Council Members Accused Of Anti-Semitism

From CT Post reporter Brian Lockhart:

The municipal attorney who pursues delinquent sewer-use bills is taking on City Council members over inflammatory comments made about his being Jewish.

Russell Liskov has accused eight council members of “religious discrimination and blatant anti-Semitism” in a complaint to the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO). And he is threatening to sue Councilwoman Eneida Martinez for libel and slander unless she publicly retracts comments made about him at a December meeting.

Liskov’s actions come as the council continues to pressure Bridgeport’s law department to amend what critics say is a too punitive sewer fee collection process overseen by Liskov, with help from private attorney Juda Epstein. The council’s ordinance committee has schedule a public hearing on changes to that collection process for Tuesday, 6 p.m., at City Hall on Lyon Terrace.

According to minutes from a Dec. 27 ordinance committee meeting, Martinez, a co-chairman, alleged that Liskov and Epstein were conspiring together to foreclose on properties whose owners have fallen behind on their sewer bills: “Both men are Jews and buddies and they go to the same synagogue and they are buying up these properties.”

It subsequently came to light that Epstein has been trying to foreclose on a condominium owned by Martinez for unpaid common charges totaling $10,554. She has refused to recuse herself from the sewer fee deliberations despite that personal legal fight.

Full story here.

A fuller excerpted transcript of the December 27 minutes below provides additional context of Martinez’s assertions. See full minutes here.

Council Member Jackson asked for information on who Judah Epstein was and said that she was new to the Council, so didn’t know who he was. Atty. Anastasi said that Atty. Epstein was one of the third party attorneys that the City uses. Council Member Jackson said that she would like further clarification because it sounded like Atty. Epstein was representing the owner and was being paid twice. Atty. Anastasi said that Atty. Epstein was a very active and skilled lawyer. While Atty. Epstein does represent the City of Bridgeport in various cases, he also represents other clients. Atty. Anastasi reminded everyone that the preferred method of collecting back tax is not foreclosure, but collection. This is usually done by packaging the property liens together and selling the debt to a collection company. He gave the details of how this is done. Atty. Epstein also works for some of the companies that purchase the City’s liens, so people often the misunderstand when they see Atty. Epstein and think he is representing the City of Bridgeport when he is actually representing an independent collection agency. Council Member Jackson asked if this was a conflict of interest. Atty. Anastasi said that there was no conflict of interest involved. Atty. Epstein is just representing a different client. The foreclosure documents will state which company is involved in the foreclosure. Council Member Jackson said that Atty. Epstein’s work for the City should stop because of the confusion. She added that someone found out that the property Council Member Lyons spoke about was for sale before it was listed. Atty. Anastasi said that he did not know exactly what happened with that particular parcel. There is a problem there, but he does not have any evidence. Council Member Jackson said that she wanted it on the record that she felt uncomfortable with Atty. Epstein continuing the City’s duties and the WPCA foreclosures when there is clearly a problem. Atty. Anastasi said that this was not his decision to make, it would be up to the City Attorney.

Co-chair Martinez said that this was what they do as elected officials and they could request a review of Atty. Epstein’s contract to see why this contract continues to be renewed. She said that she has been fighting these WPCA issues and she has experienced non-consistency, noncompliance from the City Attorney’s office and experienced this directly from constituents in her district when she helped to save their homes. Co-chair Martinez said she also experienced when the WPCA foreclosed on the American Legion and experienced a lack of proper protocol through the City of Bridgeport. There is one attorney that oversees the WPCA, Atty. Liskov, who has a connection with Atty. Epstein. Atty. Epstein and Atty. Liskov have a revolving cycle that Co-chair Martinez said she would state because this has been happening since she has been elected to the Council. Atty. Anastasi did meet with the previous Council Members and he provided them with the details about the notice process. But that notification process is not happening. Individuals that are in the process of foreclosure receive an $800 bill. The protocol for the City is not $800, so Co-chair Martinez said there were a lot of violations that were occurring that are not being followed through the City Attorney’s Office. She said that she was not blaming Atty. Anastasi directly but these issues have been happening for years.

Co-chair Martinez said that there was also another issue that she was fighting about and would applaud Mr. Gaudett for his assistance. The City of Bridgeport Small Minority Office has a disparity study that was voted on by the Council in 2005. The Purchasing Office has not been following that the Small Minority Business Office disparity study. They have not been following that set aside requirement. The City could find themselves involved in a big lawsuit on both the State and Federal level, Co-chair Martinez said, because the City has not been following the disparity study percentages that were approved. However, the City is strictly implementing the WPCA protocols at the expense of home owners losing their properties for violations that the City itself is causing by not following their own protocols. Co-chair Martinez said that she has witnessed this at the Margaret Morton Government Center where the documents are stored and the staff could not provide her with any type of record of notifications that were sent out via certified mail to the home owner. Co-chair Martinez said was why she kept bringing the issue up because home owners who have purchased their homes 30 years ago are having their homes taken from them. This cycle started when Mayor Bill Finch was in office.

Co-chair Martinez said that she was going to tell it like it is because Economic Development staff have friends that they call when properties come up for sale. Then these developers come from all over the State and different towns to buy these properties. The same thing is true of Atty. Epstein and Atty. Liskov. Both men are Jews and buddies and they go to the same synagogue and they are buying up these properties. These are the facts about what is happening in Bridgeport, Co-chair Martinez said.

Atty. Anastasi said that he had nothing but respect for Atty. Liskov and that he was a terrific lawyer. Co-chair Martinez replied that he is terrific only after he has been caught on the spot. Atty. Anastasi suggested that the Committee gather some examples for the next meeting with the WPCA administration so they could be addressed. Co-chair Martinez said that she would provide examples. Atty. Anastasi said that City Attorney Meyer determines who will be doing the collections and Atty. Anastasi said that he would alert him to the concerns regarding Atty. Epstein. He added that it was not his job to defend City Attorney Meyer’s decisions or propose changes, because by Charter City Attorney Meyer has unilateral authority regarding this and it is not something that the Council has authority over.

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15 comments

  1. Joel G. I am not a fan of Jay z. I think this song is disgusting and shameful. But hey he is a hero to many so what can I say. It’s melodious with and infectious beat. I just want to sing this song. I expect a lot of radio play. In some alternate universe!!!

    Back to Eneida Martinez. I think it was a sad unintentional comment she made. I do not know why the lawsuit is against 8 other members. This is what I have to say as a Jewish person. It was offensive. However, like most people I have met in Bridgeport politics, It is sad that their circle of friends is extremely limited. I remember a council member asked me why I was so down on Louis Farrakhan. I like this council member but realize I am probably the only Jewish person he has had a conversation with other than his Doctor or Lawyer-True! Farrakhan is probably the most hateful anti-semetic out there:-). I think that goes for many of the Council members. I forgive those who are socially naive ( I want to say ignorant but do not want to sound caustic) . If I didn’t believe Eneida was just unaware of the comments derogatory nature, I certainly would not be coming to her defense. I like Eneida. I would hate to believe she felt this way. I know she is religious from her posts on social media and i am certain she is aware that her lord and savior was an orthodox Jew. I also know that her lord and savior did not convert, though for 2 thousand years you’d believe he did.I am sorry that it has come to a lawsuit, but hey, why not? Other minorities have done so for similar comments. I hope the suit is dropped.

    That’s all I have to say on this subject. It has been a bad week for Eneida. Better days are coming. Get well soon.

  2. I think the lawsuit is smoke and mirrors. I will say that members on the council have to watch what they say. My question is would she have said these 2 are Catholics and both attend the same church, no she would not. You dont get the freedom to say whaat you want when you get elected.

  3. It has always been my family’s practice not to refer to
    people by religion, so in our family we never call Jewish people by some other ethnonyms.

    We just call them Norwegians!

  4. Epstein, Liskov, Pereira, Martinez, Gonzalez, Grimaldi, Brown, Auerbach… Sounds like a bunch of Americans. Remember who we are before anything else: AMERICANS.

  5. C’mon man I am sure that Enida as well as most Black’s and Puerto Rican’s have/had no idea that referring to people as Jews was/is antisemitic. Most have no idea that referring to Jews is their religion rather than their ethnicity, like two Black or two Puerto Rican men.

    This was done under the guise to take the pressure off of the fact that they think, feel or believe that something is being done is not only illegal, but is wrong, immoral and unjust and the fact they were of the Jewish faith has absolutely to do with the subject matter. Playing the faith card is a new low.

    1. Hi Donald – Jews are historically a people and a faith. What she said goes back to the “old” conspiracy that all the Jews were working together in some secret kabala. Whether or not she was aware is a separate discussion. As a Jew I was more shocked than offended by her. Call me silly, but I expect better for the President of the council.
      I do agree he is playing this card to take some heat off of his own wrong doing.

      1. DC, Enida is not the common council President and how could anyone who isn’t Jewish know that the statement she made was anti-Semitic? There is much to be learned by this dialogue, just exactly what is anti-Semitism, is it like racism, like discrimination or something all together different? I know that there are symbols of anti-Semitism, but exactly where is the line drawn with respect to language?

        For Peter Spain to get on this self righteous high horse I find exhaustively petty and without merit. I’m sure that Enida, me and others learned a great deal from this and the grandstanding of a politician doesn’t move the dialogue forward.

  6. Question.
    Was Mark Anastasi or Chris Myers in the room when these statements were made?
    If so and they said nothing, then as the City Council legal representation, they should be added to the CHRO complaint.
    Whats fair is fair.

    1. Atty. Anastasi was present. He did not directly address Eneida’s comments. Rather, toward the end of the meeting, he asked that, when the attorneys appear before the Committee, they should be respectful.

  7. The comment below about the word Jew, is from:
    Reclaiming ‘Jew’

    By MARK OPPENHEIMERAPRIL 22, 2017

    “So it’s time for us to own “Jew.” We can do so by using the word more ourselves, and by giving everyone else permission to call Jews Jews. We can rescue, as Louis C. K. would say, the “polite thing” from the slur. Jews are what we are, after all, and the anti-Semites shouldn’t be the only ones saying so.”

    Opinion | Reclaiming ‘Jew’
    We’re not just Jewish. We’re also the noun.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/22/opinion/reclaiming-jew.html

  8. I don’t believe Eneida’s comments were anti-semetic. She wasn’t saying that several people have done bad things because of their religion. It is apparent that no one is saying that there aren’t some glaring patterns of error in how WPCA and city tax collections and foreclosures are being done. If this is true, then it is appropriate to consider persons’ associations as affording means and opportunity. This would be true for any sub-class of people. In my opinion, attorneys often have a tendency to abuse their positions (fortunately a practice not absolute). So if I say so publically, would I be sued for discrimination? In my opinion, Attorney Liskov’s legal action is a bully tactic, a smoke screen, to dissuade the Ordinance Committee from following through on a good plan that it has begun. Also, regarding his legal actions, I haven’t heard anything about materiality/injury. In addition, there’s a question of whether legislative immunity (which can apply to state legislators) would apply to municipal legislative officers! Back to the basics, I’d like Attorney Epstein to publicly disclose if he has any kind of financial interest in Benchmark Municipal Tax Services, LTD and I’d like Mayor Ganim to disclose if he or any of his family members or relatives have a financial interest in American Tax Funding, LLC.

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