Saturday update: The Bridgeport Civil Service Commission Friday afternoon, at the urging of Mayor Bill Finch, fired Personnel Director Ralph Jacobs citing breach of city loyalty and setting up a legal battle over control of the historically non-political position.
At issue was one charge in which commission members say Jacobs overstepped his authority when he urged a legal representative for a city employee to seek arbitration if the employee could not resolve issues with the city’s labor relations department. The Civil Service Commission had reinstated Delores Smith, through seniority rights, after she challenged her job layoff. City labor officials, however, saw it a different way.
Jacobs and his lawyer former Mayor Tom Bucci protested arguing that Jacobs was merely following up on a job restoration action sanctioned by Civil Service commissioners after labor relations did not honor her rights per NAGE agreement. Even so commission members including Eleanor Guedes and Rosa Correa said Jacobs had an obligation to clear the letter with commissioners before urging an attorney to seek arbitration.
Finch, who sat through most of the meeting, accused Jacobs of “practicing law without a license” in a meeting that featured several intense exchanges between the mayor and Jacobs. Bucci intends to appeal the firing to the Superior Court.
Finch has made it clear that his relationship with Jacobs is unworkable and clearly more seems to be at play here than just the one charge. This is a power struggle for control of jobs and Finch believes that Jacobs has been unaccommodating in interpreting Civil Service hires.
This gives Finch the opportunity to fill Jacobs’ job with his own person on an acting basis before a new test for a permanent personnel director is issued. Look for the city to take its time administering a new test.
I sat through the first 90 minutes of the meeting. A prior commitment precluded me from staying for the full three-hour session. The hearing portion of the meeting was held in public at Jacobs’ request. Commissioners went into executive for the vote to terminate Jacobs. I don’t think the firing has anything to do with the act for which Jacobs was dumped. It was simply a means to get rid of him, for now. This is a personally clash between Finch and Jacobs and Jacobs and the commissioners. Finch thinks Jacobs is a big pain in the ass and the commissioners agree.
The session was broken down into two pieces. The first piece allowing Jacobs to respond to the charge written up by labor attorney Mike Devlin, a partner with the law firm Berchem, Moses & Devlin hired by the city to prosecute the case. The second act, in executive session, was the commission action to terminate.
During the public portion of the meeting Finch, sitting several feet from Jacobs, accused Jacobs of wasting taxpayer money by urging a NAGE lawyer to seek arbitration for the city employee. It was a curious argument since the city will spend tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to prosecute and defend the case in addition to a large pot of money–and possible reinstatement by the court–if Bucci is successful. Sitting at the table during the hearing were two lawyers (from the Bridgeport law firm Durant, Nichols) representing the city peppering Jacobs with questions about this one act.
No other allegations were part of the hearing beyond the dereliction of duty accusation. Bucci and Jacobs emphasized on numerous occasions during the hearing that Jacobs was simply defending his bosses (the commissioners) in his letter that pushed for arbitration. They suggested that urging arbitration was a prudent means to solve a dispute emphasizing that Jacobs did not suggest litigation. Can the commission produce a written directive to Jacobs ordering him to clear all advance correspondence to the body? Nope. If Jacobs can be canned for this an awful lot of city employees can be canned for not clearing correspondence. Bucci is a seasoned labor attorney with a long history of winning unlawful discharge cases. He will argue to the court no just cause for termination and ask for back pay, reinstatement and who knows what else.
Finch, of course, just wants Jacobs out, so perhaps a deal could be struck to buy out Jacobs so he’ll go away quietly. Or maybe Jacobs wants his day in court even if takes six months, a year or more.
Either way, this allows Finch, at least in the near future, to control many Civil Service hires through his own person. More on that Monday.
I’ve been researching Connecticut General Statutes regarding the push by library supporters for a voter referendum to determine funding. A court hearing is scheduled for Monday. City officials don’t want a referendum and maintain library supporters are wrong on the law. Check out Connecticut General Statutes language below:
Sec. 11-32. City council may establish and maintain a public library. The city council of any city may establish and maintain a public library and reading room, together with such kindred apartments and facilities as the council approves; and may levy a tax annually on all taxable property of the city. Such tax shall be levied and collected as other taxes, and shall be known as the “library fund”. Such library and reading room shall be free to the use of the inhabitants of the city, subject to such reasonable rules and regulations as the board of trustees may adopt in order to render the use of the library and reading room of the greatest benefit. Such board may exclude from the use of such library and reading room any person who wilfully violates such rules, and may extend its privileges to persons residing in this state outside the city upon such terms and conditions as it may prescribe.
Library complaint argument
Sec. 11-36. Town or borough tax. When fifty electors of any town or borough present a petition to the clerk of such town or borough, asking that an annual tax be levied for the establishment and maintenance of a free public library and reading room in such town or borough, and specify in their petition a rate of taxation, not to exceed three mills on the dollar, such clerk shall, in the next legal notice of the regular municipal election in such town or borough, give notice that at such election the question of an annual tax for the maintenance of a library is to be voted upon in the manner prescribed in section 9-369. The designation of such question on the voting machine ballot label shall be “Shall a …. mill tax be levied to establish and maintain a free public library and reading room?”. Such notice and such designation of the question on the voting machine ballot label shall specify the rate of taxation mentioned in such petition. If, upon the official determination of the result of such vote, it appears that a majority of all the votes upon such question are in approval of such question, the tax specified in such notice shall be levied and collected in the same manner as other general taxes of such town or borough and shall be known as the “library fund”. Such tax may afterwards be lessened or increased within the three-mill limit, or made to cease, in case the electors of any such town or borough so determine by a majority vote at any regular municipal election held therein, in the manner hereinbefore prescribed for voting upon such question; and the corporate authorities of such town or borough may exercise the same powers relative to free public libraries and reading rooms as are conferred upon the corporate authorities of cities.
State statutes possess a library section for cities and a section for a town or borough. How does the Liberate Libraries Committee, which has taken the city to court for rejecting the referendum petition, overcome the language in 11-32 that gives the city’s legislative body the power to establish and maintain a library? Look for city lawyers to argue that a referendum cannot go forward without approval of the City Council.
Himes Job Track
News release from the congressman
Himes Launches Online Jobs & Recovery Act Map
Map database increases transparency and provides most in-depth Recovery Act tracking to date
Washington, DC-Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) today launched a map database tracking the Jobs and Economic Recovery Act funding in the Fourth District. More detailed than either the federal or state administration websites, www.himes.house.gov/recovery pinpoints the location of the each Recovery Act project announced in Fairfield County, explains how the funding will be used, and provides estimates of the local impact of each project.
“This map shows where Recovery Act dollars are at work in the area-keeping and creating jobs and improving infrastructure, education, healthcare, and opportunity for families and businesses throughout Fairfield County,” said Congressman Himes. “A great deal of work remains to fully implement this two-year program, but most indicators point to an improving economy, which means the Recovery Act is starting to have a positive effect.”
The map features the ability to sort Recovery Act funding by town and categorizes the wide range of economic development projects into seven different groups: community development, education, health care, energy and environment, housing, public safety, and transportation. Clicking on a project icon provides a short summary of the project along with its award amount and economic impact, including the number of jobs created when available and the overall benefit to the community. For instance, a Recovery Act grant to a health center may highlight the number of nurses retained or additional number of patients the facility is able to serve given its increased staff or space.
To view Congressman Himes’ Recovery Act map visit the Congressman’s homepage and click on the button labeled “Recovery in Connecticut’s 4th District.”
KBE BUILDING CORPORATION SELECTS BRIDGEPORT’S PARK CITY LITTLE LEAGUE FOR NEXT “50 WAYS TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE” INITIATIVE
– Project will allow league officials to address repairs and maintenance issues at the ballpark –
Same outstanding company.
Same strong leadership.
FARMINGTON, Conn., August 20, 2009 – KBE Building Corporation (KBE), formerly Konover Construction Corporation, recently presented a check for $1,500 to help support the Park City Little League (PCLL) to Mayor Bill Finch at City Hall. The funds will allow league officials to complete some much-needed repairs and to paint the ball fields where the PCLL teams play.
The areas needing attention include the batting cage, fence, park and field grounds, and some painting in the dugouts and recession areas. The PCLL board is working with a local contractor who will complete all of the needed repairs.
The donation is a part of KBE’s “50 Ways To Make A Difference” community outreach initiative launched in January 2009. The goal of 50 Ways is to offer support to people in the communities where KBE works and lives. The year-long community support initiative is in celebration of the company’s 50th year in business.
“We are proud to help the PCLL, its players, parents, coaches, and administrators make improvements to their ballpark,” said Simon Etzel, KBE senior vice president for Procurement and 50 Ways program chairman. “It’s important that corporations reach out to the communities during these trying economic times and make a difference in the lives of others. That is what our “50 Ways To Make a Difference” initiative is all about.”
“KBE’s donation will make a big difference for the children and their families who are members of Park City Little League,” said Mayor Finch. “We are extremely grateful to KBE for choosing to donate funds to a very worthwhile cause in our city. The much-needed repairs and some new paint will go a long way to help increase the kids self-esteem and expand their team-building skills at the same time.”
KBE has completed more than 35 community outreach initiatives this year in support of the 50 Ways program.