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A Shot Of Hennessy Reform–Legislator Wants To Bar City Employees From Serving On City Council

February 2nd, 2013 · 28 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Politics, State Politics

Jack Hennessy

State Rep. Jack Hennessy wants to bar city employees from serving on the City Council.

Bridgeport’s City Charter prohibits city employees from serving on the City Council.  Then why have so many city employees throughout the years served on the legislative body? Because state law allows it. State Rep. Jack Hennessy wants to change that. He’s submitted legislation that would “prohibit municipal employees from serving on certain municipal legislative bodies,” an effort he says would eliminate conflicts of interest.

How can City Council members vote on city budgets that benefit their wages and benefits as city employees? About one-third of the 20-member City Council is on the city payroll.

Hennessy, who primarily represents the city’s North End, knows this will not be an easy sell in the state legislature. Too many sacred cows to protect. But the legislation would not be retroactive. That, he says, might sell. Hennessy, a political maverick in the city’s eight-member legislative delegation in Hartford, says he will lobby his peers for support in the coming weeks. His legislative language follows (Proposed Bill No. 5724):

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

That subsection (e) of section 7-421 of the general statutes be amended to prohibit municipal employees from serving on the legislative body of a municipality if such legislative body has the responsibilities and authority of a board of finance and if such prohibition is set forth in the municipality’s charter.

Statement of Purpose:

To extend an existing provision that prohibits municipal employees from serving on a municipal board of finance except where permitted by charter or home rule ordinance.

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28 Comments so far ↓

  • Steven Auerbach

    Jack Hennessy, it would be most impressive if you could pull this off. It is pretty silly elected officials are also employed by the city. If city employees choose to run for office they should be willing to leave the employ of the city or take a leave of absence. All benefits frozen. This legislation should not only be the rule in Bridgeport as per our charter but also be the norm for all elected positions within and outside the city. It would certainly change the political makeup in the city and level the playing field.

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    This won’t fly with the Big Squid on Madison Avenue …

  • John Marshall Lee

    There are problems in the current governance provided by our City Council. One of the most serious problems has to do with the issue raised by State Rep Hennessy. Our City Charter denies municipal employees from elected service on the CC. But State Law allows elected service by a municipal employee except on land use or finance boards.
    Bridgeport does not have a Finance Board that would review budgets, provide monitoring and oversight of expenses and keep track of debt and other long-term obligations among their fiscal responsibilities. The closest body we have is the Budget and Appropriations Committee of the City Council and it performs no watchdog duties of significance.
    Therefore when financial matters are referred to B&A and are referred back to the CC for decision without change or helpful comment for the most part, there is scant discussion or disagreement when a vote to approve is called. Employed Council members are blind to the conflict of interest involved. People from other communities with fewer employee/legislators cannot believe our CC members do not recuse themselves.
    And when our own Council splits up approval of HUD-CDBG funding into seven votes last spring because of conflicts specific to Federal guidelines, but can pass our City budget with one vote, the contrast in ethical understanding becomes clear. What will happen? Do you care? Time will tell.

  • Bridgeporteur

    Make that a double shot of Jack! Short term, elections this fall to run a slate totally off the City payroll.

  • Jennifer Buchanan

    Yes! Please.

  • Jennifer Buchanan

    Could you please post the bill number so those of us who wish to contact our representatives can include the number?

      • Baffled in Bridgeport

        Anyone who cares about this should write a letter to the CT Post and the Hartford Courant. This is an opportunity for reform we have to grab–whether we win or lose. I think it is time to bring in the Smutbusters to organize a petition drive across the city and the state. Not so sure Auden Grogins is going to lead this charge …

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    Mario will find a way to get city employees on the City Council. Even if it means breaking the law.

  • bridgeportnow

    Next Tuesday on our program we will be joined by a state rep to review this bill, chances for passing and how it might impact the city council.

  • countdown

    Bravo! How can we help!

  • Grin Ripper

    Jack is a straight-up guy. I hope this doesn’t put him on the rocks with T-Mac!

  • BlackRockGuy

    Long overdue. Why are there any city employees on the Council if it is in violation of the city charter? This doesn’t even make any sense.

  • Jennifer Buchanan

    You can help by writing letters to the newspapers in support of the bill. You can can also help by contacting all the Bridgeport State Reps to let them know you support the bill, and contact anyone from other towns and ask them the contact their state reps to support the bill. The more letters and more people across the state who are aware of this, the more likely it is to pass.

  • Bob

    It’s about time Hennessy did something in regards to the illegalities and unethical behavior in the Bridgeport political zoo. How about term limits at all levels of government within the state?

  • Mojo

    *** It would be quite a “miracle” on his part just to get it to committee let alone have enough present or past ex-city employees among the eight state legislators to support it. It would definitely make a needed change towards the usual admin rubber stamping that sometimes goes on and maybe spark work towards other needed changes on the city council? A step in the right direction no doubt! ***

  • Bridgeporteur

    Jennifer Buchanan, I will write letters. They have power and not many people know it!

  • Local Eyes

    Here’s a shot atop Mohawk Mountain in upstate Connecticut:
    www .earthcam.com/usa/connecticut/?cam=mohawkmtn

    In addition, I wish Mojo would pick a favorite for today’s game. The same logic he uses here applies to the gridiron as well. He’s the only guy who can grab this entire blog and drag it across the goal line–producing an OIB victory!

  • Bob

    Experts one and all … if nothing else it will be an interesting and hopefully exciting football game.

  • Mojo

    *** Today’s Mojo Super Bowl pick is (drum roll), “THE RAVENS” by 6 points. Zena Lu I got my Mojo on you! *** ENJOY THE GAME EVERYONE ***

  • Bepo In The Know

    I know six council members have city jobs themselves. Which council members have family who work for the city?

  • Mojo

    *** Not trying to knock any council person per se but it is what it is, no? One third of the city council members either work or have family members who work directly or indirectly for the city of Bpt so therefore cannot make any major waves against the Mayor and admin. The next one third of the council does not have a clue one way or another to make any real good taxpayer changes and is usually very gullible to whatever information the admin feeds them and just follow orders. And the remaining members who do have an idea of what’s going on and would like to make some major changes for the most part do not have enough support or commitment from the rest to make a difference! There you have it, 10 districts, 20 council members all with the “what can you do for me and my peeps” political agenda that doesn’t seem to be moving the city forward as a whole with major lasting improvements. Or are most bloggers on OIB that far out of touch with urban reality and its politics? *** WHAT SAY YOU? ***

  • bridgeportnow

    Did the CT Post ever write about this topic?

  • Zena Lu

    Watching the show on BPT now. Hennessy is doing a good job. I will take that shot …

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