HARTFORD — A top city official was injured in a crash involving a city-owned vehicle early Saturday morning.
Saundra Kee Borges, the city’s corporation counsel and acting chief operating officer, was a passenger in a city-owned 2013 Ford Explorer driven by her fiancé, Deputy Fire Chief Terry Waller, when the accident happened around 2:17 a.m., according to city police.
Waller was driving through a green light at the intersection of Asylum Avenue and Cogswell Street when a 2004 GMC Yukon driven by Edwin Rodriguez, 30, of 173 Albany Ave., went through a red light and hit the city vehicle, according to city police and city officials.
Rodriguez fled from the scene to “use the bathroom,” he told police, according to a press release. He was later arrested at his residence. He faces charges of evading responsibility and failure to obey a signal.
Kee Borges and Waller were extricated from the Explorer and brought by ambulance to St. Francis Hospital. Police said their injuries were not life-threatening.
Just last week, the city cut the number of take-home vehicles in the fleet, citing financial issues. But the cuts come after two incidents involving city employees and city vehicles.
Earlier this month, the city’s deputy public works director, Rhonda Moniz-Carroll, was charged with drunken driving after a crash that totaled a city-issued vehicle and injured another driver. Moniz-Carroll was fired. An attorney for the other driver has contacted the city.
And in July, Mayor Pedro Segarra’s former chief of staff, Jared Kupiec, was charged with using a car without permission and interfering with police.
Kee Borges was identified recently as one of the city employees who is authorized to take city vehicles home.
Hartford City Councilman Kenneth Kennedy, who has introduced a proposal that would limit take-home vehicle usage to the mayor, police and fire chiefs, the public works director and anyone whose car is subject to collective bargaining, said recently that only employees who use the cars for emergencies should have them.
“People who have to travel for work — that could be taken care of through mileage reimbursement,” Kennedy said. “There’s no reason you can’t just use your private vehicle and expense the city for reimbursement.”
“I’ve seen city vehicles on Saturday or Sunday mornings, for things that don’t appear to be business-oriented,” he continued. “The only way to protect the city from potential liability is to have them submit mileage reports and reimburse them.”
Kennedy said council members have discussed the possibility of requiring all city-owned vehicles to be equipped with global positioning systems.
“We’d be able to monitor who’s using the vehicles and when, and for private or public usage,” he said.
Segarra sent a letter to Council President Shawn Wooden saying that, due to financial issues, he has been pulling back on the number of take-home vehicles since March.
The number of take-home vehicles in the police department was reduced from 35 to 32; general government take-home vehicles from 14 to 9; fire from 21 to 4; and emergency services and telecommunications from 3 to 0.
General government includes the mayor, chief operating officer, recreation supervisor, the health and human services relocation specialist and employees in development services, license and inspection and public works.
Segarra said he may call for further reductions “based on budget limitations.”
“This subject will be up for review during next year’s budget process in order to ensure that we have the minimum number of vehicles necessary to ensure both safety and service continuity for our city’s residents,” he wrote in the letter.
At the city council’s request, the Hartford Internal Audit Commission is investigating the assignments and policies for take-home vehicles. Commissioners have pointed out that no centralized list of employees with take-home vehicles was kept.
Kee Borges was named the city’s chief operating officer in March pending council approval. But she withdrew her name from consideration in May, shortly before the council was to vote on her appointment.
Kee Borges has been the city’s corporation counsel since 2010. Segarra appointed her as interim COO in September.
Kee Borges was appointed the city’s first female city manager in 1993 under former Mayor Mike Peters. She served before that as deputy corporation counsel.
She left the city manager’s post in 2002, not long after then-Mayor Eddie Perez took office and the city prepared to switch to a “strong mayor” form of government.
Kee Borges returned to city hall in 2010, when Segarra appointed her as corporation counsel. She became interim chief operating officer in September following the departure of David Panagore.