UPDATE: Fearing his state legislative bill to prohibit city employees from serving on the City Council is dying the gooey death, State Rep. Jack Hennessy lashed out at municipal and state unions for betraying him, as well as questioning the courage of most members of the city’s legislative delegation.
“I’ve always had a 100% union voting record. I have always been there for them,” Hennessy wrote in the commentary section of OIB. “They pat me on the back and say thanks. Then they turn around and screw me.”
In particular he pointed out Anna Montalvo, president of AFSCME Local 1522, a huge supporter of Mayor Bill Finch and City Council President Tom McCarthy, the deputy director of Labor Relations who negotiates collective bargaining agreements on behalf of the city.
Lori Pelletier, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Connecticut AFL-CIO and Montalvo are actively lobbying the Democratic-controlled state legislature to kill Hennessy’s reform bill that seeks to close a loophole in state law that allows municipal workers to sit on the City Council even though it’s prohibited by the City Charter. State law trumps local law. The City Council approves union contracts. Hennessy’s bill is currently before the legislature’s Planning and Development Committee. His bill is supported by committee member State Rep. Auden Grogins but no one else in the city’s eight-member legislative delegation, with close ties to Finch’s administration, who also rely on union support for election campaigns.
“The P & D Chairs want a majority of the Bpt delegation to be in support of the bill to pass it out of their committee,” Hennessy, a Democrat, wrote. “That ain’t happening. My Bpt colleagues are either waffling or actively working to kill the bill. Please turn up the heat.”
“I’ve been told, ‘Relax Jack, it’s only a bill. Bills die.’ I disagree. This is not just a bill. This is the future of Bridgeport. The fact that unions are fighting to kill this bill has me furious–Anna Montalvo.”
Hennessy says city employees serving on the City Council creates too many conflicts of interest such as approving their own wages and benefits. Currently six of the 20-member City Council are on the public payroll. They argue there’s no inherent conflict and any conflict issues can be resolved by recusing themselves. Hennessy says they rarely recuse. McCarthy, for one, recused himself last year when the council voted to modernize city salaries of management positions.
Hennessy’s bill has public support, including a coalition of neighborhood activists urging their representatives to support his bill. His bill is currently on public life support with the oxygen running out. Unions have a lot of sway with Democratic legislators.
Anna Montalvo and Lori Pelletier, feel free to respond to Hennessy’s assertions.
The city’s legislative delegation, State House: Auden Grogins, Jack Hennessy, Ezequiel Santiago, Christina Ayala, Charlie Stallworth, Don Clemons; State Senate: Anthony Musto, Andres Ayala. Contact info: /state-legislative-contacts/.
Statement from Republican Town Chair John Slater:
Republican Town Chairman John Slater today said that, continuing its past policy, the Republican Town Committee will not select city employees as candidates for the Bridgeport City Council.
“Bridgeport voters long ago recognized that there is an inherent conflict when someone both works for the city and sits its legislative body, which oversees city agencies and approves the city budget, salaries and union contracts,” Slater said. “Even when there is no actual conflict there is an appearance of conflict, which undermines public confidence in the Council and in city government.”
Slater noted that the current City Charter prohibits city employees from serving on the Council. However, state law preempts that charter provision. Legislation to repeal that state override of the charter is currently pending.
“We believe that the legislature was wrong to substitute its judgment for that of Bridgeport voters. Going forward we intend to follow the letter and intent of the City Charter and will not be nominating city employees for the City Council.”