STAMFORD -- Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's Stamford property has been getting a lot of sprucing up lately -- by a city employee using a city truck while landscaping the million-dollar Shippan home.
Neighbors said that when they saw a landscaper trimming the hedges and trees at Malloy's 277 Ocean Drive East property -- identified as deputy tree warden Ron Markey -- they asked if he was for hire and were told no.
"That's when I asked him, `Oh well, why are you working over there then? Why are you working over at Dan Malloy's house on Saturday?'" said Peggy Cobb, who lives on the other side of the hedges on Miramar Lane. "He said, `Because that's the governor's house.' I said, `That's not right. That seems like favoritism to me.'"
A truck with city license plates could also be seen visiting the home, which public records show that Malloy is renting out for $8,000 a month while he and Connecticut's first family occupy the Governor's Residence in Hartford.
Malloy, who served as the city's mayor from 1995 to 2009, said everything was above board and that he had received a bill of $1,597.50 for the work that he plans to pay. A Democrat in his first term as governor, Malloy said he had no contact with the landscaping company, or Markey.
"Whether someone did something wrong -- or didn't -- I have no independent knowledge," Malloy said in a phone interview, when asked about the apparent use of a city truck.
Located in one of Stamford's most desirable neighborhoods overlooking Long Island Sound, the restored barn was at the center of an investigation a decade ago by the state's attorney into home renovations by city contractors. Malloy was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing.
Markey denied that he was doing any favors for Malloy, saying he was hired as a subcontractor for Stamford-based Muskus Landscaping and Tree Services to do 20 hours of work the past two Saturdays by the property's caretaker, Al Barbarotta.
"I said, `Nothing's for nothing. There's no favors here,'" said Markey, an arborist and landscape specialist who city records show earned $118,000 last year.
Markey said the payload of his personal pickup truck was so full of debris that he couldn't stow his ladder safely, and asked a co-worker who was on duty at the Fairview Avenue beach to come pick it up.
"He was within a mile. That's what I'm guilty of, somebody picking up my ladder," Markey said. "I didn't do anything other than put my ladder in a city vehicle."
"I don't think it's that big of a deal -- maybe a warning letter or something like that," Orgera said. "But we can't condone that type of behavior. He shouldn't have done it."
Orgera corroborated Markey's account of the use of the city truck.
"He just told me that he had a job there, a private job that he took care of," Orgera said. "And he filled up his truck and couldn't get the ladder on and he just called someone to come help him."
Current Mayor Michael Pavia, a Republican who is not seeking re-election, said he plans to investigate the issue.
"I don't really know anything about it, but we'll look into it certainly," he said. "Certainly if there's any kind of violation, it will be dealt with. But at this point, I don't know anything more than what you have."
Public records identified the property's renter as Mansoor Ashraf, who declined to comment.
In 2011, Malloy listed his Shippan home on the market for $1.795 million, only to cut the price to $1.58 million for the 2,893-square-foot dwelling. Malloy Realty Group of 545 Bedford St. in Stamford was the listing broker for the two-story, four-bedroom home, which is not currently on the market.
"I expect the house will be for sale at some point, but it's not today," said Ron Malloy, the governor's older brother and a principal in the agency.
The elder Malloy, who also serves as Stamford's Democratic registrar of voters, said he had no knowledge of the pruning project.
"I absolutely have no idea of any work being done there," Malloy said. "You're calling me out of the blue."
Cobb is new to the Shippan neighborhood, but is familiar with Stamford city government. Her son-in-law is city Rep. Sal Gabriele, R-16, who recently wrapped up a long legal battle with the city over legal fees associated with an ethics complaint lodged against him in 2010 and then later withdrawn.
Cobb and her husband, Fred, said they decided to speak out because they are frustrated with what they see as ongoing impropriety in city government.
"Citizens have to be on the lookout for any kind of waste, fraud, corruption, nepotism -- whatever," Fred Cobb said. "Everyone we meet who works for the city is very nice -- but there's a difference between being nice and having their hand in your pocket. It chips away at your trust."
Markey said the Cobbs saved $200 in pruning fees that are being absorbed by Malloy, for whom did landscaping for the first time.
"I was under the assumption that the house would go up for sale, they wanted to make it look really nice and let me shape the trees," Markey said. "It was the three trees in the front that just needed an arborist's eye."
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