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Cougie’s Coulter Collar, Plus: Saving Phone Messages, And Russo’s Congress Street Bridge Video

December 17th, 2009 · 30 Comments · City Council, City Politics, Development and Zoning

Afternoon update: This is too funny. Keith Cougar Rodgerson, former City Council member, had his day in court today for crashing conservative crow Ann Coulter’s downtown Tea Party in September.

Cougar was charged with this …

Sec. 53a-181a. Creating a public disturbance: Infraction. (a) A person is guilty of creating a public disturbance when, with intent to cause inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, he (1) engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior; or (2) annoys or interferes with another person by offensive conduct; or (3) makes unreasonable noise.

… because of this

Cougar noted in court today that his actions are protected speech under the 1st Amendment. He would not accept a plea offer and a trial is set for January 28, 2010. Thanks to Bob Adams (Connecticut Bob), the man behind the camera.

City’s Ethnic and Racial Slur Policy

Below is Bridgeport’s government employee policy covering racial, ethnic and sexist slurs. But does this policy cover City Council members? That would be a stretch, wouldn’t it? … seeing as council members receive stipends in lieu of actual compensation, no health coverage, yadda yadda. There’s no specificity below about council members.

Councilman Bob Walsh’s rant against his council partner Evette Brantley has taken on a life of its own because Evette chose to turn over Walsh’s recorded message to her peers rather than deal with him directly. Walsh can be an insensitive pain in the ass, but he’s no racist. If the city pushes too hard on this issue the words of all elected officials will be scrutinized to the extreme. Now why do I say phone messages can take on a life of their own?

Two years ago former Democratic Town Chair John Stafstrom, a bright attorney and cunning political operative, left a sexist F Bomb on the answering unit of Dottie Guman, current vice chair of the party. Stafstrom was upset that Dottie dare consider support of Mario Testa for party leadership. Understand that Dottie’s way of cursing is calling someone “full of prunes.” She’s also the political godmother of Mayor Bill Finch. When Bill was unemployed in the 1990s, and that was often, it was Dottie who helped him find work. Dottie had hoped Stafstrom would apologize. Too much pride for John. So instead of expressing sympathy for Dottie, what did Bill do? He went out and worked his ass off to try to keep Stafstrom in charge of the party. That made Dottie’s job a lot easier.

She, in fact, supported Testa for town chair, and Mario won. What’s the point? Walsh, at least, has apologized for his rant. And guess who authored the policy you’re about to read? Former labor relations chief/CAO Dennis Murphy, the life partner of John Stafstrom. Ain’t politics fun?

PURPOSE

The purpose of this policy is to establish guidelines prohibiting racial, ethnic or sexist slurs by employees of the City of Bridgeport.

SCOPE

This policy shall apply to all City of Bridgeport employees in all locations. This policy shall also apply to members of the general public having business with any City Department and employee.

POLICY

It is the policy of the City of Bridgeport that no employee shall engage in any racial, ethnic, or sexist slur. Any employee of the City of Bridgeport who violates the foregoing shall be subject to disciplinary action. Any supervisor who is aware of any violation of this policy shall also be subject to disciplinary action, if the supervisor fails to take appropriate action pursuant to this policy. Furthermore, it is the policy of the City of Bridgeport, that its employees should not be subjected to racial, ethnic, or sexist slurs by any individual conducting business with any City department or employee.

Definitions:

Slur – for purposes of this policy a “slur” shall include any statement (oral or written), including graffiti, or any gesture or reference which is in itself or in its context derogatory of a racial or ethnic group or gender, or of a person as a member of such a group or gender, or of one’s sexual orientation, including alleged jokes or statements which suggest that a group or gender is criminal, unintelligent, or has habits or attributes generally held in low regard.

PROCEDURES:

Effective immediately the following procedure will be utilized in enforcing this policy:

EMPLOYEE RESPONSIBILITIES

1. Any employee who becomes aware of, observes, or has knowledge of any violation of this policy by a City employee shall report it immediately, or as soon as reasonably possible, to their immediate supervisor and/or Department Head and the Office of Labor Relations.

2. Department Heads and supervisors must report employee violations of this policy to the Office of Labor Relations.

3. The Office of Labor Relations will commence an investigation and file a full and complete written report(s) of the status and/or outcome of the investigation.

4. A copy of the report shall be forwarded to the Mayor, Chief Administrative Officer, Department Head and Director of Labor Relations.

5. Supervisors must communicate this policy to their staff.

INDIVIDUALS, BUSINESSES, CONTRACTORS, OR AGENCIES CONDUCTING BUSINESS WITH THE CITY OF BRIDEPORT

1. Any Department Head or supervisor who becomes aware of, observes or has knowledge of any violation of this policy by any member of the general public, agency, or business entity, who is conducting business with the City, shall communicate the City’s policy to said person, agency or business.

2. Any employee, who is subjected to racial, ethnic, or sexist slurs by any member of the general public, agency, or business entity, who is conducting business with the City, shall advise the individual(s) of this policy and if such behavior continues the employee may cease the business transaction with the individual(s). The employee shall notify their supervisor and/or Department Head prior to concluding the business transaction or if not possible, as soon as reasonably possible following the incident.

3. The preceding provision does not authorize an employee to leave their work site or post, when doing so could endanger the health and safety of the public, or cease other essential activities of the City, or hinder the effective enforcement of any laws.

4. Violations of this policy by individuals, consultants, businesses or agencies who are under contract with the City, shall be reported to the Director of Labor Relations, and the Chief Administrative Officer.

VIOLATIONS

Any employee who is found to have violated this policy, shall be subject to a suspension and/or termination.* Any supervisor who fails to investigate and/or report a violation of this policy to their Department Head and the Office of Labor Relations, shall also be subject to disciplinary action.*

* Any disciplinary action taken pursuant to this policy shall be in accordance with any applicable collective bargaining agreement.

Video Release From Rob Russo

Himes Wrong on Congress Street Bridge

Russo Releases Unique Video Press Release to Make Case

Rob Russo released the following video press release on the Congress Street Bridge demolition and attempts to rebuild it by Congressman Jim Himes. Rob Russo filmed his release at the foot of the Congress Street Bridge in downtown Bridgeport.

Rob Russo supports tearing the bridge down, but opposes rebuilding the bridge on the grounds that it will be a waste of over 40 million dollars of taxpayer money. Full quotes from Rob are available in the video release.

Rob Russo is a resident of Bridgeport, CT and is a former State Senator who represented Bridgeport, Trumbull, and Monroe who is now running for Congress in Connecticut’s Fourth District.

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30 Comments so far ↓

  • town committee

    I am not a big fan of Bob Walsh and I do think that he made a mistake and was wrong in leaving that telephone message.
    I do believe that he apologized to Ms. Brantley. I think that maybe a public apology in front of the entire council would be sufficient. Look if this were anyone else on the council that made those remarks it probably would not have been made public and would have been kept in house. Because it’s Walsh who is a pain in the ass to this administration there will be a giant dog and pony show held.
    This administration has a proven track record of getting those on its hit list. I know first hand, they could not get me but they got my wife.
    I don’t see anything in the policy published here that would lead to Walsh’s removal. The people in his district voted him into office and I don’t think the council or the city has the right to remove him.
    Here is a case where a man has been out front on a lot of minority issues when some of his council mates have been against these issues. He makes one dumb mistake and all else is forgotten. Bullshit.

  • Local Eyes

    It’s true:

    One of Black Rock’s newest taxpayers was mentioned ever so briefly during Sunday’s episode of 60 Minutes.

    hint: he lives in a seaside house and wrote a recent op-ed to The Post which appeared verbatim on this blog!

    bonus: decipher why I’m writing this and you win free drinks, dinner and an even better explanation.

    *********************************************

    “For the record, it is not true that I had made a deal not to blog at OIB in return for John Gomes’s position.
    I think I had made it clear in the past that I will consider such a deal for the weights and measures position.” <– Joel

    It would not be like Joel to profit from someone else’s misfortune but I hope that weights and measures job doesn’t prove too tempting–otherwise, we’d be without Joel’s postings.

    • BEACON2

      LE: A recent homebuyer in Black Rock of sufficient stature to merit mention on Sixty Minutes might be David M.Walker who also wrote a letter to the CT Post within days of closing on the residence.
      His experience in government finance (Comptroller General and head of Government Accounting Office) is great. His current position as head of the Peter Peterson Foundation makes him influential. He has a forthcoming book in January on the broad financial crisis we face.
      Does this have anything to do with the fact that Bob Walsh is the brightest bulb financially on the City Council though he is not on the Budget Committee? Or that City Council members have not been receiving regular monthly financial reports as in the past? Or that no one on this blog, employed by the City or in the media seems to be able to tell what the City unrestricted fund balance is at this time (or since the close of the Fiscal 2008-2009 year)? ‘Tis a mystery! Stay tuned for an answer.

    • Joel Gonzalez

      You are right Local Eyes! It would not be like me to profit from someone else’s misfortune. You will never see a business named Joel Gonzalez Funeral Home. I do admit that I had considered this too.

  • John from Black Rock

    I’ve always thought Ray Charles’ rendition of “America the Beautiful” was great. Now I like it even more.

  • town committee

    John: Why am I not surprised?

  • Up On Bridgeport

    I find it interesting that it seems that not one minority member of the Black and Hispanic caucus has condemned Walsh. It’s obvious because he has always supported issues important to their caucus. Finch never went after Stafstrom because Finch is into campaign bondage. Finch would rather be bound and gagged than give up some campaign booty.

    BEACON2 writes like the light at the end of the tunnel. Very illuminating.

    • BEACON2

      “Light at the end of the tunnel” can be daylight calling us out of the darkness or the light from an oncoming train, if I remember correctly. What’s your guess in a financial context anyway?
      While I’m waiting for the answer as to the value of our municipal unrestricted fund balance currently, news radio reported that NY’s Governor will attempt to use his executive authority to pay $90 on $100 bills due currently. He sees that at the end of December there will be no State fund balance on which to draw. Perhaps he can call Bridgeport City Hall to see what type of magic is happening here? A printing press … doubtful … State or Federal aid to fund operations … more doubtful … settling up by long-term overdue taxpayers … even less sure. Stay tuned. See what is pulled out of the top hat … and be concerned if it is a new set of tracks, tunnels, and trains with a light on the engine!

    • Joel Gonzalez

      I don’t hear them supporting him either.

  • john gilmore

    It’s a generally accepted premise, and possibly a legislated privilege, that members of Congress can not be prosecuted (or in their minds, persecuted) for comments made on the floor of the Congress about other people. Might this rule roll over into local government?

    Just for the sake of discussion/argument, let’s say it does. In that case, council members, who are also city employees–let’s count them up, one, two, etc.,–would be exempt from the rule. True or false? Could they be wrong if they told someone they possessed “attributes generally held in low regard?” Would their possible legislative license give them greater freedom of speech than the council members who don’t enjoy city employment (Councilman Bob Walsh comes to mind here)? And to further confuse the stew, maybe all council members are city employee because they accept a stipend (however, didn’t I read Councilman Walsh refuses his–thereby making him a true non-city employee with possibly less rights than other council members).

    I agree city employees should not have to take abuse heaped on them by outside contractors, vendors, etc. But this country has a looonnnggg tradition of citizens standing up at public forums and telling off an elected official. True, there should be a line somewhere when enough is enough. But the question begs to be asked, who draws the line?

    If an irate citizen calls a mayor or council member an idiot, what percentage of the public is offended by the language? If the same citizen goes up to a microphone at a public forum and embarks on a four-letter-word-laden diatribe, the percentage of offended people will for sure rise dramatically. The media gets to set standards because their outlets are privately owned. Who owns the microphone in the Common Council Chambers?

    This is what happens when the masses get to debate issues … a diatribe starts!

  • Grin Ripper

    Are you calling me an Uncle Tom?!

  • Mojo

    *** That Ethics & City policy does not apply to the city council so the admin. after this is all said & done will end up with egg on their faces for pushing this sideshow against Walsh. *** A little old news on Walsh, he’s been a member of the Budgets Committee for a few years now, however he may have been removed recently during the “2010″ new committee members’ list? *** Stopped by Marty’s last evening for a beer & social call, cool how they have Reggie selling toys by the door & you can drop them in the children’s (Xmas) unwrapped toys box right there! Didn’t see who I was looking for though, maybe next time! *** Good luck to Cougar Rodgerson in court, I’m sure he’ll give his constitutional rights speech for all to learn. ***

  • GrandmaMoses

    Grandma is very disappointed in all you kids! I have been following the Bob Walsh story since it first came to light and have been very surprised by the way that people seem to brush off the content of Mr. Walsh’s remarks. It’s the old “some of my best friends are __Insert ethnicity/sexual orientation here__.” The comment highlights a complete lack of understanding of the reasons people are very sensitive to these types of slurs. Mr. Walsh has taken on a position of leadership in this city. In the course of his duties as city councilman he used a racially offensive metaphor to make his point. I don’t think I need to go into a diatribe on why many Americans black and white are extra sensitive to these issues. On the other hand by all of your response to this maybe I do.

    Mr. Walsh is representing our city. We need to have leaders who respect their office and can use good judgment before they run their mouth off! When asked if he understood why Ms. Brantley would be upset about the comments Mr. Walsh replied “no I don’t, she never expressed it to me.” If this was an off the cuff remark it would take seconds to realize why someone would be upset. When asked if he thought it was racist he said “from what point of view?” To me a complete lack of understanding of why jokes about slavery are a problem.

    My point here is that we should expect better than average behavior from those we entrust with our city. I expect our officers from the mayor down to show respect for the citizens and to conduct themselves with dignity in carrying out the duties of office! We seem to have a sick fascination with having our politicians disgrace our city and we all need to get over it. If we expect to be respected for the first class city that we aim to be we need to start holding our officials to higher standards.

    Mr. Walsh has done good things while in office, so did Joe Ganim and John Fabrizi. We need to set a higher bar for these people. They need to represent us to the world and I for one am sick and tired of being embarrassed. Fire Mr. Walsh? I don’t know, but a response should show that the conduct was grossly unacceptable. Expect little and you will get little. Expect a lot and people will rise to the challenge!

    • The Bridgeport Kid

      Mr. Walsh played a valuable role on the City Council, “frequently stymieing city leadership and generally gumming up the works a bit,” according to the Post. The action that initiated this imbroglio defied logic; his lame explanations and alcoholic’s denial will make it rather more easy for Mayor Finch and Adam “Pecker” Wood to remove a pesky gadfly.

  • GrandmaMoses

    Also Good on “Couger” for an elegant display of civil disobedience. Hope the slap on the wrist does not sting too bad.

  • Denis OMalley

    Grandma Moses … “Drowning out a person’s right to free speech merits a “Good on ya”?

    Not the way I live, regardless of the point of view … Although I guess it’s OK in this particular case because Coulter is a very sarcastic, acidic, and successful conservative commentator.

    Seems like it’s only OK to drown out public discourse when it is conservative discourse.

    Looking at this on YouTube when it happened, your boy came across as a miserable, condescending, immature child in need of a spanking … Or in this day and age, a serious time-out!

    Much better to clog an already overly crowded court docket with this nonsense … How brave.

  • flubadub

    I thought someone else was arrested during the Tea Party Ann Coulter event. Some Tea Party tough guy threatened bodily harm and made racist comments to a couple outside the restaurant beneath Cougar’s residence thinking they were responsible for the music. Anyone hear anything about that?

  • The Bridgeport Kid

    Bob Walsh’s voicemail message to M. Evette Brantley was beyond poor taste. It was totally tasteless. I am able understand the subtext of what he was saying; it is the way he said it that earned him pariah status. The opening paragraph of an editorial in this morning’s Post said it all rather succinctly:

    “Bridgeport City Council member Bob Walsh should resign his seat. His comments to a fellow council member showed astonishingly bad judgment, and his actions since they became public have made the situation worse.”

    Voicemail, email, text messages … We live in the age of The Information Superhighway.

  • Joel Gonzalez

    Would Bob Walsh be facing “termination” had Walsh grabbed Mrs. Brantley’s blouse and ripped it? Didn’t councilmen James Holloway do just that to another council member? Why was it sufficient for Holloway to apologize and replace the shirt–I wonder if he used stipend money to buy the shirt? But an apology from Walsh is not enough? The city expected little in regards to the Holloway incident, but on the Walsh matter, they expect a lot more than an apology.
    Why are the words and the context used by Walsh being taken as a racial slur? Bob’s comment was triggered by a council vote from Brantley. At one time or another, people will be of the opinion that some council members seem to bow down to the Administration as if it were their “Massa.” Bob’s comment boils down to a political slur in the gray area. As I had mentioned in a prior post, Bob Walsh was the first “White” council member to publicly support Obama and I ran into him and Sen. Ed Gomes campaigning around my neighborhood. I wonder where are the elected officials who Bob supported and worked with now that he can use some support from them?

    • The Bridgeport Kid

      Walsh’s remarks were offensive in the extreme, Joel. Walsh is white; Brantley is black. A white guy making reference to “massa” to a black person is offensive, insulting, and just plain uncouth.

  • town committee

    I was bored so I watched Russo’s video. I suggest that Mr. Russo rethink what he is talking about. The Republicans in Washington are as guilty as the Democrats when it comes to Pork Barrel spending. Polls show that Americans are sick and tired of both the Dems and the Republicans. In fact both houses have a favorability rating of 22%.
    May I suggest he look at the tenets of the Tea Party, he might then have a chance of getting his message across. The Tea Party is rising fast as a viable 3rd party. No I am not a member and don’t plan on joining just yet.

  • town committee

    Lennie I would like to help you out and I am looking at it. I will tell you this I have had enough of the Democratic party and the Republican party at the national level. These people are spending money crazy people. They keep spending and spending and in the meantime we have more and more people going on the unemployment list.
    There has not been any real effort to create jobs in this country. Yeah I know about the stimulus package. Isn’t it funny how the majority of that money will be sent out in 2010 an election year?
    I think the 2010 national elections will be real interesting. I think you will see a few Tea Party candidates elected.
    Both parties are ignoring the independent voter, that’s the group that got Obama elected. Take the independent vote away and you may have Clinton as the candidate and/or McCain as the president. The Tea Party is gaining strength with the independent voter.
    Both parties are ignoring what the people want. They don’t want health care, they don’t want cap & trade. The people want economic security & JOBS, JOBS, JOBS.

  • sonnyblack

    I heard Mr. John Marsilio will be the new director of the Board of Ed. Can’t be a bad thing. Maybe Mr. Marsilio will catch onto Mr. Mike Zirkel and all his BS.

    Hey Mike, why aren’t you passing out the req’s to the guys? Saving it for something for yourself? What are you afraid of? Head custodians send them in, but the tradesmen never get them. Hiding something?
    P.S. Heard the cost of daycare went up.

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