Jared Kupiec, the chief of staff to Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, is making the news again.
First, it was for his use of a city credit card to pay a $700 New Year’s Eve tab at a downtown restaurant, a meal that included caviar and champagne. He and the mayor paid that money back. Then, it was revealed that Kupiec had special privileges to use the police gym. That privilege was revoked.
Now, it appears Kupiec was a passenger in a January car accident that has since gotten a second review from the police and raised concern on the city council.
Because police first blamed the wrong driver. And they now say the one who should have gotten the blame was the person driving Kupiec.
Here’s what’s in the police report. (Accident #13-2265)
Just before 11 p.m. on a Sunday in January, Kupiec was the passenger in a westbound car on Allyn Street that stopped at a blinking red light. The driver of the vehicle, Nicole Pattavina, told police she stopped at the red light before proceeding – and was hit by a car traveling south on High Street. Pattavina told police that the car “never stopped at his traffic signal.”
But here’s the thing. Pattavina had a blinking red. That means stop. The driver of the other car, Anthony Roberts, had a blinking yellow. That means caution.
Roberts was taken to the hospital, but not before police issued him a verbal warning for failure to obey a traffic control signal.
Pattavina was not cited.
Almost four months later, the accident got the attention of City Councilman Kenneth Kennedy – although he won’t say how. He was once a Segarra ally who has also been a critic – most recently when it comes to the use of city credit cards by Kupiec and others.
Kennedy was concerned that while police should have cited the driver of the car in which Kupiec rode, they didn’t – and instead cited Roberts.
“When I became aware of the report, it raised some concerns that were pretty obvious to anyone,” Kennedy said. “It raised a lot of red flags…The main concern was that there was a Hartford resident who may have been adversely affected. I think everyone involved just wanted that corrected.”
And that’s what happened – after Kennedy asked Saundra Kee Borges, the city’s chief operating officer, to look into it.
“[U]pon further review of my initial findings of the accident reported…,” the officer wrote in an amended police report dated May 9, “she in fact was in violation of 14-299, not Roberts.”
“Pattavina had a flashing red traffic signal which requires her to come to a complete stop as if she was making a stop at a stop sign,” reads the report. “After making the complete stop, she must make sure the intersection is clear before proceeding through the intersection. Due to the fact that Roberts had a flashing yellow light, he had the right of way through the intersection.”
And, in the end, Pattavina ended up with the verbal warning.
In a statement, Police Chief James Rovella said it is standard procedure to revisit cases.
“It was requested in this instance and the officer, when directed to state motor vehicle statutes regarding right of way vehicles, changed his determination,” Rovella said. “He then updated his written report.”
But some on the council say there are obvious questions: Why did the police officer cite the wrong person to begin with? And did it have anything to do with the fact that Kupiec – Segarra’s chief of staff — was in the passenger seat of one of the two cars?
“That’s the big question, obviously,” Kennedy said. “I can’t get inside the officer’s head…Obviously, there looked to be maybe either some influence or favoritism. I’m not saying that’s what [Kupiec] asked for. I’m not even saying that’s what’s in the officer’s head. But, just looking at it, it raised some concerns about appearances.”
“I was very concerned that the wrong guy was being punished and, knowing what insurance rates are in Hartford, that his rates would be unjustly raised,” Kennedy said.
Reached by phone, Roberts declined comment.
City Council President Shawn Wooden says he, too, has concerns.
“The reversal on the police report actually raises more questions than it answers,” Wooden said. “Why did they get it wrong in the first instance?”
“More [information] has got to be given, because, right now, it doesn’t smell right,” Wooden said.
Kennedy says he’s not just picking on Segarra’s chief of staff to score political points.
“Am I a critic for critic’s sake? No,” Kennedy said. “I’m very much for the mayor. I want this guy to succeed, [but] I want him to succeed in the right way.”