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Suspension Ordered Over Clerk’s Non-Car

by Paul Bass | Apr 1, 2014 8:29 am

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

Posted to: City Hall, Transportation

Thomas MacMillan Photo A public works manager was issued a suspension notice Monday for failing to follow an order to provide “a permanent vehicle” to the part-time city clerk—a directive both the mayor’s office and the clerk claim never existed.

Public works Deputy Director Alan Bush announced the three-day suspension, effective Tuesday, in a memo to a public works department equipment manager.

Bush wrote his memo a week after the Independent had inquired of the Harp administration about a report that it planned to give City/Town Clerk Michael Smart a full-time city vehicle. The administration denied the report, as did Smart. Smart’s position is part-time.

The public works memo Monday cites four “acts of insubordination” as the basis for the suspension of the manager:

“1) Not complying with the Mayor’s request to issue Mr. Smart a permanent vehicle via my direct order on or about 3/10/2014 in your office;

“2) Not complying/responding with the vehicle status update on Mr. Smart’s vehicle, I sent via email on 3/24/2014 in which you read at 7:30am 3/25/2014;

“3) Refusing to comply with the above previous request on 3/26/2014 for the 3rd time as a direct order outside the DPW Conference room after our safety meeting;

“4) Walking away from me, while I was inquiring about the business of this department on 3/26/2014 outside the DPW Conference room.”

Contacted Monday, Bush said the directive for the permanent vehicle came from “the mayor’s office.” He said he didn’t know who in the office issued the directive.

“We were told to get a car for Michael Smart,” said Bush’s boss, public works chief Doug Arndt.

Must have been a mix-up, according to mayoral Chief of Staff Tomas Reyes.

“I think there has been major confusion, which is being worked out at public works as we speak,” Reyes said late Monday afternoon.

“Michael never made a request for a permanent car,” Reyes said. “The mayor wants to make sure he has access to a city vehicle when he’s doing stuff related to his job.” Smart will have access to an existing car in the city fleet, not one permanently assigned to him, when he needs one to conduct clerk business, Reyes said.

Smart said the only time he asked for access to a car in the city fleet was one day earlier this month, when he needed to drive candidate petitions up to Hartford for the upcoming state representative special election.

“I don’t need a car. I live two blocks away” from the office, he said. “That’s unbelievable!”

Smart’s predecessor, Ron Smith, who held the job 10 years, said he never asked for access to the city fleet. “You don’t need a car at all. The job doesn’t call for a car,” Smith said.

“That was his decision, to use his own car,” Reyes said in reference to Smith’s remarks.

Click here for a list of who in City Hall does get a car to drive home each night. Update: The list came from the mayor’s office. At least one city official, development chief Matthew Nemerson, said the list is incorrect; he said he drives his own Prius, not a city Honda Hybrid.

Under Review

The suspended public works manager, meanwhile, may not end up getting suspended after all.

His union, AFSCME Local 3144, complained about the suspension Monday. Public works chief Arndt said he met with the union. He said he plans to make a decision by Tuesday about the suspension.

“We’re going to represent him to the fullest extent,” said union President Cherlyn Poindexter. She said the city “made a lot of errors” in this case.

“It’s a major misunderstanding that can be clarified,” Arndt said. “The issue was never, ‘Are we or are we not going to give a car to Michael Smart?’” Rather, the issue involved “internal communication” problems in his department. “It just happened to be Michael Smart’s car” that was the subject of miscommunication.

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posted by: anonymous on March 31, 2014  5:10pm

Sure seems like a lot of private car driving, when the CT Transit bus is often a perfectly fine way to get around town.

Where can the public obtain a mileage log, showing miles and business conducted, for all city employees?

posted by: Noteworthy on March 31, 2014  5:23pm

There is a growing body of evidence of serious flawed management expertise in the House of Harp. The glass slipper is off and broken and the carriage is back to being a pumpkin with mice for body guards.

posted by: Shaggybob on March 31, 2014  6:06pm

So how is your insubordinate for not processing an official request that was never actually requested??
“a directive both the mayor’s office and the clerk claim never existed.”
The Mayor can’t site insubordination for something she admittedly didn’t request nor did the Clerk. But you see that she’s trying anyway.

More circus antics about perks & appointments instead of actually running the city. See Harp is a good politician - working really hard at getting nothing accomplished.

Please clarify who “me” and “i” are in the memo.

posted by: HewNaven on March 31, 2014  6:39pm

I think there might be a lot of waste on city vehicles. How many of these employees really need to take the car home? Can’t they do what the rest of us manage to do? That is, can’t they get back and forth to work in New Haven without a car? It’s really not too difficult. Perhaps, Harp can offer her employees some public transportation tutorials. Or, maybe Elm City Cycling can show them how easy is to bike to work.

Can we get an average of how much the city is spending every week on gasoline based on the yearly expense? Or, do they lump all the auto expenses together on one line?

posted by: Westville voter on March 31, 2014  6:39pm

Regardless of who should or shouldn’t have a city car, it is clear that someone is not being truthful in this instance. In a functional city, the board of alders would hold the mayor’s office accountable and investigate this potentially expensive fiasco. That won’t happen here. This is New Haven. Our UNITE alders don’t believe in oversight or accountability. I wonder who else will get a car while I get a tax increase? What other lies are we being told?

posted by: Bill Saunders on March 31, 2014  7:21pm

Mike Smart lives close enough to walk to work.

If he needs to go anywhere else than his office, how about an ‘Office Carpool”?  Seems to have worked in less trying times…..

posted by: markcbm on March 31, 2014  7:36pm

Need a quick, efficient, readily-available, cost-effective ride to Hartford (or elsewhere) and back?  ZipCar seems like the perfect solution here. 

I see no reason why an institutional account for Mr. Smart couldn’t be created and used for these circumstances. It’s only $8.95 an hr and includes gas, insurance, maintenance.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on March 31, 2014  8:27pm

I want to know and the people of this city should know…WHO DID REQUEST THE CAR! Follow up is a must because all the on going crap that has been happening a few months in with this administration. WHO REQUESTED THE CAR?

posted by: writewrong on March 31, 2014  9:28pm

I think he should have a car….

posted by: Theodora on March 31, 2014  10:21pm

This is the gang that couldn’t think straight, much less shoot straight. Lots of people apparently think they have lots of power.

posted by: wendy1 on March 31, 2014  10:35pm

OPEN city budget hearing April 3 6 or 7 PM @ Career HS.  This is YOUR chance to compliment or be critical or make suggestions like M Stratton.  Only 2 more chances to be heard before June taxes!!!!!

posted by: Public-Inefficiencies on March 31, 2014  11:38pm

Really?  How many people who listed the car for Emergency reasons, ever used their car for an emergency?  I can’t understand what would constitute a “real” emergency for LCI, CAO, Park and Recs, etc… 

If the cars are truly needed for business purposes, we should be paying milage, instead of giving out free cars.  The avg cost of running/operating a car is about $9k per year, according to USA today, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/04/16/aaa-car-ownership-costs/2070397/

Eliminating 50-75% of the cars and ONLY keeping those which are absolutely necessary, would result in a savings of approximately $150-225k a year.

Harp team, stop spending and start saving!!!

posted by: cp06 on March 31, 2014  11:41pm

Nice to see that so many in this administration are spending time and energy on the things that really matter to New Haven.

posted by: robn on April 1, 2014  7:09am

An inappropriate order followed by an outrageous suspension followed by a cover up. Ridiculous.

posted by: myself on April 1, 2014  7:30am

Do we have civil servants, or royalty.  Someone seems to be sharpening their elbows to gain more room at the trough.

posted by: SSSS on April 1, 2014  7:50am

I understand the need for a city-fleet of trucks but why are cars purchased for use by white-collar workers?  Why not just reimburse them for mileage for use of their personal cars during legitimate city business?

posted by: writewrong on April 1, 2014  7:58am

Again, I think he should have a car.

Actually, he should have two cars. No three cars. And a driver. No…two drivers. And a bigger office. And two assistants. No three assistants. A City cell phone. No three City cell phones. Wait…six. Six phones. Three cars. Five assistants, two drivers and three offices. That’s it.

posted by: Shaggybob on April 1, 2014  9:12am

@ writewrong

You forgot about the meal allowances. lol

posted by: FacChec on April 1, 2014  12:46pm

“Smart said the only time he asked for access to a car in the city fleet was one day earlier this month, when he needed to drive candidate petitions up to Hartford for the upcoming state representative special election.”

In the good old days, just last year’s election cycle, the city clerk’s office faxed the candidate petitions up to Hartford for the upcoming elections.

I guess we should just forget about modern technology and revert back to horse and buggy.

You can’t make up &h!t like this.

posted by: robn on April 1, 2014  1:04pm

FC

Fax IS a technological horse and buggy…could Mr.Smart at least enter the 1990s and use email?

posted by: FacChec on April 1, 2014  2:06pm

@Robn:

I’m sure Mr. Smart is aware of modern communication, but the preferred order of receipt by the state SEEC is fax, or hand delivery. Email is unacceptable because it does do show/verify the actual signatures of the applicant/voter.

Because there are five candidates collecting signatures for the upcoming election to fill Gary Winfield’s house seat, hand delivery is not an efficient delivery method, in which conceivably he would be required to travel each day until this election is over, only to repeat the process in June.

posted by: Razzie on April 1, 2014  2:16pm

*Sigh* Where’s Sergio when you need him??!!

posted by: Perspective on April 1, 2014  4:06pm

@FacChec
“I’m sure Mr. Smart is aware of modern communication, but the preferred order of receipt by the state SEEC is fax, or hand delivery. Email is unacceptable because it does do show/verify the actual signatures of the applicant/voter”

Why not scan the forms and then email them?  This would reduce transportation costs and paper storage.

posted by: fredm on April 1, 2014  4:49pm

The practice of utilizing City vehicles for going back and forth to work seems wrong.  We all have to pay for our transportation to work, right?  I want to know who has a City vehicle to take home each day and do they pay the City for the mileage to go back and forth to work.  Only law enforcement or fire Chief should have this privelage and they should even pay for normal transportation to get back and forth to work and personal use.

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