Thursday, October 27, 2011


Sometimes I still marvel at the wonders of the internet. The Republican-American supplemented their latest article about the Jarjura-Davino unemployment scandal in today's paper by putting the documents relating to the case online. Anyone can read them and come to their own conclusions.

Here's my understanding of the basic chronology of the case (with links to corresponding documents):

In April 2010, the Waterbury Police began investigating Joseph Davino after learning that he was using city workers on city time to do work for his vending machine business and to work on his home.

About two weeks later, at the end of April, Davino submitted his resignation letter, citing his father's health as the primary reason and his own health as a secondary reason. He submitted the resignation letter to Mayor Jarjura, not to Leo Frank at WDC. Davino was employed at WDC and paid with money given to WDC by the City.

Two weeks after that, on May 13, Davino was arrested. He was charged with second degree larceny and defrauding the city of Waterbury.

At some point after submitting his resignation letter, Davino applied for unemployment benefits. He was denied unemployment on August 10, 2010 on the grounds that he "voluntarily left suitable work without good cause attributable to the employer." His employer was determined to be WDC.

On October 13, 2010, Mayor Jarjura sent a letter to the Appeals Division stating that "the job in question was being eliminated. I so advised Mr. Davino and the position was in fact eliminated in the new budget."

Bear in mind that the new budget was submitted in June, after Davino resigned and was arrested.

Davino's unemployment appeal hearing was held on October 14, 2010. The day before, on October 13, Davino appeared before Judge Richard Damiani and was granted an accelerated rehabilitation program as "punishment" for his felony offense resulting from his criminal job performance. The felony charge was not erased from his record until a year later, after he completed his probation.

During his appeal hearing, it was determined that his job was going to be eliminated (based on Jarjura's letter) and that the "employer maintained no issues regarding the claimant's job performance." The document does not specify who that employer was. Was that employer Jarjura? Whoever it was, how can he justify stating that there were no issues with Davino's job performance? His job performance was so terrible, he was arrested and charged with a felony.

Because Jarjura submitted that letter, and because the Appeals Division was not informed of Davino's criminal job performance, he was granted unemployment benefits of just over $500 a week. Thanks to the recession, Davino will have mostly likely qualified for 99 weeks of unemployment, a total of about $50,000.

At last night's Board of Aldermen hearing, city attorney Craig Sullivan insisted at great length that the Board of Aldermen have no legal right to discuss the documents now available online. He based this on the ground that Davino had been an employee of WDC, not of the City of Waterbury. Which, in my mind, raises a big question, or maybe draws attention to a contradiction. If the Mayor of Waterbury had the authority to intervene on Davino's behalf to help him get unemployment, why doesn't the Board of Aldermen have the authority to decide if that intervention was appropriate?

I find it very disturbing that the city's lawyer is trying to prevent the Board of Aldermen from investigating possible cronyism on the part of the Mayor.  If the Board of Aldermen can't look into possible political corruption on the part of the Mayor, who can?

Another question--where is Larry DePillo in all this? He's being very quiet for a watchdog always on the lookout for corruption and waste.

It may not matter in the end. Democrat candidate for Aldermen Greg Hadley alerted the Department of Labor to the situation last week after the Republican-American published the story about Jarjura helping Davino get his unemployment. If the Department of Labor looks into this and finds a problem, well, they are the ultimate authority in this situation, and they certainly can't be accused of being politically motivated.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Not a Whisper...

Maybe it's more of a shout. Ever since announcing his bid to become the first Republican to be elected Mayor of Waterbury since Giordano, Mike Jarjura has repeatedly stated that there has not been "a whisper of impropriety" about his administration. I guess he has selective memory.

Remember how he gave Ken Skov a sweetheart pension deal in which Skov earned 2 years of benefits for every 1 year he worked? Turns out that was nothing compared to what he did for his friend Joe Davino (who is his near-constant companion on the campaign trail).

After Davino lost his job at the Waterbury Housing Authority, Jarjura put him in charge of cleaning up blight in Waterbury. Davino chose to resign from that job shortly before he was arrested for defrauding the city of Waterbury and committing second degree larceny. He was found using city workers on city time for his own personal activities on more than 80 occasions. He never had to make restitution to the city, and he never had to serve any time--because Jarjura spoke before the judge and asked for leniency. If that's not improper, I don't know what is.

Today the other shoe dropped. The Republican-American published a stunning article. Jarjura actually admitted to reporter Penny Overton that he personally made sure that Davino would be able to collect unemployment benefits, even though Davino chose to resign from his job. You don't qualify for unemployment if you quit. No wonder Jarjura has refused to replace him, even though the city is drowning in blight, and we desperately need someone to take charge and get it under control. Since Davino quit his job, Jarjura has been decreasing the size of the department. I haven't understood that, but I get it now. Jarjura lied to the Department of Labor. The only way he could cover up the lie was to start eliminating positions in the blight department.

Ironically, Jarjura's latest print advertisement boldly declares that "It Was Corruption That Raised Your Taxes." Okay, let's talk corruption. The Mayor gave his friend a city job. When the Mayor found out his friend stole from the city, he protected him as much as he could, and defended him before the judge. Meanwhile, the Mayor lied to the State Department of Labor to guarantee that his friend could claim unemployment benefits. To cover up the lie, the Mayor eliminated his friend's job from the city budget. Never mind that it's a vital job for the health of the city. The Mayor decided that covering up his lie and shielding his friend from justice was more important. He abused his power as Mayor to aid a criminal.

Jarjura wants to talk about corruption. Okay, let's talk. This is a clear case of cronyism, which is political corruption. Davino stole from the taxpayers while he had the blight job, now he's stealing from the taxpayers even though he quit the job. And Jarjura made it all happen.

This is the same Mayor who spent his first four or five years in office making money off a whorehouse later connected to human trafficking. The same Mayor who is currently making money bringing economic development to Middlebury, not Waterbury. If he or his friends can profit, he doesn't care about laws or the taxpayers he is supposed to represent. It's no wonder he was willing to defend someone who stole from the city and then was willing to lie to the state and cover up the lie by eliminating a vital position so that same criminal could collect unemployment.

Do we really want two more years of this?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Why I Support O'Leary for Mayor

Before this summer, I did not know Neil O’Leary very well. I had seen him at downtown events a few times when he was Police Chief, and I had read about him in the newspaper. When NBC’s Dateline aired their special about Donna Palomba, I watched and was deeply moved by what O’Leary said. I could tell he genuinely cared about helping and about doing the right thing. He was compassionate but also determined to pursue the case. He did the right thing for no reason other than it was the right thing to do.

Neil O'Leary and Donna Palomba, 2011

I went to the launch of his campaign in February and was impressed first by the incredibly large number of people in attendance and second by his speech. I remained on the fence, because some of my specific concerns weren’t yet addressed. In particular, I wondered if he had a clear vision for the city’s future, if he cared about helping improve the quality of life in all of the city’s neighborhoods.

The turning point for me came this spring. After attending the WOW/Scovill Homes Community meeting in May, O’Leary contacted me for a sort of walking meeting. I took him on a tour of the problems at the Scovill Homes, and he took me on a tour of the PAL. By the end of the tours, I was an O’Leary supporter. Here’s why:

• When we walked through the Scovill Homes area, he didn’t just say “wow, that’s terrible, something should be done.” He came up with three or four possible solutions that could be implemented swiftly, efficiently and effectively.

• He listened to my ideas about what to do, and he treated my ideas with as much respect as his own.

• He showed genuine concern and respect for the people who live in my neighborhood, and sincerely expressed the belief that no child should have to grow up surrounded by blight and decay.

Neil being interviewed for Albanian tv RTV 21.

• PAL. This is one of the most overlooked, underappreciated programs in the city. I wish everyone could take a tour of the facilities and see what’s going on there.
- Using existing buildings, the PAL center has a strong educational component. It’s not a Police Athletic League, it’s a Police Activities League, and there’s a reason for that. They do way more than just sports.
- They are turning a blighted neighborhood and brownfield into a clean neighborhood and park.
- The neighborhood used to be one of the highest crime areas in the city, now it’s a safe place for children.

Aerial view and map of PAL neighborhood.

- Since the PAL program started, juvenile crime has dropped more than 50% in Waterbury.
- Instead of seeing police officers as enemies, the children in the program see them as mentors, which they are.
- The program helps kids who need help the most. 80% of the PAL members come from low income households—low income meaning less than $12,000 per year for many of these households. I can’t even imagine trying to raise a family in Waterbury with $12,000 a year. There are so many opportunities that children growing up in poverty simply don’t have. Even something as basic as a computer—or three meals a day. Thanks to PAL, these kids are getting those opportunities. “Today’s Youth, Tomorrow’s Leaders” is PAL’s motto.
- PAL has basically created a small campus similar to those of private schools. Talk about amazing—thousands of kids growing up in poverty are being given an advantage that will help them succeed in life and break the cycle of poverty.

What Neil has been able to accomplish at PAL is something I would like to see happen everywhere in Waterbury. He took something that was a mess and turned it into a success.

Neil and PAL members helping seniors take care of their yards.

Neil O’Leary is a good person. He genuinely cares about other people, he wants to help people in need, and he has already proven himself to be successful in that.

Over the past few months, since joining the campaign team, I have been increasingly impressed with Neil’s leadership skills, determination and vision for the city of Waterbury. Ten years is a long time to be stuck with one Mayor—we have begun to stagnate. It is time for new leadership, for fresh eyes, for renewed vigor. Neil O’Leary has a remarkable ability to bring people together, to motivate them, to inspire them, and to keep them working well as a team. He makes sure everyone knows their efforts are appreciated. He knows how to find solutions to problems, how to think outside the box, how to run a successful business. He has done great things as a police officer, as a police chief and as a private citizen. As Mayor, he will do great things for Waterbury.

Neil with Aldermanic candidates Greg Hadley and Anne Phelan,
CT Speaker of the House Chris Donovan and Congressman Chris Murphy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Blight Revisited

If you haven't figured it out by now, I am greatly frustrated by the blight that plagues our city. We're drowning in blight, and the city seems incapable of solving the problem.

This isn't a new problem. Go back to the Waterbury Observer from 1997 and you'll see a full-page advertisement with a photo of a blighted building being demolished--along with Phil Giordano's campaign slogans "Promises Made, Promises Kept" and "Leadership You Can Trust," and the boast that "70 houses have come down under the Giordano Administration."

(On a side note, from a purely political campaign perspective, it's interesting the way the word "trust" gets used. Giordano's ad put heavy emphasis on his being a "trusted leader." Today's Rep-Am included a letter written by a Jarjura supporter putting heavy emphasis on Jarjura being a Mayor he can trust.)

Jarjura's track record in dealing with the blight problem is miserable.

In 2004 Jarjura gave his good friend Joe Davino one of the most important jobs in the city, putting him in charge of cleaning up blight in Waterbury (after Davino abruptly lost his job with the Waterbury Housing Authority). The situation was as "loosey-goosey" (to use Jarjura's own words) as it gets. In fact, Jarjura himself described Davino's working arrangement as "loose" (Rep-Am, May 6, 2010). When the investigation was complete, it was proved that Davino was guilty of defrauding the city of Waterbury and committing second-degree larceny. Specifically, instead of having his crew work on cleaning up blight in the city, he had them stock his private vending machines and work on his house. Mayor Jarjura spoke on his behalf and asked the judge to be lenient.

In that same article, Jarjura apparently "thought nothing of giving him permission to take time off during the week when things were slow" -- seriously??? Slow??? In a city that is drowning in blight, when can there possibly be slow times?

So there you have Jarjura's "leadership" in dealing with blight for 6 of his years as Mayor. He put one of his closest friends in charge of the problem, not because he was qualified but because he was an old friend, and thought it was perfectly okay for him to be "loose" about the job.

After the Davino scandal wrapped up, Jarjura decided to reduce funding for fighting blight from the city budget. His proposed city budget, announced in March 2011, would have reduced the blight team from 4 full time and 4 seasonal workers to just the 4 full time workers (the previous year there were 8 seasonal workers--see Rep-Am, March 31, 2011).

Most recently, Jarjura decided to bond $1 million for tearing down blighted buildings. You know what happens when you tear down blighted buildings? You get blighted empty lots.

Here is an example of what happens. This is the corner of Walnut and Wood Streets. Several buildings were torn down by the city, and then the city walked away. The lot is full of weeds and litter, and the sidewalk is full of weeds and litter.

Here's a different section of sidewalk on Wood Street. Mayor Jarjura walked up Wood Street this summer--he walked in the street because the sidewalks are unusable. Nothing has happened to fix the problem, even though he has now seen it with his own eyes. Tell me again about how there were "slow" weeks for Joe Davino and his blight crew, and I will gladly show you again that there is more than enough blight to keep a crew of 20 working nonstop.

Here's another example I've blogged about before: this building on the corner of Walnut and Wood Street is blighted, there's a giant hole in the sidewalk large enough for a person to fall down, and the intersection is a school bus stop. Mayor Jarjura stood in front of this building this summer and declared that it needs to come down. It's still standing.

Here's a "good" one. This building partially collapsed in January. Now it is October, and the mess is still making the sidewalk unusable.

What possible excuse is there for ignoring this?

There's another aspect to blight in Waterbury. The preceding blight is largely due to abandoned property. But there are also blighted properties whose owners are active in Waterbury and are not being held accountable for maintaining their buildings.

The Rep-Am recently published a story about the former Bristol Company factory, which is owned by Norman Drubner and is severely blighted. Drubner is also at least partly responsible for some of the most blighted eyesores in downtown Waterbury. He may not own them, but his name is the one prominently featured on them.

Let's start with South Main Street. Here's a building viewed by thousands of people going to shows at the Palace Theater. It's dragging down the entire block.

At street level, it's hideous. It reminds me of some of the scarier-looking parts of Bridgeport.

Over on the Bank Street side, things are slightly better, but not great.

The building is crumbling apart.

Graffiti on the front door. Who would want to buy or lease something that looks like this?

And then there's the former Jimmie's Restaurant, on the corner opposite City Hall. Jarjura must see this every day that he goes to work for the city. How can he stand to look at it every day?

Drubner may not own this building, but surely he could do something to make the restaurant entrance more appealing. If it weren't for the efforts of Main Street Waterbury, it would look even worse.

Where is Mayor Jarjura's leadership on blight? Norman Drubner has allowed blighted buildings to remain blighted. Jarjura wants the city to give Drubner nearly $2 million for his open space property. How about getting Drubner to commit to using the money to fix up blighted buildings? Better yet, how about requiring that Drubner fix up any blighted building he owns before the city gives him any money.

UPDATE 10/12: Sometimes I write blog posts because I'm upset about something. This was definitely one of those posts. I've seen the same blight day after day for years. It's very frustrating. In fairness, maybe the building owners can't afford to do any repairs. Maybe Drubner isn't involved enough to help out. That's when I would expect to see leadership from the Mayor. There are a lot of different ways in which a city can help in these situations. Jarjura has shown little interest. Imagine if Jarjura had made the renovation of blighted downtown buildings a top priority. For that matter, imagine if, instead of developing property in Middlebury, he and his partners had chosen to invest in rehabbing our historic downtown buildings? Other cities have made it happen: why not Waterbury?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Voter F.A.Q.

Here are some answers to questions I've had in the past, and to questions I know other people have had. Let me know if you have questions I've missed, and I will try to find the answers.

Am I eligible to vote?
To be eligible to vote in Waterbury, you must be:
• A U.S. citizen
• A resident of Waterbury
• At least 18 years old by Election Day (November 8, 2011)
• Completed with confinement and parole if previously convicted of a felony and have had your voting rights restored.

How do I register to vote?
You must complete and return the State of Connecticut Voter Registration Form, which can be downloaded from the Waterbury Registrar’s webpage.

What is the deadline for registering to vote?
This year (2011), you have until October 25 to register by mail. You have until November 1 to register in person at the office of the Registrar of Voters.

Who is the Registrar of Voters?
Waterbury has two Registrars. Patricia Mulhall is the Democratic Registrar. Timothy DeCarlo is the Republican Registrar. Their office can be reached at (203) 574-6751.

The Registrars of Voters are responsible for conducting elections, primaries and special elections and maintaining accurate voter records. Other activities include redistricting, canvassing and registering voters, having special voting sessions and conducting registration sessions at high schools.

Where do I go to vote?
Your polling location (where you vote) is assigned based on your home address which you gave when you registered. If you have moved, but haven’t updated your information with the Registrar of Voters, your polling location will be based on your address when you registered.

You can look up your voting location online at

When do I vote?
Elections are held on the second Tuesday in November. This year (2011), Election Day is November 8. The polls open at 6 a.m. and stay open until 8 p.m.

What do I bring with me when I vote?
You will need to bring some form of identification. Acceptable forms of ID at the polling place are:
• Driver’s license or other current and valid photo ID showing your name and address
• Any other preprinted form of identification that shows your name and address, such as a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document that shows your name and address.

Can I use an absentee ballot?
You may vote by absentee ballot if you are ill; physically disabled; serving in the military; those who will be out of town on election day; those providing service as poll worker in polling places other than their own; or those whose religion forbids secular activity on election day.

To obtain an absentee ballot, call the Registrar of Voters at (203) 574-6751.

How do I get a ride to the polls?
Campaign volunteers are happy to give you a free ride to your voting location. The Democrats can be reached at (203) 753-6345. You do not have to be registered as a Democrat to call.

(Full disclosure: I am a Democrat, active in the campaign, which is why I have that phone number. I do not know what numbers the other parties are using for rides to the polls, but I am sure they will publicize them before the election.)

What is the ballot like?
In Connecticut, voting is done by filling in an oval for the candidate with a black marker. When the ballot is completed, it is fed into a computer scanning machine.

Each slate of candidates is presented in a row. Because the current Governor is a Democrat, the local Democrat candidates are on Row A (in previous years they were on Row B because the Governor was a Republican).

You may select one candidate each for Mayor, Town Clerk, City Clerk and City Sheriff.
You may select any nine candidates for Board of Aldermen.
You may select any three candidates for Board of Education.

You can vote for more than one candidate per column for Board of Aldermen and Board of Education, so long as you do not vote for more than nine total candidates for Board of Aldermen and no more than three total candidates for Board of Education.

Why should I vote?
Local elections have a direct impact on your quality of life. The local government is responsible for the taxes you pay on your car and home, they are responsible for the local public schools, parks, sidewalks and streets, water and sewer services, public safety and winter plowing.

It has been my experience that city officials pay more attention to districts with high voter turnout, especially during campaign season (every other year in Waterbury).  

How do I find out more about the candidates?
Biographies of all the Democrat candidates are available online at
Short resumes of the Republican candidates are available online at
Information about the Independent candidates is online at

Profiles of candidates from all three parties will be available from the Republican-American at

The Waterbury Observer has conducted two-hour interviews with each of the three Mayoral candidates and will be publishing the transcripts online soon.

What does a Mayor do?
The Mayor is the chief executive officer of the City. The Mayor is responsible for the City Budget, the good order and efficient government of the City, appointing department heads and members of specific boards and commissions, and other duties as described in the City Charter. The Mayor reports to the Board of Aldermen on the condition of the City in relation to government, finances, public improvements and other issues.

The Democrat candidate for Mayor is Neil O'Leary.
The Republican candidate for Mayor is Michael Jarjura.
The Independent candidate for Mayor is Larry DePillo.

What does a Town Clerk do?
The Waterbury Town Clerk, currently Democrat Antoinette “Chick” Spinelli, is responsible for recording and indexing land records; issuing and recording vital records such as marriage licenses, birth certificates, burial permits and dog licenses; recording military discharges; keeping notary, justice of the peace and campaign finance records; issuing absentee ballots and preparing state election reports.

The Town Clerk’s office, located on the first floor of City Hall, is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

What does a City Clerk do?
The City Clerk, currently Democrat Michael J. Dalton, is the keeper of records for all Municipal Boards and Commissions; receives all correspondence for most Municipal Boards and Commissions; is the public service agency to allow access to records of all Municipal Boards and Commissions; and is the recipient of all claims and writs served on the City.

The City Clerk makes available copies of the City Charter, Operating Budget, Capital Budget, Three Year Financial Plan, Labor Contracts and other documents.

The City Clerk’s office is open Monday through Friday, 8:50 a.m. to 4:50 p.m.

What does a City Sheriff do?
The City Sheriff, currently Democrat Stephen M. Conway, is responsible for directing public speaking at meeting of the Board of Aldermen and other Municipal Boards when requested; serves violations for many city departments such as the Health Department, Building Department and City Planning; and serves expulsions for the Board of Education.

What does the Board of Aldermen do?
There are 15 aldermen for the City of Waterbury, elected in odd years. They are the legislative body of the City Government. No more than 9 members shall be of one political party.

The Board of Aldermen derive their authority from the City Charter and the Connecticut State Statutes. The Board of Aldermen can modify the city budget as submitted by the Mayor, have the power to investigate all departments, officers and employees; oversee and adopt legislation pertaining to the finances of the City; provide for public works; and other powers as detailed in the City Charter.

The Board of Aldermen meets the first Monday after the first and third Thursdays at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted.

What does the Board of Education do?
There are 10 Commissioners on the Board of Education, serving four-year terms. Their terms are staggered so that there are always some veteran members on the Board following each election. No more than 6 members shall be of one political party. Five members are elected every two years. No more than three candidates from each party can be on the ballot.

The Board of Education appoints and evaluates a Superintendent of Schools, determines the number of principals, assistants and teachers to be employed and their salaries, is responsible for the construction and repair of all school buildings, and submits an annual Operating and Capital Budget to the Mayor.