After disappearing from public view for months, Fair Haven Alderman Gabe Santiago ended up with a 32 percent attendance rate at City Hall for the year. Meanwhile, nine of his colleagues on the Board of Aldermen posted perfect records.
Those facts emerge from an examination of aldermanic attendance records at the close of the first year of the current board’s two-year term.
Records show Santiago (pictured) has been an alderman in name only for most of 2012. He’s missed more than two-thirds of meetings of the full Board of Aldermen and nearly three-quarters of his assigned committee meetings. He hasn’t been seen in City Hall since July. He has not been responding to questions from the public or offering any indication if, or when, he will resign his 14th Ward seat in Fair Haven.
Santiago’s truancy makes him an exception among his colleagues on the Board of Alderman, most of whom showed up for work practically all the time.
The majority of the city’s 30 aldermen have perfect or near-perfect attendance records for meetings of the full board in 2012. Santiago has made it to only seven of the year’s 22 meetings, and none since July.
Santiago did not respond to repeated calls for comment for this story. His absenteeism has been a problem since at least July 2, the last time he showed up for a board meeting.
Tatiana Davila, who lives on Atwater Street, has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Santiago, should he step down.
Head Of The Class
Click here to download a spreadsheet detailing aldermanic attendance at full board meetings in 2012.
Nine aldermen posted perfect full-board attendance records for the year: Frank Douglass, Andrea Jackson-Brooks, Jorge Perez, Doug Hausladen, Michael Smart, Jessica Holmes, Justin Elicker, Barbara Constantinople, and Al Paolillo.
Ten more missed only one meeting. Everyone else had at least 82 percent attendance, with the exception of Aldermen Santiago, Sergio Rodriguez (55 percent) and Alfreda Edwards (59 percent).
Rodriguez was laid up by two major surgeries this year: a full knee replacement and open heart surgery. Edwards has been dealing with a family illness. Rodriguez and Edwards have missed more than half their committee meetings.
Board President Pro Tempore Jackie James of the Hill made it to all but four full-board meetings despite health problems and surgery. She said she was supposed to be on complete bed-rest between May and September, and had to miss three meetings during that period.
At committee meetings, four aldermen have had perfect attendance: Jorge Perez, Michael Smart, Justin Elicker (who is on three committees), and Migdalia Castro. Eight others have attendance rates above 90 percent. Click here to see committee meeting attendance rates for all 30 aldermen.
Overall, aldermanic attendance improved slightly in 2012 compared to 2010, the first year of the term served by the previous Board of Aldermen. Click here to download a spreadsheet of attendance rates from 2010 and the first part of 2011.
It’s been a particularly good year for attendance, said board President Perez. “There’s a lot of new people who are eager to participate and be a part of the process.”
Bottom Of The Barrel
Alderman Santiago, a first-termer, is apparently not a part of that group. He’s made it to only seven of 22 full-board meetings, and to only of the four meetings held by the two committees of which he’s a member. Click here to see committee assignments.
Rafael Ramos, Democratic committee co-chair in Santiago’s ward, said people in the neighborhood are disappointed and frustrated by their lack of representation.
He said he hasn’t been able to reach Santiago to see why he’s not showing up.
“It’s a mystery. I don’t know,” Ramos said. “Everyone’s confused. We thought Gabe was going to be in for the long haul. It seems like in the first three months he decided he didn’t want to do it. Everyone’s confused and frustrated.”
Ramos said neighbors have a number of issues they would like to work on—like traffic-calming and the development of River Street—but no one to advocate for them.
“We have no representation right now,” he said. “Gabe never happened.”
Ramos said others in the neighborhood are interested in serving as alderman in Santiago’s place if he doesn’t want his seat. But no one can take the role until he steps down.
Or unless he’s removed. Several city laws exist which could be used to remove a sitting aldermen; they’ve never been tested for that purpose.
Section 190 of the city charter empowers the mayor to remove an “officer of the city” if he is “unfaithful to the duties of his office.” That process involves a hearing in which the officer would have a chance to make his case.
Section 39 of the charter empowers the Board of Aldermen to “expel a member for due cause” by a three-fourths majority vote, or 23 aldermen. “Due cause” is not defined.
Section 211 of the charter and Section 12 5/8-8 of the Code of Ordinances state that an alderman may be removed from office for a breach of the code of ethics. Absenteeism is not mentioned in the code of ethics, but the list can be amended by the Board of Aldermen.
While these laws may allow the mayor or aldermen to remove Santiago from office, Board of Aldermen President Jorge Perez said he doesn’t think that will be necessary.
“I would not be surprised if sometime in the beginning of January he stepped down,” Perez said.
But what if he doesn’t step down? If he hasn’t yet, what would make him resign in early 2012? It’s absurd that an elected alderman can skip out on his duties and not be forced out of office—sure we can do better!
posted by: S Brown on January 2, 2013 5:15pm
It doesn’t matter what his personal reasons are. If he cannot or will not serve he should resign. He can’t be bothered to write a one sentence letter of resignation?
Someone with so little regard for the responsibility he took on as an elected official, is someone we are probably better off without. But I do hope someone can reach him and have him do the right thing here.
posted by: SaveOurCity on January 2, 2013 5:24pm
does anyone know if Santiago is one of the new ‘union’ reps?
posted by: accountability on January 2, 2013 5:45pm
I’ve always thought these attendance stories were sort of dumb. You can show up to all the meetings and not do anything useful either as a legislator or in constituent service.
That said, it’s much better for people to show up than not, and this Board looks like it’s working hard. With the obvious exception of Santiago who seems for whatever reason to have decided he doesn’t like the job, everyone’s showing up more than 80% of the time except two people dealing with significant personal issues (can’t blame someone who has two surgeries for missing some meetings).
Attendance is up overall. This is great particularly given some of the personal and health issues a number of the Board members faced last year.
posted by: anonymous on January 2, 2013 7:29pm
New Haven is not that big. And this is a serious problem.
Can’t a group of three or four neighbors just camp out in front of his house, or place of work, and try to get an answer?
posted by: Edward_H on January 3, 2013 12:32am
The milk carton photo is hilarious. Good job!
posted by: HhE on January 3, 2013 9:54am
Maybe three middle school aged kids could find him—with a little help from Rockapella.
posted by: FrontStreet on January 3, 2013 10:11am
I need a rep on the board of alders. Please replace asap.
posted by: robn on January 3, 2013 10:20am
The milk carton graphic is tough love….not sure if I would have gone there. Its nice of the BOA to extend some cordiality to Mr. Santiago, but I would be really unhappy if I was unrepresented for even another week. The BOA should immediately schedule a re-election and bounce the absentee alderman.
posted by: CatWoman on January 3, 2013 11:32am
Very disappointed in Gabe. Resign and give the 14th Ward the opportunity to be represented.
posted by: Fairhavener on January 3, 2013 12:33pm
The Union got this guy in through and through—put his campaign together for him, knocked on doors for and with him. They were desperate to ram someone in at all costs—no matter what his professional background or abilities.
Will they now do the right thing and help get their own guy out?
posted by: Morgan Barth on January 3, 2013 12:59pm
Congratulations to all of the Board Members who had perfect and near-perfect attendance. I was proud to see my alder—Jessica Holmes—on that list. While important, public service like this can at times be very tedious and it’s basically volunteer work given the nominal pay/stipend.
As far as Santiago goes, I hope that the Board determines that this is due cause for removal so that Fair Haven can get a new rep as soon as possible.
It’s hard to imagine this happening on a smaller Board in which each member has more authority and would be missed more. New Haven would be better, more democratically and more efficiently governed with a Board of 8 - 15 like most other cities. Bigger districts would still be very small compared to bigger cities—but real contested elections with more than 500 votes at stake would strengthen representation.
posted by: FromTheHill on January 3, 2013 1:13pm
No one can find him or sees him? He may not even live in the ward he supposed to represent. He may have left the city or state. The BOA needs to step up and remove him.
posted by: anonymous on January 3, 2013 1:46pm
I agree with Morgan. It would be great to see a much smaller Board.
Currently, the Board is so large that trying to craft citywide policies that would benefit the community as a whole is practically impossible, unless the Mayor does it.
As a result, we are left to focus on pet programs like the “job pipeline (to the suburbs)”, driven by influential private interest groups like CCNE, that will have minimal to no impact on the City’s unemployment rate.
I’m all for the Board claiming small victories, even if they aren’t responsible for them, but it would be great to have a system that promoted actual change.
posted by: Noteworthy on January 3, 2013 2:31pm
Love the graphic.
posted by: accountability on January 3, 2013 3:02pm
Smaller board. Great idea. Then we can have more elections for positions where voters don’t personally know the candidates.
Because the world needs so many more professional politicians.
And so many more elections where big money is more important than personal contact.
A dire shortage of both right now.
posted by: Long Time NH Resident on January 3, 2013 6:14pm
There has got to be something in the bylaws/rules to allow the BOA to remove or replace him. There must be an alternate way of reappointing an Alder-person in instances of death, missing or relocated persons. Send a Marshal to serve him notice of intent of the BOA and get rid of him. What if other elected officials decided to “just not show up and participate any longer”.
If not, then MAKE A RULE to prevent future elected officials from being derelicts of duty.
posted by: Anderson Scooper on January 4, 2013 12:05am
Obviously there is some small degree of psychopathology here, and I wish the NHI and everyone else would lighten up in dealing with a young man who is clearly not coping altogether well. (the right thing would be to resign, without the need for explanation, but Gabe must not be seeing the forest for the trees.)
My hunch is Gabe has been overwhelmed by doubts about his ability to please and perform up to the expectations of people who invested heavily in his political office. Perhaps the most logical explanation for Santiago’s disappearance is that he is buried underneath the stress of it all?
If other people are reading this please everyone realize that despite the hoopla, none of this is that big of a deal. It’s certainly something Gabe will someday have to look backward and chuckle about, no doubt. But don’t we all make mistakes?. Perhaps Gabe just didn’t want to be an alderman, or maybe something else is going on in his life that has him overwhelmed?
Hopefully Santiago has someone (relative, older friend, old school teacher, pastor etc.), to whom he will reach out to for advice? I doubt anyone with true understanding would be unsympathetic to what he must be going through, seemingly too embarrassed to resign, but not realizing this situation is a) quickly resolvable but b) only made worse by time.
posted by: FromTheHill on January 4, 2013 9:18am
He took an oath to represent the New Haven residents in his ward. What ever his problems are he needs to be a man and do the right thing.
posted by: RCguy on January 4, 2013 10:47am
Scooper hit nail on the head. But it doesn’t get worse with time, procrastinating a resignation. The reality is that New Haven is a joke. The business of money making has taken over the will to serve the good of all the people. Police, drunk with power & Tow truck drivers, intoxicated with greed & City Departments like TT&P and PW all angling for more money, will snatch your property at the drop of a hat. The youngest most progressive leaders in the city want you to pay as much as possible to drive and park. They want cars removed from the city. The Alderman has treated his office with the respect it deserves: None. I applaud Gabriel Santiago! I wish him well. I wish more elected officials would do what he has done.
posted by: Long Time NH Resident on January 4, 2013 11:19am
As much as your point may be valid and I sympathize with emotional stress…
He took an elected position within our local Government to represent the citizens & taxpayers in his district. He should “man up” and do the right thing and resign or be removed. Don’t jump in the pool if you can’t swim or get out when you realize you can’t.
He took on a responsibility and he should act like an adult and step down if its too much and let some one else take point. Get your head out of the sand and face the consequences.
We should just be glad he didn’t get elected to a higher position of power.
Democracy does not work without representation.
posted by: Morris Cove New on January 4, 2013 11:32am
We all knew that this was going to happen. Fair Haven voted for the wrong person. Stephanie should of been voted back in everyone thinks the grass is greener on the other side. He never was around or answered his phone. He needs to do the right thing and step down asap.
posted by: S Brown on January 4, 2013 11:54am
Stephanie Bauer was NOT better. Sure, she showed up at meetings. Never said a word, never spoke up, never offered any ideas, never returned constituent calls or emails. The only time I ever heard her do anything was when she tried to take credit for something that her predecessor did (Grand Ave streetscape improvements). Apparently it’s too much to ask for our neighborhood to have a representative that cares enough to actually participate in the process. We haven’t had someone like that since Erin Sturgis Pascale gave up the seat.
The Board absolutely should have fewer members. Unfortunately, Perez & your alder, Holmes, disagree, and the Charter Revision committee had only people who aren’t interested in reducing the BoA appointed to it.