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Ex Mayor Bucci Representing McCarthy In Exit Negotiations–Development Chief Kooris In Limbo

January 6th, 2016 · 36 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Budget, City Council, City Politics, News and Events

McCarthy, Kooris

Tom McCarthy, left, and David Kooris at Bass Pro announcement summer of 2012.

As Joe Ganim continues to assemble pieces of his administration, two leftovers from Bill Finch’s days stand out: City Council President Tom McCarthy, deputy director of Labor Relations and David Kooris, director of Planning and Economic Development. McCarthy is a politician who’s worked for the city for about 15 years. Kooris is a development professional in limbo. Does he stay or does he find something else?

Ganim administration officials say they are not planning to replace Kooris who’s well-liked in the business community and has shepherded several key projects for the city since he was appointed development director in the summer of 2012 including the Steel Point redevelopment area of the East Side that features Bass Pro Shops as the anchor tenant. Has Ganim’s willingness to keep Kooris been relayed to him? Kooris has been interviewing for other job opportunities.

Tom Bucci

Ex-mayor Tom Bucci

As for McCarthy, he’s done something many city employees have done over the past decade involving labor issues: he’s hired former Mayor Tom Bucci, an expert in labor law and employment discrimination, to help negotiate an exit package. One of the sticking points appears to be the length of health benefits McCarthy wants included in the separation. (Full disclosure: I was a Bucci mayoral staffer and ex-brother-in-law.)

Ironically, the labor office that McCarthy represents has faced off against Bucci on numerous occasions involving terminations and employee disciplinary action. Bucci had a mighty record representing city employees in labor claims against the Finch administration. If they fire you or mess with you, hire Bucci. It’s a mantra that runs deep among city employees. He usually wins. In 2012 when Tom White raised ethical questions about City Council members, including McCarthy, in his role as legislative liaison, his job was conveniently whited out by the council. In a federal lawsuit against the city that is still pending, White claims the city violated his First Amendment rights as the victim of retaliation because he “acted as the conscience and moral compass for the City Council.” Who’s representing White in that case? Tom Bucci.

Bucci, while kicking Finch’s butt on the labor relations front, still maintained enough of a relationship with Finch that he stuck his neck out pretty good hand-wringing Joe Ganim’s comeback in written testimony to the state legislature.

Bucci, as did other ex-mayors, showed up at public events in a show of support for Finch. Bucci weighing in so hard for Finch seemed befuddling. His cousin, Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa supported Ganim. But then it seemed to make perfect sense. Bucci was doing so well kicking Finch’s ass in labor relations cases, why would he want to change horses? Bucci may argue the Ganim administration might be just as accommodating as Finch in bolstering his labor practice.

Bucci is trying to work out a “non-adversarial” separation for McCarthy. Ganim is not rushing McCarthy’s exit. McCarthy is head of the legislative branch of government so if Ganim can finesse McCarthy out the door it could save him contentious issues with the City Council.

For McCarthy’s critics, he became the face of conflict in the city as a city employee council member who headed the branch of government overseeing legislation and budget. How could he provide a check on the executive branch when he worked for the mayor? McCarthy admitted he was a discretionary employee of the mayor but also did his due diligence in his City Council work. Bucci is making it clear if McCarthy is terminated without cause, court action could follow.

Bucci, mayor from 1985-89, earned his stripes as a mayoral candidate taking Republican Mayor Lenny Paoletta to task for violating the Bridgeport City Charter. When Paoletta awarded a contract without council approval, Bucci ran into court and won. The City Charter prohibits city employee councilors. Bucci counters the “public policy of the State of Connecticut, as embedded in its statutes, is to allow municipal employees to sit on the legislative body of the municipality.”

State statute prohibits municipal employees from serving on boards of finance. But in Bridgeport, the City Council serves the dual role as legislative and budget-approving authority. Bucci contends “Terminating Tom McCarthy’s employment because of his being a member of the city council would be a violation of the public policy of the state of Connecticut. How do you change the public policy? By legislative action at the General Assembly, not by firing an employee for which there is absence of just cause for his termination.”

Attempts to change state law have failed because many of the union leaders that negotiate labor agreements with McCarthy prevailed upon state legislators to kill the reform effort.

Ironically, many times Bucci faced off against McCarthy for firing an employee for which there was absence of just cause for termination. Now he’s leveraging his talents to represent McCarthy to avoid the same.

Don’t ya love it?


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36 Comments so far ↓

  • Ron Mackey

    Politics makes for strange bedfellows.

  • Phil Smith

    Lennie, whatever happened to Chris Meyer’s promised review of Mark Anastasi’s opinion that state law permitted city employees to serve on the City Council? Could it be he decided Anastasi was right after all?

    • LennieGrimaldi

      You may be right that he’s taking that position, but he’s not issued anything official yet. From what I can tell, sounds like they’d prefer to resolve individually the three remaining “conflicted” city council members … McCarthy, Jim Holloway and Milta Feliciano.

  • Grin Ripper

    Lennie, I guess Tom Bucci wants to eat with two forks. I don’t know if he can eschew that on a White table cloth?

  • Grin Ripper

    I meant “chew” although he should eschew himself, too.

  • Local Eyes

    Today New York City; tomorrow Bridgeport?
    www .bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-01-05/new-york-city-unveils-its-first-super-fast-wifi-kiosks

    I hope the bad-ass king of the internet–Google–chooses Bridgeport as the next stop for LINKS, which is where pay phones get replaced by high-tech kiosks (links). They’re free to use and generate money for Bridgeport.

  • Mojo

    *** Well Tom, looks like it’s the end of having your cake and eating it too, no? ***

  • Bob Walsh

    Does Bucci have a great record representing ex-city employees or just a great record negotiating settlements?
    It may seem like semantics but it is not.
    The difference being the city is so poor in labor matters, when their backs are to the wall they would rather settle than fight.

  • Bob Walsh

    On the other hand, Kooris? Are you kidding me? If Ganim keeps him it is only because he knows the city is nowhere near development so keep the kid around for awhile and scapegoat him when needed.
    And Kooris is probably thinking the same way.

  • Steven Auerbach

    I hope it is Mayor Ganim’s plan to keep David Kooris and communicate that desire. It is to the Mayor’s benefit as well so there is a smooth transition and projects keep moving forward. I have met David Kooris, I have interviewed with David Kooris and I believe he is the best bet to help the Mayor moving the city forward. To cut ties would not benefit anyone. I do not think Kooris would be any less loyal to Mayor Ganim and let’s face it, development is the ticket. To all of those who were anti-Kooris people, get over it. He is good for the taxpayers of this city and he will be awesome for Joe Ganim.

  • Zena Lu

    There is a lot to be said for leaving some folks on the payroll who have experience and possibly know where the “bodies” are buried, but I saw this guy on television a couple of weeks ago in relation to Stamford Government development and management. That message is too sour for many palates. Talk about serving two masters. What’s it gonna be, boy?

  • Zena Lu

    How many practices, contracts, deals and tangled-up messes is this administration going to have to leave intact because they have become too convoluted (AKA expensive) to unravel?

    People are freaking out right and left regarding every decision that is being made. Well, that is not surprising as there are as many opinions and vantage points as there are people on this planet.

    I for one think we as a City benefit from any administration that at least attempts to value the greater good over continuing to run this City in the manner of a glorified Ponzi Scheme, and keeping money, backed by legal loopholes, circulating between the same folks over and over. That is exactly what Finch did. That is why we are better off now than we were six months ago. Ganim may make unpopular decisions, but Finch made selfish ones.

    • Phil Smith

      What makes you think this administration wants to change the way business is done in Bridgeport? Little or no evidence of that so far.

      • LennieGrimaldi

        Phil, can you think of one administration in the post-McLevy years that changed the way business is done?

        • Phil Smith

          With the possible exception of Tom Bucci’s second term (in part because the state forced changes), no. Sadly, many of those reforms have been eroded in the years since Bucci left office.

          Your question underscores an important point. Changing the names of the people in power is not the same as changing the way the city does business.

          Bridgeport needs more than new officials. It needs to change the culture of city government, which, for too long, has been based on “what’s in it for me,” not “what is best for Bridgeport.”

      • Zena Lu

        I am hopeful, and that is my right.

    • Ron Mackey

      Zena Lu, you make some good points in both your posts but there a few people who know where the “bodies” are buried who need to be fired.

      • Zena Lu

        You won’t get an argument from me on that point, Ron! But no business can clean house without adequate replacements in some cases, no matter how much it nauseates them. It’s only been one month. That is not enough time to balance a screwed-up checkbook sometimes.

  • Local Eyes

    What could be more selfish than the decisions Ganim made that resulted in him leaving office in 2003? Whereas, Finch wears a halo.

  • Zena Lu

    It’s a new day, darlin’. Joe Ganim is our mayor again. He paid the price for his mistakes, and now Bill Finch is paying for his. It’s all square. Let’s do good things with what we have now!

    • Local Eyes

      No need to give me a second chance, I got it right the first time.

    • John Marshall Lee

      Joe was called to task by the Federal justice system. You are right, he paid a “price for his mistakes” but if you were talking about Federal prison time as “price” for a number of felony convictions you call “mistakes,” then his actions also had a much larger effect on Bridgeport owners who are still paying for his decisions to break the law. I am not happy to have been forced to be a payer for those personal decisions that feathered his personal nest with values he did not broadly share with others.

      We have been told G2 is a different man and I am actively looking for the evidence that will support that daily. Bill Finch and some of his supporters have left office, but how do you figure he is paying for his mistakes or those of Sherwood and Kelly-Lenz? What type of rule book would tell you “it’s all square?”

      When G1 was in office the Review Board departed with about $55 Million of City Fund Balance. Successive “machine regimes” have allowed taxes to rise, properties to lose value, and let this so-called “rainy day fund” decrease to about $10 Million or so. Do we have any idea today of what the Net Taxable Grand List was one year ago or today? Does anyone have a list of City-owned property of a certain date with values for the past 10 years to look at trends? What do we have now, Zena Lu? Time will tell.

      • Zena Lu

        I am not sure what you have, but what I have is a right to my own interpretation of issues and the right to vocalize those points of view without being addressed in a condescending manner.

        I am not an ignoramus because I do not slice and dice issues in the same manner you do. I do have a post graduate education in business and worked extremely hard for it, thank you very much. I know my way around financial statements, budgets, and most things administrative. I do appreciate your unique point of view and feel it is in fact and asset to Bridgeport in many ways.

        I would appreciate it if you offered me the same respect I always do you.

        • John Marshall Lee

          Zena Lu,
          Thank you for your response. As I have told others and Lennie affirms every day, each of us has a right to an opinion, and room to support the opinions expressed. Indeed as you have stated your academic and fiscal experiences, you may have more formal academic time than I do and that benefits OIB readers when you do the ‘slicing and dicing.’ However, your heartfelt response about Joe’s jail time does not make up for the prices City residents are still paying for his selfish choices. MY OPINION and that of a few more folks I met while campaigning this year.

          Nevertheless I am trusting but looking for verification from the people in his administration, to see how strong the G2 commitment is to making a difference in City governance by providing more OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE, TRANSPARENT, and HONEST process than we have seen in years. My respect for you is undiminished and never was in my entry as far as I am concerned. Sorry for any negative feelings generated, certainly. Perhaps we are at a point I have previously mentioned relative to the book by Richard Fariña from the 1960s: BEEN DOWN SO LONG, IT LOOKS LIKE UP TO ME. Time will tell.

  • Harvey Weintraub

    First off, I’m glad to see Joe is honoring his campaign promise to rid the council of city employees. If he truly wants a transparent administration, this is necessary. Secondly, good for Tom lawyering up, and trying to get the best exit package he can, he deserves it. What I’m interested in is seeing Tom finally be able to make decisions without having the distractions of his city job factor in. Imo, one of the biggest mistakes Tom made professionally was aligning himself so closely with Bill Finch. Hopefully getting a job in the private sector will distance that decision from the taxpayers’ minds. Tom loves this city and is an asset to it.

    • John Marshall Lee

      Harvey, I respect what you have to say most of the time. But today I would ask you to back up your comment on how much Tom McCarthy “loves this city and is an asset to it.”
      Please include commentary on how he has abused the Stipend system by knowing the system and the Ordinance are at odds and have been, failed to provide the City Council with full and complete info when they faced decisions time and again, how he allowed confused, complicated and inaccurate financial reports to continue to B&A when he had the power to change, and how his personal activity stripped the Council of any independent backup they had to support questions, research and structural check and balance by the body he was elected to lead? By the way, did McCarthy care about getting former City Council member and at the time Legislative Aide Tom White the best exit package possible? And what does McCarthy have to say at this time about Bucci representing White in two cases against the City that may cause added financial damage? Is Tom’s fame because he’s a smiley guy with little or no need to be accountable? Has he received his exit package already by the steep increase in his pay levels over the years? How is that done, by the way? Perhaps the “cat has his tongue?” Tell us about the Airport driveway. Time will tell.

      • Harvey Weintraub

        Mr Lee, point taken, but again, I believe all of Tom’s actions were dictated by what Finch/Anastasi “recommended.” The stipend issue? You know he went to Anastasi first for direction with this, and was given the “okay.” The financial reports? Finch directed what was told to the council, again McCarthy just following orders. And obviously, the driveway issue Tom knew more than he let on, but Finch put a gag on everyone so as to protect himself. Listen, did Tom decide to follow orders and do what he was told to? YES. Goes back to my original point, Tom making the decision to be Finch’s puppet was a mistake he will/is regretting, I’m sure.

        • John Marshall Lee

          Mr. Weintraub,
          I am sure you have read my concern at one time or another in that we are bereft of any meaningful “check and balance” mechanisms in the City and have been for some time. Tom McCarthy has been an engineer, if not an architect on this topic.

          He has run to represent his constituents, yes? And then he was elected to represent another group of constituents, his fellow Council members, yes? And in so doing he placed himself as the second person in the City governance structure. Yet he was also a City employee concerned about hours and pay, but not sharing with the public that hat and what he did and how successful he has been in that regard. He was conflicted in so many ways but he took no stand on the issue. And his willingness to subvert his own constituents at City and Council level shows how compromised he has been in the issues mentioned above as well as others too numerous to add to the list.

          Why are we content with such absence of genuine public service from someone elected to a very important position in our government structure? Why do we feel a parachute of any kind is due from taxpayers today? Time will tell.

        • Lisa Parziale

          Harvey, as a member of the City Council you take orders from no one. You were elected to do the business of your constituents and nothing trumps that. I served as Council President with two administrations, and neither Mayor nor any City Attorney gave me orders. I knew the difference between what was right for the City and my constituents, so sorry to say your argument doesn’t hold water.

  • Jimfox

    Here’s a compromise.
    If McCarthy and the other city employees want to keep their jobs and seat on the city council, they should enter into an agreement with the city not to run for city council as an employee after their term has expired, they’ll be grandfathered in for the next two years on the council. But if they refuse the compromise, expect to be removed from their city employment.
    In the case of McCarthy, he would also rescind his Finch raise.

  • Jimfox

    My assessment went down, but not as much as DeParle’s!

  • Tom White

    Harvey, your comments suggest a level of experience and wisdom in judging McCarthy. Nothing you have said though, suggests your awareness of details JML has exposed and I lived through. McCarthy orchestrated questionable actions with the apparent support of the Finch administration. My illegal termination is detailed in my lawsuit and before a judge. The Ganim administration would be wise to thoroughly review questionable actions by McCarthy while council president. As JML says, time will tell.

  • Mojo

    *** Whatever became of Tom’s aspirations to run for Mayor after Finch I wonder? I always thought he had some interest if asked and pushed by the DTC, along with a special Mayor’s Manual to follow while on duty. Talk about puppet strings, good Lord! ***

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