New Britain City Journal

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Conflict of Interest

The Federal Housing of Urban Development (HUD) said it denied a block grant to the mayor’s office for the hiring of Briggette Brown, as a community organizer, because it is a “conflict of interest” even though the mayor had previously claimed that HUD is paying for the position.

The conflict came about as Brown’s husband Rha-Sheen Brown is on the common council.

“A city counselor is in a position to make decisions regarding the CDBG funding so it is clearly a conflict,” said Rhonda Siciliano, public affairs office for the HUD New England Region. “As far as we know nothing more would be done with this position.”

Siciliano added that, “The mayor (Tim O’Brien) said he would probably use funding from somewhere else for that position.”

Siciliano said it was last summer that O’Brien was told of the conflict of interest issue.

The position was created by the mayor solely for Brown, according to Brown’s UConn webpage at http://ssw.uconn.edu/archives/11149.

According to a July 26 New Britain Herald article, O’Brien said that Brown would be paid via HUD funds. Her job began Aug. 8 and she would make $47,000.

On Wednesday, Phil Sherwood, deputy chief of staff, said the funds are coming 100 percent from the general fund.

Brown was also named a member of the police commission by O’Brien this year.

“Our HUD staff met with the mayor and discussed this with him and made him aware that it would be a conflict of interest for a city councilman’s wife to fill that position,” said Siciliano.

According to wikipedia.com, a conflict of interest (COI) occurs when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation for an act in the other.

“Regulating conflict of interest in government is one of the aims of political ethics. Public officials are expected to put service to the public and their constituents ahead of their personal interests. Conflict of interest rules are intended to prevent officials from making decisions in circumstances that could reasonably be perceived as violating this duty of office,” said wikipedia.

This is the second position the mayor created during a hiring freeze and consolidation in which many City jobs were eliminated. He also named Phil Sherwood communications director after he was elected in November of 2010 and in April of 2012 promoted him to deputy chief of staff at a cost of $60,000.

This means the mayor has created two new positions equaling $107,000 in his office in the past year.

The mayor’s budget also spent $3,650 for print advertising in ads in the last month to fight the landlords on the blight issue, according to sources. Online newspaper ad costs are not included. The mayor’s budget is paid through taxpayers.

In Feb. 2012 Tennessee Mayor Phil Nelson resigned because he saw what could be construed as a conflict of interest in his City as one man was being paid as an Alderman and a fire chief.

According to WMCTV, Nelson said, “If it don’t smell right, don’t eat it. So I’m not gonna sign my name and 20 years from now find it was wrong and possibly do jail time.”

Toronto, Canada, Mayor Rob Ford was ordered to resign Nov. 26 by a judge who said he had violated a conflict of interest law.