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City Attorney, Following Council Protests, Suggests Payment Plans For Constituents Behind On WPCA Bills

January 31st, 2018 · 35 Comments · City Council, News and Events

If you’re behind on sewer use fees, the City Attorney’s Office Monday night offered suggestions to City Council members concerned about constituents.

From Brian Lockhart, CT Post:

City Attorney R. Christopher Meyer and staff members offered ideas at a meeting Monday to improve outreach to homeowners who have fallen behind on their bills, and to reduce the associated fees that can quickly mount and lead to foreclosure.

One of those ideas involved alerting council members to constituents who have fallen behind on sewer use payments.

“If there’s somebody in your district having trouble, you can say, ‘Hey, look-it, the city will work out a (payment) plan for you,” Meyer told the council’s Ordinance Committee, which is investigating the collections process.

More here.

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35 Comments so far ↓

  • Local Eyes

    What’s this world coming to?
    Introducing WPCA debt counciling administered by your local city councilperson and endorsed by city government.

  • Lisa Parziale

    WPCA fees and all those involved in creating and implementing the process has caused hardship, the loss of property, and added stress to so many people struggling to make ends meet. Something finally happened, a new City Council willing to pull the cover off this problem and to convince the City Attorney and associates to take a closer look at what has caused hopelessness and fear for too long. The City Council is now forcing reform, and it appears that the City Attorney is listening. Right now there may not be a magic bullet that will fix this situation immediately, but with vigilance by the Council, and the willingness of those that can ease the pain, may be a the start for relief, fairness and humanity. This blowup has been simmering and growing for years, and until now ignored. Maybe I’ve been overly critical of Chris Meyers, and it could be out of frustration and anger because I’ve seen so many brought to tears because of this added financial hardship. Chris and others like him have the ability to work with the Council, together they may find alternative solutions to bring about some changes that help willing property owners meet their obligations without the fear of losing the roof over their heads. It’s a start, everything is in the trying and the willingness to sit down and talk. Money is always the problem, whether it’s with the less fortunate or some City departments that are short changed because of the hiring of unnecessary employees whose patronage jobs place a burden on the City budget. Thanks to And Fardy for information that was long forgotten.

    • The Bridgeport Kid

      R. Christopher Meyer, Mark Anastasi, et al, are good at lawyerspeak. Until reforms are committed to paper and the foreclosure process is used only as a last resort things will remain the same.

      Anyone notice Little Joe is conspicuously silent on this issue? What’s up with that?

  • Local Eyes

    Ask an expert. It all started in The Hollow which has the worst drainage in the history of gravity.

    People dislike paying for things that don’t work. Everytime it gets a heavy rain, the sewers overflow and paying for usage makes many feel foolish or demoralized.

  • John Marshall Lee

    Citizens of Bridgeport? Taxpayers of Bridgeport? Do you have a problem trusting comments from City Hall about the way processes have been organized? Perhaps you believe that they cover half a truth and benefit someone other than the citizen/taxpayer?

    Twice I have written about overdue accounts for WPCA that I have seen in years past. Major payments have been due from the city housing authority. It appears that WPCA and the authority have a plan. Is it the same plan offered to a resident who owns a single home and falls behind? Does it carry 18% interest and legal fees? Just asking whether there is a level playing field in operation. And questioning the relative impact of large and small debtors. It seems to me that a lien will serve an equal purpose of securing the obligation as long as the overall collection rate stays in bounds. Time will tell.

    • AttyToms

      JML, my friend, it’s unfortunate that you were not able to attend the Ordinance Committee meeting on Monday as some of the issues mentioned in your comment were addressed at that meeting. For instance, the statutory interest (Conn. Gen. Stat. Sect. 7-258 and Sect. 12-145) is 1.5% per month. If a property owner is delinquent for longer for 12 months then, yes, the interest is 18%; however, if a property owner is delinquent 2 months the interest is 3%. Let’s be intellectually honest. I would like to ask you to reconsider the tone in which you write about the efforts that come from City Hall; particularly when the City Attorney’s Office is clearly making a geniune effort to work with the Council and the community to improve the process.
      As a resident, taxpayer and city attorney, I am as interested in a fair and effective process as you, our Council and our community. I am not the opposition. Neither is Chris. We live here too. And I’ve been both liened and sued by the WPCA. Therefore, it would be greatly appreciated if you and everyone else on this blog, would please, please, please refrain from constantly villainizing the people in City Hall. It’s divisive, inciteful rhetoric for which there really is no room when folks are working really hard to protect the City (i.e. the residents), build relationships and earn trust. Allow us to do that. Thank you!!! (This comment was drafted on my lunch hour; no City time was expended.)

      • Lisa Parziale

        AttyToms you’re perspective is fair, but please realize that this has been going on long before you became aware and involved. The present tendency is to blame the few of you who recently came on board. I feel bad because I wrote some hurtful words about Chris M., a man I personally know and have always personally respected, but when anybody has been beaten down for so long, lied to and betrayed by those in a position to do so, this is what happens; decent people are attacked. So AttyTom, make us all look like fools, do something proactive, even if you have to make an attempt alone. Chris, you too!!!!!

      • Frank Gyure

        AttyToms.. Please don’t hide in City Hall. You were once held in high esteem but now you are spewing legal-ese. Maybe take a walk around P.T and the West End or talk to the victims of the WPCA/Liskov/Anastasi/Epstein scam. We know you are getting a paycheck. Can you find moral ground
        to get behind your paycheck.

        • AttyToms

          Mr. Gruyre, with all due respect, I suppose you missed the part where I said that I was personally both liened and sued by the WPCA. Further, the folks in PT do not pay WPCA bills and I am aware of that not because of my legal training but because my dad’s family lived there; therefore, I’m familiar with PT, not from campaigning, but because I have visited friends and/or family there or dropped of my children’s friends who live there. I do not need to walk through the tough neighborhoods of Bridgeport in an effort to connect with poor black or brown people, I was one of them and I’ve lived in every neighborhood in this City. I attended 10 schools between Bridgeport (6) and Stratford (4). Trust me, I get it. Please do not presume to know who I am or what principles form are the basis of my moral code. Simply ask. I am willing to share.
          Ironically, I have no idea who you are or what I did to lose your esteem. However, what is most disheartening about your personal attack is that it insinuates that I do not have legitimate love for my community beyond my paycheck. You might want to speak to people who really know me. I made a conscious decision to buy my first home in Bridgeport upon graduating from law school 10 years with a salary that exceeded what the City currently pays me… 10 years ago. I did not sell my voice for a paycheck but you assume so because I am not willing to use it irresponsibly on social media. I find listening far more effective.
          The community claims to want the City to hire “our own” and Council is attempting to legislate to that effect. When that happens, however, those hired are attack, villainize, called sell-outs. It’s irrational. Be fair. I will continue to give my whole heart to my work with the sincere hope that it benefits my community and those who want to see the good in those efforts, will, and those who do not, will not. Be well.

          • Frank Gyure

            Atty Toms.. thank you for your detailed response.I remember when you stood up for election versus the establishment.You are now part of the establishment.You have gained the establishment of A City Of Bridgeport employment. Have your perspectives changed.I know who you are Two(+ plus) years ago you offered yourself as a change from the status quo. You are now part of the status quo.You are not fooling anyone.

          • Ron Mackey

            Attorney Toms, thank you for sharing.

          • Jennifer Buchanan

            Frank, curious, knowing it “appears” Attorney Toms either sold out, or the city saw her as a threat to future elections, and made her an offer she couldn’t refuse, equal to her talents and abilities – isn’t it possible one way to be effective in making positive change in Bridgeport is working in and with the system? It seems one is damned if you do and damned if you don’t in Bridgeport. What I know of her, I’m prone to believe she’s there as an honorable person, working to make a positive difference for the citizens of Bridgeport. I could be wrong, but my experience is she’s both smart and as honorable as an attorney can be (sorry, couldn’t resist the attorney bashing). This I know about Chris Meyer, first I consider him a friend and spent over 8 years having breakfast with him almost every morning. Yes, he’s part of the DTC machine, even though he claims there’s no machine, with a straight face he says this. Second, he’s been in the city attorney department for more than 25 years, his biggest complaint was the number of attorneys not pulling their weight and costing taxpayers money and not serving the city. He cleaned house, and hiring people like Toms is most definitely a positive for the city and taxpayers. No doubt he needs to be held to the fire, and he’s no doubt a wingman for JG2 and Mario. Not everything he does is wrong or in bad faith. Do keep an eye on them, but also remember to give them credit when they do good.

      • Ethan Book

        Attorney Tom’s, would you please re-confirm what you asked Attorney Liskov about during the recess of the Monday Special Session, that the 1 1/2 percent monthly penalty interest is not compounded monthly?

        • AttyToms

          Hi Mr. Book – I saw your post Jan. 30th post under a separate thread. Conn. Gen. Stat. Sect. 22a 416 et seq. (et seq. means “and what follows”) applies to water pollution control in watercourses, such as Long Island Sound. Conn. Gen. Stat. Sect. 7-245 et seq. applies to Municipal Sewerage Systems. Sect. 7-258 provides “Any charge for connection with or for the use of a sewerage system, not paid within thirty days of the due date, shall thereupon be delinquent and shall bear interest from the due date at the rate and in the manner provided by the general statutes for delinquent property taxes.”

          Further the interest waiver Section (7-254a) was repealed, effective October 1, 2002.

          Conn. Gen. Stat. Sect. 12-145 – “… as soon as such tax becomes delinquent, it shall be subject to interest at the rate of one and one-half per cent of such tax for each month or fraction thereof which elapses from the time when such tax becomes due and payable until the same is paid. The tax collector of a municipality may waive the interest on delinquent property taxes if the tax collector and the assessor, jointly, determine that the delinquency is attributable to an error by the tax assessor or tax collector and is not the result of any action or failure on the part of the taxpayer. The tax collector shall notify the taxing authority of the municipality of all waivers granted pursuant to this section.”

          The difference between 12-145 and 12-146 is unclear to me at this time. I’ll look into it. Thanks for your research.

          • Ethan Book

            Hello, Attorney Toms! I am aware of what et seq. In a statute citing means. I acknowledge what you pointed out as the primary focus of Conn. Gen. Statutes, Sec. 22a-416 (a bit confusing as it is described as “Water Pollution Control”). Nonetheless, what you reference of Sections 7-254a and 7-258 of the Municipal Powers Act gives essentially the same wording as my reference to Sec. 22a-498b; that any delinquency of a municipal sewerage system shall be subject to interest “at the rate and in the manner provided by general statutes for delinquent property taxes” (re: my reference to Sec. 12-145). I do not see from the wording of the statutes that 18% annually is mandated. In addition, there is the related question of whether the WPCA is charging 1 1/2 percent compounded monthly.

            While I recognize that Sec. 7-254a dealing with waiver of interest was repealed in 2002, that repeal is really inconsequential if the 18% annually is not mandatory. Also, that waiver would not seem to have any bearing on the application of Sec. 12-124 which allows for abatement of taxes by the mayor, since collection of WPCA is to be done in the manner prescribed for property taxes. Further, Sec. 7-254(b) allows the municipality to collect WPCA bills through court action but the section does not mandate court actions for the collection of WPCA bills.

          • AttyToms

            Thank you for sharing your analysis Mr. Book.

          • Ethan Book

            Also, Atty. Tom’s, while Sec. 7-254a dealing with waiver of interest in WPCA bills was repealed in 2002, it is important to note that the statute as it had existed provided for a limited amnesty period for the waiver of interest on WPCA bills. That statute as had existed was approved in 1997 with the active support of Bridgeport Democrat legislators Chris Caruso and Ernest Newton and Fairfield Republican legislator Carl Dickman. Since the limited window for that amnesty had effectively passed, the repeal of the statute had no significant effect. This is relevant history for our current discussions!

          • Ethan Book

            Atty. Tom’s, back to my initial question, isn’t it true that the WPCA is charging 1 1/2 percent interest compounded monthly?

          • Ethan Book

            Do Mayor Ganim or relatives of his have financial interests in American Tax Funding?

  • Bob Walsh

    This is absurd. It is a no win situation.
    A constituent owes the WPCA money. I get involved and then the WPCA forecloses on the individual.
    Oh, wait a minute. I’m going to get blamed for foreclosing on the individual not the WPCA,
    Nice try Atty Myers but this is jucst kicking the can down the road.

  • Jimfox

    This calls for a complete independent Investigation, not some quick fix by the City Attorney’s office!
    How many senors have lost their homes while convalescing in some Hospital or a young couple who just lost their jobs.
    Now the City wants to shows some compassion?!
    The City Attorneys office budget is well over 5million a year what the hell do they do for that kind of money?
    Who been bidding on this foreclosed home? Take a look at (Ct Courts) web site, see how many Bridgeport foreclosure Attorney Juda Epstein (#430219 ) has on the books, sickening .
    The Mayor wants this exposure sweep-ed under the rug while he runs for Governor.

  • John Marshall Lee

    To all my friends on OIB and those who work in City governance efforts,
    “Let’s be intellectually honest.” Is that a challenge? Around an understanding of what 18% interest means? If a person owes $1,000 for a month and is chaarged an 18% annual interest expense of $15.00, that becomes $30 total after two months, $45 after three months and so on until at the end (or the beginning, depending on the plan)of the 12th month $180 will have been the expense. Did I undercut my intellectual honesty by using the term 18%? Please help me see such?
    It is my understanding from previous look at records that most of the properties that have been caught in our process have been there for years, rather than months before things are settled? Am I wrong about this? Is there a record, available to the public of the status of each and every payor who is in default such that I can determine the extent of the problem? When I last looked, such was not the case.
    I understand that your presence and activity as a communicator was helpful to the actions on Monday evening. Thank you. I am sorry that you have painted me as well as other OIB bloggers as “constantly villainizing the people in City Hall”. That does not fit me, I suggest, because I am in touch with multiple folks in City employment who are bothered by what they see are initiatives that are secret, wasteful, and not in accord with Charter, ordinances or such.
    And when we campaigned together under the words OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE and TRANSPARENT from my “playbook” I was very happy to adjust the phrase to include the word “HONEST” from your “playbook”. OATs morphed into OATH and I still use that acronym. If you find that I am off the track personally, let me know as you have above, and I am certain we can work it out. I am not certain that one or more others in City service who have been through college and law school are so inclined from watching their behavior. Time will tell.

  • Frank Gyure

    R. Christopher Meyers et all know they are losing the PR battle on this. Meyer is offering non-charter crumbs. UNACCEPTABLE.

  • Rich Augustynowicz

    Attorney Toms; Thank you for taking your personal time to weigh in on this blog. I appreciate your service and assume that you are one of those hardworking, conscientious, City Hall employees that “work hard to protect the City (i.e.the residents)”…. If you were not sincere then you would probably not have posted. So, in an effort to protect the City residents and earn more trust, could you look into the proposed OPED text amendment that has been submitted by Lynn Haig. Much of it clearly VIOLATES THE STATES ENABLING STATUTES with respect to ZONING AND PROPERTY RIGHTS. I’m sure you are familiar with what I am referring to. Many a hearing has taken place where testimony has been presented substantiating these facts and as Atty.Meyerstated:’municipalities cant just do what they want, they have to follow state laws’. Numerous Citizens, the ENTIRE SCHOOL BOARD, THE ENTIRE NRZ, and many COMMON COUNCIL members and others have spoken out against this amendment. Briefly: It appears that the Zoning Commission, and the Atty. who sits to advise them- LISKOV, and now OPED have no clue (or do they) as to what is legal or not regarding the above. Obviously they don’t since now they are HIRING AND OUTSIDE ATTORNEY to help them get this amendment passed in whatever manner they can. This entire process, which has endured for OVER two years now, has cost CITY TAXPAYERS a lot of money. So I am pointing specifically to those CITY EMPLOYEES that are not listening, not doing what is right, and not acting in the best interest of this City and its residents. What are the taxpayers paying for? Different issue than the hearing on Monday night, which I attended, but same concern: protecting the Residents and business people of this CItY. Have a nice day.

    • flubadub

      It is the issue of hiring outside council that really frosts my balls. This has been going on for years (decades?). The staff in the city’s legal department, I believe, make a decent wage. If they are incapable of performing the work for which they were hired then show them the door.

  • Donald Day

    This practice primarily effects those who can least afford to lose what little they have. Like Jimfox, I lay this on the door step of Mayor Joe Ganim who has yet to speak to this probably unethical and definitely morally reprehensible practice.

    My best guess is that this practice effects large numbers of people of color which is the Mayor’s base. Like Trump or not, but he never takes his base for granted like Mayor Ganim has done since his election.

    • The Bridgeport Kid

      Meyers, Liskov, et al, are doing whatever they can to stall this investigation by the City Council. What’s up with that, got something to hide? It really looks as though there is more, much more to this than immediately meets the eye. The ordinance committee wants to invoke its chartered right to issue subpoenas. “Oh you can’t do that,” R. Christopher Meyer said. “The subpoenaed parties will sue for defamation” and refused to issue them. He Los claimed the City Ouncil does not have the legal authority to issue subpoenas. Peter Spain consulted the city charter and proved Squire Meyer a liar. Shame on you, Chris. Mark Anastasi admonished the Council to “not make this an adversarial process.”

      Meyer and Anastasi work for the people of the city of Bridgeport, not a private law firm reoresenting the crooks and criminals with vested interests in maintaining a status quo that benefits a few at the expense of the working and middle classes. Shame on you both, gentlemen.

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    Attorney Toms cannot be faulted here. The objects of wrath are Chris Meyer and Russell Liskov who continue to defend an unfair and easily manipulated system. I’m sure everything Mr. Epstein does is legal; moral and ethical maybe not. Sounds to me as though he threatened legal action if the City Council subpoenaed him. He threatened something. Maybe he threatened to tell where ALL the bodies re buried, metaphorically speaking.

  • Ethan Book

    I would like Atty. Toms to specifically address the manner that monthly interest accrues on WPCA bills and whether the penalty interest on past-due bills is really set by statute!

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