City Council President Aidee Nieves had no authority to unilaterally expend public funds, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars over several years, to support various social service and non-profit organizations in the city, according to a legal opinion written by City Attorney R. Christopher Meyer who had advised her in the past it was not legal but she continued to carry on the practice.
See full Legal Opinion – 5.19.22 Supportive_ Contributions.
Meyer writes “While we engaged in discussions earlier in 2021, the first time that the City Council President was advised verbally by this office that she lacked legal authority to expend appropriated supportive contribution funds was not until on or about November 2021.”
The genesis of this issue was advanced by City Councilwoman Maria Pereira who also filed a complaint with the State Elections Enforcement Commission charging Nieves had doled out thousands of dollars to constituency groups in her district while running for reelection in 2021.
From Pereira’s complaint:
In May, City Council President Nieves began to repeatedly direct City Clerk employee Mike Boyer to process invoices against the City Council’s Legislative Department “Other Services” Budget to disburse thousands of dollars to organizations and non-profits which overwhelmingly benefit the voters/constituents of her district to bolster her and Valle’s re-election efforts. Not one of these “supportive contributions” was authorized by the full City Council as required.
… In addition, she is utilizing taxpayer funds to influence members of the 137th Democrat Town Committee to vote to endorse both she and Valle at the DTC Convention scheduled on July 26, 2021. City Council President Aidee Nieves is violating campaign finance law by utilizing City Council appropriated funding for the City Council’s use under the “Legislative Department” “Other Services” line with $60,000 appropriated July 1, 2020, and another $65,000 appropriated July 1, 2021, to achieve re-election.
In her defense to support needy organizations with taxpayer dollars Nieves has cited the past practice of former City Council President Tom McCarthy during the mayoral administration of Bill Finch.
Meyer contends past practice is not a salient argument. He also affirms City Council members are elected officials who are not city employees, therefore have no authority to direct municipal staff to carry out expenditures.
Perhaps a fix is the entire legislative body voting to approve line item goodwill expenditures in conjunction with the executive branch to process payments.
Nieves and Meyer have butted heads over several legal issues leading to this opinion. Nieves has attempted to assert the legislative body’s role as an equal branch of government including calls for its own legal counsel separate from the executive authority.
Nieves critics maintain there’s already regulations on the books to do that without reliance on the executive branch. They also claim she fails to understand the respective roles of the executive and legislative bodies, including a misread of the City Charter.
So how does this stuff work? Nieves contacts the City Clerk’s Office that serves as a support arm of the council to process payments. It goes to the Finance Department for sign-off. During her time as council president, according to sources, it’s amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Based on Meyer’s ruling this practice must cease to exist.
Meyer announced weeks ago that he will retire from city service. He’s likely to finalize his time in June.
“The genesis of this issue was advanced by City Councilwoman Maria Pereira.” You sure about that Lennie? Great catch Maria Pereira. Care to tell us who pitch the information to you?
“So, how does this stuff work? Nieves contacts the City Clerk’s Office that serves as a support arm of the council to process payments…” This was clearly “advanced” by none other than Lydia Martinez who was (and still is) the City Clerk during Tom McCarthy’s reign as City Council President. It’s clear that Aidee Nieves lacked knowledge of the process required to distribute fund from that account. How did Aidee Nieves find out about an account she didn’t quite know much about? Lydia Martinez obviously knew the ropes and there’s no way Pereira just happened to trip upon this account.
Speedy, you might be correct. I should have written “The genesis of this legal opinion”…
Really, this is easy, how has been giving good legal information on OIB?
Lennie, I spoke with Maria Valle. She confirmed that City Clerk Lydia Martinez provided Maria Pereira copies of all activities of this account. If anyone of us or other council members were to request copies of such documents, the protocols is to make an FOI request. Lydia Martinez skipt the protocol for Pereira and provided her with monitoring of all activities her office was having with Aidee Nieves. Today, Maria Pereira and Lydia Martinez are very close friends.
Lennie, if you go back to the period when Tom McCarthy, was on the way out. He volunteered to take some time to train/school Aidee Nieves on the duties and responsibilities of a Council President. He, having been council president for 8 years and being a lawyer was the one who schooled Aidee Nieves as to the process to access the funds from that account. Meyer doesn’t point this out.
You call this a “Legal opinion?” Judge Carmen Lopez should throw the book at you for that.
Good morning OIB. It looks like Aidee Nieves stood me up. I know where to find them today and I’m crashing in. In the meantime, let me take another bite off this so-called legal opinion.
“Meyer contends past practice is not a salient argument.”
Lennie is this your writing? What the hell salient argument mean? I do know what a set precedent is when I see it.
Establish a usage, tradition, or standard to be followed in the future. For example, He set a precedent by having the chaplain lead the academic procession. The word precedent here signifies a previous instance or legal decision upon which future instances are based, a usage dating from the early 1400s.
Hey Lennie, upon taking a good look at the photo on this story, is that Judge Carmen Lopez in the background between Nieves and Valle?
“Council members are elected officials who are not city employees, therefore have no authority to direct municipal staff to carry out expenditures.”
Isn’t City Clerk Lydia Martinez an elected official? Is City Clerk Lydia Martinez a city employee or not? Did Aidee Nieves “direct municipal staff to carry out expenditures?” Did she simply follow protocol and made requests for funding approved by the finance dept? Lennie how about reaching out to Judge Carmen Lopez on this one?
What a sad mess this city council is.
Ten years ago I advised city council members of concerns I had when they expected me to authorize payments for expenses outside of their stipends.
What did they do? They layed me off and hired a stooge assigned to the city clerk’s office.
Same circus, different clowns.
Hi Tom. I spoke with Aidee Nieves and she agreed to join us on OIB soon. Don’t let others define you was the genesis of my talk with her. The allegations don’t sound anything like the Aidee I Know.
Who is this “stooge?” Still there? I’m surprised to have survived for so long. I don’t know anything; I’m just the Janitor.
Tom White, I have always respected your work in that position, that position still should be filled. If there Republicans on the CC there would be some type of checks and balance.
First off: Great work, Maria! Thanks! And just how does one in your position, engaged so intensely in good-government pursuits, negotiate the slime that you have encountered and attempted remove/cleanse?! You must have a great meditation technique (used with a blood-pressure monitor!)…
But, back to the OIB description of the situation under consideration:
“…City Council President Aidee Nieves had no authority to unilaterally expend public funds, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars over several years, to support various social service and non-profit organizations in the city, according to a legal opinion written by City Attorney R. Christopher Meyer who had advised her in the past it was not legal but she continued to carry on the practice….
“…So, how does this stuff work? Nieves contacts the City Clerk’s Office that serves as a support arm of the council to process payments. It goes to the Finance Department for sign off. During her time as council president, according to sources, it’s amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars….”
So; Aidee, accommodated by city employees, engaged in breaking the law regarding CC-initiated expenditures over a period of years, was advised that she was breaking the law by the City Attorney, and yet was just allowed to continue the illegal practice, in full knowledge of such illegal activity by City officials, the latter of which were cognizant of her action and its illegality, per the scrutiny and advisement concerning such by the City Attorney?! How do you pronounce C-O-M-P-L-I-C-I-T-Y. (Did former council president Attorney Tom McCarthy also know that this practice was illegal? Can we assume that CC overseer Attorney Mark Anastasi advised the CC in this regard — as he has advised them on every other CC breath that they have taken for so many years?!)
Wow! Something smells so rotten in Bridgeport that they can probably also smell it Denmark!
Again: Great work Maria! (What organizations/individuals were the recipients of these tainted funds?)
(It’s scary to think of what a forensic audit of the City books over the past two Administrations would show…)
Maria Pereira did nothing great here. I Had a good conversation with Aidee on this issue and touched a little bit on the budget fiasco. For example, Maria Pereira doesn’t mention how she benefited from expenditures of this account. The SEEC complaint appears completely based on a theory or some segment if her immagination–it’s baseless. Remember when Maria Pereira allegedly sent 2 men to delivery a birthday cake to Chris Taylor’s alleged home. She claimed her spies delivered the cake and once inside they filmed the inside of his alleged place if Adobe. That was a lie. She did send two men to deliver the cake and film the interior. The one in charge of filming the interior was Anthony Rodrigues. Rodrigues told me that Pereira had recruited them to deliver the cake and film or videotape the interior with his cellphone. Once they finished the mission, they went to deliver the video footage to Pereira. When they tried to view or see the video, there was no footage. Rodrigues had not properly pressed record button on cellphone. He describe the rage and insult they endured from Maria Pereira. I’m waiting for Aidee Nieves to join us, it’s much better to hear her side coming out of her mouth.
Correction: Johnathan (not Anthony) Rodrigues is the one who tried to videotape/record…
As Attorney General, Tong’s top priority is to protect Connecticut families, residents and consumers, and to stand up to powerful forces that threaten us.
During my discussion with Council President Aidee Nieves, I raised the city of
Bridgepoft budget deadline fiasco. As the deadline was approaching the budget committee was short $2.2 million dollars to balance the budget. There was 3 groups meeting and desperately working to find the $2.2 million. One was the city’s budget committee; at city hall Tom Gaudet and assitants; some Bridgeport State Reps. I interrupted and ask if Senator Marilyn Moore was no where to be found. “‘No, wait till I’m finished.” It was late at night and the committee chairs called me to tell me that the State Representatives not the mayor could find that amount of money from the State. Aidee Nieves got on the phone and reached Senator Marylin Moore and explained the problem. MOORE: “Why didn’t anyone call me?” NIEVES: “We need to do better at communicating.” Blah, blah, blah. MOORE: I’LL CALL YOU BACK. NOT too long after, Senator Marylin Moore called Aidee Nieves to tell her that the State will cover the $2.2 million. I was shocked to hear this especially when I had read news articles; Facebook posts of State Reps. and the mayor taking credit for securing the $2.2 million. What a bunch of weasels.
Kudos to Senator Marilyn Moore. Very impressive and as a reward: Joel Speedy Gonzalez shall: KEEP SENATOR MARILYN MOORE’S NAME OUT OF HIS FUCKING MOUTH. As a bonus, all pending issues having to do with MOORE are hereby aborted and shredded. GOOD JOB NIEVES AND MOORE.
Joel Gonzalez says: May 21, 2022 at 2:07 am, Joel, 2:07 in the morning and you are giving credit to SENATOR MARILYN MOORE, you need to take your meds and gets some rest.
I know it sound incredible Ron Mackey, I’m dead serious. This shouldn’t be as incredible as Maria Pereira recently agreeing with Joe Ganim.
By the way Ron, you missed the bonus she got.
City Processes? Is there anyone as knowledgeable as M. Anastasi about these? And if there were conflicts between statutes, or law, or ordinances that show up routinely, would you not expect him to be the “go-to” authority? And why is Chris Meyer after five years or more of silence on these matters writing his theory of the issues before leaving the stage?
City governance opens on Monday morning and while the subject matter revolves around money, it really doesn’t in this case because it is about POWER and good language in the CHARTER.
1. When the amount of money is not mentioned, it is not about the money in my opinion, or the organizations who received such funds, because “precedent” for at least 15 years has City Council members supporting parades, events, celebrations, of all kinds, for diverse reasons (though never published regularly and timely in one place for all to see, and that offends the values of Open, Accountable, Transparent and Honest) . Such funds may be called “supportive contributions” and some have been filled through the $180,000 of stipends provided to Council persons in advance, rather than as reimbursement. Recently they have also on occasion been made from the Legislative services line item. Totals are not outrageous, in my opinion, but perhaps for multiple reasons they are not fair because of their secrecy.
2. The most disturbing thing in the article above is that the City Clerk asks some folks to complete FOI forms and others get a pass. Interesting isn’t it. Information, especially rapid info, is critical to learning what facts are and how they connect and just what is the context. Why are all CC members not treated equally and fairly??
3. The connection between stipends, supportive contributions, and taxpayer funds and specific info about how these currently connect legally, fairly, and for the benefit of the community needs to be addressed, publicly and in the sunlight. Create a building block of public trust with simple rules, public notice and discussion before the public when necessary. Now is such an opportunity.
If, and when, such review indicates a re-write of procedure, and moves the results from the closet routinely, perhaps a long overdue apology will be due Tom White, a former Bridgeport resident, Council person, fighter against corruption, and legislative employee CANCELED by the politics and pettiness of Thomas McCarthy who claimed at that time of the budget year that the Council would eliminate the position (and therefore the job) and SAVE THE CITY MONEY. A lie, because McCarthy just moved the position to the City Clerk department budget and used that employee for his Council needs while he continued working in Labor Department.
Can the City stand to get it right today? Put the process in the light for a change, which puts all oversight on equal terms? Time will tell.