Last May, the city’s legislative services director Tom White took issue with OIB’s assertion that he wanted to “reform the way” the City Council conducts business following a series of issues White had with several council members including Council President Tom McCarthy. There were problems apparently that White did not want to spill out publicly, perhaps fearing his job was on the line. Shortly after, the Council did not fund White’s $47,000 position for the budget year beginning last July 1. White has responded with a federal lawsuit claiming he “acted as the conscience and moral compass for the City Council, dispensing advice and opinions on the ethical behavior the public expected from members.”
White had voiced concerns about City Council members who held city jobs voting to increase their salaries as well as manipulating city expenditures to pad $9,000 a year stipends.
And in fact last May city fiscal watchdog John Marshall Lee had penned an OIB commentary questioning city financial reports and council stipends. White, perhaps fearing retribution from council members, quickly dispatched a statement walking back the ‘reform’ characterization by OIB. White wrote:
Over the years, as reflected in my job description, I have made many recommendations to city council leadership on ways to improve legislative services department operations but saying I wish to “reform the way the council conducts business” is inaccurate and misleading and not the role of my position.
But in a federal lawsuit against the city, White claims the city violated his First Amendment rights as the victim of retaliation because he “acted as the conscience and moral compass for the City Council.” White has hired former Mayor Tom Bucci, an expert in employment discrimination law, as his attorney. Bucci has a mighty record representing city employees in claims against the city. The Finch administration has a history of firing, defunding positions, of malcontents. Bucci takes the city to court and wins settlements for his clients.
The lawsuit also claims council members were “inappropriately diverting expense payments from their individual stipends to the general revenues of the city budget to fraudulently increase their individual expense accounts. On one occasion, in 2007, a member of the City Council instructed the plaintiff to charge conference-related expenses to department funds in the general fund, rather than his stipend which he had depleted.”
White claims the city tried to fire him, but then reversed itself because it could show no cause. Instead, his position was not funded, but the city quietly replaced White by transferring Walter Boyer from the Departing on Aging to the City Clerk’s Office with the title “legislative liaison.”
McCarthy told the Connecticut Post the lawsuit is without merit.
White is seeking his job back, as well as back pay, benefits, damages and legal fees.