Saturday, July 06, 2024


And Justice For All



Issue #57                                                                                                                   Opinions Of A Citizen 

June 26, 2024                                                                                                                            John Milardo

And Justice for All is a newsletter involving my opinions, views, and commentary as a lifelong Middletown resident.  As my capacity as a former employee and staunch Labor Leader of City of Middletown Unions (retired with 42 years of service), I have a different perspective of how and why public figures do what they do.

Well, it’s been a few years since I wrote a Newsletter.  I’m trying to convey to City of Middletown retirees something which is happening with their pension plan.  As their only elected Pension Board member (10 yrs.), I feel compelled to explain an issue which came to my attention in October 2023.  I believe what is transpiring is an illegal act by the present Middletown Mayoral Administration, to favor one person who is in our retirement system.

Retiree rules of the Retirement Plan:  A City of Middletown pensioner can work for the city on a part-time basis (under 20 hours a week), and continue to collect their monthly pension payments.  If a pensioner comes back to the city on a full-time basis, (8.04 Suspension of Benefits) the “member’s retirement benefits shall be suspended for the duration of his or her employment”….Payments shall resume”…. (A) “on the date the member is no longer employed by the city or is only employed as a temporary employee.”

On August 20, 2021, retired Fire Chief Robert Kronenberger’s attorney filed a Limited Liability Company (LLC) with the State of Connecticut for him.  Nothing illegal about that. 

Here is the issue.  John Moore, who was the superintendent/manager for the Keating Building (the old Remington Rand) passed away in February 2021. That left a void for managing the building.  Then employee Fire Chief Robert Kronenberger became the building manager receiving a monetary stipend until he retired in July 2021.  Once he retired and according to an article in the CT Examiner online newspaper (and through FOIA, City of Middletown purchase order #42451), earned him an additional $34,200 in addition to his pension payments. 

For some unknown reason, when the Chief retired in July 2021, with his new LLC, the city awarded him a Professional Service Contract for $72,000.  That along with his pension payments of $118,000 per month gives him a yearly total of $190,000.  If it was legal, pursuant to the City Purchasing policies, I would not have a problem with it. (The current contract is in effect until June 30, 2024, and up for renewal.)

I say more power to someone who can earn an amount like that while working or in retirement.  The problem is the contract awarded was in violation in accordance with the city’s own Purchasing Policies Rules and Ordinances. 

In October I began requesting material through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). 
I requested a myriad of documentation from several city departments to determine for myself if everything was on the up and up.  As far as I can tell, it simply is not. 

The only departments I received FOIA information from were the Purchasing and Finance Departments. I have in my possession copies of three (3) contracts for Professional Services for the former Fire Chief.  Then Economic and Community Development Director Joseph Samolis created the original contract dated August 31, 2021, (1 month after the Chief retired) with a purchase order for a cost of $34,200.  The contract was signed on September 22-23, 2021, by the Mayor, Finance Director and RWK Maintenance LLC owner Robert Kronenberger, along with a brief scope of work. 

In August of 2022, the city signed another contract for the same site maintenance company with a cost of $72,000 annually.  Purchase Order #44441.  Double the price of the first contract with no changes in the scope of work to be performed.  Additionally, the former Chief also collected his monthly retirement payments.

The same contract for Professional Services was reissued on July 3, 2023, Purchase Order (#46247) for $72,000, (with the same scope of work) in addition to his monthly retirement payments.

When Mayor Florsheim and retired Chief Kronenberger attended a Pension Board meeting a few months ago, this issue was brought up.  There was discussion regarding a retiree working full-time for the city under an LLC and Professional Service contract while continuing to receive his pension payments.  If it was a legitimate contract award, there would be no problem.  It’s not legitimate!

The issue for me is not the language of our Retirement Plan.  It’s the way this contract was created.  It looks like the administration used the “Professionals Service” language to illegally hire someone to a nice contract.  When I spoke to the mayor at our pension meeting, he acknowledged to me “I know”, it doesn’t look proper.  If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck… is a duck!

The mayor also allegedly stated to another Retirement Board member when questioned about the contract that he really didn’t care about retirees because they weren’t an important issue to his campaign.  Nice!

We have one of the top three (3) employee driven pension plans in the State of Connecticut.  It is not by mistake that our pension is fully funded.  This is employee money, not money for the city to do as they see fit for their cronies! 

These are some of the issues I have regarding the way the mayor’s office conducted themselves with this contract.

When I requested (FOIA) copies of information from city departments regarding the contract, I received information from the Purchasing department and some paperwork from the Finance Department.  How can they be the only departments that were involved in creating this contract?  Contracts are not created by these two departments!

Who drew up the contract?  The legal department had no paper trail.  Don’t ALL legal documents either get created or are reviewed by the Legal Department?  Do not all legal contracts need to be vetted through the various boards and commission set forth by Ordinance, Charter or Policy?  If all legal documents are not being created or reviewed by the Legal Department then why does the City employ so many Attorneys?

The Economic & Community Development Department produced no documents under the Freedom of Information Request.  That is implausible!  Especially when they are the department the contract originated from under Joe Samolis.  No paper documents, no emails, no text messages… absolutely no written dialogue originated out of the department in charge of the Keating Building?

Nothing from the Mayor’s office or his Aide Bobbye Knoll Peterson who was Acting Director of Economic & Community Development during this time either.  She is even mentioned in the contract as the contact person for ECD, plus her signature is on it.

Bid procedures and processes were not followed!  No papers, texts, emails, phone calls,…NOTHING!  Is that possible?  Something really smells bad!

The last two Democratic Mayoral administrations always brought up “transparency in government”, “honesty”, “integrity”, trust!  In my opinion, they are the worst administrations I’ve ever seen in Middletown.  I’ve lived here for my entire life in addition to working for the City of Middletown for over 42 years.  You see, I know their game.  They just hope those who figure out what they are doing just go away frustrated.  We have tried to discuss this during our Retirement Board meetings but have run into a lot of potholes to stop it.  Well, I’m not giving up and I’m not going anywhere!

What I don’t want to see is the administration trying to make a scapegoat of someone who received their marching orders from those higher up the food chain.  This manipulation of power rests solely on the person who holds the highest office, the mayor.

Here are the City of Middletown’s Purchasing Manual procedures which were not followed.

* When a department director requests a Professionals Service Contract, it only requires the requesting department Director, Finance Director and Mayor to sign off on it.  No bid procedure.  That’s if the contract is under $2000, which it wasn’t.

* Anything “over $25,000 shall go out to formal bid.”  This would include the Professional Service contract.  There are specific forms to be filled out, completed, and given to the Purchasing Department for advertising and bidding by vendors.  None of this occurred! Whomever created this Professional Service contract did not worry about it being rejected.  Those marching orders to approve came from someone in the upper-upper management of Town Hall.

* For purchases “between $2001. and under $24,999., three (3) quotes are required.”  There were no other quotes.  This contract was well over this threshold and should have gone out to formal bid process and advertised for all qualified vendors to bid on it.

* Professional Service Contract requires the contract to go before the requesting Department Director, Risk Manager, and General Council.  I received no information from any of these departments or individuals under my Freedom of Information request.  So, I must presume not one member referenced as an overseer for a Professional Service Contract ever even reviewed the contract or had anything to do with it?

* The Common Council would have had to vote on this contract during a regular monthly meeting, where citizens could question it along with the Council, and/or WAIVE the formal bidding procedure.  That did not happen as confirmed by Councilmembers who sit on the Pension Board.

* Under this service contract the vendor must be available 24/7 and work not more than 40 hours a week.  The city provides an office at Keating as well as any electronics…that is not a true LLC.  There is a cost-plus section in the agreement for former Chief Kronenberger….“Compensation for emptying and disposing of items from vacated spaces shall be above and beyond the monthly compensation.”

I would question whether the City has even bothered to consider the new rules for Independent Contractor status.  New rules imposed have made it more restrictive to classify a person as an Independent Contractor, regardless of any LLC status, if the employer is directing work, providing space, equipment, supplies, etc…  If the City is even simply supplying “electronics” they could be running afoul of these new criteria.  But then again, they haven’t followed any local rules, regulations or policies so why would we assume they would be concerned with any new federal rulings.

It is also my opinion that the city, not former Chief Kronenberger, should remove this contract and reimburse the retirees pension plan the money already received by the former Chief to make the pension plan whole for the past 3+ years.  It could be said the retiree was collecting a pension on a flawed vendor contract to subvert the Retirement Plan language as well as undermining the Common Councils authority according to Ordinances for purchasing procedures and awards.

The maneuvering the City did to give this retiree a contract and continue collecting his pension is scandalous and violates City policies and Ordinances.  It reeks of collusion and fraud by a mayor who is oblivious to the laws that govern the city.  He took an Oath to discharge his duties faithfully, he has failed.

The topper is the lying that has gone on with this issue to force people to believe everything is on the up and up.  No wonder so many people don’t trust politicians!

In Brotherhood and Sisterhood.  Stay strong, stay involved, seek the truth!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this newsletter reflect the opinion and view of the author and should not be construed as fact or advice.  The author is a lifelong Middletown resident and taxpayer, and is sharing his opinion as such.  The opinion and commentary do not reflect of any political party, organization, or citizen group.  This newsletter reflects commentary and opinions which the author wishes to share with his friends.

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