Segarra’s Office Elusive About Promotional E-Mail; Violation of Election Law?

Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, battling for the Democratic nomination for another term, has sent out a promotional email touting the mayor’s accomplishments. “Capital City News” was sent from his city-employed communications director not his campaign. There is question as to whether this is a violation of the spirit if not the letter of election law.

The Hanging Shad received the email on February 6th of this year. When contacted about it, Mayor Segarra’s Communications Director Hilda Munoz said the emailings had been sent in the past, “fell off,” and were restarted by her when she started working in the mayor’s office in December. After my inquiry, I stopped receiving the emails, apparently taken off the emailing list.

When asked two weeks ago for copies of passed issues of the emailing, Munoz agreed to send then to The Hanging Shad. When she failed to do so, I contacted her again Wednesday. She repeated her story about how the emailing came to be and then refused to produce past issues saying they would be provided only with a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. This sent up a big red flag. Why was thew mayor’s office being elusive about past emails if they were innocuous and designed to promote the city?

An FOI request has been filed with the mayor’s office.

The emailed promotional item included a personal message from the mayor and sections titled, “Mayor’s Youth Employment Day,” an image for the “Black Success Beyond Tomorrow” black tie gala, and the “Grant Award Funds Online Diploma Pilot Project.”

Under Connecticut election statutes, Segarra may technically be within the law which states, “No incumbent holding office shall, during the three months preceding an election in which he is a candidate for reelection or election to another office, use public funds to mail or print flyers or other promotional materials intended to bring about his election or reelection.” [emphasis added]

However, it also says, “No official or employee of the state or a political subdivision of the state shall authorize the use of public funds for a television, radio, movie theater, billboard, bus poster, newspaper or magazine promotional campaign or advertisement, which (A) features the name, face or voice of a candidate for public office, or (B) promotes the nomination or election of a candidate for public office, during the twelve-month period preceding the election being held for the office which the candidate described in this subdivision is seeking.” [emphasis added]

Neither section directly addresses email.

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To say Segarra’s reelection campaign has gotten off to a rocky start would be an understatement. He ran into trouble when his campaign accused primary opponent Luke Bronin of not voting in the 2013 municipal election. The problem is Bronin, a former staffer for Gov. Dannel Malloy, did in fact vote in that election. Segarra’s people had to issue a mea culpa.

That mistake was trumped when the Segarra campaign dumped two campaign managers in a week last month. Twitter was their downfall.

Bronin says the emailing wasn’t the only questionable move by the mayor. “The mayor’s office recently hired a second, fulltime communications person and has put out an RFP [request for proposal] for marketing work,” Bronin said. “I find this curious and concerning. It appears [these moves] are designed to promote the mayor more than the city.”