Mary-Jane Foster, an exploratory candidate for mayor, wants to know how much taxpayer dough has been spent on outside legal fees since Bill Finch has been mayor. It’s a lot. But it’s not something hizzoner shares on his daily Twitter feeds. Wouldn’t that be nice? My guess is millions.
Who’s being paid? How much? Any of these lawyers connected to a political action committee supporting Mayor Finch’s reelection? The city has hired a host of outside lawyers for a variety of reasons including some making cases against employees Finch wanted fired such as former Civil Service Personnel Director Ralph Jacobs, former Port Authority Director Joe Riccio, former Water Pollution Control Authority Director Andy Abate. Between legal fees and settlements, the cost of these cases approach $500,000. The city stood to lose more in court so it settled these cases.
One of Bill’s legal pals Bill Beccaro is treasurer of the political action committee People for Excellence in Government. (I guess it’s a matter of your interpretation of excellence.) Here’s how it works: mayor’s friend controls PAC, lards up the committee with a boatload of contributions from contractors, mayoral appointments or lawyers that want city work or already have it, and funnels the loot to aid Finch’s reelection effort. So if a political player has maxed out to the mayor’s candidate committee, a contribution can be made to a PAC that benefits the mayor. Check out one of those reports and all the interesting connected contractors, city employees or lawyers that want city work or continue to receive city work here.
Foster wants to know what lawyers are being paid, for what reason and the ultimate cost. The City Attorney’s Office budget has averaged $4 million annually under Finch, paying 12 lawyers and an overall staff of 21 employees. Yet it finds a way to pay all of these outside firms. Where’s the money coming from?
The mayor will claim if people stopped suing the city we wouldn’t need all this help. Well maybe if the city had better judgment, not so many dubious terminations, it wouldn’t need so many lawyers.
I’m betting City Attorney Mark Anastasi and Finch (who’s been copied on Foster’s request) will take their sweet time or claim the request is so voluminous it could take months and months. That’s usually the response from Mark, a mayoral loyalist no matter who holds the job. See Foster FOI request below:
Dear Attorney Anastasi:
Chapter 7, section 4 of the City Charter states that outside legal counsel may only be retained with the approval of the City Attorney.
In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, I am requesting copies of the following for the period December 1, 2007 to the present:
1. A copy of any retainer agreement(s), or any other type of professional service agreement(s), between the City of Bridgeport and outside legal counsel, detailing the scope of services, cases/issues on which the firm(s) will work, and objectives of the representation.
2. Records of invoices, whether paid or pending, and payments, including canceled checks, made to any of the outside firms retained during this period.
3. Copies of final reports, memoranda, e-mails, or other communications from outside counsel to the City Attorney, mayor, and/or relevant department head in which the resolution of each case was presented. Please include details of financial settlements negotiated and accepted on the City’s behalf.
In addition, Chapter 7, section 4 of the City Charter states that the decision to retain outside legal counsel is to be made “provided that funds are available for such purpose.” Please provide the budget, including all line items, for the City Attorney’s office for FY 07/08 to the present.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this request.
cc: Mayor Bill Finch