Government scrutineer John Marshall Lee has been digging through a number of city departments raising questions about board and commission vacancies as well as the inner workings of Civil Service. He provides this report:
Bridgeport, have you ever thought about the way fellow citizens, appointed to Boards and Commissions by successive Mayors, and perhaps later re-appointed (or just left there when terms expire), perform as representatives of your interest?
The topic has been raised frequently through the years based on numerous board “expiries” and “vacancies.” Mayor Finch did a report on this near the end of his second term but took no serious action. Mayor Ganim assigned former City Council rep, Angel DePara, to shepherd this process. Are processes or results any different today? What factors contribute to initially proposing or re-appointing people to terms? Can you tell if there is a genuine evaluation process at any point ongoing? For example, look at the five Civil Service Commission members. Today we see four Commissioners with term expiries of 2017, 2011, 2010, and 2009. The only exception is the fifth member who is elected from City employees with an expiry of 10-1-2018.
Reviewing Civil Service minutes for the past year impresses me with the range of activity around City employment, compensation and appeals. And discussions of Charter meaning, Civil Service system, political appointments, and worker right to explanations when terminated are equally of interest. Legal arguments between City and private attorneys provide a good education on our Charter, Ordinances and the subject of labor relations. Of note is that Minutes of regular 2017 meetings in February and July are missing from the City site. And no Agenda(s) or Minute(s) are posted for August, September, October or November. The Commission meets regularly on the second Tuesday of each month at 2:00 PM.
The Director of Civil Service is reported to be an ACTING Director, one of several in the City extending for a decade or so that leads one to ask: “Why?” With questions about the ACTING Police Chief for 24 months, what timelines and activity are appropriate? Is a Charter review necessary?
More to the point is the situation of Chairperson Eleanor Guedes (U) who is listed on the City web site at 1425 Noble Avenue, Bridgeport CT 06610, presumably her domicile. The City Charter (Chapter 2) and a very recent Ordinance (12-8-17) “requires that all officers of the city, elected or appointed under the provisions of the charter, shall be residents and registered voters of the City of Bridgeport.” From CTVan database, an Eleanor Guedes registered to vote in 1988, unaffiliated as to party, DOB 12-19-1963, and a resident of 48 Teller Road, Trumbull CT 06611. Further inquiry in Trumbull indicates that the Teller Road resident voted in 2014, 2015 and 2016 elections in Trumbull.
— First let me wish the Trumbull resident a belated Happy Birthday.
— Secondly I am curious if she is the same person identified with an address at Noble Avenue as a domicile?
— Third, if she is one and the same person, I salute her for her interest in Bridgeport subjects, but ask her, to consider her behavior in the light of the Charter and latest Ordinance. Aren’’t you breaking the rules? If you are not, what exception do you call upon to excuse your time serving Bridgeport’s Civil Service Commission?
The City Attorney office is frequently involved in a myriad of Civil Service matters. Jobs are certainly important to people for reasons of compensation, benefits, and status. Civil Service Commission can be a legal battleground. Could such service by an ineligible Commissioner be grounds for further appeal and added taxpayer expense?
Why have expiries been allowed to run this way by successive Mayors? Why did it take public comment in early 2017 picked up by a City Council member on the Ordinance Committee to restate the rules? In light of Mayor Ganim’s pursuit of State Executive office currently, does this Civil Service Commission example show “best administrative practices” or municipal prowess in leadership for voter consideration across the State? Unless there are two Eleanors, are there other obvious examples of residents of other towns or districts who are playing our system? Time will tell.