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City Funds To Bail Out Port Authority Raise Questions About Nunn’s Intent

January 24th, 2016 · 49 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Budget, News and Events

Port Authority building

Port Authority building Downtown. CT Post photo.

A nearly $1 million fund transfer in November from an economic development office account to the financially strapped Bridgeport Port Authority approved by then-Chief Administrative Officer Andy Nunn who attempted to line up a job there when Bill Finch was a lame-duck mayor is creating waves. Nunn tried to position himself as Port Authority director in the dubious last days of the Finch administration. He was derailed by commission chairman Denis O’Malley who did not think it was appropriate for the board to approve a permanent director with Joe Ganim coming in as mayor. O’Malley was a Finch supporter. Nunn had also approved a pair of brand-new sport utility vehicles costing the city $72,458 in anticipation of being appointed permanent head of the Port Authority.

Knowing he would not be retained by Ganim as chief of department heads, Nunn, who has faced health issues, saw the next logical ticket as a paid executive director of the Port Authority. He authorized the transfer of money to the Port Authority to pay off $900,000 borrowed a decade ago from Westport-based lender Titan-LB LLC to build a parking garage adjacent to the ferry terminal Downtown. Retiring the loan would free up roughly $9,000 a month in loan payments that could be applied to the director’s position.

Nunn, Finch

Andy Nunn in background with former Mayor Bill Finch. CT Post photo.

Nunn, former first selectman of Monroe, was appointed by Finch as CAO shortly after his election in 2007. Nunn became acting director of the Port Authority after Joe Riccio was cut loose in 2009. On the last day of his administration Finch authorized a retroactive pay raise for himself that direct deposited $17,000 into his bank account. Others benefited too such as Nunn who received $16,906 going out the door.

The timing of the funds transfer has raised a number of questions. Economic Development Director David Kooris, who also sits on the five-member Port Authority commission, was in the dark about the transfer. Did Finch know about the budget transfer? City fiscal watchdog John Marshall Lee, who makes it his business to track expenditures, has been following the paper trail with concerns he has expressed to the City Council.

A memo from David Kooris, OPED director, to Ken Flatto, Finance Director, concerned me, one line especially: “Unknown to OPED, a large transfer out of our capital account was made in late 2015 that will hamper our ability to move these and other planned projects forward.”
· Why and how can anyone access departmental capital accounts without the department director’s knowledge? Without explanation?
· Who can do this without City Council review and approval of such transfer? Was this a legal use of funds sourced from a bond?
· Who knows about this? Anyone present at this meeting tonight?

The Port Authority has a history of financial issues and battles with the Bridgeport and Port Jefferson Steamboat Company over tariffs applied to the Downtown ferry terminal. The ferry company has plans to relocate the terminal across the harbor close to the Steel Point redevelopment area of the East Side.

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49 Comments so far ↓

  • Mojo

    *** What exactly is the function of the Bpt Port Authority and does the city really need to continue to be involved in this venture since it seems to be a no-win situation? Also, if possible Ganim should look to investigate Nunn’s involvement in all this and if laws were broken, press charges against all involved! ***

  • Harvey Weintraub

    Seems to have been a pattern within the Finch admins, using the taxpayers’ money as their own personal bank acct. First Finch, buying his buddy Moutinho a $500,000 driveway, then McCarthy thinking it was okay to spend the stipends the taxpayers give the council members on anything they please, and now Nunn transferring our tax dollars around to pay off a debt so it would free up money to pay him a salary, and while he was at it, he bought two new SUVs to make sure he’d have a nice car to take home from his new port authority position he tried to force his way into. And the stories will continue to come out I’m sure. Finch and company had a nice little enterprise going it seems.

    • Lisa Parziale

      Harvey, I’m patiently waiting for the Finance Department to set parameters on the use of stipend funds. When the practice started, every dollar had to be accounted for as well as what it was used for. Maybe I can find a willing council member to present this request in the form of a resolution. Let’s see who supports it.

      • Godiva2011

        Lisa Parziale–how much of a stipend do they get and are there any restrictions or guidelines in place to determine what they can spend it on?

        • Lisa Parziale

          I keep hearing $9,000, but I don’t know if that’s for the term. There were guidelines when I served, but I think they went away during the Fabrizi, Finch administrations. They were set and monitored by the Finance Dept. At that time, we had to put our own money out and explain what it was used for, and if it was considered council-related, we would be reimbursed.

          • John Marshall Lee

            For many years dating previous to the Finch administration, the City Operating budgets included $180,000 in the Legislative Department annual budget such that the Ordinance governing the amount provided equal sharing among all 20 Council members. Thus we arrive at $9,000 for a fiscal year. As mentioned above a member would spend the funds and then request reimbursement.
            I am not a betting person ordinarily, but I am about 95% certain the Ordinance in questions, while being reviewed to be relevant and administratively simpler, non-taxable for Council members, and clarifying issues that the Stipend account should not legally cover, like charitable contributions or political support, has never been amended.

            That means for more than three years a new system, with a plastic credit card and some backup initial paperwork in the Finance office has operated, but has been “illegal” in the sense it does not follow the language of any Council-approved Ordinance. Who is spending what amount? For what Council purpose? In light of City taxes increasing and only 50% of Stipends being used, shouldn’t a new look at these funds to produce better Council results be timely? Time will tell.

  • Harvey Weintraub

    Finch: “I love this city!” Yeah, no shit, seems he and his staff could spend our money any way they pleased.

  • Frank Gyure

    Okay, stuff is coming out. I truly wonder if all this was any different under Ganim(1), Moran, Bucci, Mandanici et al.

  • Frank Gyure

    A Port Authority is needed with possible dredging and the whole issue of promoting Bridgeport as a deep water port. It’s a question of who is on the board and seeing how it functions.

  • Mojo

    *** What dredging? The project New Haven’s long shore area beat out Bpt for thanks to our Bpt mighty eight legislative geniuses up at the capital! The Port Authority in Bpt has only been a big waste of taxpayers’ money with no or very little gain in any kind of interest or progress throughout the years. Please someone, anyone, change my mind about this money pit downtown! *** WHOOP ***

    • Frank Gyure

      Get with it. Malloy, Blumenthal and Murphy have decided dredging will happen. It’s the big multi-billion plan coming up. New haven will get dollars, New London will get dollars. And Bridgeport will get dollars.

      • Mojo

        *** That rumored (dredging) talk has been on and off the Port Authority table and city council upcoming agendas for years now with nothing but another CT GOV talking the same old story! Nothing happened then, now, nor any time soon but more talk, which is cheap! As a matter of fact, last time I heard talk about dredging was when Ganim was the Mayor of Bpt back in 2001 I believe. *** WHOOP ***

  • Jeff Kohut

    Sounds like the Port Authority money shell game could be just the tip of the iceberg in Bridgeport Harbor. And of course none of the “survivors” who were on the SS Finch-Titanic saw anything that resembled an iceberg from their vantage point. Was everyone napping during the last four years of the Finch mis-Administration?! (One can only imagine what will be “dredged up” from Bridgeport Harbor if the Federal government decides to do some “dredging.”) (The new administration apparently still has some furniture moving and house cleaning left to do.)

  • Frank Gyure

    Excuse me, the retroactive raise was part of the supervisors’ contract. We can keep on telling this story about the last-minute direct deposit raises but there is the uncomfortable truth it was part and parcel of the supervisors’ contract, which Christopher Meyer is having difficulty finding a loophole to try to void it.

    • Bob Walsh

      Frank, the retroactive raises may have been based on the Supervisors’ contract but the timing and the lies by omission are all the acts of the Finch admin.
      If members of the Finch admin had truthfully dealt with the council by telling them a vote to table is the same as a vote to approve, I believe the contract would have been DOA. Rejected by the council. So let’s all be honest with the games that were and are being played.

    • LennieGrimaldi

      Frank, Finch was not obligated to approve and accept the retro raise for himself.

    • Black Rockin

      Frank, don’t worry about Chris Meyer, he is a big reason Joe is mayor (give thanks).
      There is a saying “One’s eyes are what one is. One’s mouth is what one becomes”–John Galsworthy.
      Frank, please open your eyes. Start there!

  • Frank Gyure

    I think Nunn had MAJOR health issues.

    • Rocco

      He may have health issues, he may not. That part of his personal life is not our business to discuss, nor should we out of decency and respect of the Golden Rule. If he did or does not, I don’t think that is relevant to this conversation.

  • Bob Walsh

    Rumor has it the other SUV was intended for another recently retired City Hall Exec who was going to be getting a part-time job with the Port Authority.
    The old “you scratch my palm and I’ll scratch yours.”

  • Bob Walsh

    What kind of moral ethics does the former CAO have?
    None. Get it, Stevie? Nunn.

  • Bob Walsh

    I was reading another story on the CT Post website about a small contractor getting stiffed by a BRIDGEPORT-backed developer on a downtown development project. Seems like Eric Anderson and Urban Green Builders is screwing up another development project with financial problems and performance issues and delays.
    This article talked about one company being owed $150k. And you can be sure if there’s one, there’s more than one.
    This guy Aja’s consistently had issues like this and yet the city continues to have what should be considered unacceptable delays.
    Just another reason why developers want nothing to do with this city. Reward the bad and shut out the good.

    • DougDavidoff

      As to the main news in Lennie’s post about the $1 million transfer without authorization, it’s amazing what happens when JML tugs at just a few strings. This is quite a sordid tale. Who actually believes they can get away with this kind of stuff? And when will the City Council scream bloody murder over this back-door usurpation of its authority and public accountability? Prosecution?

      As to Bob Walsh’s comment immediately above: (1) despite the rigmarole elsewhere–like right across the street–the Spinaker redevelopment of the Security Building seems to be going apace straight through the winter and hopefully will open close to schedule in the spring; (2) I’d been wondering what was going on with the Jason and Newfield across from the Security, so thanks for pointing out the article on CTPost.com; and (3) I wonder what’s up with Forstone’s redevelopment plan for the Peoples Bank building and the block south of McLevy Green, which seems to be two or three months past the time construction was to begin, with no public explanation for the holdup. Forstone did a great job on the M&F Bank Building (where I live in a 1BR apt) and it’d be great to see what the same team does with the buildings on the south edge of the Green.

      • Pete Spain

        Doug Davidoff,
        Re your comment “tugging at a few strings”:

        John Lee has been actively engaged in researching Bridgeport City Government for more than five years.

        He has become a veritable fourth estate, and yet humbly pursues facts and figures at a rate that far exceeds most paid public servants.

        This post by L.G. is largely thanks to John Lee. Contact John for more info at PeopleIns@aol.com

  • Phil Smith

    Was Nunn able to reallocate this money on his own authority or were others involved?

    • Bob Walsh

      Phil,
      The City Charter clearly states the City Council has the sole authority to reallocate unexpended capital funds.
      However, the city Bond Counsel includes language in every bond authorization that authorizes the mayor to do so.
      I attempted to amend almost every bond authorization that came before the council to strike that language and every time the council rejected my amendment.
      Do you think now the council will act differently? Now that they have an example of how dangerous this can be?
      I don’t. They don’t give a damn and neither does their Council President.

  • city hall smoker

    The transfer was done by OPM director Tom Sherwood who expected to be the #2 guy at the Port Authority. That’s why two new vehicles were purchased. Sherwood’s SUV was unaccounted for until Public Facilities retrieved it from his driveway in Fairfield. Why criminal charges weren’t filed, I don’t know.

    • Steven Auerbach

      That is unbelievable! First, because you knew that and second, because criminal charges were not filed. They both got what they so rightly deserved!!!

  • Godiva2011

    Just my two cents–the taxpayers of Bridgeport simply cannot win. Ultimately, all this tomfoolery with money hurts them in the long run. It’s just shameful. Exactly how does a retired employee end up getting a brand-new vehicle for free? Talk about misuse of taxpayers’ money. And if no arrest was made as of yet–why not? It certainly isn’t too late to pin down the culprit and charge them.

    • Harvey Weintraub

      “Exactly how does a retired employee end up getting a brand new vehicle for free?” Godiva, that’s a simple answer, Finch allowed it as to keep anyone who “knew things” happy. Sort of a “here, take this and be quiet” scenario. Bpt, getting better every day! The only thing that’s getting better is the politically connected bank accts.

  • Frank Gyure

    It is now Saturday night about 7:00 pm and we have received a lot more snow than was predicted. I had a tooth extracted this morning and sitting inside has given me a chance to read and think about the various postings here. It is not a good feeling. BRIDGEPORT POLITICS AND BRIDGEPORT GOVERNANCE IS A MESS. It’s a cesspool. It’s not just Finch even though most, but not all, here were rabid anti-Finch. It’s not just Joseph Ganim. Some of you here now seem ready to canonize him as a saint but his past adds to the cesspool. He said he has changed. I really can’t say the start of his administration is all that promising. His choice for heads of city departments are a perfect example of political cronyism. Fancy titles were given and no one knows what they mean. Extra people were hired such as Chapman and Ganim’s FBI friend and both are completely unnecessary. The recent dealing with Thomas McCarthy is nothing different. I was at the First Common Council meeting with Ganim as mayor and it was obvious McCarthy’s behavior indicated he was going to be re-elected as Council President. Talking about the Common Council, we have 20 puppets. Do we really think the Common Council will be a source of good governance? We see the selection of Dennis Bradley as head of the Board of Education. Completely unqualified. Are you guys going to blame that on Finch too? I would like to find out how Finch learned how to become a political boss and financial wizard considering his rather pedestrian background. How is it a small coterie gathers here on this website and seems to know all the dirty dealings that supposedly have been happening? Also, disappointing is the cynicism and negativity present in most postings. There may be some justification for it but I read no positive alternatives offered. It’s all NO. Dredging deep water port of Bridgeport, NO! East Side train station, NO! Proper use of tax abatements and in fact, NO, to any and all tax abatements to spur development. Have any of you read the story of Stamford? Do you think that was done by magic? Tax abatements to everyone and massive use of eminent domain. It’s easy to throw the brickbats but maybe the people here need to contemplate and begin offering some positive answers. Questions are not enough. We need to start finding answers.

    • Frank Gyure

      My tooth pain is returning and time to utilize the wonders of pain-relieving medication.

    • Zena Lu

      Everyone else is negative?

      • John Marshall Lee

        ZL,
        Frank G is a new guy on the block. Maybe when he looks at OIB he sees what he sees. Where do you see the opposite of negative? Perhaps he does not yet see the value of this site in providing some longer-term and reasonably informed observers with a place to hash out pros and cons. Where else is that possible in Bridgeport today? Drive time comments on local radio? Soundview shows? CT Post Letters or Op-Ed features? Debates by local political parties? Addresses to public groups about City priorities? Review of all budgets and external audits with a back and forth, give and take conversational approach? Has it ever been tried? Time will tell.

        • Zena Lu

          I just thought it interesting, in the midst of a rant rife with criticism (not that there is anything wrong with that), FG chose to call everyone else negative.

          • Frank Gyure

            I stand by what I say. I see the complaints etc. but I don’t see the answers to the shortcomings we see in our city. I am looking for ANSWERS. I see plenty of people pointing out what is wrong or this and that won’t work out. ANSWERS, PLEASE. POSITIVE ACTIONS TO BE TAKEN, PLEASE.

  • Frank Gyure

    John Marshall Lee, THANK YOU for coming to my defense and using empathy trying to possibly see things through mine own eyes.

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