ATTACK ON CORPORATION COUNSEL POLITICALLY MOTIVATED AND BASELESS
(7/28/2009) NEW HAVEN- New Haven Alderwomen Jacqueline James-Evans and Andrea Jackson-Brooks have asserted questionable concerns over the hiring of Corporation Counsel Victor Bolden by questioning Bolden’s eligibility for his position. James-Evans and Jackson-Brooks are misinterpreting the City’s charter which clearly requires deputy and assistant corporation counsels to be admitted to the Connecticut Bar and have been practicing attorneys for at least two years but does not require the Corporation Counsel to meet a minimum in terms of length of membership to the Connecticut Bar.
At the heart of the Alderwomen’s argument is their inaccurate belief that Bolden was required to be a member of the Connecticut Bar for ten years to be qualified for his position, an inaccurate reading of the Charter.
The two Alderwomen have criticized Bolden, who has lived in New Haven for 12 years and practiced law for 19 years, stating that he should have been a member of the State Bar for at least ten years. Bolden practiced law in New York before accepting the Mayor’s appointment earlier this year.
“The law is clear. There is no charter prohibition on Attorney Bolden serving as the Corporation Counsel,” said DeStefano Chief of Staff Sean Matteson. “This ordinance amounts to nothing less than an attack upon the Mayor and on an incredibly qualified and nationally recognized civil rights attorney of more than 19 years.”
Emmet Hibson, an attorney who serves as Director of Organizational Development for the City, issued an opinion on the matter when concerns by the Alderwomen were first raised in April.
Hibson stated: “In short, the appointment of Mr. Bolden to the position of Acting Corporation Counsel does not violate sections 174 and 175 of the Charter…Specifically at issue is the language of section 17 of the Charter which reads that at the time of appointment the corporation counsel ‘shall have been an attorney and counselor at law of this state for not less than ten years. Mr. Bolden was first admitted to practice law in New York on April 25, 1990 and was admitted to the bar of the State of Connecticut on November 3, 2000. As such, because Mr. Bolden has been a practicing attorney for more than ten (10) years and because he is a member of the state of Connecticut bar he is eligible to be the Corporation Counsel without violating the Charter.”
James-Evans and Jackson-Brooks submitted as a communication to the Board of Aldermen an “order requiring affirmative vote of two thirds of the Board to allow the Mayor to waive requirements of the City Charter to appoint Victor Bolden as Corporation Counsel,” as they detail in their July 27 letter to their colleagues. Being that DeStefano followed the Charter in his appointment of Bolden, there is no need for Aldermanic intervention or a vote of any nature related to his employment. Bolden, who was named acting Corporation Counsel on January 19th was officially named Corporation Counsel on May 4 of this year.
The Alderwomen’s communication is seen as politically motivated and an attempt to attack the Mayor and Bolden who left his position as general counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to serve the City of New Haven as Corporation Counsel.
“Mayor DeStefano will continue to focus on an agenda of violence reduction, education reform, youth initiatives and job creation,” said Matteson. “If Alders Jackson-Brooks and James wish to make their politically motivated witch hunt the focus of their own personal agenda as elected officials, so be it. This administration remains focused on moving the City forward.”
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