Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra hired three consultants and one lawyer for a total of about $270,000 as he held closed-door negotiations to bring a minor league baseball team to Hartford. UPDATE: The city has corrected its numbers. It now says the total was just under $240,000.
As you can tell from the spreadsheet provided today, the city spent
$126,472 $96,501 for attorneys, $69,471 for a sports consultant, $39,908 for an architect, and $34,000 for an engineering firm.
One question, though, is whether some of those arrangements complied with the city's bidding rules. While the city paid the lawyers, it was the lawyers that found, and paid, the consultants.
"Hiring this way, I have to say, is a bit unusual, and is frankly usually done when you're in a situation where you need it not to be public," said David Panagore, the city's former chief operating officer appearing on WNPR's Where We Live.
"I am challenged to believe that it is in full compliance," Panagore said. "Yet, at the same time, could a justification be made? I think it's probably something for internal audit to look at."
For weeks, WNPR asked the city to explain its process. This week, it finally said the city's code includes exceptions to its bidding rules. And one of those exceptions is for certain professional services agreements for economic development.
“The Mayor exercised his authority under Section 2-538 (F) of the Municipal Code to authorize Agreements for professional services for economic development. Each Agreements was for less than 1 year, were less than $200,000 each, were authorized to be paid utilizing a prior appropriation of CIP funds for the category of development, and working with the law firm of Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, three quotes were obtained for each Agreements, all as required by the Municipal Code.”
That section of the code, however, doesn't speak to the question of whether the city can hire a law firm, which then hires and pays consultants on the city's behalf. That's what happened. We've asked the city to explain. We didn't hear back by deadline.