become borderline disgraceful.”

The only inaccuracy in that statement is the use of the modifier “borderline.”

Harp’s transgressions and questionable behaviors would be easy pickings for a Jounalism 101 student, but for the Independent, not so much.

Here is a link to Paul Bass’s hagiographical piece on Harp’s entry into the race.

http://www.newhavenindependent.org/index.php/archives/entry/and_now_…_toni_harp_jumps_in/

It’s not unti you read the comments that you find mention of her conflict at Hill Health center, which received large state grants while she was an employee.

Who at the NHI is asking or investigating how she’s paying a $45k tax bill on her million dollar residence on a $28k legislator’s salary plus her salary at nonprofit Cornell Scott? If she’s not paying, who is? Or is it being paid at all?

She says she has had no involvement with her husbands’s business—while laying claim to his “legacy.” How about a little digging to see how uninvolved she has been? There’s a long public and media record. Ask a reporter, or an intern, to study it.

I’m not saying Harp is the only candidate with issues worth exploring, but she is the putative front-runner, and the NHI is silent.

******
I also think the heavily moderated NHI policy stifles vigorous debate. You have to wait for hours to see a comment posted, which means there is no up and back flow. Somehow major national blogs—Slate, Talking Points Memo, Politico, Salon, Foxnews, etc.—allow instant posting with deletion of inappropriate and objectionable post after the fact. We are all adults here, so stop treating us like children. It’s your dime, but show the readers more respect. I’d like to read all about my town.

posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on July 27, 2013  11:08am

I have noticed that during any campaign it always easier to find fault in any person who is an incumbent, or has held any other elected office for a significant amount of time.

In his case that would be Toni Harp, and not Henry Fernandez or Justin Elicker. Neither has actually done the amount of work that Harp has done. Also both Fernandez and Elicker know that elected officials and others that hold high public office where policy is constructed and then put into action comes out perfect. Most times there are problems that surface because of the failure to forsee the future, and the overall ramifications of a policy or law. Adjustments are made, amendments put in place, and the process is continuous. For example Charter Revisions, changes in some laws that are decades or centuries old. Or obliteration of outdated laws, such as the Blue Laws. Or laws meant to keep the public safe from abuses just now being understood through the use of the computer or internet. The changes and corrections are the norm, and any candidate who is competent knows this.
    To hold an incumbent liable for the vagaries of legislation is a campaign tactic that takes advantage of the lack of understanding to the public, which does not want to take the time to fully understand the process, and give those involved a fair review.
    Elicker’s plans are made to address the lack of insight the public has, and to take advantage of that. As someone said it’s like “eating air”. It has no real concrete base. One of the examples was his plan for public safety, based on the thoughts of the current New Haven Police Chief, who was never a police officer, Sargent, Lieutenant, Captain, Detective, or for that matter never took on the responsibility of any active police job, to get some real experience in what policing New Haven is really like. After hearing Elicker speak at the NHPD Union’s Mayoral Candidate Forum, I have serious doubts about all of his plans.

posted by: anonymous on July 27, 2013  5:40pm

Can Harp speak to the ethics of using incorrect data about graduation rate trends (e.g., comparing two figures that were derived from completely different methodologies) in a press release to attack the principal of Hillhouse High School?

Or was that just another example of her campaign’s unbelievably terrible attention to detail?

posted by: Dwightstreeter on July 27, 2013  5:57pm

Amityboy: the 75 ideas in 75 days didn’t work for me.
Candidates can put their best ideas up front.
Point me to the ethics issue because I didn’t see a topic dealing with it.

posted by: Christopher Schaefer on July 27, 2013  8:23pm

In Harp’s new code of ethics, will she enforce the ordinance that prohibits the awarding of contracts to those who owe back property taxes? Will she launch an investigation as to why her late husband was exempted from this requirement?
New Haven, Connecticut, Code of Ordinances,  TITLE III - CODE OF GENERAL ORDINANCES,  Chapter 2 – ADMINISTRATION,  ARTICLE VIII. – PURCHASING,  DIVISION 3. - COMPETITIVE BIDDING REQUIREMENTS
Sec. 2-485. - Obligations of persons seeking to contract with city; affidavits, disclosures and certifications. (a) The city shall not award a contract to any person or entity until the bureau of purchases receives the following documents: (1) Such person’s affidavit attesting that he/she/it does not owe delinquent taxes… http://library.municode.com/index.aspx?clientID=14668&stateID=7&statename=Connecticut

posted by: Noteworthy on July 29, 2013  1:11pm

Toni Harp is a retread of Martin Looney. Compare the ethics plans then and now.

http://www.nhregister.com/articles/2001/08/01/import/2159315.txt?viewmode=fullstory

This is clear proof Toni Harp knows nothing of ethics. If you need more proof, consider this article where former mayoral candidate Jim Newton, accompanied by Wendell and Toni Harp, made a list of demands to John DeStefano in his battle with Looney.

http://www.nhregister.com/articles/2001/08/05/import/2178304.txt

posted by: Noteworthy on July 29, 2013  1:32pm

Correction Notes:

I misread the NH Register article. Toni Harp did NOT attend the meeting. Her husband did which I’m sure she will say she never knew about until she read it in the paper.

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