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Hennessy Steps Up Effort To Ban City Employees From Serving On City Council–Will Legislative Peers Follow?

February 7th, 2013 · 15 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Council, News and Events

Jack Hennessy

Jack Hennessy

UPDATE, Public Hearing: State Rep. Jack Hennessy’s campaign to prohibit city employees from serving on the Bridgeport City Council features a Facebook page in support of his proposed state legislative bill CT HB-5724. Hennessy says city taxpayers suffer from too many conflicts of interests as a result of city employees serving on the legislative body such as voting to approve their wages and benefits. The Bridgeport City Charter bans city employees from serving on the council, but a provision in state statute allows it providing a loophole for political players to serve on the council and maintain a city job. Hennessy is asking his peers in the state legislature to support his bill. The legislature’s Planning and Development Committee has scheduled a  public hearing on his bill for February 13, 10 a.m. in Room 2B of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. See Facebook page here.

This is not an easy bill to pass because many state legislators fear it would alienate supporters on local legislative bodies receiving a government check. So if Hennessy’s bill develops any traction it must be applied moving forward, not retroactively. And yes, it must also receive constituent pressure on state legislators. Bridgeport’s State House members in addition to Hennessy are Auden Grogins, Charlie Stallworth, Christina Ayala, Ezequiel Santiago and Don Clemons. You can find their contact info here.

From the Facebook page:

Bill HB-5724 is an act prohibiting municipal employees from serving on certain municipal legislative bodies to prevent conflict of interest specifically regarding budgets and land use.

Mission

Passage of Bill HB-5724 – we need you, the voters to like the page and contact your state representatives to vote yes for this bill

Description

This bill is to extend an existing provision that prohibits municipal employees from serving on a municipal board of finance except where permitted by charter or home rule ordinance. The citizens of Bridgeport have asked the City Council to comply with the City Charter that prohibits a city employee from being elected to the City Council. The city attorney has ruled the state law supersedes the City Charter. The passing of Bill HB-5724 will close that loop hole and allow the city of Bridgeport to elect a governing body with no conflict of interests. The state of Connecticut will only benefit from having cities that have sound governance policies in place.

Language from the bill:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

That subsection (e) of section 7-421 of the general statutes be amended to prohibit municipal employees from serving on the legislative body of a municipality if such legislative body has the responsibilities and authority of a board of finance and if such prohibition is set forth in the municipality’s charter.

Statement of Purpose:

To extend an existing provision that prohibits municipal employees from serving on a municipal board of finance except where permitted by charter or home rule ordinance.

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15 Comments so far ↓

  • countdown

    This is a bold and critical piece of proposed legislation. Long overdue in my opinion. Without a separately elected Board of Finance, all of the financial decisions fall to the City Council.

    I would suggest immediate family members who work for the City should also preclude someone from being on the City Council. A mother, a father, a daughter, a son, a spouse, a sister, a brother, a domestic partner–if any of those work for the city, then the person should not be on the Council. They shouldn’t vote on their own salaries or those of their immediate family that are contained in the budget. They shouldn’t vote on labor contracts that control the work rules for themselves and their immediate family.

    I am really amazed this has to be legislated. It is common sense; avoiding an appearance of a conflict of interest and the ethical thing to do. The crap about shrinking the pool of those who would serve is just that, crap. There are lots of good people who would serve if the incestuous relationships were eliminated. The thought those on the council with these conflicts can keep their hats straight is also crap. They are so used to being conflicted they don’t even realize the dilemma.

    Thank you Representative Hennessy for sticking your neck out. We need to help him with this effort.

  • Mojo

    *** Great idea, but it will not get the backing needed from his own seven other Bpt legislative peers let along other state Reps who have been “past or present” city, town or state employees and pols. Needs big-time Bpt citizen outcry and support probably just to get to committee, no? No doubt it would change the pol playing field on the city council and allow more independent thinking and voting. The Bpt State legislation can really shake things up for future city councils and maybe change a bit of political history as it stands in the Park City should they all support this bill! *** YES OR NO? ***

  • Jennifer Buchanan

    The public hearing for this bill is February 13. If you support this bill please come to Hartford and speak on the record.

  • Sunshine96

    I agree with what countdown has to say. There is too much pressure put upon our city council members in regards to voting. They are either conflicted by threats to their own jobs or the jobs of family members. And yes, there are people who would like to run for positions in city government; they are not considered viable candidates due to the fact they are open-minded and do not have city jobs, nor do their family members. The DTC will only accept candidates who they know they can control and manipulate.

  • Bob

    This all suddenly sounds very political from a legislator known as “The Mute.” He has been in office since 2005, done little or nothing, been caught playing solitaire on a photo that went viral, and now he is doing something constructive. How about putting forth legislation requiring TERM LIMITS at all levels of government? That alone will stop 90% of the corruption.
    It is nice, finally, he is doing something positive for Bridgeport however late in his tenure.

  • bridgeportnow

    Right. Why not get other state reps to co-sponsor the bill, that way it would improve chances of passing? Why wouldn’t other state reps back him?

  • Jennifer Buchanan

    Phone calls have been made statewide to other reps and senator–the support is there–co-sponsors will be on board. There is a petition to support to sign.

  • Baffled in Bridgeport

    Okay by me if Hennessy comes to the party late. I hope everyone will email Bridgeport’s delegation. If they aren’t going to support this legislation, I hope we’ll all remember next election day who they really answer to. Remember also this statute applies to the whole state–there are other cities and towns with the same issues. We need to reach out statewide for support.

  • Jennifer Buchanan

    If you cannot attend the public hearing, you may email or write your statement. Please have your subject line read, HB-5724 An act prohibiting municipal employees. Email to peter.murszewski@cga.ct.gov and copy me Jack.Hennessy@cga.ct.gov.
    If you wish to submit a letter by mail,
    Attention: Planning and Development Committee
    Bill HB-5724
    300 Capital Avenue
    Room 2100
    Hartford CT 06106

  • bridgeportnow

    There has been much talk about why so little commercial development in Bridgeport, as opposed to Stamford, for example. Could passing this bill change developers’ minds?

  • countdown

    It’s all about confidence, trust and the economics of the deal. Bridgeport’s mil rate is over 41 mils. Much higher than the surrounding towns and cities. So the economic hurdle is huge. Then it’s confidence and trust. How do you trust a legislative body where a third get a paycheck from the city they are responsible to legislate? How do you trust a legislative body where another third or so have immediate family working for the city? Where is their allegiance? It is supposed to be to the greater good of the City, not the pressures of family. Yes, I believe the confidence, trust, integrity and ethics bar has to be raised in Bridgeport to encourage multi-million dollar investment to happen. No brainer. Sign the petition, write testimony for the hearing or go up to Hartford and testify.

  • Mojo

    *** Curious to know just where the other seven Bpt state legislators stand on this bill, that could help put an end to city employee/pol conflict of interest issues? Long overdue and better late than never, no? *** HERE WE GO! ***

  • bridgeportnow

    How do our other seven state reps stand on this bill? Has anyone asked them?

  • gailj2

    Good for Jack Hennessy. I am sending written testimony in support of HB-5724. Bridgeport needs a City Council that is intelligent and also independent of one and only one party thinking. I say thus although I am an ardent Democrat.

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