Contract negotiations have stalled the formal swearing in of James Rovella as Hartford's new police chief. As WNPR’s Jeff Cohen reports, Rovella says he won’t take the job without a guarantee of lifetime health benefits for him and his family paid for by the city.
Rovella is the city’s interim police chief. On Monday, he told the Hartford city council he is pushing hard for the healthcare package.
"I am a cancer survivor, and there are certain things that I will not sacrifice for my family and myself."
The city has a benefit -- called the EMBERS package -- for some high-level managers. It allows for lifetime healthcare benefits at the city's expense once someone has served in an eligible position for five years. But, by charter, the city's contract with Rovella can't exceed four years. And that's the problem.
Here's an interaction between Rovella and Councilman Ken Kennedy.
Kennedy: Would you take this job without the EMBERS package?
Rovella: No, sir...
Kennedy: You have to have that to be the chief.
Rovella: That's somewhat of a requirement, yes, sir, because of my health.
Another issue dogging Rovella’s appointment is procedural. Mayor Pedro Segarra spent $50,000 on a national search that ended with three finalist candidates from across the country. In the end, though, he went with Rovella - who didn't apply. Rovella has said he didn’t apply for the chief’s job because of ethical concerns -- he didn’t want people to think his administrative decision making would be affected by his desire to be chief.
But some on the council say that's left them in a strange position. And Councilman Kennedy says he's still left confused.
"You didn't participate in the public hearing, we're trying to make up for it with this process, I'm having trouble as to understanding why you wouldn't throw your name in so the mayor could consider it so it could be vetted like everyone else on a full basis."
It's worth noting that Rovella has already once retired from the department. He served 20 years before leaving to work for the state and collects a $60,000 annual pension from the city. The council has two months to approve Rovella's nomination.
For WNPR, I'm Jeff Cohen.