John Marshall Lee’s Quest For Answers (And Eating OATS) On The City Council

John Marshall Lee
John Marshall Lee

For several years, community fiscal watchdog John Marshall Lee has been a painstaking presence at City Council meetings haranguing councilors on open and accountable government, fund balances, audits, financial reports, spending and taxes. He asks questions, but fields no answers to his satisfaction. Now he’s decided to be the guy to provide answers to the public as he prepares his candidacy for City Council potentially challenging the target of so many questions–Democrat Sue Brannelly, co-chair of the Budget and Appropriations Committee, who represents the 130th District covering Black Rock and a portion of the West End.

City politics these days is one giant swirl of possibilities in an election year for mayor and City Council. Lee says he’s running as a Democrat to “watch your pocket book … We’ve allowed inept and untrained people to run for office and derail progress in this city.”

Lee has been all about eating your OATs, platforming a mantra of open, accountable and transparent government. He wants to make sure “that suckers get an even break in this city.”

John Marshall Lee
John Marshall Lee says City Council not digging deep for taxpayers.

Lee says checks and balances in city government do not exist, arguing that the legislative branch provides no oversight on the executive branch. He has been an outspoken critic of city employees serving on the City Council in defiance of the City Charter.

The City Council meets on the first and third Mondays of each month. Lee is a reliable presence during the public speaking portion of council sessions. “I talk for five minutes and no one answers me,” he says. “That’s not going to happen when I’m on the council.”

Lee, 72 years old, studied political science at Yale. He was in the same 1964 graduation class of Joe Lieberman who served as Connecticut attorney general, then in the U.S. Senate, and became the Democratic Party candidate for vice president in 2000. Lee moved to the Black Rock section of the city from Fairfield in 1987.

After Yale, Lee went into the insurance business. Years later he founded People’s Insurance, an independent insurance brokerage. These days he helps craft exit plans for folks seeking to do the things they want in retirement. He adds that his insurance background has been good training for examining fiscal issues.

“I’m used to dealing with problems, issues and concerns and that’s all I see in the city,” he says.

Who’s his candidate for mayor? Democrat Howard Gardner, a member of the Board of Education, with whom he became friendly through a government reform organization they started called The Movement. He’s hosting a fundraiser for Gardner May 3 at his home.

If Brannelly seeks reelection she will be endorsed for another two-year term by her Democratic Town Committee district. She barely survived reelection in 2013. Lee says he’d be happy to replace her on the council.

“She hasn’t grown to be able to handle the position,” he says, arguing she’s more concerned about political friendships than constituents.

“Let’s serve everybody.”

Lee has his critics too. Some folks in Black Rock say they could never vote for Lee based on comments he wrote on OIB about the late City Councilman Pat Crossin.

So in the long term what’s his goal? “I want to hand off what I’ve been doing to younger people who can carry the banner.”



  1. Good luck, Mr. John Marshall Lee! What an opportunity the city will have to finally benefit from your knowledge in a position that can create change. You will stand head and shoulders above many serving and they will benefit from your experience and education. Now, lighten up when you go door to door.

  2. Mr. Lee, what was the purpose for knocking down the Longfellow school? If it was rodent infested it will be rodent infested again. A few cats would keep the rodents away.

    How much taxes are missing from the missing GE factory?

    In a stupid contest, Bridgeport would get the gold medal. Paying for Finch’s propaganda ads from our treasury is embezzlement.

    Please arrange for people to speak to voters. The political stooges need to be exposed for voters to create a campaign. We should use the TV station and have the Post, WPKN, 12News and WICC announce when each candidate will explain their platform for an hour. Then use City Hall for people to sign the ballot petition.

  3. Good luck to you, Mr. Lee. You are our one best hope for honest, transparent, prudent, efficient and taxpayer friendly government for Bridgeport. I’d vote for you in a heartbeat.

  4. You Go JML!!!
    It doesn’t matter how smart or how dumb you are.
    First and foremost you need to get elected. And that means going door-to-door-to-door. Talk with the voters not at the voters. Ask them what they think and don’t get hung up telling them what you think.
    Knock on the door of EVERY eligible voter. Make sure you talk with every prime voter. You have time to do it if you start now. You don’t have to do it alone but if there is no one else to go door-to-door with right now then do it by yourself. Retail politics 101.

  5. John,
    I don’t know if you are running as a Dem, a U or an R. But you had better make up your mind and make sure you are registered correctly.
    And you don’t get to pick whom you run with.
    If you are running in a party primary you are on the same line as whomever the party-endorsed candidate is. If you are not endorsed and you run with another individual you will be on the line based on when your signatures are verified. So if your slate is the first qualified you are on row B and the same holds for other slates. And finally if you are a single candidate slate you appear after all the two-candidate slates.

    1. Bob,
      Thank you for sharing this valuable information based on long experience, I know. It confirms what I have been advised already, but the sharing process will be helpful to others who are considering challenging incumbents on the City Council.
      By the way, I am registered as a Democrat. But unfortunately, local party affiliation provides no wisdom or guidance on municipal spending, it seems. Time will tell.

    1. James L, since you don’t vote in JML’s City Council district, let alone in Bridgeport, you seem to be the one “blowhard” providing “hot air” “wind” on this comment string, no?

      Good luck, John.

  6. What an incredible opportunity for the City. Not since Bob Walsh and Andre Baker has the Council had the level of your fiscal knowledge and independence. Focus on your candidacy, if you’re elected there’s a good chance you won’t ride in with any particular mayoral candidate. In 1983, all 20 members running on Charlie Tisdale’s line were elected and served with (R) Lennie Paoletta.

    1. Lisa, I can’t speak to Andre Baker’s financial acumen on the city council, however I can tell you as Chair of the Finance Committee of the BOE he is completely clueless and cannot comprehend the most basic financial reports.

      I was at a Finance Committee meeting last night, and what he and his entire committee voted to support last night was absolutely disgraceful. Another deal with Mayor Finch where he is not increasing his contribution to the BPS by one dollar.

      I have already started knocking on doors in my neighborhood exposing Finch, Illingworth, Moales, Coates and Kelleher. I do hope all of them run because they are going to have to run against their voting record.

  7. John Marshall Lee, good luck. Bob Walsh has given you a good roadmap. I strongly suggest to run as a Democrat and to go further out than Black Rock to get voters to support you. There are voters who will know nothing about who is running who will still come out to vote and who normally vote for Democrats, well those are votes you can get by reaching out and asking voters for their vote. JML, voters like to be asked for their vote and they want you to listen to their concerns even if they’re not your concerns. Trust me, if you run as a Republican and win you still will not be able to make changes with the Democrats in control, you have a better chance as a Democrat to make a change. JML, you can win but you’ve got to work hard.

  8. Maria, I never doubt you because I know you to be a woman of passion and integrity. I’m so disappointed to hear your observations of Andre Baker. I can’t figure out what happened with him, I had respect and hopes he would follow the path I observed when he served on the City Council. It makes me sad to hear differently. It’s never too late for him to transit back!!! I hope.

      1. Lisa and Ron, a long-time political leader contacted Andre Baker to ask him to consider supporting Joe Ganim for Mayor. Without so much as flinching, he stated he had committed to supporting Mayor Finch.

        If that doesn’t tell the story about the path Andre Baker has chosen, I do not know what does.

  9. The shovel of yesterday can easily transform into the broom of today and nobody wants to clean house more than John Marshall Lee.
    He’s got a short game (win the election), a long game (serve everybody) and an endgame (pass the baton). Never has a political hopeful been so focused or prepared. Nothing’s over his head, yet his one-issue thrust already has a mandate and gives his candidacy a personality and style worthy of victory.


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