February 10, 2009

The funny case of Henry Raymond's car repair tab

This story has been updated with comments from Henry Raymond and the members of the city's Claims Committee. Please see the end for city Councilor Craig Minor's comments, too.


Back in December, Henry Raymond III drove a 2000 Audi Quattro across the new highway construction on Lincoln Avenue, hitting a bump that managed "to puncture a hole in my oil pan" that caused the oil to drain all over his driveway.

The damage necessitated the towing of the vehicle to a repair shop, according to a December 16 claim that Raymond submitted to City Hall.

Raymond asked for reimbursement for the $470.60 repair tab because poor conditions on a city road caused it.

What typically happens in these sorts of cases is that they are investigated by the appropriate agency and then the tab is, if justified, paid.

First stop for the claim was a three-person Claims Committee that consists currently of city Councilors Mike Rimcoski, Ken Cockayne and Cliff Block.

Raymond said that Rimcoski told him to come in and bring pictures.

The panel took a look at the claim and rather than sending it on to the state Department of Transportation, which would probably bear responsibility since it's building the highway there, it opted to pay Raymond his money.

“He gave a very strong case,” said Rimcoski, who chairs the panel.
Raymond said he told the chairman, “I don’t want any special favors.”

The committee decided to pay the claim on a 2-1 vote, with Block in opposition.

“It was not a city claim,” Block said. “It’s obvious.”

“In these times, I do not feel like giving our money away,” Block added.

Raymond said he felt betrayed by Block, who told him to his face that he deserved the money but voted against giving it to him after Raymond left the session.

The claim payment was included among the items listed on the consent agenda for January's City Council meeting, which is generally reserved for things that nobody has a problem with. They are routinely passed unanimously.

Had that happened, Raymond would have received the money he asked for.

But at the council meeting, Rimcoski said he wanted the claims removed from that part of the agenda, opening the door to discussion of it in more detail and the potential of an up or down vote on the money for Raymond.

He didn't say why, but once the item got yanked off the consent agenda, it was promptly sent back to the Claims Committee on a unanimous vote.

“Questions were raised,” Rimcoski said, so he agreed to reconsider the issue. “Rather than have any questions raised, we moved it back to committee.”

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, councilors unanimously agreed to forward Raymond's bill to the state, which may pay it.

Cockayne explained his changed vote as a way to correct a mistake.

“I didn’t have my facts correct” the first time around, Cockayne said. “We corrected the erred decision” when the claims panel got another chance to look into it, he said.

Rimcoski said that if Raymond was the first person to complain about the bump, he might get shut out. It seems that the state – and city, too -- will probably pay if it already had reason to know about the problematic spot.

Adding to the speculation surrounding this issue is that Raymond, who's considered a genuinely decent guy, is a Republican stalwart.

So, too, are Rimcoski and Cockayne.

Block is a Democrat, as is the rest of the City Council.

But was there an attempt to do a political favor? That’s not clear.

Raymond’s claim appears typical and there’s no indication he did anything wrong.

But the committee’s handling of the case was, at least, unusual.

Yet in the end, Raymond didn’t get any money from the city and, so far, hasn’t gotten any from the state either.

He said he doesn’t see a problem of any sort – except for partisan politics getting in the way of serving the people.

“They’re just trying to hit the Republicans,” Raymond said. “This is what’s wrong with politics.”

“Let’s stick to the real issues. Let’s work like we should for city taxpayers,” Raymond said.

Update on Thursday:
Just to make sure the whole picture is available, I called city Councilor Craig Minor, who wound up calling back and talking to reporter Jackie Majerus.
Minor said that city Councilor Cliff Block called him after the Claims Committee met last month.
"He was troubled by something that had occurred and wanted to talk to me about it," said Minor.
Minor said claims panel had a longstanding practice of not paying out on the first claim about a pothole or other road problem. Using that logic, if it happened a second time, a claim might be paid, because the city would have been on notice of a problem.
But the first person to encounter it is simply out of luck.
"Our position is, we didn't know about it," said Minor.
Henry Raymond was the first to report that particular problem on Lincoln Avenue, said Minor. Had the committee followed its normal process, it would have told Raymond, sorry, but the city isn't paying.
"In this case, they approved it anyway," said Minor. "For some reason, they didn't follow the procedure in this case."
After speaking with Block, Minor said he phoned Councilor Ken Cockayne, leaving him a message.
He got a call back from Councilor Mike Rimcoski, said Minor, who defended paying Raymond's claim. [Cockayne said that he called Rimcoski, the chairman, to tell him about Minor’s interest.]
Minor said he told Rimcoski that if Raymond's claim went on the claims report for automatic payment, he would object.
As a result, "Mike took the Henry Raymond claim off the report," said Minor.
Rimcoski invited Minor to the next Claims Committee meeting, Minor said. At the meeting, the committee revisited Raymond's claim, Minor said, and reversed its initial decision.
The fact that the incident with Raymond's car happened on a state project, said Minor, complicates things. He said the claim belonged with the state or its contractor, where the committee ultimately advised Raymond to take it.
"It wasn't our fault in the first place," said Minor.
As for whether Cockayne and Rimcoski were doing a favor for a friend by initially approving Raymond's claim, Minor said he couldn't know what they were thinking at the time.
"That's not for me to say," said Minor.

*******
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

35 comments:

Forestviller said...

Why did the town agree to this road. It should of had bridges. Lincoln St. will be a mess forever.

Anonymous said...

A republican getting fair treatment in Bristol ?????

NOT !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Steve, why are you in Forestville? You should be in the Center City or is it the City Center? Whatever!

Anonymous said...

It's too bad the taxpayers have to pay this guy because he doesn't know enough to slow down over bumps.

Anonymous said...

One must wonder what else Henry Raymond the Third may try to use his political influences to do. It's kind of scary when you think about it.

Poboy said...

Should have gone to the state in the first place. Anybody who travels that road should know about that whoop - dee - doo in the road by now. There should be HUGE "danger" (not just warning) signs there, it is amazing there haven't been more problems. As far as bridges instead of intersections, there is just not enough real estate in that area to allow entrance and exit ramps in both directions. This will go down in local history as one of the biggest wastes of taxpayer dollars ever, worse than the destruction that was known as the downtown redevelopment of the 60's. The local traffic problems, vehicular and pedestrian, are going to be exponentially worse when this project is completed. If Mr. Raymond thinks he has trouble negotiating Lincoln Ave. as it exists now, wait till the traffic lights go up.

Tired Taxpayer said...

Steve,

Interesting how you are trying to make a story out of nothing and then you put up a picture of the car and not the bump in the road in question. Along the way you hint at somebody getting something they should not have due to political affliation. It is a total set up and almost slanderous article.


I hope if you are going down this line of thinking you look at both sides of the aisle. Democrats never get any favors out of city hall?? Yeah Right!! You yourself even say it is propably nothing, so then don't publish this nonsense.

Lets hear more about real stuff and not this kind of speculative subjective reporting, that will bring out stupid comments on your blog.

Steve Collins said...

Tired Taxpayer -- I didn't take any pictures. Believe it or not, Google Images doesn't have any photos of that bump, but it does have one of the car's steering wheel. It's just a design thing. No biggie.
And, folks, if you know of a Democrat or anybody who seems to have got preferential treatment from the city, LET ME KNOW!
This story, by the way, will be updated later today.

Anonymous said...

Too bad Raymond and his buddies weren't around in the 80s and the 90s when some good Republicans and Democrats were trying to stop this ridiculous highway.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why they didnt' pay the guy. Ward pay's all his Union buddy's with the nice big contracts he gives.
Perhaps Cockayne and Rimcowski should get some lessons from Ward.
How dear Cockayne and Rimcowski do the right thing!

Anonymous said...

This is really disgusting so many people see nothing wrong with politicians breaking the rules to put cash money in the pocket of their pal. Rimcowski, Cockayne and Raymond you are so lucky the deal fell through, becuase the FBI would be investigating it.

Anonymous said...

Steve, a good conspiracy is the one nobody has evidence of. But we know they happen.

Tired Taxpayer said...

Steve,

The problem with this article is making accusations that somebody is using influence to get something in return. This is nothing like Dale Clift being Frank Nicastro's Treasurer and then gets to become corp counsel. How about Johnathan Rosenthal raising campaign money for Art and Frank.

In your mind is that different? I don't see an article about those political paybacks. The only difference I see here is that Henry Raymonds car was damaged by a poorly designed road and the City acknowledge is mistake and paid him for the damages.

Again if you are going to write this stuff then write it from both sides or don't write it at all.

I think you usually do a good job, but this is trying to stir something up at the expense of other peoples reputation. I really hope it doesn't end up in the print paper unless you have evidence that something improper was done, not speculation.

Steve Collins said...

Something wrong was done. The claims committee voted 2-1 to pay a claim for Raymond that it ultimately backtracked on after Block and others rebelled.
I like Henry. I don't enjoy putting him in the spotlight. He's a good man.
But when Cockayne is admitting an error and Rimcoski is agreeing that the panel he chairs was ready to do the wrong thing, well, that's news.

Anonymous said...

What's the law? If I drive over a broken piece of city road that is broken because the city didn't maintain it, like these potholes, and my car breaks, can I get the city to pay for my car repairs? Are they liable?

Steve Collins said...

If you smash up your car in a pothole, the city might be liable. It's a relatively simple thing to file a claim so...

Anonymous said...

Steve,

I am a big fan of yours. However, this was pretty mean-spirited. Henry is a stand-up guy and just wanted to get his car fixed. He'd give you the shirt off his back and did not deserve this type of attention. He is not a public figure and looks to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

If you like Henry then I'd hate to see how this would have been handled if you did not like him.

Steve Collins said...

I'm sorry if it seems mean-spirited to you. As I said, I like Henry. He's a standup guy who has done much to help the community.
I wish it was someone else whose claim was involved. But it's not. It's his. I can't change that fact.
I don't see anything in this that would portray Henry as anything other than a guy who wanted his car repairs paid for, like many others who file claims. That's not the issue involved here. There was nothing wrong with asking the city to pay.
What seems odd is that the city leaders who handled the case did not treat it the same as they do others. That's the sum total of it.
In the end, Henry didn't get the money from the city. If it's due him, I sure hope the state comes through with the cash for him soon.

Anonymous said...

I don't get it. This man gets his car wrecked by a bad city street and he doesn't get reimbursed? I don't see what anybody did that was the slightest bit wrong.

Anonymous said...

It looks to me like Cockayne and Rimcowski were trying to rush some money to a friend ----- our money!
I know it's not much in the world of government waste but it was wrong and I'm glad that it got stopped. At least Rimcowski knew when the gig was up and didn't keep pursuing it!

Anonymous said...

and word on the street is that Raymond called into City Hall a couple of times checking to see if he was on the agenda, wore his RTC hat to the meeting, and generally gave the impression he expected to be taken care of, even insinuating to Councilman Block that if it was a DTC member they would get it paid. Good for Block and the others - Cockayne and Rimcoski deserve to have the light shown on them every once in awhile so they can see how stupid they look representing themselves as taxpayer advocates and then taking care of their friend at the same time.

Anonymous said...

I give Cliff credit for sticking to his guns and to Mike for admitting it was wrong. As to Ken, he is just being Ken. Acting surprised when caught and then trying to backpedal as the new guy witout his facts is not attractive.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know the process is when you file a claim against the city? Why shouldn't they pay to fix Raymond's car? Why did he have to say they would do it if it was a democrat?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a point is being missed here. The Consent Calendar is a parliamentary tool used to make government more efficient. It is set up so that a number of matters that unanimous approval be voted on at one time instead of voting unanimous a number of times thereby saving time. A procedure is written in the rules that allow any member to have the item removed if they want to speak on it. The fact the Chairman put an item on the Consent Calendar that did not have unanimous approval is in it self-unusual and could raise ethical questions. The next point is what was the opinion of the City Attorney in this matter?
I was told the City Attorney objected to the authorization of paying the claim. I was also told that Councilman Block called Councilman Minor to find out how to remove the item from the Consent Calendar and brought to a vote of the full Council. I also heard that Councilman Minor called Councilman Cockyane and left a message as to the objection to the handling of this item. Twenty minutes Chairman Rimcowski called Councilman Minor and they had a discussion that resulted in Chairman Rimcowski saying he would remove the item from the consent colander.
I am sure that if Steve Collins asked Councilman Minor and Councilman Block if the time line and facts are correct that they would respond.
The individual may have made a valid claim and this may not be a matter of political patronage. However those questions should be answered. Perhaps this should be a matter for the Ethics Commission

Anonymous said...

Mr. Raymond’s comments are funny. Two of his Republican friends try to slip a payment to him past the City Council over the objection of Corporation Council.. He does not want to make a claim against the State, who appears to be the responsible party in this matter, and accuses other of partisan politics. He wants to stick to the real issue of city taxpayers. Then lets. Should we all pay a bill for him if the state is responsible? Should we pay the bill if he was driving to fast for a construction road. Should we pay the bill for him if he did not read the construction zone signs? Should we pay the bill for him if he makes a good case to his Republican buddies and they override the opinion of a City Attorney? I think NOT Mr. Raymond. Good Job Block and Minor.

Steve Collins said...

Let's be fair to Henry on this accident. I almost did the same thing on that spot going pretty damn slow. You cross a couple of bumps that don't seem so bad and then there's a doozy, which isn't well marked. The road is full of gouges where many cars have slammed into the pavement. It's a bad spot.

Anonymous said...

5:38 poster, or I mean Minor

If you had a problem with Council Matters then why did you call Cockayne if Ricowski is the Chair? Sounds like the correct person to call would have been the chair.

Anonymous said...

Poster 5:38

You mean a ethical problem like McCauly voting on Union contracts when everyone knows the unions use each others contracts during negotiations? Or perhaps you mean like Ward voting negotiating on union contracts that his son works for!

Anonymous said...

how about Ward negotiating a Union contract with his campaign treasurer Mira? How about Ward taking dotations from department heads? The same one's he votes to reappoint?

I can keep going with the ethical stuff all day! Before you throw stones look in your own house!!

Anonymous said...

I just find it embarassing to me
as Republican when an officer on the Republican Town Committee is squabling over a couple of hundred dollars with the city. Evidently he was going too fast. I drive up Lincoln Ave. all the time and never had that problem. But I don't drive recklessly. This is small time BS and a reflection as to what has become of the Bristol GOP. The word is LOSER!

Anonymous said...

I don't think there is a Dem in the house who isn't aware of the mayor's camapign tactics. DOn't forget he was their second choice and they knew him best.

Odin said...

"I can keep going with the ethical stuff all day! Before you throw stones look in your own house!!"

The difference is: (1) transparency, and (2) following the rules. Everyone knows that Art is close to Myra but it is his job to negotiate a contract with her union, so what do you want? You want the Mayor to abrogate the biggest part of his job? And if so, to whom? (come to think of it, this is why we need a COO!!). And you're wrong to say that the unions use each other as precedent. That is illegal and would not hold up in arbitration.

Anonymous said...

Odin, Maybe, just maybe, Art should havethought of the ramifications when he selected Myra to be in volved in his campaign.
Or didn't he expect to win?

Anonymous said...

I'm not from Bristol but from Terryville. I am how ever am very glad that Bristol did not waste their tax payer's money on people who do not even live in Bristol. The incident or problem obviously wasn't being investigated thuroughly . They were just giving money to a buddy. His car was more than likley damaged on the Terryville roads were he lives in a very bad area. I have damaged many vehicles driving in the past 16 years. It seems Bristol is in habit of giving money away for free to thier friends in the politics.

Anonymous said...

Nice try Republican Councilmen. I will remember you at election time.