State Rep. Charlie Stallworth has confirmed with OIB he now supports State Rep. Jack Hennessy’s state legislative bill that bars city employees from serving on the City Council amended to grandfather in municipal workers currently serving on the city’s legislative body. The City Charter prohibits city employees from sitting on the council, but a loophole in state laws allows it, or that at least is the interpretation of City Attorney Mark Anastasi. Even with the amendment that has added some local legislative support, the bill faces hurdles for passage such as opposition from labor unions whose collective bargaining contracts are approved by the council. If the bill fails, could this issue find its way into court?
In an email, OIB asked David Walker, former U.S. Comptroller General and a leading spokesman for the community action group Citizens Working 4 a Better Bridgeport, if a legal challenge is potentially on the table. Walker would not say one way or the other but replied CW4BB will take steps to address conflicts, violations of the City Charter and to win some City Council seats this year.
State workers cannot hold elected position in the legislature, federal workers cannot do the same in Congress. But in Bridgeport city employees can serve on the City Council and Hennessy has pointed out several conflicts of interest such as council members approving their own wages and benefits as what happened Monday night when the council voted to pass a $517 million spending plan. Six of the 20-member City Council are on the public payroll.
Lawyers in the City Attorney’s Office, for certain, are not procedurally bullet proof. In the last few years alone courts have ruled against the city involving the library referendum, Mary-Jane Foster’s ballot position in the 2011 Democratic mayoral primary and the school board’s decision to dissolve itself in favor of state control. And many other legal matters, some initiated by the city, that have cost city taxpayers millions of dollars.