Hartford Taxpayers Pay For Caviar, Rack of Lamb For Mayor And Friends

May 6, 2013

When someone issues a controversial audit at 5:02 p.m. on a Friday, it's kind of sign that they don't want you to read it. That's what happened last week, when the city of  Hartford released its internal audit of its credit cards.  

City officials have been fending off claims of abuse. A New Year's Eve dinner for Mayor Pedro Segarra, his spouse, and six others at Max Downtown was what first drew headlines. Segarra's spouse paid about $200 for alcohol that night. City taxpayers paid the rest -- about $700.

Segarra says he always intended to pay part of the bill and that the error was the restaurant's.  The city says the meal included caviar, rack of lamb, and oysters. "Why should city taxpayers fund a New Year's Eve dinner for the mayor, staff, and friends?" That's City Council President Shawn Wooden. "I don't have an answer to that yet...We shouldn't pay for 25 percent, we shouldn't pay or half of it, we shouldn't be paying for it -- the taxpayers. We're a poor city and there a lot of people in the city that go to sleep hungry every night." The internal audit says the city shouldn't use its credit cards for what it calls business entertainment anymore -- in large part because there is no way to document who was being treated at the city's expense. Segarra says he agrees. Wooden isn't exactly comforted.  Wooden: If you've got a $1,000 on a city credit card, and the city can't say exactly what that was spent for, it raises a question. You follow me? Cohen: Meaning you can't tell? Wooden:  Not only I can't tell.  The auditors can't tell.  Segarra eventually paid $251 for the meal.  His Chief of Staff, Jared Kupiec, says he'll pay the remaining roughly $450 -- to end what he called a "distraction."  In a statement, Kupiec didn't exactly apologize for spending $700 taxpayer dollars on New Year's Eve.  He apologized for the distraction the issue has caused "unfairly." The city now says the meal never should have been paid for with city dollars.