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Ex Assistant Chief Nardozzi Sues City For Illegal Termination, Claims Deal Between Union And Mayor

August 4th, 2017 · 29 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Budget, City Politics, Civil Service, Law Enforcement, News and Events

Nardozzi

James Nardozzi

James Nardozzi was hired as assistant chief under Mayor Bill Finch to reel in overtime and then was booted by Mayor Joe Ganim because Nardozzi hit the pocketbook of cops who supported Ganim’s comeback campaign by millions of dollars. That charge, among others, is part of a state lawsuit that Nardozzi has brought against the city and the Civil Service Commission for an unlawful termination without a hearing for cause. Nardozzi, as second in command of the department, was earning $123,440 when let go in January of 2016. See legal complaint here. The lawsuit was filed in the spring and a quick resolution does not appear forthcoming, according to lawyers involved.

Since Ganim’s return to office police overtime expenditures have been a major issue with a projection to overspend the account by $3 million for the budget year that ended June 30, 2017. Ganim and Police Chief A.J. Perez say the overtime will diminish in the current budget year with new police hires.

Nardozzi was hired in 2012. OIB chronicled Nardozzi’s efforts to cut overtime by millions of dollars against the wishes of police rank and file. The lawsuit cites the City Charter which specifies that a termination must accompany a hearing before the Civil Service Commission. A hearing for cause did not occur. As a result the commission violated a term of the contractual relationship with Nardozzi, according to the complaint.

One veteran member of the Police Department who did not want to be identified says “Nardozzi did an excellent job reducing overtime. He would not allow people to take advantage of the system.”

In the complaint Nardozzi’s lawyer claims Ganim acquiesced to the wishes of the police union: we’ll support you for your election but Nardozzi and Joe Gaudett as police chief must go. Nardozzi was terminated for “political reasons.” The police union was angry with Nardozzi, according to the complaint, because Nardozzi “enacted a plan, at the command of then Mayor Bill Finch” to reduce overtime expenditures. Nardozzi slashed overtime in one year from $8 million to $4.3 million and to the point that a $900,000 surplus existed for the 2014 budget year, according to the complaint.

Angry over the overtime cuts, the union sought Nardozzi’s removal including an effort with some minority members of the department to besmirch his reputation “by falsely labeling him as a racist in the news media.” Those claims were found unsupported. The effort to remove Nardozzi then became “political” with union members pledging support for Ganim in exchange for Nardozzi’s firing.

The overwhelming support of city police officers, and by extension family and friends, became a pivotal campaign moment for Ganim who worked to assuage concerns about his 2003 conviction on public corruption charges. It immunized Ganim from attacks with a talking point at doors: the police union would not support me if its members had any concerns about my past.

During the 2015 primary campaign police overtime once again became an issue following a spike in violent crime in some neighborhoods. Hearing vociferous complaints, Finch, as the incumbent, reopened the overtime spigot to pad police patrols. Finch lost the primary to Ganim, but in a last-minute move before leaving office reappointed Gaudett to another five-year term as authorized by the City Charter. Ganim also inherited an election-year budget crafted by Finch.

Upon election one of Ganim’s first hires was bringing back former Police Chief Wilbur Chapman to serve as a “public safety adviser.” He essentially carried out the orders of the mayor to Nardozzi and Gaudett, the two leaders of the department the police rank and file wanted out. Chapman and John Gomes, who Ganim appointed acting chief administrative officer, became the hatchet men, although Chapman had kind words for Nardozzi including his ability to once again bring overtime costs under control, according to the lawsuit.

It was not to be. The complaint alleges that Police Union Chief Chuck Paris pressed Ganim to terminate Nardozzi. It was done.

In January of 2016 Gomes issued the following letter to Gaudett:

By the order of the Mayor, in order to improve the functionality, the operational and economic efficiency of the Bridgeport Police Department the following reorganization will be conducted. The position of assistant chief will be eliminated immediately.

Those duties currently performed by the assistant chief will revert back to the chief of police. The four deputy chief positions will be realigned to better coordinate the efforts of the mayor’s crime reduction program. One deputy chief will be assigned to A and B shifts while two will be assigned to C shift. Schedules will be adjusted to ensure weekend coverage. The duty chiefs will respond in uniform to major incidents while on duty and will work with the commanding officer of the mayor’s crime reduction task force to manage field resources. The commanding officer of the mayor’s crime reduction task force will have overall authority for strategic appointment and overtime allocation.

With Nardozzi out of the way Ganim, who announced on the campaign trail the department needed a fresh start, went to work on Gaudett. But Ganim was handcuffed financially by Finch’s last-minute appointment. Rather than a large payout of his contract, the city and Gaudett worked out a multi-year professional services agreement overseeing the Office of Emergency Management and the Communications Division. Gaudett resigned as chief. It allowed Ganim to appoint his long-time friend Perez as acting chief. Ganim has not announced a national search for a permanent chief.

Prior to joining Bridgeport, Nardozzi served as the Dean of Post College and Director of its Master of Public Administration degree program. He retired in 2007 as Deputy Chief of the Waterbury Police Department, where he served since 1989.

He seeks monetary damages, reinstatement to his position, with back pay and benefits, attorneys fees and punitive damages. He is represented by Eric Brown who once served as a police union lawyer.

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29 Comments so far ↓

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Go get them Chief I hope you win.

    • Phil Smith

      Ganim and the Civil Service Commission have also avoided conducting the civil service test for Chief of Police which is mandated by the Charter.

      • Ron Mackey

        Phil, very good plus the testing for the City’s Personnel Director and Civil Service Commission in which David Dunn has that position for over ten years in a “Acting” position.

  • Frank Gyure

    Of course there was a deal between Ganim and Bridgeport’s best buddy,Chuck Paris. You can also add into that unholy alliance ACTING Police Chief A.J. Perez. I’ve been saying this since Day One of JG2. I hope Nardozzi steamrolls Ganim,Testa,Paris,Perez,Roach. HAS ANYONE HEARD A PEEP FROM WILBUR CHAPMAN? And then there is Ed Adams? What is he doing. Last we heard he was assigned to deal with the downtown meter mess and he did a lousy job. So much for being the “ACCOUNTABILITY CZAR!”

    • Frank Gyure

      This is one more reason to review and change laws and procedures concerning The Board of Police Commissioners made even worse with Dan Roach on the Board. Right now,this Board is an impotent eunuch. The Bridgeport Police Depart needs to be seen and managed as a para-military unit. Right now,it is a para-political organization with Ganim,Paris,Perez making it into their own political fiefdom.

  • DavidDanielsIII

    The year after the city hired Nardozzi, In a room full of supervisors , I told Nardozzi that he had no idea who he was playing with, Told him this cities politicos would turn on him, I told him he was in way over his head, I got mad at me, didn’t appreciate my candor, I bet he does now.

  • DavidDanielsIII

    that should read “HE got mad at me……sorry

  • John Marshall Lee

    Rolling thunder…….

    Chuck Paris got the City to move Plan B to MERS where overtime earnings in your working years became a new and critical factor in increasing retirement incomes.

    Did Chuck (or anyone) ever see or ask for the expense of making that change from Plan B? Did Labor Relations get special actuarial studies at the time? What overtime assumptions did they use?

    Is the MERS past service liability listed in CAFR-2016 accurate when stated at $31Million? Or larger? Where did the $90 Million figure Ganim is using for bonding the past service liability come from? And that assumes 8% Interest, but if the State lowers the assumed rate to 7%, does the $90 Million then become $270 Million?

    Will the City Council retain expertise before passing on issues having great import for the taxpayers of the City going forward? They have $90,000 of funds in their budget. Any additional thoughts for them? Time will tell.

    • Frank Gyure

      JML, you are much more polite and detailed that I can be today. I can’t quantify the issues that you raised but I can address the issue on a broader “qualitative” basis. IMHO,The Bridgeport Police Department is poorly run. This is a disservice to the People of The City of Bridgeport and it is a disservice to the highly trained law enforcement professionals who should/can be public safety specialists.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Putting Perez in as Acting Chief was pay back for what Perez has kept quiet about. Its long over due Perez has to go as do the following: Feel free to add to the list;
    Chief Perez
    Ed Adams
    Wilbur Chapman
    David Dunn
    Chief Thode
    Danny Roach
    any one in PD with the rank of Captain and above
    I know there are more people but this is the main corp of people screwing this city. You can Add Christopher Meyer the city attorney he is an empty suit.

    • Ron Mackey

      Andy, look for Acting P provisional fire chief provisional fire chief provisional fire chief

    • Ron Mackey

      Andy, look for Acting Police Chief Perez to be made a provisional Police Chief, then they’ll give a test for police chief and of course Ganim will select Perez out of the top three candidates and make Perez the police chief. Perez will retire as the provisional police chief before he is formally named police chief so he can draw his pension as a provisional chief and then get his full salary as the police chief there by getting paid twice by the tax payers the way that fire chief Rooney did.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    One more thing about Joe Ganim. Ganim knows he cant be Lt Governor or Govenor what he is doing and will continue to do is build his money was chest. As election year approaches he will drop out of the race give his campaign funds to the state democratic party in lieu of his law license. Watch it will happen,

  • Ron Mackey

    Pay me Now or Pay me Later; Pay Me you will!

    https://youtu.be/Ij1yDpfZI8Q

  • John Marshall Lee

    Joe’s Saga…. (August, 2017)
    Ganim1 had a law license, a family, a lovely home, and a fond future when he was elected Mayor that first time. Whatever his character or opportunity, bad choices were made that cost the public and Ganim dearly. After serving seven years for multiple felony convictions, the home sold his law license lost, the family apart, and the future was uncertain when he departed the half-way house. Regaining the law license seemed to founder on the absence of remorse for and recognition of the damages done to and suffered by the community. Fame and fortune…..disappeared?

    What to do? A campaign for Mayor? Accountable and transparent? Stop Raising Taxes!! A primary win? An election win? Improbable, but happened! City residence? B2B caper? Two years into the ‘second chance’, perhaps less than satisfying? Office of PUBLIC INTEGRITY? Campaign promises trod into the dust when taxes rose! No pursuit of predecessor fiscal games? Accountable for any priorities? Steady ignorance of school operating budgets and education of 21,000 youth? Frequent insubstantial photo ops with Council members?

    Ganim2 looks out to the Governorship opening in 2018? “Statewide campaign” funding with multiple events builds the war chest? But what do statewide voters see in Ganim2 that is transferable or scalable to a State in trouble? Parking meter initiatives and expertise?

    What if the war chest gets large enough to help a beleaguered State Democratic party compete? Is it possible to polish remorse and secure a right to practice law again? How does the taxpaying public feel they have been served with Ganim2’s quiet personal “bridge building”? Too many questions? Time will tell.

  • The Phantom

    Amazing how it’s not noted how much of the overtime budget this clown exceeded once the mass exodus began and the department was short handed. This guy more than exceeded the budget his last year. Perez is down about 70 cops! This guy was down half that and blew the budget out with more cops, yet Perez is ridiculed. Nardozzi had the benefit of a well stocked PD and couldn’t handle it when the stuff hit the fan.

    • Frank Gyure

      Another handle/coward. OIB needs to get rid of these handles. Once and for all. These handles are pure BS. If OIB does not change their policy,then I am OUT OF HERE!!!

      • Frank Gyure

        Who the hell is Phantom???. Is he one of these handles that everyone on OIB really knows who they are? Is is possible that Phantom is actually on the city payroll right now and using their name may possibly cost them a job. Or is it just another useless nobody who does not have the guts to show their name and are allowed to take advantage of OIB’s extremely permissive and liberal use of the OIB handle policy?

        • Frank Gyure

          OIB did a poll couple of months ago. Three Choices; change the policy,keep it the same,or does not make a difference. The plurality was change the policy or it does not make a difference. The results of the poll to maintain the same policy was less than a majority(50%).

          • The Phantom

            Oh jeez. Frankie the blow hard has his panties in bunch and is lashing out at anyone who dare to challenge his moronic way of thinking. I have a solution for you…get a life! You spend yours screaming on OIB as if only your opinions count. Facts are facts and this loser did a worse job than Perez has. Get the facts, they’re there under FOI if you want them. You won’t bother cause it’s easier to spew your venomous BS. Anyone that hopes this creep wins a lawsuit and takes from the taxpayer over being let go when he had no contract, is fool. Too late in your case.

        • Andrew C Fardy

          cop

    • John Marshall Lee

      Can you provide some numbers covering the Fiscal Years involved. It would nail down statements such as you have offered. The Budget projections approved for the past half dozen years anyway have proven inept because of the rising group of potential retirees who once the 2015 labor settlement going back to 2012 was approved were able to pack in several years at high pay to goose their retirement benefit.

      Bridgeport had never set aside any funds to cover the liability that would exist once overtime earnings rather than base pay became the major factor in retirement income. So what was the price tag when labor relations approved along with everyone else? Has Ganim ever mentioned the price tag? Is it the $90 Million he advocates bonding and tells us it will remove the MERS liability? Or, if MERS went to 7% earnings assumption would our liability jump to $270 Million as suggested on page 59 of the CAFR? Or has it been restated as of June 30, 2016 on pages 59 and 79 of the CAFR as about $205 Million payable long term to MERS? Time will tell.

  • Jeff Kohut

    Any “outsider” coming into BPD as a high-level hatchet-man for an unpopular chief and unpopular mayor cannot expect a happy ending for their tenure… He’s from WATERBURY; he should have known better… He took a calculated risk and lost, albeit with a contract on his side that will probably get him 6 figures — unless the judge and jury decide that he should have known better and that he inevitably stepped on union toes in violation of the union contract (which he almost undoubtedly did, albeit possibly inadvertently…) (It doesn’t take Columbo or Kojak to see the city/Nardozzi mis-steps involved in the whole Nardozzi saga…)

  • Phil Smith

    This one could be an expensive nightmare for the City for reasons ranging from Charter and Civil Service violations to violations of Nardozzzi’s constitutional rights. It could also raise questions about the legality (or illegality) of the so-called “grants personnel” payroll.

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