Former mayoral candidate Sundiata Keitazulu said Thursday that he was forced out of his new job as head of the city’s prison re-entry initiative.
Keitazulu (pictured in a file photo with Mayor Toni Harp) said he resigned Wednesday after clashing with Jason Bartlett, head of the city’s Youth Services Department, over job training. Keitazulu said he was not given the freedom to run the re-entry initiative, and was eventually told to quit or be fired.
Bartlett declined to comment.
Harp said the city is looking for a replacement. The prison re-entry intitiative will have an overhaul and a new name: Fresh Start. The full plans are scheduled to be unveiled at a Monday press conference.
Keitazulu, a former Newhallville plumber, first entered the political stage last summer when he mounted an unfunded quixotic campaign for mayor. Then he dropped out to support Harp, the eventual winner and now current mayor. In office, Harp appointed Keitazulu to the city job.
As prison re-entry coordinator, Keitazulu was put in charge of the city’s efforts to help people returning to New Haven from time in prison. When Harp announced Keitazulu’s appointment to the post, in December, some critics said he was not prepared for the job.
“I could not do the job that I was assigned to do,” Keitazulu said Thursday. He said Bartlett prevented him from implementing any projects.
“He put me in the dog house,” Keitazulu said.
Keitazulu said Bartlett sent him to four weeks of training at New Haven Family Alliance, where Keitazulu said he learned about networking, writing reports, and outreach.
“They were telling me stuff, but I didn’t want to be told what to do,” Keitazulu said.
On Wednesday, Keitazulu said, he was told he could either quit and get unemployment benefits, or be fired and receive nothing. Keitazulu chose the former.
Keitazulu, who had a $50,000 annual salary as prison re-entry coordinator, said he’ll now go back to being a plumber. He said he’s also planning to start a non-profit called the “Keitazulu Re-entry Prevention Program.”
“I’m going to prevent people from making violence,” he said. “Because violence is preventable.”
Mayor Harp, in comments Thursday to the New Haven Register’s editorial board, said that she supports Keitazulu’s plans to start his own re-entry organization. “I think that he felt that sometimes working with government, that there are a lot of rules and regulations that may actually impede working with folks and he would like to try it from a different perspective,” Harp said. “I support that and I look forward to his success.”
“My administration remains committed to a pro-active re-entry program for those residents who would benefit from job training programs, counseling, and other services. A search to fill this now-vacant coordinator position will be underway shortly,” Mayor Harp said Thursday evening in an emailed statement.
Also on the horizon for Keitazulu: another possible mayoral campaign.
“Next year I’m going to run for office again,” Keitazulu said.
posted by: webblog on February 27, 2014 8:39pm
Oh well, it looks like the Harp administration confirmed in just two short months that Keitazulu was not a good fit.
But they should have known that from the independence he showed during the debates.
Apparently Keitazulu was used, abused and discarded; after all, he was only thrown a bone for his possible election value.
“On Wednesday, Keitazulu said, he was told he could either quit and get unemployment benefits, or be fired and receive nothing. Keitazulu chose the former”.
Wrong choice Sundia, you have to be at least six months employed and not quit your job, and definitely not appear in the news media where your words can be used against you in an unemployment hearing.
Now the administration has $50K free $$ to apply towards her new office staffing.
posted by: state st on February 27, 2014 9:29pm
IT IS AGAINST THE UNEMPLOYMENT LABOR LAWS TO QUIT GAINFUL EMPLOYMENT TO COLLECT UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS,IT DISQUALIFIES YOU FROM RECEIVING UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS.IF HE IS SEEN WORKING AS A PLUMBER AND COLLECTING BENEFITS HE COULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR PAYINGBACK OF ALL BENEFITS RECEIVED AND BE PENALIZED FOR FUTURE BENEFITS.HE AND HIS SUPERIORS ARE ON SHAKEY GROUND CONCERNING THEIR STATEMENTS.
posted by: Brian L. Jenkins on February 28, 2014 2:08am
I’m not sure as to what happened here. But what disturbs me most about the many of her political hires are, they’re from outside of the City of New Haven. If you can hire some of the members from Elickers and Henry’s team, then it’s only fair for you to hire some of the young talented individuals who worked on Carolina’s campaign also. He had educated people working with him too. Oh, (tapping myself on the head) they didn’t attend Yale.
I worked very hard to help Toni get elected. And yes they paid me for the work in which I performed. However, I chose to work for her because of the loyalty I had for her and the love I had for her now deceased husband Wendell.
I learned more about the true Toni in five months than I thought I knew in 22 years. That said, I shared with my brother upon finding out about Sundiata’s hiring, that I didn’t think she would allow him to last three months. Boy was I wrong, he didn’t last two. If part of his removal had anything to with his past, then he should’ve been vetted more thoroughly prior to asking a very experienced more organized person to leave his post.
I would love to see Toni do well as Mayor, but because she’s black and a woman doesn’t exempt her administration from criticism. As I have in the past criticized the DeStefano administration when I thought he too focused solely on big government, I made it a habit never to attack him or anyone for that matter personally.
My focus is and has always been the inner-city. And thus far, I see this administration totally ignoring the most challenged with the exception of giving them a potential tax increase.
This certainly isn’t the administration that I thought I represented this past summer. I am deeply disappointed.!!!
posted by: wendy1 on February 28, 2014 9:06am
This is a tragedy. I am sick about it. Sundiata has a lot to offer and deserved better. I plan to meet with Jason Bartlett.
As to STATE St. I hope you discover the real meaning of poverty.
posted by: robn on February 28, 2014 9:43am
I think it would have been fair to give Mr. Keitazulu some flexibility even if it meant possible failure. His demeanor on the campaign trail seemed to be pretty lucid; maybe he was stubborn but so what; that might have produced some results.
posted by: Atticus Shrugged on February 28, 2014 9:45am
Heavy is the head that wears the crown. Mayor Harp’s administration made an informed judgment after seeing two months of job performance. There is nothing about being a political hire that exempts anyone from termination or being pushed out for poor performance. This is actually what we should demand of our leaders: that they hold their employees and the city accountable. While I respect Mr. Keitazulu, it appears he was unfit for the job. If asked who’s opinion on the matter I will trust more - the esteemed Mayor Harp or the “pushed out” employee, I’m going with Mayor Harp. To each their own.
With regard to Mr. Jenkins, Mayor Harp has consistently hired people whom she thought could do a job well. The first step to demonstrating an ability to perform well is exhibiting good judgment. It is not hard to say that supporting Kermit Carolina for Mayor while he could not run Hillhouse exuded bad judgment. With that said, there is a vetting process for being hired. If the people apply for the job, are qualified, and do not get it simply because they are a protected class under the law - they have redress. Otherwise, to the victor goes the spoils.
But you know that. You’re a wise, brash man, who’s been looking for his victor for some time. Perhaps some of those who are disgruntled should go and create, make, and take their own rather than being a crab in a barrel. One criticism may deserve another.
posted by: cedarhillresident! on February 28, 2014 10:07am
First Oh My Jason is in charge of the youth program? ***face palm***
Second “the Plumber” pissed me off during the elections when he turned and backed Harp….and now he at the least may have a better understanding of why half the city did not support her. He should of stood his ground and went to the New Haven independent with his case before giving up the post.
Third that was a fast turn around they are announcing a new direction with the program on Monday? This sound more like the work of Jason than Harp.
And a question…does Jason now live in New Haven?
posted by: Threefifths on February 28, 2014 10:27am
When you take the kings meat.You must do the kings biding.Wake up.You got used.If you Black folks think that this mayor will get Black folks jobs you to better wake up.The only thing you will be getting is this.