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.