Federal Questions In Bridgeport: Reality Or Rumor?

The federals are back in town. Well actually, when it comes to Bridgeport’s politics and government they never really leave, they just take short sabbaticals until they have enough to probe the conduct in question. Sometimes they dig it up on their own, sometimes it’s a rap on their door from someone offering info. Is it solid? Can it be corroborated? Does the person have an ax to grind? Is he/she a nut job or reliable?

In search of the goods, FBI agents ask questions of subjects generally at the start knowing the answer to gauge veracity, before a deeper dive.

Often, it happens, subject defense mechanism kicks in when on the receiving end of federal inquiry to protect oneself or another. Bad idea.

“Where do you live?”

“I’m from the Amazon region of South America.”

“Really? Let’s try this again … where to do you live?

Don’t lie to the FBI. It’s a felony to fib to a federal law enforcement official. Sometimes the cover up is worse than the act. Better to yell lawyer. Anyhoo (gulp) it’s disquieting to be on the other end of federal inquiry.

Agents can spend days, months, years on something and determine there’s not enough to bring charges; they can spend days, months, years and find the mother lode. A key component of these investigations can be found in an official form called a 302, FBI written summaries of information from subjects interviewed.

In his latest commentary, citizen interrogator John Marshall Lee raises a lot of questions. Some are rumor, some are real. As he writes often, time will tell.

“Follow the money” is a popular phrase for investigators. Sometimes the money is cash that is received for scrap metal sold and not deposited in City accounts. Other times it may be checks from outside firms allowed to do printing with the City print shop, where the checks do not show up as revenue in a City account? And yet other times “money” may represent the incredibly long and uncontrolled run of Police Department overtime, always expensive in annual budgets. (In recent years since Police Plan B was transferred to State of CT MERS where overtime earnings are credited for monthly retirement income purpose. And that seems how the PD department budget has risen to over $100 Million annually.)

So if Federal 302 Investigation forms are being completed by investigators, perhaps something in the process of contracting a full time Police Department leader, initially very delayed by Civil Service, then publicly moving but finally hidden from view has caught notice about our City procedures? Rumor has it that more than one person in City leadership knows about discrepancies in the Police Chief appointment process and is concerned. (Many items are bubbling at the Police Department: in addition to disciplinary matters taking years rather than months when under the Special Master William Clendenen; actual disciplinary matters are not seen as “swift, firm and fair;” annual evaluations ignored although supposedly part of routine process; community policing discussed for years but no conclusion and no action; research or investigation into Captain Straubel “race war” comments limited.) Is the “public pocket being picked” again? Howso? Whom do you trust for a report on public corruption in Bridgeport this year?

Have you observed a recent daily retreat from “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” assumption held by most Americans for what is expected in the public square from those who are the “news” as well as those who report “the news?” While the Department of Justice pursues info about relations with Russians, Trump family financial dealings, and behavior of a businessman, with limited governance experience, takes over broad Constitutional “powers” as President, here in this “land of steady habits,” CT, I find that the DOJ has had an eye on “public corruption” as a front burner item of study for years.

When elected or appointed officials actively work to convert public property or access to opportunity into personal income or wealth it is a form of corruption. Public records that are Open, Accountable, Transparent and Honest make corruption more difficult. But when oversight is not regular and pursued officially or when people are neither well trained nor evaluated routinely, space develops for significant lapses in ethical and legal behavior.

Voters in Bridgeport provided a second chance to Joe Ganim to become Mayor and lead with lessons he learned while reflecting as an unwilling “guest” of the Federal government. There were adequate voters (familiar with the need but not a personal opportunity for a “second chance” after serving behind bars) to elect Ganim2 to represent them once again. Others reminded voters that “people do not necessarily change.” So Ganim 2 came to office, complained about Finch finances but did nothing to clean the record of the revealed major improprieties, and used his first budget to bury taxpayers with a huge tax increase, and less info than before. Property taxes increased. Property values decreased.

Today: a simple story of the sale of “scrap metal” produced in blight cleanups and sold mostly for private advantage by City Public Facility employees surfaced from an anonymous tip. Two people were fired, and another was punished. And a quasi public administration firm was hired to ask questions and consult. And the union defends. And the public waits.

Did it seem such a big deal before the Federal investigators came asking questions again? And asking for lots of records and reports beyond the scope of the Internal Affairs investigation? Ganim2 could point to no initiative in the past three years to make fiscal matters more clear to the public. Where are any reports prepared and presented by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability? Personally Ganim has had no priorities when announcing his annual budgets. No targets? So anything will work I guess? No one calls him on this. As a fiscal watchdog, I have pointed to one or more practices that need an explanation if not change. In Plant Printing has been receiving cash revenue for years. Ken Flatto, Finance Director, does not record these amounts month in and month out. If the Print shop were public, full records would be available. Why do “0”s continue in the City Council monthly reports?

Time will tell.

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11 comments

  1. Chief Perez is not the right person to lead the BPD. I can’t think of a single person that has interacted with him who hasn’t said he is a “nice guy.” Being a nice guy doesn’t necessarily translate to being an effective leader.

    It is very difficult to have been colleagues with many of those you now have to lead. Does Chief Perez want to be their “friends” or their “leader?” It is almost impossible to be both.

    There is tremendous turmoil within the BPD and there appear to be significant morale issues.

    I am confident there are many competent, professional, ethical and honest BPD officers, however I have lost complete faith in the BPD overall.

    1. JML’s paragraph starting with “when elected or appointed officials……space develops for significant lapses in ethical and legal behavior ” fits the Defilippo/Willinger/Haig & OPED et al and zoning board story, of the attempt to change The Bridgeport liquor laws to a tee. Corrupt and unethical. Long before he was ever elected or was even running for council Defilippo and his attorney- Willinger attempted to change Bridgeport’s liquor laws solely to benefit Michael Defilippo. Almost 4 years ago the attempt failed by a decision rendered in Superior Court. Since then they have made many attempts to achieve the same goal without success. Now that Defilippo is an elected official, he has, through his attorney, used OPED to assist in the matter. On March 25th the matter will again come before the zoning board and they will grant him his request. This despite all the strong opposition from citizens, church groups, the entire NRZ, the Entire School Board and some council members not to mention the package store owners. What will follow will be another appeal against this and another day in Superior Court. The outcome will ultimately remain to be seen. Imagine if these elected and appointed officials would work as hard and put as much effort into passing legislation and regulations that would actually benefit the citizens of Bridgeport!!! My what a city it could be. The police department might be in great shape and maybe crime would be less. The schools could get what they need and there might not be a scandal in the public works department. Maybe even real businesses with real jobs would want to come to town. We all know that the problems here are due to a puppet government that only benefits the few and the well connected… like Defilippo.
      That’s why JML’s words ring true.
      More to come.

  2. Frank, over 10% of the police department told lies on their official report involving the incident on Colorado Ave, shows poor training, poor leadership and possibly 2 sucides from this incident of loud noice at a party.

  3. “Rumor has it that more than one person in City leadership knows about discrepancies in the Police Chief appointment process and is concerned.”
    More to the point, there were many of us who watched the “select Acting Chief A.J. Perez as official Chief with a five year contract” Show roll out of City Hall over the past three years. Instead of taking professional training and education during that time when any number of incidences showed a lack of prompt, professional action and communication with the community, the Acting Chief used the time for what?? Well perhaps the Federal investigators have tripped over inconvenient truths revealed in their research? Did the process by which Civil Service is supposed to operate become tainted, such that the selection of Chief A.J. Perez was corrupt itself? Facts and truths do have a way of getting people to seek out legal representation for their personal protection. And there is more than one example of that in City Hall ongoing. This is an election year….with the Capital Budget to be released this week or in the process with the Operating Budget soon to follow?? But does Ganim2 really wish to be Mayor again? With no higher office political office open, what story will he share with us at this time to become credible? And will the back story of corruption becoming revealed cause more than one person to decide that this is a fine time to retire? Time will tell.

    1. The apparent preordained appointment of Chief Perez could in fact come under scrutiny. Anyone could request, through an ‘open records act’, to review the interview and selection process and check the Q&A of all interviews which were undertaken. So who will make the request?

      1. Rich, good point, also the selection process of selecting the testing company, that testing company has NEVER given a police chief exam anywhere that has the racial makeup of Bridgeport. David Dunn job was to go shopping for a testing company that would give the mayor the testing results that would have Perez placed in the top three. This was supposed to be a nationwide search for the person in America to become the police chief.

  4. Rich Augustynowicz, my hope is that the FBI investigate the Civil Service Office under the direction of David Dunn because some nefarious things have happened under his leadership. I know that the Firebird Society, under past president Joel Christy, sent a letter to the DOJ asking for a investigation into the way testing and hiring has changed to the detriment of woman and Black’s.

  5. Off topic but relevant. From the New York Post:

    Betting on the Super Bowl and the Oscars was legal for the first time in New Jersey this year — leading to big bucks in extra waging at the Garden State’s casinos, according to numbers released by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement.

    The casinos took in a total revenue of $241.2 million in February, from both sports betting and regular games. That’s a roughly 25 percent increase over the $192.1 million made in February 2018, before sports wagering and betting on things like the Oscars were made legal across the Hudson.

    The 2019 Academy Awards alone had folks putting up $747,696 on all the categories, with the amount paid out to winners totaling $565,179.

    That means sports books made $182,517 off Hollywood’s biggest night. Oscars betting is believed to have brought more women to the party than regular sports betting, as well.

    Meanwhile, the Super Bowl took in $34,894,900 in wagering.

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