Feds subpoena New Haven city hall records
Youth center, federal grant, charter school appear to be focus
The Harp administration has received a wide-ranging subpoena to produce records for a federal investigation.
City Corporation Counsel John Rose Jr. confirmed the subpoena during an interview Tuesday in his fourth-floor City Hall office.
He said a federal marshal delivered the subpoena to his office two and a half weeks ago, and he is in the process of producing the requested paperwork.
“I am compiling paperwork pursuant to a subpoena for delivery to an FBI agent,” Rose said.
“This subpoena was directed to me” and was “wide-ranging” involving numerous city accounts, he said. “It is directed to me. It was not directed to the city or any department head or any other person.”
Rose declined to discuss the specifics of the request.
Mayor Toni Harp said she doesn’t know what the feds are looking for.
“We don’t think that there’s a problem. To me, they’re just requesting information,” Harp told the Independent.
“I don’t think there are any city employees that are implicated. We will provide the information. We don’t know why they want it. We will fully comply and work with them and try to figure out what they’re after.”
A third person familiar with the contents of the subpoena, who requested anonymity, said it has three foci: The never-completed “Escape” youth center and homeless shelter the Harp administration planned to build at the Community Outreach Center building next to Bethel AME Church; the city’s handling of a federal “Byrne” grant to address violence in Newhallville; and a proposal to create an all-boys charter school.
The Harp administration spent over $250,000 building out the space for the Escape. But because of unforeseen problems with the roof, another estimated $50,000 of electrical work needs to be done. The Harp Adminstration did not ask for more money from the Board of Alders in its new fiscal year budget to complete the job.
There was also behind-the-scenes tension in City Hall over $60,000 that went toward renovating the Dixwell-Newhallville senior center in that space. The money for the work was originally paid out of the account for the Escape project, and officials clashed over whether it would be reimbursed out of the elderly services department.
The feds are also looking at the relationship between one of the subcontractors and city Youth Services Director Jason Bartlett, according to the person familiar with the subpoena’s contents. Bartlett had previously been in business with the contractor back in 2004. Part of the money the subcontractor received resulted from a competitive request for proposals process; some fell below the threshold needed to go to competitive bidding. They included demolition and work with teens on the project.
A subcontractor hired to work on the proposal for an all-boys locally administered charter school — a proposal pushed by the Rev. Boise Kimber and endorsed by Mayor Harp — ended up getting paid around $2,500 more than a year after he completed some of the work. The check was originally delayed as the school board voted down the school project and former Superintendent Garth Harries (who also supported the plan) was pushed out of office. The subcontractor ended up getting paid out of the youth services budget.
Jason Bartlett, who also serves as chair of the mayor’s reelection campaign, said in a conversation Tuesday that he has not been contacted by the FBI in connection with any of these issues.
“I never imagined myself in this position,” he said of the federal investigation.
“I’ve been in public service. I understand that people are concerned and always want to know what you’re doing with the public’s money. “I have nothing to hide. I’m proud of what we’ve done as a department. At the end of the day, I’ll be totally exonerated.”
The Board of Alders ordered an independent audit of the Youth Services Bureau last December in response to this article by New Haven Independent reporter Christopher Peak raising questions about some of the Byrne Grant spending.
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