City Council President Tom McCarthy’s Shackle-Free Independence

McCarthy, Bass Pro
Tom McCarthy, standing in front of Bass Pro Shops at its November opening, has a new outdoor world political perspective.

For his first eight years as City Council president while on the public payroll reporting to Mayor Bill Finch, Tom McCarthy never challenged his boss from his perch as head of the legislative branch. Last week, McCarthy spent his last official payday as deputy director of Labor Relations courtesy of a Joe Ganim-engineered severance package to eliminate conflicts of interest. In his first official council meeting Monday night off the public payroll McCarthy went from toothless tiger to chihuahua nipping at the mayor’s heels charging a consulting contract with Police Chief Joe Gaudett had bypassed the city’s bidding protocol. Oh what a payday can do (or lack of) to change checks and balances in government.

It intrigued to listen to McCarthy rail about the beloved City Charter when for 15 years he was in violation of the document that prohibits city employee councilors, cover given him by city lawyer Mark Anastasi who was the target of McCarthy’s legal criticism Monday night debating the Gaudett contract. An Anastasi legal opinion ruled that state law trumped the City Charter provision against city employee councilors. Anastasi also asserted Monday night that state law bidding procedures trumped McCarthy’s argument. And so it goes in a tit-for-tat with lawyers.

McCarthy left city service with an exit package that included $35,000 and two years of health benefits, a mighty good health benefit precedent considering his assertion about the precedent of the Gaudett contract in which Ganim and lawyers maintain did not require an open process because of his unique skills to do the job. Ganim had promised the police union that supported his comeback Gaudett would be gone if he were elected. Finch threw a cherry bomb into that when in his final days in office he appointed Gaudett to a five-year contract just to stick it to his mayoral rival who defeated him in last September’s Democratic primary.

It required Ganim to manufacture a $125,000 a year consulting position for Gaudett for three years in lieu of keeping him as chief that allows him also to receive his $78,000 city pension accrued as a police officer.

Now off the public payroll and showing some checks and balances grit with the executive branch, McCarthy bristles that the prior mayor worked with him and this current mayor does not. Hmmm, it’s easy to work with someone when they control your paycheck, right? As for Ganim not working with McCarthy, long-time city employees are hard-pressed to remember a severance package with two years of health benefits.

So McCarthy has proven the City Charter is a mighty fine argument when it’s convenient.



  1. Let’s see what we have received since Mayor Ganim took over as mayor.
    1. We have three people running the police department. Perez, Chapman and Paris.
    2. We have a fourth former chief who is getting $250,000 doing next to nothing plus approximately three months’ vacation.
    3, We have a retired FBI agent who is or will be paid to head a bullshit monitoring agency.
    4. We just completed a deal with the former assistant Labor relations officer for which we are giving him a $35,000 buyout and two years of medical benefits at a non-published cost.
    5. Why didn’t we just lay off McCarthy, pay him for unused vacation and that’s it? He was in a job the charter said he should not be in because he had been a city employee.
    Now this is just what I know has happened in the past 100 days. Imagine what it will look like after four years.

    1. F, no!!!
      He’s got a long, long way to go before even thinking that.
      First of all he will have to learn to reach across districts.
      He only had six votes and no African American votes.
      In order to do this he will have to advocate and pass matters important to minorities.
      Let’s start with a Living Wage Ordinance. Then he can do something about the outrageous Boot ‘n’ Tow program. Let’s get a Minority Business Program that works to improve contracts for BRIDGEPORT-based businesses. And let’s finally do something with residency requirements for BRIDGEPORT jobs.
      How’s that for starters?

  2. If it happened once, it can happen again.
    Rumor Mill: the reason Tom McCarthy left a paid position for a job-to-be-named later is the long-shot chance of becoming Mayor of Bridgeport. He’s not after a paycheck, he seeks a job title.
    It seems Joe Ganim can’t fulfill a campaign pledge without costing Bridgeport money.

  3. *** Tom’s city employee political shackles are finally off and now he can serve just his district and city taxpayers while on the city council instead of his ex-boss the Mayor! “OH WHAT A RELIEF IT IS!” ***

  4. I must admit, I have not really spent one second wondering if Tom curses, watches sports or has a stomach problem that requires alka seltzer. But since we are now venturing forth into this territory: Tom: it’s probably okay to fart in public now. 🙂

  5. Off topic, but with that large photo of Bass Pro Shops, is anyone other than me curious that there has been little local advertising for the store?

  6. As I write, Mayor Ganim is likely in final preparations to regale the BRBC members in attendance of his plans going forward. (Not for nothing it has seemed absurd the Bridgeport Mayor delivers his comments annually and mainly to folks who do not vote for him at the polls and likely do not measure him in the same manner as those who reside here. Is it a safer audience? Are they more powerful? Or are only some of them?)
    But about his plans, I am interested certainly because the City has had to discover IN HIS FIRST 100 DAYS the operating budget left to him to operate for the last seven months of the year was overconfident on revenues and mistaken in ignoring or understating real expenses for a total net projected deficit of $20 Million after assuming $4 Million from employee savings (formerly termed “ghost expenses”).
    Since this column is about McCarthy and not Ganim, how has McCarthy seized the moment to increase the presence of the City Council in practical governance? If you see it, please say it.
    *** When will he ask the Ordinance Committee to update out-of-date ordinances still floating around like Stipends and purchasing?
    *** When will he work to see dollar values having to do with all resolutions before the Council Committee are included in the titles of the matters? That would be a heads-up to each committee as well as to the public at large.
    *** When would he take a chance to encourage Committee Chairs to let members of the public who attend these Committee meetings have an opportunity to be heard on material subjects of that Committee? He may wish to avoid four-hour meetings but he is not modeling OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE and TRANSPARENT behavior when Committee Chairs shut down serious conversation about current and relevant City matters.
    Is Tom McCarthy a leader? Is he independent? Is he serious about the 15 Council members who are liaison to other Boards and Commissions in the City? Where is this liaison activity presented to the Council as an entirety? Is the entire “liaison” responsibility a nullity? How does the School Building Committee, in its hundreds of millions of oversight, fail to post when and where its meetings are held, minutes are stored, and opportunities for taxpayers to ask questions or be heard? School Building Committee is not a City Council Committee and should be using Robert’s Rules?
    How many soldiers does Tom McCarthy command? How will he bring strength and some pride to that group? How will taxpayers see evidence of more Open, Accountable, Transparent and Honest process from the City Council? Time will tell.

  7. Not only was Tom a puppet but he was very competent in the work of moving things along. Who is taking that role now? I wonder how long Tom will keep fighting when all it gets him is headlines and no results.

    1. Bob, McCarthy may have been a puppet in his past life on the Council, but he can now be an independent leader, he has the experience, he must earn the trust of his colleagues by supporting their causes when possible, use his knowledge of the Council process, and I guarantee you his past will become just a vague memory. He must seize the term and do what a Council President should do. I’m not giving any suggestions because I’m not ready to go to battle with this administration yet. But if Tom wants to talk and swallow his pride, I’m available.


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