Tastie Fish had the opportunity to conduct a wide ranging interview with the Director of Traffic and Transportation Doug Hausladen Wednesday afternoon.
The interview took place in the cavernous conference room within Mayor Toni Harp’s office at city hall.
Tastie Fish has posted video footage of the interview.
We have not provided a transcript, but will summarize the interaction, and react to some surprising developments on backside.
Over the course of the interview, Mr. Hausladen explained the basic parameters of his job, including the fact that is both the Director of the Parking Authority, and Traffic and Transportation.
Mr. Hausladen is extremely committed to the struggle against climate change, and the steps humanity can take slow it down, which is where his esteemed bike share program comes into play.
Earlier today, this magazine filed a report on measures the New Haven government is taking to curb climate change, and Doug Hausladen is at the center of that effort, encouraging citizens to get away from using their cars.
Doug Hausladen’s responsibilities are extensive, and run the administrative gamut as far as city government is concerned, he a vital cog in the city hall engine.
Mr. Hausladen did preview his forthcoming bike share program, which has a tentative launch planned for this fall, and has generated serious excitement in the city.
Mr. Hausladen addressed the documented aggressiveness of the city tow trucks when the street sweepers are cleaning residential neighborhoods, and why such an operation is necessary.
The interview featured helpful public information, and stunning commentary.
Tastie Fish had conducted a prolific investigation into the Department of Traffic and Transportation leading up to the interview, and asked some of the questions we have been curious about for months.
Mr. Hausladen did not appear to remember his twitter rant aimed at this magazine in April, he did not express any recollection whatsoever.
Given the personal nature of the rant, it’s almost unbelievable that he does not remember the sequence of events the afternoon of April 18th.
This was not a spur of the moment tweet storm, the situation took place over the course of hours.
Our editor had to show him his tweets when he did not seem to remember them.
There is confusion about why he does not remember those tweets, Tastie Fish repeatedly reported upon the social media fiasco over the course of the last 10 weeks, it strains credulity that Mr. Hausladen did not remember his behavior on social media.
Mr. Hausladen is a scientist(he studied cancer) the interview revealed, a supremely brilliant man, so his memory lapse is perplexing.
When questioned about the source of the revenue records he produced, and whether or not they were derived from audits, Mr Hausladen did not have an answer either way, even more interesting, he did not remember.
Doug Hausladen did not remember Michael Pinto releasing the revenue records to us in an email that he was copied on, he did not remember Michael Pinto delivering the records to our offices.
This raised questions.
Prior to releasing the revenue records to this magazine, Mr. Hausladen complained on twitter that our FOIA request was going to force the government to spend hours and hours on a somewhat irrelevant issue.
He did not use those words exactly, we have posted the tweet.
So it was already in his mind this was taking place, it would seem like due diligence to provide minimal oversight on the release of revenue records that he will be held accountable for, or at least to make sure they are accurate, and backed up by hard data.
When the DOT released the revenue records on April 21st, the department confirmed the release in an email that was directed to this magazine, city attorney Kathleen Foster, and Doug Hausladen.
We have screen grabbed the email to remove any doubt it was delivered to us.
So here is the problem.
Mr. Hausladen’s department produced revenue records in response to a FOIA request.
Then when questioned about the actual audits that were performed by the software contractors, Mr. Hausladen claimed in an email he has never seen them, does not know what they look like and that “they may or may not exist at the transactional level”.
Tastie Fish naturally questioned what the original source of the revenue records submitted to this magazine were if not the audits.
Tastie Fish requested the audits through an email, Mr. Hausladen tells us he will direct Deputy Director Michael Pinto to check with the finance department.
That was almost 4 weeks ago, and this magazine never saw the audits, and was never given an update.
The finance department has been silent.
Tastie Fish finds something extremely fishy about Mr. Hausladen claiming he does not remember releasing the revenue records to us, our reporting was consistent, and transparent, there is thousands of witnesses who watched the story unfold.
He also sent us an email on May 11th, did he really forget what took place a month ago?
He had to know we were going to ask these questions, yet he didn’t provide viable answers.
Furthermore, after viewing the tape, we are even more alarmed by the fact that Mr. Hausladen could not pinpoint what the source was of the revenue records the DOT released to us.
We published those records under the premise that they were in full accordance with the Freedom Of Information Act, which calls upon government agencies to release transparent records when directed to do so.
The records being accurate goes without saying, anything less would not be in compliance with a functional democracy.
There is exemptions, but the city attorney for New Haven did not cite any of those exemptions after reviewing our request.
In so many words, Mr. Hausladen had a legal obligation to release credible and accurate records once the FOIA request hit his inbox.
Michael Pinto was the individual who released the records, but Mr. Hausladen is the director of the department.
The DOT did not have to turn over the records right away, but they did have to turn them over, and sent Tastie Fish a confirmation email representing that they were fulfilling our request.
So if the Director of Traffic and Transportation cannot vouch for the records the DOT sent us complete with an email , if he cannot produce the original source of the records, then the matter should be escalated to an administrator who can make sense of all of this.
Michael Pinto has questions to answer as well, he delivered revenue records to a news outlet and his boss does not seem to know anything about it.
Even though Pinto specifically included him in the confirmation.
Doug Hausladen was a great interview, he is a tremendous leader in this community, but we would be less than forthcoming if we did not express our serious concern that we published inaccurate revenue records, and violated the sacred trust our readers have in the accuracy of our reporting.
There is ethical and legal implications to consider here.
The FOIA improvement Act of 2016 explicitly states that “government agencies make disclosable their records and documents for public inspection”.
Under that law, there is no middle ground, you release your records, and nothing short of that.
If these revenue records are inaccurate, if they do not represent the actual revenue collected by the Department of Traffic and Transportation, it would have made sense for Doug Hausladen to release the audits to us when requested.
He didn’t do that, we still don’t have the audits.
There is also the legal issue of a public official knowingly releasing public records that are not kosher, but that has not been totally established.
We don’t know what happened, and cannot at this time draw any firm conclusions on intent.
Then there was the contradiction.
Mr. Hausladen again gave the impression this afternoon that has had no idea what the audits from the software contractors look like, but then admitted that he does actually view the audits via monthly reports.
All in the same interview.
That is a contradiction, the basic premise of that particular claim is confusing.
Another thing we found odd was Mr. Hausladen claiming he didn’t remember the twitter rant or the actual release of the records, but he somehow remembered we filed our FOIA request “3 months ago”.
That is an accurate statement, the exchanges we are examining took place roughly 3 months ago.
So he remembers our FOIA request, but the subsequent days are foggy?
The entire process happened inside of 4 days.
Mr. Hausladen remembers the first 24 hours of that window, but not the 72 hours that followed?
That does not pass the smell test, and everyone reading this knows it.
Democracy is predicated upon public trust, faith in our process, belief in our leadership, and cognizance that government officials act by the consent of the governed.
As it stands right now, a high ranking government official released revenue records(through a subordinate) that represented millions of public dollars, did not turn over the audits when the veracity of the released records became an issue, and then “did not remember” those records being sent to us seemingly to create grounds for deniability.
Another interesting tidbit was the exchange regarding the revenue collected for residential parking in 2012, Mr. Hausladen could not make sense of that particular year against the rest of the table, but it was his office that produced the records in question.
Tastie Fish showed the table to Mr. Hausladen and he did not seem tor recognize it, let alone make sense of it.
It’s pretty difficult to explain a revenue table containing mathematical anomalies that defy basic laws of sociology and cumulative mathematics.
As is the case with the remainder of the revenue records, the source of the questionable residential parking table is now under question.
This interview blindsided us, there is a sense that we inadvertently breached public trust, and threatened our emerging credibility as a news organization.
Because of this, we are now morally obligated to follow this story to it’s conclusion.
Mr. Hausladen agreed to look into the audits during the interview.
Given the legal questions that have emerged since our interaction with him this afternoon, we trust he will forward authentic revenue audits conducted by the software contractors as soon as possible.
It would also make sense for him to provide an explanation for some of the disconnects this interview uncovered.
Otherwise questions about the manner in which the DOT released revenue records to the public, the source of those records, and the subsequent explanation will continue to be scrutinized by our newsroom.