State Investigating Limo Ride To Polls

A last-minute limo ride to the polls on Election Day has potentially landed a West Hills drug- and alcohol-treatment center in trouble with two state agencies.

The state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) temporarily suspended new admissions to the residential treatment center, Crossroads, Inc., as it pursues an investigation into “serious allegations” about the ride given to a dozen female patients there.

Upon the women’s return to Crossroads from the polls, it was reported that alcohol had been consumed on the ride.

Allan Appel Photo
Community activist Yul Watley
(pictured), who was transporting voters to the polls all that day on behalf of the mayoral campaign of Democrat Toni Harp, drove the women to the 200 Orange St. polling place in a stretch limousine he rented for the day. He called the allegations of alcohol use during the ride “bull.” He took the above video of his arrival at the polls, where he urged women to hurry to vote before the polls closed. (The video has been darkened to protect the women’s identities.)

The state Department of Health has also launched an investigation into a complaint about Crossroads, according to spokeswoman Diana Lejardi. She declined to offer more details.

DMHAS spokeswoman Mary Kate Mason issued the following statement:

“The Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (DMHAS) was made aware last week that individuals residing at Crossroads Inc. in New Haven, a DMHAS funded contractor, were provided transportation to a polling place during the November 5, 2013 municipal election. In order to investigate serious allegations related to this incident DMHAS suspended admissions to the facility. DMHAS has begun an investigation of the reported incident and admissions have been re-opened. As a result of the investigation DMHAS will meet with representatives from the Crossroads Board of Directors to discuss and make recommendation regarding the corrective actions the Board proposes to implement. DMHAS will also meet with the agency Executive Director to discuss the seriousness of these allegations and to review all agency efforts to follow policies that ensure client care is the top priority.

“As with all contracts, DMHAS will continue to actively monitor Crossroads of New Haven making sure that the agency provides the highest quality care and that state funded programs are meeting the needs of the Department’s clients.”

Mason said in a phone conversation Friday that DMHAS decided to reopen admissions once “we were satisfied that, going forward, client care will not be compromised.”

She said Crossroads has a $3.5 million contract with the agency this year. Much of that money flows through DMHAS from the state judicial system; residents often stay there as a court-ordered alternative to incarceration.

Crossroads board Chairwoman Genoveva Palmieri said Friday that her agency is taking the allegations seriously and conducting its own investigation into the incident.

She said Crossroads did arrange to have residents taken to the polls to vote.

“There was a serious problem in that a staff member did not go with them” on the ride, Palmieri said. Crossroads should have had someone in the car, she said. She said the board has not taken action against any individuals, pending the conclusion of its inquiry.

Yul Watley said he had transported two groups of residents from Crossroads to 200 Orange St. on election night. He went downtown because both groups needed to register in order to vote, he said. Connecticut this year launched Election Day Registration, allowing people to register and vote on the same day.

First he took a group of men to the polls in his stretch limo, Watley said. He said Alderman Doug Hausladen, who was at the polls, instructed the men they first had to go to City Hall to register before they could cast votes. They did. (Hausladen Friday confirmed the account. “There were about 12 guys,” he said.)

Then Watley returned about an hour later with the women. The 8 p.m. poll-closing hour was approaching. Watley hurried them into the polls to vote. Watley said he was confused; he didn’t realize they had to go register first in City Hall.

The women showed up at the polls to learn they couldn’t cast votes. Then the hour of 8 struck. They never got to vote. Watley drove them back to Crossroads.

That was disappointment enough for Watley.

Then he was approached on a subsequent day to explain why women returned allegedly smelling of alcohol and reporting that they’d been drinking beer in the limo, Watley said. He said he told a board member as well as the agency’s director that he knew of no such alcohol consumption.

“I have no idea where that came from. I heard that one girl said that there was beer in the car or something when the girls got out. One girl had a beer, whatever. And I spoke with them and I told them, ‘I have no idea where it came from or anything.’ We had sodas in the back for the voters,” Watley said Friday.

“When I got them all out the car and everything, I didn’t smell anything.

“If it did happen, I didn’t have any control over it. I sincerely doubt that it happened. ...

“This is total bull. We’re going to pick up and have them in the back drinking? Especially these people coming from Crossroads? We didn’t provide any beer.”

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posted by: stopthemadness on November 15, 2013  5:59pm

shouldn’t someone (the press maybe, the state maybe) ask Ms Harp about this growing list of issues?  Putting aside for the moment past corruption issues, we have illegal ballot handling, theft of the mailing list from a religious organization, and providing alcoholics with booze while transporting them to the polls….so far.

A list this long has to be addressed.  Blaming it on relatives or Justin Elicker won’t work forever.  Are the people who decided to take these actions going to be the people making decisions about how to run the city?

posted by: Silence DoNoGood on November 15, 2013  6:57pm

So, Sen. Harp and her campaign have caused the temporary shutdown of a treatment facility, likely have cost people their jobs, and put a place that helps treat people with drug and alcohol addictions in danger of losing their funding and status with the state. This situation demands full accountability.

posted by: Facefirst61 on November 15, 2013  8:56pm

This is not so much a Toni Harp issue as it is Crossroads. This is just one incident over the course of a year and then some where Crossroads has placed both their staff and their clients in compromising positions. Clearly there needs to be changes from the top down. How many chances should DMHAS give Crossroads?

posted by: I watch new haven on November 16, 2013  1:26am

I know Mr. Watley, and I can say that something just dose not sit well with this story.  It would be so beyond me to think that he would provide beer to recovering indeveduals.  Someone better get their house in order, and never mind Toni!!!

posted by: obi on November 16, 2013  7:31am

Yul states this is “bull”.......“women returned allegedly smelling of alcohol.”  The staff had noting to gain in being dishonest.  After all they erred in not sending a staff person with clients. Apparently DMHAS beleived it as they suspended new admissions and are still investigating.

posted by: robn on November 16, 2013  7:56am

I thought that just the limo itself smacked of vote buying; but alcohol? For people in rehab? SERIOUSLY?!?

posted by: JustAnotherTaxPayer on November 16, 2013  8:14am

Although there are many alarming words in the article, it is difficult to determine why. Are the people residing there incarcerated? Is it as a result of sentencing for commission of crimes in Connecticut?

Is this center, or any facility used for incarceration, alcohol/drug rehabilitation, or long term medical treatment, considered a primary address? Or were the people in this article all from New Haven originally?

Finally, there was a part of the election laws that suspend a person’s right to vote if they have been convicted of committing a felony. And this is directed to anyone who registers to vote on election day, how does the registrar of voters verify that those that register are not doing so illegally as convicted felons? (At this time all one has to do is check off a box on the registration form, stating that you are a non-felon; there is no criminal record check conducted to verify this.)

Just a few questions that the article did not address.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on November 16, 2013  9:38pm

FuDge the issues….New Haven has gone Jerry Springer style in its elections.

The DTC has already put the money aside for Malloys election

posted by: Mike Slattery on November 17, 2013  10:33am

The alleged situation is truly disappointing, but not even knowing the man I seriously doubt he would furnish alcohol to any voter, let alone those in recovery.  Common sense says you don’t video document the experience if you plan any shenanigans.

The story serves to remind me that aggressive GOTV isn’t a one-size-fits all proposition.    The persons who engage in more challenging GOTV situations need prep and coordination with responsible parties.  For this run, a stretch limo is a fun idea but could be an invitation for less serious people to bring and possibly leave a beer behind.  A stretch would be the last vehicle I’d bring to a recovery half-way house.  The spot would have been better served by another crew. 

But anytime GOTV extends to anyone beyond the usual doorbell routine, including giving rides - I know I could find myself in over my head.

So I’m just hoping for the best for all involved.

posted by: Bill Saunders on November 17, 2013  6:01pm

WOW,  that video is liking watching a ‘coach’ at a Political Pop Warner Football practice….

posted by: jenand on November 18, 2013  7:09pm

I don’t know what hapened here, but it definitely rhymes with dusterduck. And you can’t bring those Harp posters near the polls on election day. Any dodo should know that

posted by: HewNaven on November 18, 2013  11:18pm

As I get older, I am starting to think that voting really isn’t for everyone. Allegations of alcohol consumption aside, if you have to entice someone with a limo - or anything else - just to get them out of the house and into the polls, its probably going too far. I’m all for voter education and stronger numbers at the polls, but you shouldn’t have to drag people there. If they don’t already know by election day, let ‘em stay home. If they legitimately need a ride, do it in a respectable manner, no bells and whistles (or limos).

posted by: Art Vandelay on November 18, 2013  11:25pm

This just makes me SICK to my stomach.  I know politics in Connecticut is CORRUPT, but this takes the cake.  New Haven, you got the mayor you deserve.

posted by: Art Vandelay on November 20, 2013  9:13am

This is politics at its worst.  I’m surprised (not really) that the 4 major TV networks in Connecticut have not picked this story up.  I haven’t seen anything in the e-editions of the Hartford Courant or New Haven Register. The story deserves time on the CBS, ABC or NBC evening news.
I’m also surprised Bill O’Reilly, Megan Kelly, or Sean Hannity have not mentioned this.

I’m sure if a Republican pulled something like this, Ed Schultz, Al Sharpton & Rachel Maddow would be all over it.  A total double standard.

posted by: Art Vandelay on November 20, 2013  9:55pm

I wonder how far the state will investigate this matter.  My guess is not very far. I hope the New Haven Independent follows up on this story closely.  No other news outlet in Connecticut has.  It deserves coverage.

posted by: Stan Muzyk on November 22, 2013  3:11pm

With two campaign complaints still pending against Gov. Dannel Malloy, I don’t envision serious pressing for campaign complaints against Toni Harp as Malloy endorsed her for office.  It goes with the one-party-control-benefits of state politics.