New Haven Alders to Review Purchase of Uniforms for Mayor's Receptionists

Should the City of New Haven have spent nearly $4,000 to outfit City Hall staffers with new uniforms?

The mayor’s office is defending the decision, but the Board of Alders wants to investigate whether this was an appropriate use of taxpayer money during tight budget times.

“The mayor does have the authority to make purchases within her department,” said the Board of Alders majority leader Richard Furlow (D).

But the Finance Committee will review the pricey purchase of uniforms for the three receptionists in Mayor Harp’s office.

“We feel it’s our responsibility to keep ties of all that’s being spent in the city,” Furlow said.

NBC Connecticut has learned the expense on blouses, blazers and other clothing items came from money allocated to the New Haven Fire Department.

“The order was placed through the fire department because it has a standing arrangement with uniform provider,” Harp’s Director of Communications Laurence Grotheer said.

President of the New Haven Firefighters’ union Frank Ricci questions the decision of an assistant fire chief to OK the purchase.

“He should have blew the whistle on it,” Ricci said. “He has a fiduciary responsibility to the city and to the public not to allow this to happen.”

NBC Connecticut asked the mayor’s spokesperson if this was the best use of city funds to spend almost $4,000 to outfit staffers.

“The desire was for the mayor’s office to present to the public a standard professional look and again the city spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on uniforms on equipment on supplies for city workers,” Grotheer said.

Grotheer said the purchase for the mayor’s office staff is no different than buying uniforms for other city employees, such as police officers or firefighters.

The effort to standardize the appearance of the mayor’s receptionists comes after property taxes were recently raised 11 percent and 24 New Haven teachers, mostly school counselors, lost their jobs this week.

“We’re also taxpayer, the alders, we live in this city,” Furlow said. “We’re paying taxes so we’re just as concerned with every penny that is spent as everyone else is.”

Grotheer said the city plans to transfer the nearly $4,000 from the city’s general fund back to the fire department.

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