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City Council Rejects Controversial Finch Labor Agreement

December 31st, 2015 · 34 Comments · City Budget, City Council, News and Events

UPDATE: How they voted. Facing a mega budget deficit, at the urging of Mayor Joe Ganim, the Bridgeport City Council in a special meeting Wednesday night voted 12-3 to rescind controversial pay raises approved in a labor agreement covering about 150 city employees for a five-year period starting July 1, 2013. Those city employees have already received retroactive pay increases based on the agreement. Ganim and City Attorney R. Christopher Meyer have taken the legal position that a health-care amendment to the agreement required full council approval and invalidates implementation of the raises.

Ganim urged rejection of the contract due to the financial burden it has created for what Ganim says is a $20 million budget deficit he’s trying to close. Ganim pledged to reopen negotiations for a new contract. Ganim said the $2.5 million financial impact was not budgeted by the prior administration.

“This is a very wise decision by our city councilors to reject these appalling raises that Mayor Finch succeeded in sneaking through in the last days of his administration, without the proper scrutiny,” said Ganim in a statement. “These raises are costing taxpayers nearly $2.5 million dollars for the current fiscal year, an expenditure no one budgeted for and that is now adding to our already staggering budget deficit. Much of the money walked out the door along with Mayor Finch’s cronies on the last day of the previous administration because it was direct deposited into people’s bank accounts. But we will make every effort to get those funds back. I look forward to working with the supervisor’s union on hammering out a new contract that is more in line with the best interests of Bridgeport’s taxpayers.”

The council action raises several questions. How will the city recoup some of that money that left with departing Finch officials? What about the retroactive pay? Will the union file a lawsuit?

Some council members such as Michelle Lyons suggested the legislative body pass an ordinance that carves out the union members from the management level positions that have been grouped under the bargaining unit. Several council members asserted that union members with smaller pay scales than management positions are suffering as a result.

“I’m afraid to accept this contract because of some of the people who may lose their jobs,” said councilor Denese Taylor-Moye.

Councilor Eneida Martinez said she was upset that the information on the labor agreement was not forthcoming from the previous administration.

The labor pact became a controversial item as Bill Finch was going out the door as mayor.

In one of his final acts as mayor, Finch approved retroactive pay increases for dozens of discretionary appointees after the City Council failed to act on approving a collective bargaining agreement under the Bridgeport City Supervisor’s Association that also drives mayoral pay. On his final day as mayor Nov. 30th Finch’s bloated paycheck packed a direct deposited $17,079 based on his authorizing a retroactive pay raise going back to July 1, 2013.

On November 18, the attorney for the supervisor’s association Ed Gavin sent a letter to then Director of Labor Relations Larry Osborne, a Finch supporter who’s also a member of the Democratic Town Committee, citing Connecticut law regarding inaction by the legislative body to act on collective bargaining agreements.

“Such requests shall be considered approved if the legislative body fails to vote to approve or reject such requests within 30 days of the end of the 14 day period for submission to said body,” Gavin wrote.

One day later Osborne wrote a letter to Chief Administrative Officer Andy Nunn, a now-deposed Finch appointee, recommending that the “City move forward with putting the contract into effect, including any and all payroll adjustments as of November 27, 2015. If the City does not implement the contract, it will be subject to Municipal Prohibited Practices and other claims from the Union.”

Under the new agreement the mayor’s salary goes from $132,500 to roughly $144,000.

According to the communication from Ganim to the City Council “due to the significance of the matter and time being of the essence, the City Council has to accept or reject the Collective Bargaining Agreement prior to the  expiration date that is due to expire on Sunday, January 3, 2016.”

Former City Council President Ernie Newton says this is another example why city employees should not serve on the City Council. “You can’t serve two masters.”

His reference was to City Council President Tom McCarthy, deputy director of Labor Relations whose office handled the labor negotiations under the Finch administration. McCarthy did not attend the council meeting.

Ganim has instructed city officials to meet with union representatives on Thursday to begin new negotiations.

Gavin has said he will march into court if need be.

Voting to reject contract: Katie Bukovsky, Denese Taylor-Moye, Jeanette Heron, Michelle Lyons, Richard Salters, Mary McBride-Lee, Jose Casco, Alfredo Castillo, Milta Feliciano, Nessah Smith, Anthony Paoletto, Eneida Martinez.

Voting to accept: John Olson, AmyMarie Vizzo-Paniccia, Aidee Nieves.

Abstaining: Evette Brantley, claiming dubiously since she was not a member of the council when the labor pact was presented to the council she should not vote.

Absent: Tom McCarthy, Jim Holloway, Jack Banta, Scott Burns.

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34 Comments so far ↓

  • Four Flats

    Okay, so let me get this straight.
    1. Ganim during corrupticut one, changed charter so raises to union would not exceed non-union political appointments.
    2. Collective bargaining in this state which is a Democratic vote-getting joke, allowed for contract negotiations with previous administration for over two years which involved deputy director/council president/lawyer/Finch ally Tom McCarthy.
    3. Prior to this Gov. Rell under STATE LAW let a budget/contract pass without signing so guess what folks it goes into effect (those who repeat history are doomed).
    4. Fast forward. Ganim we need to heal/all is forgiven/one party wins election.
    5. The soon/can’t live forever Mario Testa “if the mayor had paid him the respect he was due” ego maniac political puppet puller “he would still be mayor” but he bucked the kissing of the ring. So he lost favor, but got voted out. “Finch” negotiated the contract “in good faith” that directly affects him and over 60 political appointees.
    6. Loses election. Prior to December 1 C. Meyer newly appointed head attorney who got Finch thrown off ballot didn’t read the law or do his due diligence gets caught out with this contract.
    7. Mario goes to council meeting, what a shock. Convinces them to table the issue in front of the council president/director of labor relations/Finch ally Tom McCarthy. (Hmmmm. You think he didn’t know if tabled the contract would go into place), but “Mario” promises that other than the 60 political hacks “The retro to be paid to the Democratic union machine would be given to them by Christmas”!!! They would be getting the Christmas bonus, the paper said.
    8. Finch brings people in on a holiday after Thanksgiving. Now this is SLEAZY!!! To make sure direct deposit goes in. Not on a Friday after Ganim gets in but by Monday/Tuesday of the following week.
    9. Okay, its legal. It’s sleazy but legal. Now you want to punish those who supported you. Mario promised them a bonus. The non-political/working Joes, and the city response going to dock the pay of those who still work but those who escaped go free, unless we file costly attorney fees to recover peanuts.
    The best though is the quote below.
    “Councilwoman Mary McBride-Lee said she had some “very good friends” who were union members, but she voted to reject the deal anyway. She claimed the council and union were “had” by the Finch administration.”
    Yeah, she voted for the contract as did the entire council under McCarthy now to cater to Mario and Joe. They have been bamboozled. Welcome to high school education in politics. But then again the old complaint is we never understood the budget. Ganim million dollar insurance policy, but we just vote “yes” nothing but Democratic cattle. I smell conspiracy. But in Bridgeport it’s everyday reality. Good luck!!! Be careful what you wish for.

    • Ron Mackey

      Technically I agree with you without the editorial comments but I do understand Mayor Ganim’s concern of the cost and the timing of this action and he’s doing the right thing. If management can come back to get a contract they don’t like; well, can the unions do the same thing?

  • Local Eyes

    Rumor Mill: Unbeknownst to most observers were the twelve City Councilors who wore t-shirts that said “Local Eyes made me do it.”

  • Jimfox

    Did McCarthy have anything to do with Squirrel-Gate?

    • Jimfox

      Nice catch on the last-minute amendments to this illegal contract, City Attorney Meyer!
      I’m sure past City Attorney Hamilton Burger would be more than happy to recoup these “ill-gotten gains” on behalf of the taxpayers.

  • John Marshall Lee

    The vote as Lennie has reported showed 12 rejecting and 3 accepting the original Council action, but Council person Brantley abstained when the vote was taken. She indicated her reason was she was not on the Council in October and November when the original decision was made. Her fellow Council member Olson voted to accept the previous action even though he did not have enough information. Brantley and Olson replaced Swain and Halstead (who was present in the audience) this year. Perhaps they will review Council rules regarding the limited reasons for abstaining and/or find the courage to request whatever info is necessary for them to make a hard decision. It is likely there will be more of those to come.

    There were four absences last evening including President McCarthy and Holloway (who would have been conflicted in any case, originally and currently it seems, but better late than never when it comes to learning), as well as Banta and Burns.

    Comments in the discussion phase of the public Council session included several references to the understanding from more than one Council member the previous administration had assured the CC the funds were “appropriated” already. Such readiness to believe what you are being told without verifying such information within the fiscal reporting system itself is mute testimony to how overpowered the Council is without legislative assist from staff that work for the Council alone and are able to research issues that are before the Council. It provides evidence of how little Council members understand about the City fiscal system they believed, without questioning, there was sufficient variance in one or more budgets to accommodate millions for union and political hires. Show me, show me, and show me requests must become a pattern for the new Council if taxpayers are to survive. Time will tell.

  • Zena Lu

    Who else, besides Olson, voted to accept the action?

  • Local Eyes

    It’s not always a perfect world–there weren’t enough t-shirts to go around.
    (shrug)

  • Lisa Parziale

    Please accept my comments as a homeowner in the 132nd district for 43 years. In addition, I represented this district since 1981 to present as a TC member and for a time District Leader, also as a proud public servant for 20 years on the City Council. Never a City position. It disgusts me to read John Olson again voted against the people of the 132nd district. He voted for every budget that carried with it a tax increase, at the ripe old age of 85 (God bless him) we don’t know if he ever had children attend our public schools, yet he voted to abolish us from voting for BOE members and voted for a State takeover of our schools. He is not a homeowner paying excessive taxes, instead he rents a small apartment in a high-rise so therefore his rent includes taxes that are at a minimum for renters. And now, he supports last-minute pay raises that were granted in one of Finch’s vindictive last-minute actions. Olson should not be representing the 132nd district in any capacity. I will take full advantage of his anti-people votes by informing every resident in my district of his incompetency and out-of-touch representation. He was defeated two years ago and the only reason (in my opinion) he’s back is because he rode in on Finch’s coattails. I could have prevented that if I had the luxury of putting in the time it required to get rid of him. I felt it was more important to have Finch removed from office, and I chose to devote every hour of my time to achieve that goal. I will not allow that to happen again.

  • Tom White

    Brantley had no grounds to abstain. The city attorney should have advised the city council of the factors allowing an abstention. McCarthy, Holloway, Burns and Banta were simply absent from the meeting.

    A point of clarification: Members of the city council, per the city charter, are referred to as ‘council members,’ not councilors, councilman, councilwoman, etc. This was put in place when the common council with aldermen became the city council with council members with charter revision of 1993.

    • John Marshall Lee

      Tom,
      Word leaking from the ‘caucus room’ where a 20-minute timeout from the Council meeting ended up taking 45 minutes or more; where the grounds for a vote to abstain were provided to those assembled; and where Council member Brantley may have used 1/3 of the time there to air her impressions. Some people must escape hard decisions and the fact she abstained in the face of instruction otherwise does not bode well for the constituents of this veteran Council member, does it? Time will tell.

      • Lisa Parziale

        JML, Evette Brantley is not a veteran council member. She was defeated when she served the 139th district, and then again in the 132nd district. In two years she’ll be on her third and last loss. Very shortly, nine very competitive, dedicated, energetic people from the 132nd district will finally change the face and mission of our town committee. Our group will reach across the district and respond to the wishes of the people. The rest will take care of itself.

        • John Marshall Lee

          Lisa,
          Bowing to your long service to the Council and knowledge regarding people and decisions, I used the term “veteran” to acknowledge this is not the first time Council member Brantley has been elected to this post. So I still believe “veteran” is appropriate, especially since you indicate she has previously served a term in the 139th and 132nd in addition to her current representation in the 132nd.

          From a “veteran,” more should be expected than from a “rookie” in my opinion. When a “veteran” cannot identify the accuracy of group rules, even when so reminded, said “veteran” is plowing the furrows for a grave rather than a planting and harvesting season. Time will tell.

          • Lisa Parziale

            Actually John, you’re correct. I can’t help crediting a veteran with competency and vision, and that’s why I can’t refer to her as a veteran.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Tom, I will call them what I want to call them. Paniccia, Olsen and Nieves are all astronauts, all they do is take up space. Dumber than dirt.
    Brantley is a waste. Good way for new Black Rock council member Burns, a no-show. What kind of rep did you all vote on in BR? You could have voted for JML and really got representation.

  • Zena Lu

    I actually like the carve-out idea, but performing an upper management carve-out could be very problematic with regards to the in-place contract. Correct me if I am wrong, such an action would need to be part of contract renewal negotiations, right? A carve-out could not be tacked onto this action because what is occurring is simply an attempt at enforcement of and existing contract stipulation before a deadline, not a contract negotiation on the whole, right? Or not?

  • Local Eyes

    In 2015, OIB readers were nonstop winners and I hope the trend continues in 2016.
    Be here at midnight tonight:
    www .earthcam.com/usa/newyork/timessquare/?cam=tsrobo3

  • Mojo

    *** The vote was a nice political corrective measure that basically will cost the city more money in court trying to reverse the action and recoup any of the money already spent during the holidays. In other words, the damage has been done due to an old amendment of which I’m not completely sure but believe it was authored by the Ganim Admin. back in the day that stated whenever the supervisors union workers get a raise, the non-union or political workers as well as the Mayor also are included in that raise! The raise agenda came before the council and they apparently tabled it maybe twice? Wondering if it could be worded to only affect the supervisors union members and not the non-union political workers thus ended up doing nothing! In comes sore loser “Mr. Green Jeans” to make a last-minute political Mayor’s benjamin$ move and screws the city taxpayers and pushes the city’s budget deeper into the “RED ZONE!” All in the name of making a sound decision for city workers who have gone without for three years and given back many vacation days, etc. Also, in good faith to keep the city worker layoffs to a low minimum plus help in trying to balance the city budget at the same time. *** What a wonderful gesture to do right before the holidays by playing Santa Claus and fucking the city taxpayers one more time, no? *** WHOOP ***

    • Lisa Parziale

      Mojo, please call me, or I’ll call you, you need to come back!!!

      • Mojo

        *** I’ve tried a few times in different ways to get back serving the city’s voters and taxpayers in my own way, however it was not meant to be since it was very difficult at that time to go against Finch’s reigning city government, its rubber stamping puppets and some of the usual “what’s in it for me” DTC members. But I’ve always watched from afar and at times felt compelled to voice my opinions on certain subjects here on OIB! “HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU,” and I hope you know your help to me when I was a freshman city councilman goes without saying! Your kindness and helpful knowledge about all city and state matters, etc. was a blessing for me and my district at that time. *** LOVE YOU! ***

        • Lisa Parziale

          Thank you my friend, but you must come back. I’m going to call you. Don’t let anyone get to you, you have so much to offer. It’s time to try again, I’ll help you. I’m still energized from a long, successful campaign, I never unplugged and ready to go again in my own district. I did a lot of work in your district while helping our new Mayor. I’ll pass on my contacts to you and my other best former colleague. You know who I mean.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Here is a direct quote from John Olson who voted in favor of the raises.
    “Councilman John Olson, re-elected in November after losing his seat two years ago, was one of three members who voted to pass the contract. Another abstained.
    “I have to vote to sustain the contract,” Olson said. “I have too many questions and too many doubts. I think the city will not falter and collapse if we sustain the contract.”
    He has too many doubts and too many questions, then why vote for the contract?
    Their problem is many on the council suffer from the same syndrome, ‘TERMINAL DUMB ASS.” Two others also voted with Olsen.

    • Lisa Parziale

      Andy, I’m not being mean, but John Olson’s time passed a long time ago. He knows that because he notified the 132nd TC he wasn’t running. At the last minute he changed his mind because Evette Brantley couldn’t get anyone to run with her so she begged him to renege. For a minute we had a chance to finally retire him, but he’s back. Poor Bridgeport, and he has to reside in my district. I had nothing to do with putting him back, but I will have a lot to do if he tries again.

  • Mojo

    *** Almost forgot, as far as the 132nd district is concerned; its best years of district representation at city hall were when they had Lisa P. and Bob W. as their representatives on the Bpt City Council. *** BACK TO BASICS ***

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