Log in Register

 

 Tuesday September 18, 2018

Rich Deecken for State Senate Curtis Ryan Honda Housatonic Community College Downtown Cabaret Theatre The Barnum Museum OIB the book
Bridgeport Public Library

Foster Issues FOI Request–Who’s Getting Paid?

March 3rd, 2011 · 70 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Politics

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.

Sincerely,

Mary-Jane Foster

cc: Mayor Bill Finch

Share

Tags: ·······

70 Comments so far ↓

  • Antitesto

    Mary-Jane, a very nice frontal attack! The money trail is vital to knowing the allegiances of “Tammany Hall.” Illuminate the castle and watch the vampires run. Keep up the pressure. You are off to a great start & your fan club is growing.

    • yahooy

      Hear, hear!!!

      • Local Eyes

        There, there.

        MJF is exploring someone else’s past before she decides to pursue her own campaign–hardly the stuff of proactive politics.

        Misspent money has always been a part of political posturing.

        All today’s posts sound like they were torn from a gossip rag.

        The spotlight should be on John Gomes and the political firepower he will soon unleash.

        • yahooy

          LE,

          I think you would be surprised and aghast if the actual amount of money that is spent on all outside consultants by the Finch administration was accurately detailed.
          Outside legal expense is huge but that’s not the only place favors are returned by quiet contract hires.

        • Joel Gonzalez

          “… MJF is exploring someone else’s past before she decides to pursue her own campaign–hardly the stuff of proactive politics …”

          Are your “Eyes” implying anyone exploring a run for political office has no right to make an FOI request?

          • Local Eyes

            Joel–

            No.

            Once again, your lizard brain has drawn the wrong conclusion.

        • carolanne curry

          Local Eyes // Mar 3, 2011 at 10:44 am
          To your posting

          Local,
          The voters need to know about the past in real numbers. Just yelling about corruption and cronyism isn’t going to do it. We know that from past campaigns, don’t we?
          Pillaging the money of Bridgeport taxpayers has been the name of the game for years. But during the Finch administration, there is a growing feeding frenzy at the trough … and it’s getting worse.

          Get this information out and get the voters educated as to how really bad it is.

          It’s hardly posturing to want the truth.

    • CityTruster

      Is Finch putting “Tammany Hall” up for sale now also???

  • Ron Mackey

    LOL!!! OMG!!! Good luck with this one.

  • BARF

    Well, I hear John Bohannon alone has collected at least $700,000 since leaving the City Attorney’s Office. $277,000 in 2009 alone. A highly regarded member of the Democratic Town Committee. Not bad. What is the salary for City Attorneys?

  • countdown

    Yes. Transparency is important to this Administration, right? This shouldn’t be a difficult request. Really?

  • Mr BPT

    Could this also be a direct shot at one John Stafstrom?

    He did bring MJF into this, and then dropped her like a bad habit when a little, ooops, a lot more bond counsel cash was offered up by the Birdman.

  • town committee

    Great request, now we will find out who is paying the hookers working at city hall and we will actually get the names of the hookers that have set up shop at city hall. Interesting how many city employees paid into this pac. Pay to Play is alive and well in Bridgeport.

  • BPT 1

    The more Gomes and Foster shake the tree, the more that will be exposed. Keep it up both of you. For the first time in a long time I’m optimistic about Bridgeport’s future.

  • town committee

    I was wondering!!! If I donate $250 to this PAC can I get a high-paying city job or a consulting contract with the city? The way I look at it we pay 14 city attorneys to handle slip and falls and a bunch of outside contributing attorneys a lot of money to essentially lose or settle cases.
    We have no arson squad to speak of so as a court-qualified expert maybe if I contribute $250 I can become a fire consultant. Adam, consider this my application for employment. Can’t wait to hear from you. BTW my fee is $200 per hour.

    • Grin Ripper

      TC–You are selling yourself too cheap!

      Birdie and his wooden soldiers are chirping cheep, cheep and cheeping all the way to their little nest … eggs! This is going to be a real fun Easter Egg Hunt.

    • carolanne curry

      town committee // Mar 3, 2011 at 7:53 am
      to your posting

      TC
      No, you won’t get a job …
      TC, perhaps you’re too honest for the likes of the 999 Broad Street crew.

  • Follow the Money

    Who is getting paid while the taxpayers are getting laid?

    If you “Follow the Money” you will see the above referenced filing for “People for Excellence in Government” is just the tip of the iceberg.

    • Local Eyes

      FtM keeps asking questions.

      I’ll tell you this: before you follow the money, you have to find it.

      (wink)

      • Follow the Money

        LE–I was once lost but now I am found.

        I’ve found the money and the conversion of its currency.

        The guys sure think they know how to cook their books.
        We’ll see what the IRS has to say about this issue.

  • Jim Callahan

    To the reporter/observer, it is not the legal fees in and of themselves that should be the issue. It’s the goofy cases that required the legal assistance to begin with. (Whew! I’m glad I got that out before TC came through the Internet to strangle me.)

    The administration didn’t conjure the legal cases to pay fees so the law firms could make contributions. No, the administration needed help outside the resources and time of the city’s on-staff legal representation.

    Any administration may bumble into a case or two. The Finch administration, apparently, did this willfully on more than a couple occasions.

    All that stated, you can’t expect the administration to ‘fess up and put a noose around their necks.

    No, that necktie party has to be organized outside the administration. There used to be backdoors into a city administration to get somewhat of a number. I don’t think Mayor Bill’s castle is that locked down. Everyone on this blog knows one loose brick.

    I’m going to disagree with Lennie a little bit. I think it better for the Finch administration to get the damn fee number out earlier rather than later. If they try to stall past the primary, they will allow opponents to set a number.

  • Follow the Money

    JC from PA. This “People for Excellence in Government” is not just about who is getting legal work. Wait ’til the real numbers come out.

  • Follow the Money

    Four-Year-Four-Corner-Stall!

    Wasn’t Finch on the council and voted for this bond issue?

    www .ctpost.com/news/article/Bridgeport-seeks-delay-in-pension-fund-1039328.php

  • town committee

    Jim, why shouldn’t the legal fees mean anything? Are we paying a favored law firm $300 per hour for a routine lawsuit? If we are, why can’t one of the city attorneys handle a case like this? The fee structure is an easy way to hide money going out. At $300ph you can put out a lot of money. Take a 10-minute phone call it’s now billed out at $50. Do that a few times and the bill grows. Meetings, meetings and meetings, a 3-hr meeting with the client is billed at $900. Depositions and God knows they can schedule everyone including Rootie Kazootie to pad their bills. If it’s true Bohanan made $700K as an outside attorney, who or what was he defending, “The Lindberg Kidnapper?”
    I am spending $4 million for these city attorneys. For what??? Privatize this function and we may save money and get real representation.
    If these law firms we are hiring are settling cases after running up large bills then they should be fired.
    I have a great law firm for the city to use if they haven’t already. Dewey, Cheetem and Howe.

  • Mojo

    *** Don’t expect any FOI info ’til after July 1st, the beginning of new fiscal year if lucky! *** Oh and don’t forget to get a copy of the Mayor’s new fiscal year “playbook” budget too! *** HERE WE GO! ***

    • Local Eyes

      ANYBODY can file a FOI request but only (strong)Mojo can put a timestamp on it.

      (crowd noises) It’s 4th and 1 and the playbook says: Give the ball to Mojo.

      *** HERE WE GO! ***

  • Jim Callahan

    TC:

    You and I are looking at the same critter.

    You’re looking at the money that comes out for the lawyers.

    I’m looking at the forage the city ate.

    Didn’t anyone advise the Finch administration a particular policy would lead to an expensive lawsuit? I’m interested in that kind of stuff.

    If the lawsuit is big enough, the city usually has to go outside. Keeping it inside will jam up staff unless you want to go out and hire even more lawyers.

    I can just imagine that campaign pledge: “I promise to hire more staff lawyers for the city so the taxpayers can be sued more cheaply when I do something stupid.”

    You, as the taxpayer, see the number and go kablooie. I understand that and normally pitch my writing that way.

    But I always want the city’s justification for eating a particular pickle in the first place. Hey, maybe they have a good reason.

  • Jim Callahan

    Oh, and speaking of lawyer fees, I’m sure what Foster & Co. are looking for are contracts and payments for bond counsel and whatever consulting work is going on. The sewage treatment expansion has come up in previous posts and that’s a goodie because the lawyers can spread out fees over several victims, err, clients. Stuff like that.

  • Joel Gonzalez

    Lennie, you or MJF are holding out on me. You’ve said in the past that Finch had raised close to $150,000. The documents here show the names of a few contributors totaling a few thousand dollars. In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, I am requesting that Lennie Grimaldi or MJF provide the names of contributors; amount of contributions made; and employer information to all past and present Bill Finch campaign committees known to have existed. The reaction of Local Eyes has made me curious to see if he (Local Eyes) has made any contribution–other than OIB favorable comments–to the Finch campaign. Rumor around Trumbull has it Local Eyes is still eyeballing the position of Director of the Downtown Special Services district, but is willing to take anything.

  • Up On Bridgeport

    I just received a nice robo-call from Foster. She’s coming out of the gate quickly.

  • town committee

    Joel, what Lennie posted was just one PAC and has nothing to do with the several fundraisers that have been held already. In fact this month I believe on the 14th there is another fundraiser for Finch at Testo’s starting at $250 a plate. I have heard but can’t verify Finch has $400K+ in his war chest. He will need it.

  • Joel Gonzalez

    L. Grimaldi says “no impact.” K. Torres says “can’t run.”

    www .ctpost.com/local/article/Newton-banned-from-holding-state-employment-for-1039307.php

    • carolanne curry

      Joel Gonzalez // Mar 3, 2011 at 2:54 pm
      to your posting

      Joel,
      Does that mean Ernie will now want City employment?

    • LennieGrimaldi

      Speedy, the article you posted written by Michael Mayko points out a six-month ban for Newton regarding state work or a state contract. This decision does not preclude him from running for public office in this city cycle nor in next year’s state cycle. He can run if he so chooses.

        • LennieGrimaldi

          Unless the state or feds order a specific prohibition on running for public office–they haven’t in this case–Newton is free to run because he satisfied his federal court-ordered fines and restitution. As a result his voting privilege was restored allowing a run for public office. In the state of Connecticut felony offenders are allowed to vote provided they are not currently incarcerated and have satisfied all court-ordered conditions. John Rowland signed that declaration into law in 1998 at the urging of Ernie Newton.

          • Joel Gonzalez

            Lennie, you should have an OIB Political Legal Correspondent who can give us legal opinions and interpretations of the law. Stop trying to set Ernie up, Lennie. Let Ernie talk to an attorney.
            However, Lennie is certified to give Ernie Newton some political advice. What kind of political damage does the media’s coverage and report of the Ernie Newton scandal have on Ernie’s political plans so early after his release?

  • Grin Reeper

    Oh joy, Ernest T. from the classy Gomes and MJF, to the Ernest T. RFLMAO.

    Change is coming 9/13/11.

  • 2011

    Gomes and Foster will team up and win by a country mile come September. I can’t wait, can you?

  • city hall smoker

    Maybe CitiStat should study the efficiency of the City Attorney’s Office. LOL.

    • carolanne curry

      city hall smoker // Mar 3, 2011 at 8:48 pm
      to your posting

      City hall,
      Did you know it was on our schedule … that is the John Gomes CitiStat Department?
      Do you think that is why it all ended so suddenly for him?

  • Antitesto

    I keep hearing Foster & Gomes will dethrone King Finch. Reality check, only one of them can successfully run. Past elections have proven that the larger the field, the advantage goes to the incumbent. They need to both have a sit-down and come to common ground. Now for a little hard love. MJ Foster was at the P&Z hearing re: the halfway house. She missed a huge opportunity to have her position heard–error. I also saw her at the meeting in Black Rock Library, again she failed to speak out–error. Gomes wasn’t at either meeting, also–error. The clock is ticking. King Finch is campaigning as we speak. He is having $250/plate dinners to expand his already bloated war chest. They both should be reaching out for voter support now while it’s free publicity. It will become much more expensive as November approaches.

    • LennieGrimaldi

      November? How about September?

    • Grin Reeper

      Gomes was at the P & Z meeting, saw him and talked to him.

    • Bridgeport Girl

      Money isn’t everything. Remember Lamont? McMahon?

    • BEACON2

      Antitesto:
      Both Gomes and Foster were at St. John’s Church the week before the P & Z meeting when Chuck Willinger was given an opportunity to tell the community gathered why another halfway house was beneficial for those re-entering and for the community at large. Each were acknowledged and spoke appropriately.
      I would suggest that listening to the dialogue at Black Rock Library was important to both camps. Mary Jane was there as you indicate and Carolanne Curry was present and asked a couple questions.
      Is it possible the huge amount of money raised by Finch to tell the story of his great four years in office will fail to woo the number of voters who continue to follow the “real story” of lack of development, of disorder and incompetence in many City functions, and add it to their guess that the $600 tax credit promise, the brief attempt to “fill” the drained City “unrestricted fund balance” or rainy day fund a couple years ago (indicating that he had no clue as to this financial reality) and chest beating to take credit for budget control over the past two years really comes down to a waiver of current pension funding levels by the State of CT (that will cost the public more in future years)?
      How long for the “smile without substance” to fail in assuring people competence and integrity are required if the City is to get its act and story together?
      We have serious problems in the City that will come into greater focus in the months ahead. It will be a battle of stories. Will “same old, same old” from an incumbent carry the day, or will grass-roots dissatisfaction at many things City, State and country-wide provide an opportunity for new brooms to make headway? Time will tell.

    • carolanne curry

      Antitesto // Mar 3, 2011 at 9:39 pm
      to your posting

      Anti,
      What were you smoking that you didn’t see John? He was at P&Z, I was with him.
      As for the Library, I was also there for John.
      If you post to this blog … you have to tell the truth … oh!

  • town committee

    Antitesto: First things first. The chairman of the zoning board limited what could be talked about at the public session. Mary-Jane would not have been able to state her position in public on the zoning board and related subjects. She did give the commissioners a position paper that is now part of the record of these proceedings.
    In fairness to John Gomes he was at the public hearing. I spoke to him as did my wife and we even invited him to a Meet Mary-Jane Foster affair that will be held at Vazzy’s on March 24 at 6 PM.

  • Jimfox

    The late Jacky Durrell would never enter a room or meeting hall without being noticed, she would sit in the front row at every meeting, and she always spoke at every meeting she attended.
    When I ran against her in 1991 (she kicked my ass), I did everything to keep up with her.
    She would milk the press at every turn, I think she was the most quoted person in Fairfield at that time. Her downfall was when she helped Chris Shays to Congress in 1987. Jacky used the press at every turn, she was a very sharp politician.
    Antitesto is right, September comes fast on the campaign trail, start milking the press now and speak up at the meetings, you’re in a freakin’ campaign!

  • town committee

    Jim, as you found out at the zoning meeting, the chairman kept the talk to a very narrow area. Speaking out just to speak out was not going to work. You yourself were reminded of this many times by the chairman. Mary-Jane made her presence known and it was noted in the paper. Trying to break the chairman’s rules would have looked bad.

  • Valkyrie

    The number of times a potential candidate is quoted in the press is not an indicator of how well that candidate will govern, if elected. The City of Bridgeport has not moved forward in a positive direction because of its leadership, past and present. Many of you may disagree, but the current lineup of potential mayoral candidates indicates, to me, that Bridgeport is headed for more of the same.

    The most popular, not the most capable, person will become mayor.

    • Jimfox

      Valkyrie, that’s true, it’s no indicator of how a candidate will do. But that’s how you get your message out the cheap way, especially when there are 300 people in the room.
      Say something, like “120-bed halfway house is not what I envision as a good place to raise kids next to.” Or I’ll stand side by side with the Neighborhood to defeat this project. Say something.

      • Valkyrie

        The point of my post is this: Bridgeport has not had competent, capable candidates to choose from for Mayor. The candidates for Mayor, and ultimately the Mayors, over the past 20 years have been grossly inadequate, at best. The current lineup is no better.

        Bridgeport residents may end up jumping out of the frying pan (that’s bad–very bad) straight into the fire (which is worse–a lot worse).

    • carolanne curry

      Valkyrie // Mar 4, 2011 at 2:31 pm
      to your posting

      Val,
      You are right … press quotes do not make a leader.

      But Val, you’re showing your lack of knowledge as to the authentic strength of character both challengers to Finch have demonstrated, both Gomes and Foster have capably demonstrated this strength.

      They are both head and shoulders more able to lead this City than any other Mayor in the last 20 years. Besides their unquestionable moral courage, these two individuals have a set of Mayoral-required values focused on Bridgeport’s future, not on their own wallet or the wallets of a select few …

      • Valkyrie

        CA–I know MJ Foster and I have met your candidate, Gomes. I am not impressed with either one of them. I have not seen, heard or felt anything of substance that makes me believe they are capable of turning Bridgeport around. Although time will tell, I hope.
        Authentic strength? Yeah, okay.

        • carolanne curry

          Valkyrie // Mar 4, 2011 at 6:12 pm
          to your posting

          Val,
          Yeah okay?

          Well as you may already know, I’m impressed there is not one, but two people with these qualities.

          And I sure as hell am willing to start there as step one …
          Stay patient Val, we’ll get you on the good ship “turnaround” sometime before September …

  • Antitesto

    Against my better judgment I am putting on my aluminum foil helmet & returning to this diatribe. A brief history lesson about Jasper McLevy. He served as mayor of the city of Bridgeport from 1933 to 1957. The rumor I heard all my life was he always carried a knife, a fork, & a spoon in his coat pocket. If there was a wedding, a picnic or a funeral he would stop & and speak if he knew anyone there or not. The people loved him. Those were the bleakest financial times in our city’s history, yet the people kept him in office because they identified him as one of our own.

    I stand by my original position. An opportunity missed is an opportunity lost. Let me play the devil’s advocate. MJ Foster submitted a position statement to the P&Z commission, okay. I don’t know if she supported or opposed the halfway house. John Gomes, the same questions. I very clearly know Finch’s position. Should I change horses and support “Dollar Bill” due to our mutual understanding of vital issues? Nobody should assume their silent presence at any public or private gathering speaks for them, they must speak for themselves. Sen. Gomes certainly wasn’t shy about stating his opposition, and the people will remember that. Me, I will remember silence.

    • town committee

      Antitesto, you must not have been there when Ed Gomes spoke. He got up and spoke when the microphone was for the people in favor of the 120-bed facility. Ed Gomes pulled the typical political bullshit and walk the line between being in favor of the facility and being against the facility. He actually took no stance.
      This was very disappointing to me. I have know Ed Gomes for almost 50 years and in fact worked at Carpenter Tech with him when he was a pro-union fighter. This performance was terrible. I would have respected Ed no matter which side he came out for as long as he took one position. Politics has ruined a good man.

  • Antitesto

    Carolanne, sorry I missed you, I arrived late. I spoke to what I saw, mea culpa. Just for the record I haven’t smoked since 1972. Let us put these unpleasantries aside for now. I look forward to your company at lunch.
    A.T.

    • carolanne curry

      Antitesto // Mar 4, 2011 at 9:32 pm
      to your posting

      AT,
      The other evening at the P&Z meeting I was heartened to know the good guys and the good women can win if the passion and motivation for “greater good” becomes a galvanizing force.

      The grassroots, neighborly passion and purpose was a significant factor in an achievement that was directly counter to the expectations of one Attorney Charles Willinger.

      As well, it was a P & Z decision counter to the expectation of our Democratic Party political machine” (which is separate and apart from “grassroots, neighborly passion”).

      I recognized it was a man of the cloth who instilled and inspired his community.

      Shame on Charlie Coviello for his self-aggrandizing exploitation of the moment when Carl McCluster was more than eloquent.

      A turning point for the City?
      Yes, perhaps it is.
      Can we continue with these wins?
      Yes we can.
      We have a leadership model to go by …

      I’m looking forward to a continuation of this discussion … you know that, don’t you?

  • Jimfox

    Antitesto–Was that you in the pink Tadashi Shoji chiffon overlay gown?

  • Antitesto

    No, not pink, it was peach.
    It seemed more appropriate for Carnival wear.

  • snarkus maximus

    Good to see the low-hanging fruit, leeechman in the list of PAC contributors … what a parade of all-stars that pdf is. I think I may have just puked on myself. Or it could be a reaction to cc’s lip service to her and gomes’ time as crackerjack investigators while working for CitiStat. That department was also a real parade of all-stars. Or is it still one? Everything is so fuzzy when you realize you haven’t been paying the correct PAC.

    • carolanne curry

      snarkus maximus // Mar 5, 2011 at 4:17 pm
      to your posting

      Snark …
      No, the situation is you may have puked on yourself realizing the work of Bridgeport City Government reform was going to cause pigs to leave the trough.
      You may have just puked on yourself because crackerjack investigators were working in CitiStat in spite of the fact we had to take on as additional department employees the politically favored, but hardly Bridgeport City Government-focused individuals. Two who were not looking to do some real work … just there to milk the system. And you probably know John got stonewalled when he said this was unacceptable. But you already know all that, Snark.

      Come by the HQ sometime and I’ll be glad to show you Bridgeport City Government reform data from CitiStat that may make you puke … because this City, and her taxpayers, never saw this data implemented.

      I am sorry you’re fuzzy about how ill-served this City has been served by PAC money.
      What’s your agenda Snark? I don’t think you’re fuzzy at all.

Leave a Comment

You must log in to post a comment.