May 6, 2010

Pothole claim garners City Council attention

During a torrential rain about midnight March 13, Nancy Santorso’s vehicle struck a pothole while driving on South Street, wrecking two of her tires.

Like many residents who hit potholes, Santorso asked the city to reimburse her the $266 tab for replacing the tires.

Whether to pay her has now occupied as much of the City Council’s attention as any other issue to come before it in the past month.

At a recent regular meeting, councilors voted 4-3 to reject her claim, but recently, during a special session, on another 4-3 vote, they agreed to reconsider it next month.
The council already argued about the claim for nearly 45 minutes — more time than it has spent on the budget, the vendor issue or anything else in recent weeks.

It seems to be a simple case.

Santorso, a park department employee, ran into a pothole marked by an orange cone that city workers put there several hours earlier when two other cars had the misfortune of hitting it.

The city generally rejects nearly every pothole claim, usually because it has no obligation to pay if it didn’t know the pothole existed. In this case, the first two drivers were out of luck, because the city had no notice.

The question that councilors are still debating is whether the four-hour gap between the initial collisions with the hole offered enough time for the city to fix it. But there’s also an issue of whether Santorso should have steered clear of the cone.

City Councilor Kate Matthews said Santorso was “maybe driving too fast for conditions” if she failed to see the cone as she testified. She said Santorso, who didn’t want to comment, contributed to the accident and shouldn’t be paid for the damage.

But city Councilor Ken Cockayne maintained that “the city dropped the ball” by not doing more to stop drivers from hitting the hole. He said the city should have fixed it or parked a police car beside it.

At the April council meeting, three councilors wanted to pay Santorso. Three sought to tell her no. A seventh, David Mills, said he wanted to abstain, a move that city lawyers said he could not do. So Mills voted to reject the claim.

It turned out, however, that Mills could have abstained, though the city charter said he should have left the room entirely if he planned to do so.

At Thursday’s special council session, officials rescinded the first vote, effectively erasing it so that the issue can be looked at fresh at May’s regular council meeting.

If Mills abstains, it would appear there would be a 3-3 tie, which most city leaders said would not be enough to secure payment for Santorso.

But Mayor Art Ward said Mills doesn’t necessarily have to abstain. He could vote to pay her the next time, giving the pro-Santorso side the margin of victory.

Aside from Mills, the rest of the council hasn’t shown any signs of switching sides.

The three who would pay Santorso are Cockayne, Kevin Fuller and Ward.

The three who would not are Matthews and city Councilors Kevin McCauley and Cliff Block.

It remains unclear what Mills will do when the council meets Tuesday.

Cockayne said if he’d had any idea how complicated and time-consuming the matter would get, he would have given Santorso the money out of his own pocket.

Copyright 2010. All rights reserved. Contact Steve Collins at


Anonymous said...

Solution is simple: fix the pot holes, pave roads in a timely fashion.

Case Closed

Anonymous said...

Matthews is way in over her head on the coucil. Alway's trying to look like a big lawyer when in reality has no clue. One termer!!

Anonymous said...

amazing what cocane will do for a uninon official

Anonymous said...

So most of these claims get denied in a flash, yet when a City worker pushes a claim, somehow the City finds ways to actually consider it? Even though she was too careless or stupid to pay attention to the orange hazard cones when driving? Nothing surprises me about the corruption of our City government and City workers.

Anonymous said...

YOu got that right - how embarassing for him that it came to light that the other like claims did not get paid but this one was going to be squeezed through. Its also not the first time he tried to help a friend - remember the Henry Raymond claim?

Anonymous said...


Do ANY of them have a clue?

Anonymous said...

originally the secretary made a statement about mills having to vote when he wanted to abstain on it which turned into a debate and in the end it was agreed to just table the issue until the next month. this has nothing to do with whether she is a city employee or union or whatever. cocayne is out of line for saying the city should have done more. let's face it, ken. we all know the state of our public works budget these days which has been cut to bare bones. potholes are in every city and it's up to the citizens to at least do their part in avoiding them especially if there's a cone there. it's about time that individuals started taking responsibility for their own actions instead of blaming everyone else and an enabling councilman is not helping in that cause.

Anonymous said...

everyone should sue the city

Anonymous said...

You are opening a can of worms do not pay this, You will have every Tom , Dick looking to get payed. we all hit pot holes wait to see how many claims poor into city hall if they pay this one.

Anonymous said...


Just another example of Mayor Ward's inability to perform.
We pay taxes to get services, road repair and maintenance being one of them.
Maybe we should sue them for the wages they get from the taxpayer.

Anonymous said...

Matthews should spend her time working on more important issues in town.

Anonymous said...

4:27: The road repair is ongoing. Maybe your obvious anger and hostility issues have more to do with your"inability to perform?"

Once again, sounds like a personal problem.

Anonymous said...


On-going but INADEQUATE!

Just a bandaid on a major problem, like everything else Ward does.

AnonymousWestconnStudent said...

Oh My God! I can't believe I'm going to write this but...

Insane Cockayne is right.

If the city marked off the area with the cone then the city knew of the pothole's existance.

And their failure to not repair it in a timely manner means that they are liable to pay the claim.

The burden should be on the city to defend that the driver could have avoided the pothole.

Spend any amount of time driving down South Street and you'll discover that its like driving through a narrow mine field.

And the city traditionally ignores repairing this road for months.

Hell the city even admitted to being more lax about the conditions on the Corner of South and Union because it was slated for a total rebuilding of the intersection in five years.

Meanwhile they just assumed they can wiggle their way out of any claim case.

Pay the woman. And fix the Damn Pot Holes!!!

limp excuse said...

2:53 - maybe it is actually 4:27's "lack of performance" which is prohibiting him from "manning-up."

Anonymous said...

Limp Excuse (LMAO!),

I'm no psychiatrist, but with all of 4:27's anonymous rantings about inadequacy and inability to perform, it sure sounds like he's overcompensating for his own shall we say...shortcomings???

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

9:28 PM: Our City is just fine. The hot air you're experiencing is probably from the gas trapped in your colon by your head, which appears to be tightly wedged there. Good luck with that!

arf said...

9:28 - with all of the rabid vengence that you rage, your vetenarian should muzzle you before you bite yourself.

Anonymous said...

Ward makes Couture look good!