Judge Lopez: Will Budget Committee Dance To The Anastasi Shuffle?

Carmen Lopez has lent a powerful voice to government reform.

Will the City Council’s Budget & Appropriations Committee find its own step or dance to the Anastasi Shuffle this week when it reviews the City Attorney’s Office budget? Two years ago Connecticut’s FOI Commission sided with retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez who filed a complaint in May 2018 charging that a vote by the budget committee citing “pending litigation” for the basis of an executive session violated state law. Lopez asserted that the violations were at the direction of lawyers with the City Attorney’s Office. FOI agreed.

Lopez, in this commentary, reminds the public, budget committee members and City Attorney’s Office–just in case it slipped their legal memory–about the ruling.

May 2, 2020 is the Second Anniversary of the City Council Budget Committee’s public flouting of the Freedom of Information Act.

We should all wish the Budget and Appropriations Committee a Happy and Memorable Anniversary.

Anniversaries are usually a time of celebrating and remembering.

But in this case, we must hope and pray that the Budget Committee will remember, but will forego the celebration.

In thinking about the anniversary of the Budget Committee’s illegal executive session, a session orchestrated by Bridgeport’s City Attorney’s Office, when its budget was before the Committee, the words immortalized by Barbra Streisand in the song “The Way We Were” kept coming to mind.

Although the Budget Committee has two new Co-Chairs, hopefully, it will remember, “The Way We Were” two short years ago.

It is not “too painful to remember” that the Freedom of Information Commission not only found that the Budget Committee had engaged in an illegal Executive Session, but it also ordered the Committee members to obtain training on the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act. Given the fact that a majority of the City Attorneys were in attendance and witnessed this illegal session, the Commission strongly suggested that the City Attorneys also attend and get educated on the law.

The Freedom of Information Commission was obviously not impressed with the “Anastasi Shuffle,” a verbal dance which mesmerizes the City Council on a regular basis.

On Wednesday April 29, 2020, the Budget Committee will again have the budget of the City Attorney’s Office before it for discussion.

If, as is almost certain, the secretive City Attorney will once again ask for an Executive Session as he did one year ago, the question is not “could” the Budget Committee stand up to the City Attorney, but “would” it?

I hope that this is not a rhetorical question.

Many questions should be asked of the City Attorney, prior to approving any budget request.

Those questions should be asked in public and not in an illegal executive Session designed to squelch the public’s right to know.

For example, questions have recently been raised concerning the Guideposts contract and the payment of services to outside counsel, when the City has not been sued or named as a party in any civil case.

The City Attorney should be asked if the taxpayers should defray the cost of attorneys representing city officials and employees in potential criminal cases. If so, why?

During Ganim 1, our Mayor paid his own legal fees!

Does the City Attorney have contracts signed with the private attorneys?

If so, where are they?

Why have we spent any money for outside counsel, when the City is not a party to any action in Federal Court?

Are we so afraid of what might be uncovered that we need to hire an outside criminal defense lawyer, simply to respond to a subpoena?

Who is the City protecting?

I predict that the City Attorney will not answer these questions, or any other legitimate inquires the Budget Committee may have.

He will probably say that he can’t, citing a non-existent attorney client relationship, or he will concoct another transparently flimsy excuse for not complying with the Freedom of Information Act.

Don’t believe him, and don’t be fooled again.

Please remember, “The way we were.”

We must remember, that this is the same City Attorney’s Office which authorized money and expenses in support of an illegal school takeover and paid the legal fees of a flim-flam artist from Chicago, who made a fool of City and State leaders.

Will you remember over a half million dollars spent on a driveway, and legal fees paid in a lawsuit to which the City was not a party?

Will you remember, that this City Attorney’s Office sabotaged any meaningful reform of WPCA collection practices?

Will you remember, that at the direction of the City Attorney, our Police Commission, our Traffic Authority, was replaced in Parking Enforcement matters, with a political appointee in the Department of Public Works, following a questionable interpretation of state law?

And, will you remember, that this is by no means an exhaustive list of questionable dealings by our City Attorney’s Office?

Will you remember that this City Attorney’s Office routinely violates, and has contempt for the Freedom of Information Act?

Will you remember the old adage, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, or three or four times, shame on me?

Or will you “simply choose to forget?”



  1. All excellent points as usual Judge Lopez.My prediction?Anastasi will once again play “rope-a-dope” with the committee,refusing to answer anything under the guise of “Attorney-client privilege”.Once Anastasi mentions those words, the committee will stop with any questions and simply accept it.This administration,just like Joe’s first go round, has MANY secrets, it’s why no matter what City Hall puts out there, it’s met with a “ why would Joe say that?, what’s in it for him?” question.Nothing changes this go round either.

  2. I would to thank Judge Lopez for taking her time and knowledge to look out for the interest of voters and residents of Bridgeport for free. The head of the City’s Attorney Office needs to a elected position to let the voters to decide the direction of legal issues that City may face and I can assure you that Hamilton Burger would not have been in his position as long as he has. Judge Carmen Lopez will not run for mayor but she would the best person to be the City’s Attorney instead of current City Attorney being Mayor Ganim’s personal attorney.

    Unfortunately Judge Lopez points out exactly what the City Council will do when she said, “I predict that the City Attorney will not answer these questions, or any other legitimate inquires the Budget Committee may have.” Look for Hamilton Burger will say that City Council will having a caucus with Democrat council members instead of going into executive session.

    “He will probably say that he can’t, citing a non-existent attorney client relationship, or he will concoct another transparently flimsy excuse for not complying with the Freedom of Information Act.”

    CAUCUS: In United States politics and government, caucus has several distinct but related meanings. Members of a political party or subgroup may meet to coordinate members’ actions, choose group policy, or nominate candidates for various offices.
    EXECUTIVE SESSION are generally closed discussions of a board of directors that may include invited attendees such as an executive director or certain staff members. These sessions can occur at the end of a board meeting or separate from a board meeting if no formal actions are to be taken.

  3. Thank you Judge Lopez. I am happy that you raise multiple questions that call for answers at Budget Time if not months and years previously. It is apparent that the B&A group is also looking to know information that should be “free” to them as the only OVERSIGHT group in the City elected by the public, should likely be available publicly on the City website, attached to Department offerings, and if not received use the entire CC authorization apparatus to postpone a vote. Now that puts the entire budget responsibility back in the Mayor’s lap. Is that all bad? Not really because the Mayor and his advisors know where the bodies are buried in the budgets, where the funds have been planted to be available during the year as needed, and have read the budget as well as the CAFR. How many Council members are confident enough of their READING and REVIEW of the budget and CAFR to ZOOM with their public? Time will tell.

  4. Thank you Judge Lopez and Judge Lee
    These are very insightful questions but I can’t seem to find the answers. Mainly what is the public to do?
    It seems as if it takes predestined to reach your conclusions, but what can be done proactively? It does not seem as if the council is in agreement. And it seems as if the public must wait for the council to act to do anything.
    I am more of a who fan and I feel the more apropos song is “we won’t be fooled again” or will we.
    So please shed some light on a proactive course of action that will not cost the taxpayers money. I don’t think we can sue on what might the city do or not do.

  5. *** The Bpt. “budgets committee” is used to “rubber-stamping” admin’s needs & wants without any real research from past budget’s actual spending’s, on what & why? Very seldom do they bother to get an “independent opinion” or see what other city’s may or may-not be doing? Like Walsh says, “same old, same old”, no? ***

  6. I have recently observed co-chair of the Budget Committee, Michael DeFillipo take the “bull by the horns” in a very recent matter. For the first time in years he gave the powers to be a run for the their money. He did his homework, reached to some he knew to be credible with about 25 years of experience among them, and he along with 6 brave council members never blinked. He had to go head-to-head with the newbie Council President and a long-time pol
    He was short on the necessary number, but came out as respected and admired. My friend Judge Lopez, watch Michael, he has much potential and wants nothing for his service. And, what do you know, he works at one of Mario’s busnesses. He did his job as a Councilman for the right reasons. Maybe Mario realized that also.

    1. Lisa,good for DeFillipo,but let’s be real here,Mario &Joe will give him a short leash,if he really comes out strong on something they really want,Mario will”talk” to him.In the end,DeFillipo is owned by Mario,that’s why he’s on the council to begin with..

  7. Harvey, since that’s what’s always been the case, you may be right. I hope not. Since I’m always ready to criticize, I want to give credit where it’s due.

    1. Lisa,were you referring to DeFillipo’s recent stance on the $4.5 amphitheater project?..If so,Joe knew he had the votes to get that through regardless of Defillipo’s no vote,I would think,if Joe needed his vote,he would have had been “spoken” to..

  8. Harvey, Michael had the votes, but it wasn’t Michael who caved, it was the few that were “spoken to.” They folded like a cheap suit, like cowards. I watched this one Harvey, it was the first time I wished I was on the Council again, I would have used my voice to call the cowards out by name and hoped any one of them tried to take me on. I’m not stupid, I can’t speak for future situations, but I will for this one. He worked it for his reasons and didn’t back down. The other 13 members did. I would guess that the two councilmembers from the 131st district supported it because it was in their district, that’s understandable, but the rest were cowards.

  9. Please, so you’re saying Mario’s handpick employee, who bartends at one of his establishments, when up against him and had enough votes to render a vote against something Mario had wanted to be passed, and the reason Defillipo did this was for the betterment of Port for as we already know the law was changed in his favor for his liquor store. Consider on OIB Mario demands loyalty, does Defillipo still have a job?

    Here’s what I don’t understand. If it’s understandable for 131st council members to support it should it be just as understandable for the others? If it understandable for their 131st district it understandable for the Port. What’s good for the 131st should be good for the Port, in general. Aren’t we all in this together or is that just for Covid – 19?

    Since the bars are closed, and how Mario expects city employees to donate to Joe’s fundraiser, I know, Defillipo might not return to Mario’s place of employment, according to OIB commentaries. 🙂


  10. Regarding DeFillippo: kudos to him for what he APPEARED to try to accomplish. BUT- It’s easy to appear that you were representing your constituents when there wasn’t a snowballs chance in hell of the proposition being knocked down. AND – in fact taking a stance will allow yourself to be projected as an independent thinker that is only trying to do the right thing- when in fact it’s all a ruse just to lure others into thinking that you are actually an independent thinker and really want to do the right thing. The reality is that it was going to pass anyway because that’s what Joe and Mario mandated and wanted. No harm no foul, give them a pass, it makes him look good. However- we probably really know what happened behind the scenes. At the end of the day he is and always will be a patsy until such time as they give him as much ultimate power as they can because make no mistake, he may be in line for something better from his handler’s.
    Don’t anyone be fooled.

    1. I believe you right, but DeFilippo in the one. My guess’s Martinez, her votes are out of character, probably because of Blackwell getting a pass over, considering his overtime pay it would be $100,000 payout. 🙂 But mostly it’s a signal to Joe, city elections are not locked down. That’s just my MHO. Cheers 🙂

      P.S wasn’t change Obama’s slogan. 🙂



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