CITY OF HARTFORD

OFFICE OF THE CORPORATION COUNSEL
550 Main Street Hartford, Connecticut 06103
SAUNDRA KEE BORGES Corporation Counsel

Telephone: (860) 757-9700 Fax: (860) 722-8114 www.hartford.gov

L. JOHN VAN NORDEN Deputy Corporation Counsel

MEMORANDUM

To:

Saundra Kee Borges, Esq. Acting Chief Operating Officer

From: L. John Van Norden, Esq. Deputy Corporation Counsel Date: September 20, 2013 Re: Internal Audit Draft Report – Golf Course Tree Conversion Claim

At the request of the COO and Mayor I have reviewed the DRAFT analysis of the Internal Audit Commission entitled “Kenny and Goodwin Golf Courses Special Review”, bearing the date September 17, 2013. Golf course operations are under the management of a firm known as MDM pursuant to a lease agreement which was the subject of an earlier investigation and report by Internal Audit. The latest report focuses on a long-standing, likely time barred, claim that MDM removed trees from the Kenny course either without permission or in violation of its lease agreement with the City. Both of the City’s golf courses spread into adjoining communities. Goodwin spans the City and Wethersfield border, Kenny spans the border with Windsor. My observations and concerns are as follows: 1. The Internal Audit Commission has jurisdiction under the authority of the City Charter to “examine into all matters relating to the integrity, efficiency and efficacy of the government of the city, including the board of education”. Charter Ch. VII, Sec. 2(a)(emphasis added). “The commission may authorize the employees or consultants of the unit to cause such examinations as permitted by this provision of the Charter and the pertinent implementing ordinances.” Id. at Sec. 2(a)(3). The City Code provides a parallel description of the Commission’s jurisdiction: “The commission shall conduct independent examinations and evaluations of city financial activities to assure the integrity, efficiency, and efficacy of the government of the city.” City Code Sec. 2-41(b)(emphasis added). The Code then enumerates certain activities further defining the Commission’s jurisdiction:

shall perform activities such as, but not limited to, the following: (1) Ascertaining the extent of compliance with established policies, plans, procedures and legal requirements; (2) Reviewing and appraising the soundness, adequacy and application of accounting, financial, operating and systems controls; (3) Ascertaining the extent to which city assets are accounted for and safeguarded from losses of all kinds; and (4) Ascertaining the reliability of management data developed within the city departments and offices and the board of education. City Code Sec. 2-41(b)(1-4). The Charter and Code limit the scope of the Commission’s jurisdiction to review and evaluation of city government and operations. Although clearly there may be occasions when analysis of the efficiency of City operations as limited by the Charter and Code will necessarily involve a review of the interaction between city government and an outside entity, particularly where the Commission is “[a]scertaining the extent to which city assets are accounted for and safeguarded from losses”, the exercise by the Commission of its jurisdiction and its review of the external action or inaction should be cautious and restrained. The reports and findings of the Commission are public records and the work of the Commission is not immune from liability. The Commission and its staff is urged to exercise extreme caution and restraint when making and then publicly expressing findings critical of external actions or actors. Questions concerning the scope of review of external actions should be referred to the Corporation Counsel. 2. Analysis of law is not the office of the Commission. Findings of the Commission should not be premised on the opinions of non-attorney local officials from another jurisdiction. If the Commission has any question about what the law is in a particular situation, the Charter and Code vest that jurisdiction in the Corporation Counsel.

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