“I Make A Motion To Go Into Executive Session For Whatever He Said”–State FOI Rules Against City Council Commitee

Lopez
Retired Judge Carmen Lopez.

The state Freedom of Information Commission on Wednesday sided with a state hearing officer who ruled city lawyers directed an illegal executive session of the City Council’s Budget and Appropriations Committee whose members have been ordered to a training session on the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act following a May meeting that was challenged by retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez after the public was shut out.

For background see here.

From Matthew Kaufmann, Hartford Courant:

Shortly after the Bridgeport City Council’s budget committee opened its meeting last May, Councilwoman Jeannette Herron took up the first order of business with a directive to members of the public.

“Okay, everybody out,” she declared.

“Make a motion,” Council President Aidee Nieves said, followed by a city attorney saying something–it was partly inaudible as council members talked over each other–about pending litigation.

“I make a motion to go into executive session for whatever he said,” Councilwoman Christina Smith offered.

Said another: “All in favor?”

That, it turns out, is not how executive sessions are supposed to happen in Connecticut. And Wednesday, the state’s Freedom of Information Commission declared last May’s secret meeting illegal and ordered Bridgeport to create minutes of the gathering and schedule a training session on the law. That training is mandatory for all members of the city’s Budget and Appropriations Committee. City attorneys, meanwhile, “are strongly encouraged to attend.”

Full story here.

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26 comments

  1. This is what’s wrong with the Bridgeport political leaders. I don’t know what He said, but let’s discuss it in executive session. Damn shame.

    “I make a motion to go into executive session for whatever he said,” Councilwoman Christina Smith offered.

    1. Donald Day , at about 3 pm, my wife tells me that a man driving a car with ‘Senator’ plates got into a car accident on CVS , JENNINGS road in Fairfield. See if you can contact family members. The description my wife provided me fits that of Ed Gomes.

      1. Joel, everyone knows that Ed Gomes does not go to Fairfield to do his shopping.
        If it prescriptions it’s Lupe’s on Main.
        Otherwise it Walgreens or CVS in BRIDGEPORT.
        Nice try.

  2. OIB Fans……..
    How much “training” does a City Council person or, a Commission or Board member receive once elected or appointed?? Do many keep their minds turned on to community practices and processes? Why are they ready to limit the time they will listen to members of the community, whose words will be on the record in the future?
    And how much evaluation is part of any normal process among Committee and Board groups? When someone is serving 2, 4 or more years per term and (is ignored as to reappointment allowing folks to serve for a decade or more, think Guedes, think Roach, and others) why is there NO evaluation process?? It is too easy for them to ignore changes in the law over time, changes in FOI, and to become to complacent in the sense that “because Mark’s opinion is” and give up their own sense of integrity, propriety and public service and reduce themselves to a lower standard??
    Thank you again Judge Lopez. You have been a public servant who has cared about standards and you have made yourself available to us when we have been needy, like other Super Heroes. This administration has no KRYPTONITE to lessen your able service. You do the homework and this administration process and practice fold. (Perhaps we require the out of City oversight of Municipal Accounting Review Board to overcome the secret, quiet, and beaten down representatives on the Council, in similar fashion?? Perhaps they would find it strange why questions do not find answers for newcomers and funds from bonding stay out of sight and unreviewed?)
    I am thankful that Carmen Lopez stays true to her community and profession. It serves us well as time does tell.

  3. I attending the FOIC meeting with Judge Lopez yesterday. The representative from the City Attorney’s office was really trying to convince the commission to remove the provision requiring the City Council B & A members from being required to attend a training on the FOIA.

    Carmen and I fought for a $25.00 penalty. The City Attorney present said we don’t need “a slap in the face”. I sat there thinking he’s right. What they really need is a public flogging.

    We didn’t get our $25.00 fine, and the City Attorney didn’t get the B & A members out of the mandated training.

  4. I would think that ALL members of the City Council should receive this class after EVERY CC election;new information for new CC members and a refresher for incumbent CC members. It’s obvious that this is sorely needed. I will have to go around and ask if there is any “training” for CC members and,again,should be no difference between new and incumbent CC reps.

  5. Let me first start with Councilwoman Christina Smith, she holds a B.A. in Economics from Princeton and working in the financial industry in a variety of roles, holds an M.A .in Historical and Sustainable Architecture from New York University and an M.Sc. in Urban Regeneration from University College London, Bartlett School of Planning. Well, she said at the meeting, “I make a motion to go into executive session for whatever he said,” what kind of leadership is that and Smith was the top vote getter of all 20 City Council members in the their election last year.

    This is the normal way of going into executive session with ALL committees and commissions in Bridgeport by saying, “Okay, everybody out,” the reason is always either “personnel” or “legal,” this is {SOP,) Standard Operating Procedure especially for the Civil Service, Police and Fire commission meetings. The City of Bridgeport has operated like this for over thirty years. Thank goodness retired Judge Carmen Lopez has put the City on notice.

  6. The City Attorney’s Office is going to represent the current occupant (emphasize OCCUPANT) of the mayor’s office, not the City Council or, God forbid, the people of the city of Bridgeport.

    1. Thank you, Judge Lopez! The article describing the ignorance of some female council members and their respective action leaves me, as a former councilwoman, ashamed and embarrassed. It took an exceptional woman, the Judge, to clean this up. As I follow the events surrounding the chaos and damage this President has brought upon our Country, I have experienced a renewed respect and admiration for another woman, Speaker Nancy Pelosi. I wonder how many realize the skill, knowledge and political savvy she has to have led us to victory in the recent congressional races. I suggest that the women holding seats on the City Council take a good look at themselves, get over themselves, and learn their responsibilities to the voters who gave them the opportunity to sit in the seats they occupy.

  7. Bridgeport seems to be reflecting the political restiveness of the country… There is a lot of anger and uncertainty from among the various political camps in the city — just like the country (e.g., the R’s, despite the noise coming from the Trump zombies, are dazed and aimless, along with their leader, in the wake of their humiliating expulsion from their Congressional advantage). In the city, the various camps are in general disarray in the wake of the continuation of the anti-Bridgeport, political momentum that has defined state, regional, and federal policy for the past three generations (and which has clearly caused the long-stagnant, Bridgeport political-pond, to churn and seethe and free the channels into it for the movement of “fresh” water…)

    Indeed, salvation has failed to come by way of Hartford/DC, or strictly local efforts. Bridgeport political discord and dysfunction continue to build and proliferate, by CC-District, GA-District, and neighborhood, in the wake of the failure of the City to find redemption and a second chance — by way of an electorate granting “redemption” and “second chances”…

    While the small population remnants of truly “optimistic” Bridgeporters (with a heavy propaganda assist from City Hall) continue to positively interpret paper proposals, perfunctory, “construction-site,” dirt-pile moving, and erection of non-taxable/tax-negative, or otherwise contraindicated infrastructure-erection, as “economic development,” and allow themselves to interpret distant, floating mirages as images indicative of “better times” being just down the road, and as something upon which to hitch their futures, our reality is that our tax-base and aggregate sources of city revenue continue to shrink even as
    our fixed and “discretionary, ” non-revenue-generating, municipal spending continues to increase in an increasingly untenable context…

    It is on this backdrop that the incumbent and several potential mayoral candidates have either overtly, or through subtle surrogacy, declared their intention to run for Bridgeport Chief Execute in 2019… As anyone paying attention to the political rumblings throughout Bridgeport, in the context of the primary and general election turnouts within the City during the past year understands, there is no clear, net-momentum aggregating for any mayoral candidate within the Bridgeport electorate at this point — and for good reason. All of the candidates are working obsolete playbooks in a very-changed, political world. Voters have shown that they can be discerning and will mobilize for change when the indicators and direction are clear… They showed up to protect their interests and mete out some punishment on November 6, and it should be expected that they will do the same on Primary Day and General Election Day 2019.

    When we have an Administration and CC that has to be “spanked” for arrogance and ignorance in regard to public-meeting policy/decorum and lack of simple respect for “the public” at such, it is a good indication, by present measures of political consciousness/restiveness, that Bridgeport is a city poised for big political change…

    The old faces and old coat-tails won’t be the drivers and vehicles headed for City Hall in Bridgeport in 2019… We should look for real change in 2019 that will churn up from the deep, political undercurrents stirring in the Bridgeport political-pond as we head toward the New Year…

  8. It is obvious that the mayor is in total control of the Bridgeport City Council by having the City Attorney Office instructing council on what they should be doing and they blindingly follow. There must be change from the mayor to the entire City Council, it is long overdue.

  9. Okay, Ron Mackey, mark your calendar. I agree with both of your comments.

    I have often commented on the lack of education among council members and the value I place in academic achievement as a starting point. A degree from Princeton means nothing if you cannot demonstrate understanding of the role you play in a group setting.

    Collecting degrees and certificates may reflect a commitment to excelling as a student, but at some point one must demonstrate ability as a council member. Perhaps Christina Smith would benefit from emulating the high moral compass and critical thinking skills of a Judge Lopez and combine it with the kick-ass approach of a Maria Pereira to be effective in elective office.

    I also agree with Jeff Kohut in his comment on the arrogance and ignorance of city council members. Many of them (perhaps most) see themselves as celebrities and have an inflated view of their ability.

    Charter revision of 1988 placed greater authority and expectations in the city council. It has taken thirty years, but it is evident that the authority level needs to be adjusted to the collective ability of those who serve on the city council.

    1. Tom White, you are good when you talk about issues like this only. You made some good points especially about Christina Smith, she would definitely would benefit from emulating the high moral compass and critical thinking skills of a Judge Lopez and combine it with the kick-ass approach of a Maria Pereira to be effective in elective office.

      Another important point is, “I also agree with Jeff Kohut in his comment on the arrogance and ignorance of city council members. Many of them (perhaps most) see themselves as celebrities and have an inflated view of their ability.” There’s not doubt that most of the City Council members truly think that are celebrities and Mayor Ganim makes that possible by having so many photo-op in promoting himself and these council members go out of their way to be in those pictures standing next to the mayor. They all need to primary..

  10. I should also mention that when I was staff for the city council, the then-council president Andres Ayala directed me to attend a workshop conducted by the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission. He clearly stated to me and his fellow council members that he did not want the city council in a position where it would possibly violate FOI guidelines. How ironic.

  11. Carmen Lopez would make a terrific mayor. She knows the city’s needs from a variety of perspectives — including the all-encompassing view of Juvenile Court (Superior Court) Judge, where the glaring socioeconomic problems and needs of the cities (Bridgeport) present themselves so clearly and unequivocally… And, not only does she know the city’s needs; she has had the determination, fortitude, and knowledge-legal skill to successfully address some of the more intractable problems (e.g., fire-safety in the BHA, et al….). And her ability to recognize and address city problems range into, and include, the essential administrative aspects of the Mayor’s office/city government…

    As a Bridgeporter, I would find it extremely encouraging to hear about an announcement from Carmen Lopez that she was seriously considering becoming a candidate for Mayor of Bridgeport in 2019. It is beyond time for someone of Carmen’s intellect, prodigious administrative/legal/political skill-set, and municipal-issues problem-solving experience to run Bridgeport City Hall… And we know — from having had years during which to observe her civic activity from various perspectives — that Carmen’s motives regarding her desire to redirect the fate of Bridgeport “toward the rainbow”, are pure and beyond suspicion.

    I think that all those that know Carmen Lopez know that she is singularly the best of the potential mayoral candidates of 2019 and that she could actually do the political and administrative navigation to turn Bridgeport around and put us back on top as the healthiest and most prosperous of cities…

    Let’s hope that she will decide to take on the challenge of Bridgeport as our next mayor.

    1. Jeff, I truly don’t believe that Judge Carmen Lopez wants to get involve in electoral politics but I believe that she would be willing to be the head City Attorney if the right mayor waa elected. I believe that mayor would be Marilyn Moore. That would be my dream team.

  12. With Carmen’s issues-/problem-solving acumen and administrative skills playing (as Mayor) into a well-constructed GA agenda for Bridgeport, Marilyn could use her state-level political experience, and strong GA position, to resonate powerfully with, and play the lead role in Hartford (from the perspective of the state’s largest city) in the creation and implantation of an overall, urban-renaissance plan for the state… I see this as a very powerful win-win situation for Bridgeport and the rest of urban Connecticut — as well as the possible, larger political hopes of Marilyn and Carmen …

  13. Judge Lopez would be an effective mayor, in spite of the entrenched corruption and old boy network personified by Little Joe Ganim and the dark lord behind the curtain. The careerist hacks in the City Attorney’s Office is no match for her legal scholarship.

    1. Kid, no one in local government is a match when it comes to the Judge. While most have had the privilege to see and experience her legal knowledge and achievements, there’s a side of her that is so politically savvy your jaws would drop. She combines her intellect and political experiences so smoothly and professionally, that’s why she always prevails.

      1. Lisa, you made some great points, the judge is like a “iceberg” with 90% of the “iceberg” is below the surface, you don’t want the judge coming at you.

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