Committee Votes To Sink Port Authority; Lobbyist Screws City

The City Council’s Ordinance Committee voted Monday night to torpedo the Bridgeport Port Authority, the quasi-city agency that receives more than $1 million a year in docking fees, scheduling a public hearing on the matter for next Monday at 7 p.m.

Too soon to say when the full City Council will take up the measure because there are still many unanswered questions such as what financial repercussions exist for eliminating the agency that was created by council authority in 1993.

The Ordinance Committee moved in earnest Monday after city officials learned that an amendment was slipped into a bill in the twilight of the recently completed state legislative session that gives the state Department of Transportation veto power over municipalities that want to dissolve port authorities. The legislation goes into law when and if Governor Jodi Rell signs it. The council wants to get ahead of a gubernatorial signature.

The legislative amendment was added as the city has pondered the future viability of its port authority that has been involved in a running battle over a variety of issues with its highest revenue tenant, the Bridgeport and Port Jefferson Steamship Company.

Under the measure passed by the Ordinance Committee a Port Commission, or something of that ilk, would come under the umbrella of the Chief Administrative Office or Department of Public Facilities.

One thing’s for sure in all of this, Jay F. Malcynsky, co-founder/managing partner of the state lobbying firm Gaffney, Bennett & Associates which lobbied the recently passed state legislation that necessitated council action to consider port authority elimination, has done a disservice to both his clients: the City of Bridgeport and (gee who knew?) the Bridgeport Port Authority.

Yup, Malcynsky, the well-connected veteran lobbyist, is on the payroll of both the city ($55K a year) and the port authority, and several council members that approved his contract with the city  are ripping pissed that their paid lobbyist threw them under the bus for another client that’s an arm of the city.

Confused? Well, this one is a classic conflict-of-interest stinker. Both city administration officials and council members feel blindsided by the lobbyist who has a responsibility to tell them what’s going on and how legislation can impact them financially. (Gee, might we have a conflict of interest?)

The Ordinance Committee, co-chaired by Andre Baker and Rich Paoletto, was attended by several port authority officials including Executive Director Joe Riccio and chairman of the port authority board (OIB friend) Denis O’Malley. Baker, who ran an efficient meeting, asked Riccio about the genesis for the state legislation.

Riccio, who has served as chief of the port authority for 13 years, explained that he had been contacted by state officials that wanted to create safeguards in case the port authority was abolished by the city. As Riccio stated at the meeting the state told him, “If you’re going to be put out of business why should we continue to give you more money?”

That money, for waterfront, maintenance and port authority building improvements, comes in the form of grants, not operating money and according to Riccio it’s been roughly $40 million over the life of the agency.

Councilman Bob Curwen, the driving force behind dissolving the port authority, countered that the port authority is ineffective and the state legislation could jeopardize Homeland Security money if the port authority was placed under the state.

City Attorney Mark Anastasi was on hand to make sure the Ordinance Committee executed all the legal niceties, a signal that Mayor Bill Finch so far wants to move forward with disbanding the port authority. Finch first wants to make sure, however, that such a move doesn’t create unforeseen problems for the city such as jeopardizing state revenues. Anastasi also encouraged a public hearing for June 22 to provide ample time for public notice.

Danny Martinez, an Ordinance Committee member, urged caution saying the city must filter all the facts before abolishing the agency. He was the lone committee member to vote against the ordinance.

Councilman Bob Troll Walsh, not a member of the committee, who used his privilege as a councilman to speak (as did several of his peers), ripped into the city’s lobbying firm. He also, in a light moment, admitted that this was one of the few times he was in concert with Anastasi and the administration. He urged abolishing the port authority. “The port authority keeps the money in their own little coffee cans,” he said.

City Council President Tom McCarthy called the state legislation a “last minute power grab by the state.” He to, urged the committee to vote to dissolve the port authority, as did Councilwoman Sue Brannelly of Black Rock who added the caveat: “Are we going to lose money if we don’t have a port authority?”

Well, that’s what administration officials are trying to figure out. What impact does this move have financially if the full council votes to abolish the port authority? The city is trying to buy some time from the governor until it’s all figured out.

State Sen. Ed Gomes, whose record on truth telling is about as good as it gets, also attended the council committee session. Ed voted for the state legislation in question and echoed the sentiments of the city’s legislative delegation: this thing was slipped in at the last minute and they weren’t told the whole story.

That’s what lobbyists are paid to do unless, of course, they have a hidden financial agenda.

(By the way, when you’re done here check out my related blog at the Connecticut Post,

News release from Auden Grogins

Speaker Donovan, Rep. Auden Grogins To Hold Informational Forum At Black Rock Library in Bridgeport 

Speaker of the House Christopher G. Donovan (D-Meriden), Representative Auden Grogins (D-Bridgeport), and area legislators will hold an informational forum to raise public awareness concerning the devastating impact of the Governor’s proposed budget cuts to children’s educational resources through libraries and museums.

Among the topics that will be discussed are:

— Beardsley Zoo

— Discovery Museum

— Maritime Museum

— Public library programs

WHAT: Informational Forum on Governor’s Proposed Budget Cuts to Museums & Libraries

WHEN: Thursday, June 18

WHERE: Black Rock Library, 2705 Fairfield Avenue, Bridgeport

TIME: 7:30 pm



  1. Okay we have the ordinance committee meeting tonight and we all know they will vote to disband the port authority. Why a special meeting on Friday? Oh yeah we have to beat the governor’s signing of a bill that makes it more difficult to disband the Port Authority.
    In reading today’s CT Post I did not see anything that would lead me to believe that the mayor is in fact 100% behind this dissolution.
    It’s been said that we will realize a savings from getting rid of the port authority thus a reduction in our debt service.
    What I would like to know is What are the plans for the property where the ferryboat wants to go and the contiguous 14 acres that coincidently the Port Authority just released an RFP for?
    What resulted from the meetings being held for the past year in secret with the city and the ferryboat people?
    There are a lot of unanswered questions here and it does not look like we will be getting the straight answers to any of them any time soon.

    1. TC, the way Curwen explained it to me they’d have to fit in a public hearing on this somewhere thus a special session of the council unless they can figure a way to bring it for immediate consideration tonight.

  2. Friday night is always a good night. End of the work week, everyone is tired and the last thing they want to do on a Friday night is attend a public hearing on a subject they have been told little about. In fact everyone has been told very little about this. This was supposed to have been done last year but was never pursued.
    Look this may and I stress the word MAY be a good idea but I just wish I knew more about what is going to happen to the property where Turbana and Car tec are located. I wish I knew what the actual deal that has been worked on for almost a year is. Time will tell.

  3. TC, you are right about one thing. Curwen had been talking about this for a year and did nothing. If he had acted right after last year’s budget process there would have been plenty of time to fully explore and discuss this matter without racing around trying to beat the governor signing it.
    The other way to look at it at this point in time is to say that due to the state’s interference we are far better off disbanding the PA today and reinstating it tomorrow if that is what we decide to do than not to act and be stuck with the present configuration unless the state allows us to change in the future.

  4. It will come as no shock that I do not think that the Bridgeport Port Authority should be disbanded. This would be true whether or not I sat on the Port Authority board.

    Port-related issues are very complex, require a high degree of interaction between city, state, and federal agencies and the amount of time it takes to get things authorized and moving ahead is very frustrating to all.

    A perfect example is the very recent discussion regarding the relocation of the Ferry to the other side of the harbor. I see this as a short-term decision that benefits only the Ferry Company with long-term implications, removing a powerful element out of future downtown development.

    For the City Council to dissolve the BPA, they should have as many facts and figures as possible prior to voting in order to make a well-reasoned vote.

    How much revenue will come to the City without the BPA, how will funding for the parking garage take place, what costs now handled by BPA will fall to the City, how will future maritime development, grants etc. be handled?

    Given this legislation and the emergency meeting, it’s doubtful any of those issues will be fleshed out.

  5. TC,
    Don’t know what you are talking about with the “reduction in our debt service.”
    The PA, although legally it can incur bonded debt on its own, it has never had the sustained revenue stream to convince the bond market that they will be able to commit to repaying these loans.
    So anytime that the PA has done any type of eminent domain or other land acquisition or construction it has been done with city money.
    Now that the only source of revenue for the PA is the ferryboat and the PA and the steamship company are in continuous legal fights, there is even less reason to believe that the Port Authority will ever be self-sustaining.

  6. I read the new language in the bill that is before the governor for signature. If she signs it, the CDOT commissioner would need to consent to the dissolution of the Port Authority. This is the state’s largest deepwater port. I for one don’t think it’s such a bad idea to have a second set of eyes on this very important decision. Quite frankly this ‘rush to beat the clock’ action by the City Council is not acting in the public interest. It is bad form in my opinion. The City Council should act deliberately, slowly and with full disclosure of all facts, not rush in on a Friday night to blow away a public benefit corporation. The state isn’t going to interfere. If it is done right and the City makes a strong case for dissolution, the CDOT will make the right decision for Bridgeport as well as the State of Connecticut. Who’s hiding what here?

  7. Lennie, sorry it took so long to get back to you, between soccer, dance recitals, end of school, planning my cross trip and other things I haven’t been on-line lately.

    Regarding the port authority, based on the fact that this is Connecticut’s largest deepwater port and a navigable waterway, implicating admiralty law (federal jurisdiction) that also has interstate commerce implications, the state and/or federal government could easily take control of the port. Jurisdictionally the municipality is the lowest level of authority and if there were contradictory state and/or federal law, those jurisdictions would prevail on any ordinance passed by the City Council.

    I am not commenting on whether any action regarding the port authority is good or bad, this is just an observation. It would seem to me that Bridgeport would do itself a world of good if it paid attention to “the appearance of impropriety,” even if an action is very technically not improper. Last-minute committee hearings and Friday night public commentary just smells bad, even if it is proper. Just in the years I have been around, there have been plenty of examples of “not passing the smell test.” Without giving details most people could point to these appearances of impropriety by the dozens. Think about elections, DTC chairmanship, hiring of the Mayor’s staff, firings, budget cuts, union issues and putting politics ahead of governing. I am sure many people would say I am naive and simplistic, however if you made an effort at full transparency, don’t act clandestinely or let power trips make you miss the boat, Bridgeport politics would be more palatable. Remember if it smells bad, don’t try to cook it.

    On a completely different note, I am leaving this Friday on a 21-day trip across country stopping in various locations including: St. Louis, Colorado Springs, Grand Canyon, RT 66 AZ, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Monterrey, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Salt Lake City, Yellowstone, Toronto and Niagara Falls. It is my 8th journey across the country, the last 15 years ago, and the first time I went to the west coast and back in the same trip. Wish me luck, and pray that my family doesn’t kill each other somewhere between Billings and Bismark.

    Maybe I’ll take my computer and check in. I know this is “Only in Bridgeport,” not Only in any of those others places mentioned above.

    1. Bon voyage, MCAT. My next vacation will be a road trip on the Blues Highway. I’ll be renting a car in Memphis, Tennessee, and driving south on Highway 61 ’til I get to Vicksburg. The Mississippi Delta is callin’ my name …

  8. *** If Mr. Walsh is in favor of disbanding the B.P.A.; even without a lot of explanations why & opportunities to review the pros & cons involved in doing so, then you can be pretty sure from all accounts that it will be a step in the right direction for Bpt. in the future! And with the possibilities of the City Council in the future restructuring a similar board that will serve as its eyes & ears to best oversee the interest of Bpt. & its taxpayers in general. *** Go for it! ***

  9. Mojo: If the council can restructure the port authority at a later date the question I have is why don’t they do it now? I believe they could if they wanted to.
    Do you think that there may be something else going on here?
    Just looking for your input.

    1. *** Not enough time for something positive to be discussed, reviewed, and agreed to by all parties involved, especially during summertime & upcoming elections. Positive constructive thinking & actually acting on something while in the reviewing process takes much longer than when merely disbanding a particular board, especially if there are enough votes in favor of the action! *** And yes, there always seems to be a method to the madness in which “time will tell”! ***

  10. From what information I’ve been able to glean from the local news media, the City Council wants to retain control of the port authority. What a novel concept, the city of Bridgeport actually controlling a small part of its destiny. Hmmm …

  11. BTW,

    The Kid is no longer homeless, having found an apartment to share in beautiful Black Rock, right on Fairfield Avenue, minutes from downtown (If I REALLY have to go there).

    Local Eyes, for your edification, I was NOT homeless by choice; in Bridgeport, Fairfield, or anywhere else. All of the stress, strain, depression, the hurry-up-and-wait pace of the social services bureaucracy; hey dude, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Not even you.

  12. One little comment about the “rat” in the transportation bill. Just in case anyone reading didn’t know, a rat is one or two lines stuck in a bill or amendment very purposely usually to avoid detection. I read the CT Post and seems absolutely incredulous that the Mayor’s office or their lobbyists (in the top 5 or 6 in Hartford) would not know of this rat. Although perhaps one of the 8 Bridgeport legislators could have put it in, since they all voted for it. If the Mayor’s office or their lobbyist truly didn’t know about this legislation, they dropped the ball big time. I am NOT pointing fingers, just FYI the only Bridgeport legislator on the transportation committee is Rep. Caruso. However the following are the ones that offered the amendment:
    REP. GUERRERA, D – Newington, Rocky Hill, area
    SEN. DEFRONZO, D – New Britain, Farmington, Berlin
    REP. SCRIBNER, R – Brookfield, Bethel Area

    All of them are very inland, no port in sight. The first two are co-chairs of the Transportation Committee. Sen. Defronzo is Asst. President Pro tempore of the Senate to Senator William’s President Pro tempore.

    Hmmm, who has sway with these players? I am so bewildered.

    1. *** Once again, there’s always a method to the madness & one can assume that the Capitol 88’s had no real knowledge beforehand nor interest. Therefore “EL PATRON” de Bpt. would say to the old Homeboys, Once a Jet, always a Jet! ***

  13. State and Federal Laws, Supercedes local Ordinances.
    If Rell signs the legislation before the Council Committee convenes, any action taken is void.
    If Rell signs the bill after the Council votes to disband the BPA (assuming that they do) the council will not be able to reinstate the BPA without the State’s written consent as Bob Walsh suggested. If a public hearing is mandated by statute, I can’t see how the City Council plans to accomplish their goals and objectives today. What if the bill is already signed and the ink is dried? Keep in mind that the bill is effective upon passage, not upon the drying of the ink.

    “The other way to look at it at this point in time is to say that due to the state’s interference we are far better of disbanding the PA today and reinstating it tomorrow”.


    The bill requires a town to get the written consent of the transportation commissioner before it:

    1. terminates or reorganizes a port district established by the town’s legislative body pursuant to state law or a port authority appointed by the town’s chief elected official pursuant to the law;

    2. modifies the duties or powers of a port authority; or

    3. modifies the property included in the port district.

    EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage

  14. Lennie, what have you been smoking? You left early–at the end of the Ordinance Committee meeting–not a word was mentioned regarding the BPA during the regular Council Meeting. It was a bluff I’d say. Wait Lennie, I did doze off for a minute or two. Maybe you’re right!

  15. At the very LEAST, the Council should have passed a ‘sense of the board’ resolution pleading with the Governor to veto the bill and request that the Mayor contact the Mayors of New Haven and New London to send a strong letter to the Governor requesting her to veto the bill.

    That bill is a clean-up bill for the CDOT filled with assorted minor items like naming a bunch of bridges in honor of folks that have passed on etc. There is nothing earth shattering in that cleanup bill that would be hurt by a Governor’s veto on technical terms. Home rule is a critical tenet in Connecticut. How could she sign something that screws around with home rule without getting input from the three cities? Yeah I know it was our very own port authority that instructed the lobbyist to put the rat in the bill in the first place. However the Council should first be on record with the Governor to request a veto before it votes to dissolve the Port Authority without a clear analysis of the liabilities the city will face if the BPA is blown away. There are huge liabilities that need to be identified before the dissolution vote. The actions in the Ordinance Committee tonight were more emotional than factual. Could we please focus on the facts?

  16. All of Bridgeport’s legislators voted for this amendment. The only 2 legislators in the state who voted against this were Patricia Miller of Stamford and Steven Mikutel of Plainfield, Lisbon and Griswold. Both are Democrats. It was unanimous in the Senate. So all the legislators from New Haven and New London voted for it too.

  17. The other communities around the state either did not pay particular attention to the amendment because they are not directly affected by it and they supported the rest of the bill, or they didn’t have a problem with the amendment since they are not trying to manipulate their Port and play on again off again with their Port Authority. I have to think the State agencies were supportive of the amendment (DOT, DECD and DEP) because they are investing in and around the port area and are probably sick and tired of the political games related to the Port. I thought MCAT had good points this time around regarding the smell test. I don’t know who knew what ahead of time but I am sure it was no surprise to most people involved.

  18. The lobbyists had two contracts; one for the city and one for the BPA. The Director of the BPA is also chair of the Maritime Commission. He is actually appointed by the Governor to the Maritime Commission. This is a huge mess but I still think something else is going on here; something to do with the Ferry Boat’s actions to move across the river and the City’s current RFP to sell the 14 acres next to Derektor’s shipyard. Something is not right here and if the emotions could be quelled, saner heads might be able to figure it out.

  19. Interesting meeting last night of the ordinance committee. Andre Baker ran a great meeting and kept the meeting moving forward.
    The main issue seems to be the perceived notion that the council is losing its authority over the PA. As I read the bill and as it was explained the only thing that they are losing is that they would need state authority to disband the PA. I did not read anywhere that we would need state permission to develop the port and its property.
    Curwen stated that the city knew of this change in the law since June 3rd. Well 12 days passed before last night’s meeting and it seems that very little thought or research went into what and who would manage the port and its facilities if we disband the PA. No research went into what monies we may lose by disbanding the PA.
    The suggestion that the PA responsibilities would go under Public facilities is wrong. Are we going to create a super agency? Public facilities can barely handle their responsibilities now. Who has the expertise at public facilities to manage the PA?
    The next suggestion was to put it under Andy Nunn; well that’s great except not long ago the council was looking to eliminate his position. No expertise here either.
    Interesting point was brought up and it was that the council can disband this port authority and its board now and then in the future create a new port authority. My question is if you create a new PA down the road wouldn’t they come under this new state law? This statement made by one of the committee members begs the question. Is this about a personal vendetta cloaked in a home rule issue?

  20. RedWhiteandBlue, we really agree more times than not. The past is water under the bridge; time to move on. I believe we both have Bridgeport’s best interests at heart.

    My only concern is for the health of Bridgeport, as I truly believe in regionalism. My husband uses the Ferry several times a month for work, my children go to and have performed in different downtown theaters, I go to many restaurants, I went to school and worked in Bridgeport for close to 10 years, some of that was for the City. I want to locate an alternate energy wind company here, if it ever gets off the ground. (So the Port issue has relevance to me.) I will continue to fight and support politicians whose viewpoints match my own and who I think will do the best job for the City, 8 miles away from where I live.

    I am not saying what happened here, but when I worked for the City in Hartford, no legislation affecting Bridgeport went by unnoticed by myself or our former lobbyists at Robinson, Cole or the people at the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities. The CCM knows everything that deals with taking away power from municipalities. So which result is worse, the City not knowing or knowing?

  21. MCAT seems to be taking a BIG swipe at the city’s in-house lobbyist in Hartford, Tyrone McClain; something she knows a lot about.
    Not nice MCAT.

      1. Although it is laughable it is no joke.
        Tyrone McClain serves as the city’s in-house lobbyist.
        Some lady from Monroe used to serve in the position but left to run for the House from Monroe. So I don’t know which scenario makes me grin more.

        1. Screw it then. Tyrone for Mayor! Maybe once he engineers Bridgeport literally falling into Long Island Sound he’d be considered a viable candidate for Governor.

          For real, how badly does he need to do at a job to prevent being promoted to the next one?

  22. MCAT is showing her claws going after Gaffney, Bennett & Associates while throwing her support behind Robinson and Cole.
    Does something else have MCAT’s fur flying in this issue?

  23. Good Question MCAT ends with.

    As for water under the bridge etc. … I don’t give that much thought to my blog relationships. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree. I think the exchange is usually interesting and most people are very passionate about Bridgeport’s future on this blog even if we see it differently.

    Bridgeport’s port area has great potential. I hope this gets worked out soon so opportunities are not lost.

  24. Some of you former pussies are doing some heavy petting. This was a Rat Bastard Amendment slipped in between the sheets like Ganim’s annuity deal on the transfer of gas money for the harbor patrol. Who’s the Rat Bastard on this deal?

    This is a Homey Rule issue!

  25. “Bridgeport Now” live on Tuesdays at 8pm on Ch 77

    Schedule Tonight
    June 16:
    8 to 8:30 Bicycle enthusiasts in Bridgeport
    8:30 Mark from Fraiche Burger – Why is McDonalds protesting this new downtown business?
    8:35 to 9pm Bob Walsh on current issues in Bridgeport

    Coming programs on “Bridgeport Now”
    June 23: City Councilman Keith Rodgerson
    June 30: Congressman Jim Himes

  26. Don’t blame Tyrone for this mess, he’s just the messenger, it was Wood calling the shots. Wood is the laughable screw-up. McClain is just a lackey. Reaper at least Mount brought in money for the city and knew what the hell she was doing. Napoleon Wood got rid of all the capable women; they scared him.

  27. *** Sen. Gomes hasn’t changed a bit, voted for the State legislation in question concerning the P/A without knowing all the information @ hand, yet echos the sentiments of the City’s legislation on their measure??? *** Now, I would be lying if I were not to state that these sort of things “can” happen, especially when you’re in budget session & dealing with large volumes of legislative measures, bills, etc. as they do up in the State Capitol; but we have 8 Bpt. legislators up there, Hello! This is nothing new for Bpt. ’cause it seems to happen quite a bit, where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing up in Hartford, nor bothers to find out! As a matter of fact, Mayor Finch “probably” knows more of the State’s current important goings on while here in Bpt. than those up in the Capitol @ times! *** Enough said, I’m sure some of you OIB bloggers understand the concept of what I’m rambling about. ***


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