McCarthy And City Reach Severance Agreement, Needs City Council Approval

Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa, left,  is trying to broker an exit deal for Tom McCarthy, right.
Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa, left, with Tom McCarthy.

UPDATE: Negotiators for the city and the lawyer representing City Council President Tom McCarthy have reached a tentative agreement on an exit package for his employment as deputy director of Labor Relations. In another OIB moment, the agreement requires City Council approval. See agenda of Miscellaneous Matters Committee here.

Details of the agreement have not yet been released by the city and McCarthy’s lawyer, labor specialist Tom Bucci who served as mayor from 1985-89. City officials have been tight-lipped about releasing details of the arrangement that was chiefly negotiated between Associate City Attorney Mark Anastasi and Bucci with a sign-off from Mayor Joe Ganim who promised on the campaign trail to eliminate the conflict of city employees serving on the City Council.

The negotiations were delicate because Ganim has sought an amicable resolution with the head of the legislative branch of government. All kinds of numbers have gone back and forth between the city and McCarthy. McCarthy asked for more than a year’s pay plus extended health benefits. The city countered at substantially lower. The exit package, according to sources appears to be in the $35,000 range with health benefits for about a year.

Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa, with whom McCarthy has a solid relationship, served as a broker in the negotiations as well.

McCarthy is in Ireland attending the funeral of an uncle, according to his Facebook page. He was hired as a city employee during Ganim’s first tenure as mayor. He has served as City Council president since December of 2007. McCarthy supported the reelection of Bill Finch whom Ganim defeated in a Democratic primary last September. McCarthy then backed petitioning candidate Mary-Jane Foster.

McCarthy has started to clean out his city office on Lyon Terrace, according to City Hall sources, but it’s unclear when his city employment will officially end.

The full City Council will likely vote on the exit package at its February 1 meeting.

Last month Ganim appointed Janene Hawkins, pastor of Walters AME Zion Church, as director of Labor Relations. According to a news release issued by the mayor’s office, Hawkins earned a law degree from Indiana University School of Law and served as a law clerk and employee relations specialist dealing with conflict resolution and employment negotiation. Hawkins will lead labor management contract negotiations with various bargaining units and oversee labor disputes and employee disciplinary issues.

City officials also did not want to rush McCarthy’s exit so he could assist Hawkins with an office transition.



  1. If a laborer or secretary lost their job tomorrow, would they get a year of health benefits? If the answer is “no,” the Mayor and Council should reject the deal.

    Tom McCarthy seems to have done a good job and served the City well during his time in Labor Relations. But there is no justification for providing special benefits–benefits that aren’t available to other city employees–to the politically connected.

    It is equally wrong for the Mayor to use taxpayers’ money to solve his political problems.

    1. Not to mention it is also grossly improper to have the Democratic Town Chair involved in these negotiations.
      Again, how can the state of Connecticut take Bridgeport seriously when we allow politicians to become active participants in these types of negotiations?
      Does Monroe allow Mario to be this involved in the town business of where he actually lives? NO! Only in Bridgeport.

    2. Phil, I’ve been shaking my head since this became public. He served at the pleasure of the mayor, why would he be entitled to more than any other discretionary employee? This is abominable. What goes with some members of the City Council, you have Evette Brantley who just cost us $85,000 because she couldn’t control herself while sitting on the council, and now Tom McCarthy digging into our pockets. Shame, shame.

    1. That may be true Ron, but Joe Ganim is pinching every penny he can find blaming every financial problem on Finch.
      He has to take ownership of this fiasco and explain to the public why we are bending over backwards for this politically connected individual and not other employees.

    1. Bubba, you should be inquiring why the council approved an $85,000 settlement for Brantley. Do you really think they will take your suggestion to vote no? You know better!!!

      1. Lisa,
        I do not expect either one of them to pay attention to what I say. Brantley never did when I represented the district with her.
        But I will not give them the opportunity to say no one contacted me on this matter. For the same reason everyone who has spoken out about employees on the council should contact their reps and urge them to reject the deal.

      1. Wrong, Jim. The $20 million albatross belongs solely with Flatto, Ganim and company. The Birdman flew the coop. Ain’t nobody left but Flatto and Ganim. They own it, now deal with it.

        1. The various parts of this Flatto deficit were not secrets even though the co-chair of the Common Council Budget Committee dropped her pants at the fiscal meeting presided over by the Mayor and Flatto. I question the need we need to immediately pay for the various parts of this deficit. It seems the Ganim team went after the $2.4 million Supervisor’s Contract (which happened to be the smallest chunk this disputed $20 million). The biggest chunk dealt with the Bridgeport Police and I am sure we are all aware of the relationship between the Bridgeport Police Union and Joe Ganim’s bid to regain the job as Mayor.

  2. I have another question. Do we really think Janene Hawkins is qualified as Director of Labor Relations despite the credit that is listed? I don’t see her qualifications in her resume.

  3. *** I like Tom, but maybe now he will know just how other ex-employees felt when they lost their jobs due to some type of political B/S or Admin. Budget Cutting or just a plain old railroading job in order to fire a city employee! SHOE’S ON THE OTHER FOOT, NO? *** WHOOP ***

    1. McCarthy settlement was not on the agenda for referral in the January 4 nor January 19 city council meetings. Was it introduced from the floor in the Jan 19 meeting? Minutes are not posted yet. The communication must be introduced at full council meeting and referred to committee.

  4. Some thoughts to share:

    What is the basis of McCarthy’s termination? Performance? Economic?

    Is McCarthy offering to resign in exchange for a monetary settlement?

    The communication says the committee is to vote on a settlement to address ‘pending litigation.’ What is the basis of McCarthy’s ‘pending litigation?’

    Typically, a settlement is offered if the city feels it will not prevail in court or prefers to avoid the expense of litigation.

    Will the esteemed city council members be provided a clear reason for a settlement without (likely) seeing the grounds for a lawsuit?

  5. And this is a perfect example of why city employees should not be City Council members. A shining example of bending or breaking the rules to placate a council member-employee.

  6. The next Council Meeting is Monday, February 1, then Tuesday, February 16 so the matter is likely to appear there. The availability of health benefits for 18 months or greater period under certain circumstances is available to young Tom McCarthy with him paying for them as any other exited employee. Why should current and future taxpayers pay premiums for him for any period of time into the future? Is it an obligation? Is it a negotiation? Is it a courtesy of some kind that I do not understand at all because McCarthy has not had such courtesy to taxpayers for years? He has allowed previous City finance personnel to run their magic and stories on an ill-prepared series of Council members who occupied Budget and Appropriations positions without any professional or continuous support. This has allowed major gaffes that are appearing in the FINCH deficit numbers this year as well as in other revelations from actions in the last days and hours of that administration.
    If McCarthy has a shred of decency he will declare why any benefit is due him, legally or morally, in front of the Council, without Bucci instead of costing himself and the City any added legal expense. (The upcoming revelations of how legal expenses for the Port Authority were kept in the dark and have been ultimately settled is an example of taxpayer obligations without good sign-on by the public. No more, please.) If the matter comes to CC will you ask your CC members to explain their thinking so it can be shared when the July 1, 2016 tax payments based on the new budget being reviewed in the spring, with the new mil rate based on a new taxable Grand List and an increased tax to pay for many? Time will tell.

  7. Ok, so our charter specifically says “no city employee shall serve on council.” Because Finch needed Tom to rubber stamp everything he wanted,he told Anastasi to “find a loophole” allowing Tom to stay on the council AND a city employee. So now fast forward, Joe gets elected, and since he made upholding the charter a major point to get re-elected, he is forced to get rid of Tom. So now, Tom feels he is”owed” a severance package to voluntarily leave a job he never should have been allowed to keep under the charter guidelines. Joe, fearing if he plays hardball with Tom and refuses said severance package, he will have a hard time dealing with him as council president. .What in hell is going on here, folks??? Once again, we the taxpayers will be forced to foot the bill. It just never ends, and it’s disgusting, honestly.

    1. Lennie, what ever happened to the City Attorney’s review of an earlier ruling–issued by Mark Anastasi during the first Ganim administration–that state law allowed city employees to serve on the Council, despite the Charter provision?

      Could it be he concluded the much-criticized Anastasi opinion was, in fact, legally correct?

      1. Phil, if that’s the case, so what? Just because they think it’s state law does not make it a good law. And what’s wrong with upholding the City Charter? Don’t you like checks and balances in government? If Ganim can administratively remove the conflicts, what’s wrong with that? Especially when conflicts on the City Council have cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

        1. LennieGrimaldi, good point, there are those who want perfect to get in the way of the good. The big fight was to enforce the City Charter and especially City employees serving on the City Council, well here is one City employee who will be gone and two to go.

          Now where are those same voices who want the City Charter enforce position on “provisional appointments?” The City paying out real big money not only now but also in lifetime pensions because Civil Service is NOT giving exams. Why?

        2. But Joe has not dealt with the problem. He is only sidestepping it. What is happening with Holloway? If Jimmy wants both, he will not go quietly into the night.
          Does Joe gently let Tommy Mac go with a golden parachute and take care of Jimmy with a steel-toed boot? That will for sure end up as a lawsuit.
          And even if Joe somehow BUYS OFF all the other city employee council members, what happens next year when a city employee runs for the council?
          There is no clarification with this maneuver. Just a ticking clock.

        3. Lennie,
          If the Mayor can “administratively remove the conflicts,” he would justified in doing so. The question is can he.

          In order for the answer to that question to be yes one of two things must be true. Either (1) the Deputy Director of Labor Relations must serve at the pleasure of the Mayor; or (2) the Charter provision that prohibits city employees from serving on the Council must prevail over the state law.

          I’ve asked this question before with no response. Can anyone show me a provision in the Charter or the ordinances that says the Deputy Director of Labor Relations–or anyone else on the so-called Grants Personnel payroll–serves at the pleasure of the Mayor? I don’t think you’ll find one.

          That brings us to the Charter provision. You asked the rhetorical question “what’s wrong with upholding the City Charter.” Nothing. But it doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

          I’m not going to rehash the debate about the Charter vs. the state law, except to say I generally agree with Mark Anastasi’s opinion. That’s why I asked the question.

          Does anyone seriously think we would be talking about a severance package for Tom McCarthy if the Mayor and his lawyers thought he could legally fire McCarthy? Of course not.

          But that leaves the Mayor with a political problem. During the campaign he promised to “ignore” state law and prevent city employees from serving on the Council.

          I assume Tom Bucci has pointed out the legal and financial ramifications of attempting to fire McCarthy in the face of the state law could be significant.

          What’s a Mayor to do? A buyout, essentially paying McCarthy to leave without a fuss. A perfect fix. Except for the fact it provides a politically connected employee with special benefits not available to other city employees and uses taxpayer money to fix the Mayor’s political problem. I’m sure you are not defending either of those results.

          One final thought. You correctly point out the fact it is a state law doesn’t make it a good law. True enough. But it is the law.

          If you don’t like the law, you change it. Until it is changed you obey it. Nobody, not even the Mayor of Bridgeport, gets to ignore laws the don’t like.

          1. McCarthy has said he works at the pleasure of the mayor. He has told me that himself. Maybe he’s right, maybe he’s wrong. Now Bucci, his lawyer, has taken a different position to benefit his client. The city has to make a fundamental determination on behalf of taxpayers, is it wiser to resolve this administratively or fight it out in court, which could cost more in time, effort and fees. Bucci and McCarthy would not accept this deal if they thought they’d do better in court. They’re not too sure either.

  8. While the spotlight is currently on Tom McCarthy, please remember he is not (and has not been the) only City employee on the Council.
    For instance take a look at the School Building Committee that has been chaired by James Holloway, long-serving Council member, and protector of the School Building Committee from having members of the public raise a respectful question when he sits as Chair. He has also seen no need to make the record of meetings and action items public while the group has seen the expenditure of $700 Millions of State and City funds during the past eight years. Conflicted? Anyone? Keeping it secret? Definitely? Why? Time will tell.

  9. With all due respect for Mr. Holloway, hopefully he is the next one to be forced to choose between city job and council. Now, since the precedent is set with Tom, will the taxpayers have to foot the bill for Mr. Holloway’s severance package also???? Looks like it.

    1. Harvey, Jim is a long-time civil service employee and hopefully will retire rather than put us through this again. I have nothing to back up my comment, other than I know he’s more than vested. He was working when I went on the Council in 1983.

      1. Lisa, let’s hope so, but something tells me he too will go to Bucci for advice first. And Mr. Bucci will no doubt recommend going the severance package way first, then retiring with a full pension, and frankly, why shouldn’t he? Seems like the prevailing idea among our city’s elected officials when they are on the way out is,”I’m gonna get all I can out of it first.”

        1. Well that will teach us to nominate and elect Council members who know the difference between the terms: “Public Servant” and “Self Servant”, wont it? After we rid either the Council or City Hall of Holloway and Feliciano, we can start to enforce the Conflicts portion of the Charter. Bear in mind, we the voters asked for enforcement of the charter, that request can not be honored without a bit of negotiation.

  10. Lennie, when the public is kept in a darker dark than the Council members through failure to provide info easily, digitally, and for all FOIable material in the full spirit of OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE, TRANSPARENT and HONEST process, then it takes a lot for anyone to begin to calculate how much “toothless watchdogs” wherever they have been situated have cost the City. Is there anyone in OIB readership who can outline the problems created when a Civil Service system, at one time vital and operative to protect workers, along with multiple unions, and with a “modern” human resources touch that may be impractical and ineffective all pretend to function well? What reform might focus worker and management attention on the right number of qualified workers, receiving competitive pay and benefits, to accomplish management/leadership’s priority goals within a balanced and frugal budget? Time will tell.

  11. JML. Transparency is very needed with the School Building Committee that is chaired by Jim Holloway. I brought this up during my term but Anastasi, Holloway and Marella, among others stacked the meeting and manipulated Education Committee members who are there to be manipulated. Nowhere is transparency needed more than here, where $700 million has been spent with no checks and balances, leading to the possibility and appearance of big-time graft, inefficiency, ineffectiveness and redundancy, all in the name of helping the children. On top of it, these guys acted downright nasty and disrespectful of this former Councilman who was trying to do what is best for the citizens of Bridgeport. I’m glad you brought this up, John. I don’t know what they are paying you, but it’s not enough!

  12. If your passion is to serve your district, then live in your district. Why is it many continue to lie and have lied as to where they live?
    Feliciano is not worried about her job. Why? Because they are working on a deal to transfer her to the Board of Education side.
    Buzz is she is also positioning herself to run for State Representative against Chris Rosario. Milta, shame on YOU!

  13. As I have commented before, the city charter defines a conflict by a council member as having employment that is paid through the city treasury. BOE payroll payments are from the city treasury.

    The state statute that is often referred to as taking precedence over the city charter makes reference specifically to “teachers” being allowed to serve on legislative bodies and boards of finance and land use, not BOE employees.

  14. This is not a complicated issue. He serves at the pleasure of the Mayor and has no right to any severance. It is taxpayer money. Terminate him now and quit wasting time and taxpayer money! Tom chose the Council over his job.


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