The Bully Pulpit Of Public Office

Hartford's City Treasurer Uses Public Email To Raise Non-Profit Money

The Bully Pulpit Of Public Office
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The Bully Pulpit Of Public Office

 

The  bully pulpit of public office can be a powerful thing.  But should a public official use that influence to raise money for a charity of his choosing?  As WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, it's the latest in a series of ethical questions facing Hartford city officials. 
 
Adam Cloud was appointed the city's treasurer earlier this year and is in the middle of his first campaign for the office.  As treasurer, it's his job to manage the city's pension funds, its borrowing, and its relationship with the banks that work for the city.
 
But WNPR has learned that Cloud has also used his office to fundraise from those same banks. Emails obtained from the city show that, in August, Cloud used his city email address to ask five banks -- all of whom do work for the city -- to donate money to a non-profit run by a man active in the city's Democratic politics.
 
Specifically, Cloud asked representatives of Webster Bank, Sovereign Bank, Bank of America, and two others -- to donate $2,500 to a charity called Hartford Communities That Care.  In his email, Cloud said the money was for back-to-school supplies for city kids.
 
We asked Cloud whether using his public office to solicit donations from city vendors for a non-profit was appropriate.  He said his goal is to make sure that companies that make money off of the city's taxpayers give something back.
 
"I do not believe that what I have done is improper or wrong. If I am wrong about that, I stand corrected. But I want to take a stand on the fact that there are non-profits that do good work and I want to be an advocate to increase corporate citizenship that help and support non-profits in the City of Hartford."
 
Cloud said he decided to raise money for the program because he was inspired by its good work -- not because he was in the middle of a political primary and the organization's executive director, Andrew Woods, is a political supporter.
 
Hartford isn't unfamiliar with the intersection of politics and public life.  Former Mayor Eddie Perez was found guilty last year of ignoring the line between the two. He was convicted on corruption charges and resigned from office.
 
His replacement, Mayor Pedro Segarra, is running with Cloud on the Democratic ticket this November.  Segarra says he's not familiar with the specifics of Cloud's situation.  But generally speaking, the mayor said he frowns on using political office for private fundraising because of the message it could send to donors.
 
Segarra: I personally in my office absolutely do not conduct any solicitations for fear that one would think that others are pressured into doing something that they might not have to do.
 
Cohen: Would you do that yourself, would you send out an email from the mayor of Hartford's email to people who do business with the city saying, look, this is a great charity, kids need books and backpacks and pencils, can you do that...
 
Segarra: We have to be careful how we do that.
 
Cloud says he thinks his fundraising effort brought in about $3,000 for Hartford Communities That Care.  It's the kind of thing he wants to do more of. 
 
"I am very proud of the decision to help young kids -- I will fight to my dying death to be an advocate that those organizations and our young people in our community that is disenfranchised have somebody like me in the office to go fight like hell to make sure that if I can help to make their lives a little better, I'm damn sure going to try and do that."
 
Meanwhile, Cloud is in the middle of a different tangle -- with city hall.  He has  supervised his wife in the office of the treasurer.  It's a situation that Segarra, and city auditors, say needs to change.
 
For WNPR, I'm Jeff Cohen.

  

Comments

Advocating for Non-Profit Not in Job Description

Without personal attack, the situation still requires scrutiny and immediate remedy. Pressing for charitable causes no matter how deserving is not part of his job and therefore should not be part of his working day. Moreover, there are great conflict of interest issues with being boss over his wife. There is no way around that one, and there is no comparison to Malloy's wife heading up a non-profit. She does not report directly to her husband. Propriety, professionalism, fairness... these are requirements of the treasurer's job and which are obviously in jeopardy here. Fix it and maintain the integrity of the office, please.

Not a lot different than the Gov's wife heading up a non-profit

The news of Governor Malloy's wife Cathy taking the helm at the Greater Hartford Arts Council is equally disturbing. While this and Mr. Cloud's actions are legal, they are both borderline ethical, and shouldn't pass the "sniff test." Any corporation doing business with the city knows that if they don't support one of these causes, it will be a black mark against future contracts with the state and the city.

government asking donations to "give back"

How is this different from all the public school teachers demanding students "volunteer" for the teachers' favorite cause? Some public schools mandate a certain number of "volunteer" hours for graduation and don't see the irony.
Government has taken over so many of what should be private individual decisions they don't know where one ends and the other begins.(example-government thinks it's responsible for: what we eat, how much we eat, how we flavor our food-not too much salt there you know-,what speech is OK and what is not-wouldn't want to offend a victim group-, and even how much water we use to flush the toilet).

Mr. Cloud needs to have an

Mr. Cloud needs to have an orientation on city services, depts, and city staff responsibilities. At one point the Administrative Operations Manager in Management & Budget was charged with assisting non-profits in securing city, state, federal & private grant funds.

More investigation is needed!

This is a serious allegation that deserves further investigation and if anything illegal was done, it brings to question the City Treasurer's ability to function in that role and as fiduciary for city funds.

In the private sector, corporations generally have as part of their code of conduct, not only to avoid potential conflicts of interest but more importantly, the appearance of a conflict of interest. This is a rule that should be adopted by Hartford's City Hall along with strengthening of the City's Ethics Code to avoid such situations. The police incidents in Windsor and Meriden are recent examples of the failure of good nepotism and conflict of interest policies. It is surprising that corporations gave to this cause knowing now this request could potentially violate their codes of conduct

It is also disingenuous to use a worthy cause as a charity to benefit Hartford kids as justification for the actions taken, given the implied strong political overtones.

Hartford deserves better accountability from its leaders and officials.

City Treasurer or Non Profit Development Officer? Do your job!

The more things change the more they stay the same! Anyone that thinks the need for change is not here does not fully understand the depths of corruption that has a firm grip on the city.

This is just one more reason all powers are being used to keep me out of city hall. I have given in kind production work to nonprofits in excess of $100,000.00 in the last 4 years. Never did I call upon the banks to do what is incumbent upon me to do myself.

That is how you Damn sure make sure non-profits get the help they need. You do it by doing it, not through bully tactics and abusing the power of your office.

J. Stan McCauley 11.8.11