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Court proceedings raise questions over dues paid to Connecticut fire fighters union

The New Haven Firefighters Local 825 in 2014 paid the Uniformed Professional Fire Fighters Association nearly $26,000 in dues for “legislative representation” at the Capitol but an internal audit of the UPFFA showed the union only spent $14,133 on legislative representation for all its dues-paying affiliates.

That’s according to court transcripts from a December 5, 2018 court case meant to determine whether or not the UPFFA misappropriated legislative representation dues paid to the state union by Local 825.

Local 825 voted to leave the UPFFA and subsequently filed suit when the UPFFA tried to block them from disaffiliating and hired a collection service to collect dues. Local 825 won the right to disaffiliate and is now seeking the return of funds they allege were misspent by the state union.

Attorneys for Local 825 submitted an internal audit of the UPFFA as evidence, showing the union spent less for legislative representation than they took in from Local 825. 

The UPFFA represents 60 different fire fighter associations in Connecticut in varying degrees. Some unions are “legislative only” members, meaning their dues are meant solely for representation with the state legislature.

Lobbyist filings with the Connecticut Office of State Ethics show the UPFFA hired a lobbyist firm for the 2013-2014 year for an annual fee of $12,000.

UPFFA Treasurer Robert Anthony was listed as the contact person for the lobbyist and signed off on many of the lobbyist filings that year. 

UPFFA President Peter Carozza testified that he lobbies “every day” for UPFFA fire fighters but admitted under questioning that he is not a registered lobbyist with the state of Connecticut.

Connecticut regulations require anyone who may be paid more than $3,000 per year for lobbying to register as a lobbyist with the state. Carozza receives a salary of $48,000 from the UPFFA and a pension from the City of Waterbury.

Carozza said he was aware of the Connecticut’s lobbying requirements “for some time.”

Under follow-up questioning on December 15, Carozza clarified his statement, noting the UPFFA has both an in-house lobbyist and “outside lobbying person,” and that he does not lobby lawmakers.

In his courtroom testimony, Carozza said his responsibilities are “basically networking,” rather than lobbying.

In the past, other union presidents have avoided registering as lobbyists despite spending considerable amounts of time pushing or opposing legislation. Former Connecticut AFL-CIO President Lori Pelletier was not registered as a lobbyist but was a well-known and highly-visible figure at Connecticut’s Capitol.

UPFFA listed Paul Rapanault as their in-house lobbyist for 2013-2014 and paid him $41,732.04, according to OSE filings.

But Carozza’s networking expenses were also challenged during the court proceedings.

In particular, attorney for the plaintiff and state representative, Craig Fishbein, R-Wallingford, questioned how Carozza’s mileage reimbursement for traveling to Wolcott Town Committee hearings would benefit the New Haven fire fighters.

“Political action, legislation,” Carozza said. “We also have a very close working relationship with the volunteer fire fighters.”

Carozza serves on the Wolcott Democratic Town Committee and Wolcott maintains a volunteer fire department which is not represented by UPFFA.

Other networking expenses have been called into question over the course of the court proceedings, including travel expenses for Carozza and his fiancé who accompanied him on business trips to Florida, Hawaii and Chicago.

Carozza is chairman of the Federation of State and Provincial Fire Fighters for the International Association of Fire Fighters, meaning his work for the IAFF takes him around the United States. 

Court transcripts: Day 3 and Day 4

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