McCarthy Seeks Council Presidency Again, Will Ganim Weigh In?

McCarthy Bass Pro
City Council President Tom McCarthy at Bass Pro opening Nov. 18

On Dec. 1 at 6pm an assortment of elected officials including Mayor-elect Joe Ganim will participate in inaugural ceremonies scheduled for McLevy Green Downtown. On Dec. 7 the new City Council will conduct its first meeting with the marquee agenda item selection of City Council president. The pol who has led the legislative and budget making body since December 2007 Tom McCarthy says he will once again seek the top spot. And according to a number of council insiders he may well have the votes locked up.

McCarthy became council president the week after Bill Finch won the mayoralty in 2007. As deputy director of Labor Relations McCarthy also serves at the pleasure of the mayor. So during Finch’s eight years as mayor McCarthy’s had the dual role as head of the legislative branch of government while serving at the pleasure of the mayor that his critics say compromised checks and balances in government. McCarthy asserts serving at the discretion of the mayor has no bearing in how he conducts himself as council president. The City Charter prohibits city employee councilors but City Attorney Mark Anastasi has rationalized that state law allows it.

McCarthy enjoyed his council role enough that he sometimes bypassed political opportunities for election to the state legislature. McCarthy remained loyal to Finch even after Finch’s primary loss to Ganim, following Finch’s lead to support Mary-Jane Foster in the general election.

McCarthy could have jumped on Ganim’s campaign ship, but remained firm he did not believe Ganim’s return would be good for the city, irrespective of McCarthy’s alliance with Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa, a strong Ganim supporter. Ganim and McCarthy are not strangers. McCarthy, 41, was in his mid-20s fresh out of law school when he became active in city campaigns including Ganim’s reelection in 1999. He landed a job with the city and won election to the City Council in 2001.

Council president is a key position in shepherding through the mayor’s proposed budget and deciding committee assignments as well as the various other council business such as approving ordinances, development contracts and appointments to boards and commissions. It’s not always easy keeping 19 others in line. Council president is also next in line if the mayor cannot serve.

Will Ganim and McCarthy get along? Depends on a number of factors. Ganim, as the chief executive, will first analyze if he wants to keep McCarthy on the payroll. He’ll also examine the other council members seeking the presidency. Will they be any better than McCarthy? How much political capital does Ganim want to expend trying to deliver someone over McCarthy?

From the city charter:

The mayor shall preside at the meetings of the city council, but shall have no vote therein except in case of a tie. The mayor shall not vote to break a tie in the election of city council president or adoption of an ordinance …

At the beginning of each term of office the city council shall elect from among its members one council member to be president of the city council who shall serve for a term until November 30 of the next odd-numbered year or until the president of the council’s successor has been elected. The president of the city council shall preside in the absence of the mayor, and when so presiding shall have a casting vote in case of a tie in addition to his/her vote as council member. In the absence of the mayor and the president of the city council at any meeting, the city council may choose one of its members to act as president for the occasion who, when so presiding, shall have a casting vote in case of a tie in addition to his/her vote as council member. In the event of the death, resignation or inability to act of the president of the city council, the council shall elect another president in his place …

In the event that the mayor is temporarily absent or temporarily disabled and is, because of such absence or disability, unable to perform the duties of his office, the president of the city council shall possess all of the powers and perform all of the duties of the mayor until the mayor is able to act.


In the event that a vacancy occurs, for any reason, in the office of mayor, the president of the city council shall act as mayor, until the office of mayor is filled as provided in subSection (c) of this section.



  1. So much craziness flowing through the City Hell halls right now.
    Rumors abound and who knows, true or not true.
    One rumor has me puzzled as to why someone is not watching the cookie jar as many important files were being moved out of city hell down the road to Middle St., per an email from a high-ranking official who has not jumped the sunken ship.
    If so many people are talking about this, it makes me think the soon to be former boss of all bosses is taking a job on Middle St. where the files went to.

  2. If you’re talking about the truckload of file boxes that left city hall a week or two ago, you have been misinformed. Those boxes were picked up by shred it for destruction as the archives dept has done an audit and removed tons of old files.

  3. Mayor Ganim will have an early test. He needs to tell Tom McCarthy he needs to choose between being on the Council or keeping his job. He can have one or the other but not both. It is a fundamental conflict of interest and a direct violation of the City Charter.

  4. McCarthy has not served the residents of Bridgeport well. He has been party to unauthorized spending in the city. Example, he allowed $30,000 to be spent by the council for their favorite charities. Here is one example, Council person Paniccia made a motion to make a donation to PAL and the drum and bugle corp, well Mike Marella runs PAL and is a member of the drum corp, so is Paniccia.
    McCarthy allowed members to use their stipends to pay their Stop & Shop bills ad to pay their cable bills. My question is why do the taxpayers have to pay for council peoples’ grocery bills, in one case we did this 57 times in 1 year. The list goes on and on involving McCarthy. If Ganim is in favor of McCarthy as council president then that is the beginning of the end

  5. No one should be surprised if McCarthy is re-elected City Council President because of the president’s ability to appoint committee members and committee chairmen. I’m not saying McCarthy should be re-elected but I can understand it. As for his City job, well Mayor Ganim will have to make that call.

    City Attorney Mark Anastasi and the Civil Service Director need to be at the top of Mayor Ganim’s list of cleaning house along with McCarthy and hopefully another candidate will win the City Council election for President.

  6. This could wind up in Federal Court!
    McCarthy has rights!

    What must I prove to win a First Amendment retaliation case?
    To win a retaliation case under the First Amendment, a court must find that:
    – the plaintiff was engaged in a constitutionally protected activity;
    – the defendant’s adverse action caused the plaintiff to suffer an injury that would likely chill a person of ordinary firmness from continuing to engage in that activity; and
    – the adverse action was motivated at least in part as a response to the exercise of the plaintiff’s constitutional rights.
    For a public employee claiming retaliation by the employer, the court must also find that:
    – the employee’s speech was a matter of ‘public concern’; and
    – the interest of the employee as a citizen, in commenting on matters of public concern, outweighs the employer’s interest in promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs through its employees.

    1. Jim,
      The job McCarthy holds serves at the pleasure of the Mayor. In addition, the Mayor can and should honor the City Charter. This is no First Amendment matter.

      1. Dave,
        As you indicate, it is not a First Amendment issue we should be discussing but rather a kind of “first responder” issue, isn’t it? In the event of the death or incapacitation of the Mayor, the President of the Council takes over. Think about it for a serious moment, please.

        It is not a new question on OIB as it is occasionally mentioned, yet at this moment in time it has special import because the Mayor-elect faces one acid test on whether the campaign talk carries over into the early actions of his Mayoralty. I have no idea how this will work out in the days ahead, but if you exclude the newly elected Council persons for lack of experience of Council practices (and perhaps because more than one of them has not yet read the City Charter or looked at the Ordinances created by the Council), just whom would you trust or wish to hold responsible for stepping into the “shoes of the Mayor” should such become necessary? Time will tell.

        1. John, you are creating an issue that does not exist. Firstly, the council president serves as mayor for I believe it is 60 days until a special election is held. (Lennie left out the specific timeframe.) He is not really stepping into the shoes of the mayor but simply trying them on to see how they fit.
          And secondly in both Bridgeport and Hartford, when their mayors were under serious indictments, both continued to serve in their elected capacity. So since we don’t have recall, it was only when a mayor loses his status as an elector can s/he be removed from office.

          1. From the charter:
            Whenever a vacancy occurs in the office of mayor, other than during the final year of such mayor’s term of office, the city council shall cause a special election for the office of mayor to be held not less than 120 nor more than 150 days from the date that such vacancy occurs. The person elected mayor at such special election shall take office on the 7th calendar day following his/her election and shall serve the unexpired portion of the term vacated. In the event the vacancy occurs during the final year of the mayor’s term, the president of the city council shall become mayor and serve for the unexpired portion of the term vacated.

          2. Bob,
            Are you serious? Do you believe people die prematurely, certainly to their own expectations? So, I am ‘creating an issue that does not exist,’ or one you hope or wish does not happen.
            The Charter says a person from the Council ‘bench’ will be the temporary and IMO the most likely candidate. We are not like other communities with Finance Boards with educated and experienced potential candidates from which executive leaders in surrounding towns are often drawn. Where else would you look for candidates at such a time?

            Perhaps you are suggesting behavior unbecoming a Mayor is more likely to occur than premature death, accidental or otherwise, while in office. Time will tell.

  7. Frank, those are BOE files that are probably going back to storage at their Connecticut Ave facility. Moves of file boxes happen at least once a month from the BOE offices on the third floor of city hall back to the storage facility on CT Ave.

      1. Frank Venna, I know the driver must be a reliable source for you and I am certain you hold it to be true. I am also thinking you actually believe any Steelpointe paperwork would be located at city hall. Why would Mayor Finch need any of that paperwork if the rumor were true? Do you really enjoy manufacturing such sophomoric info?

        1. I’m not starting a fight or manufacturing anything. I realize people on here are combative. But if important files are being moved in a cover-up, which I’m not saying is the case, but if it is the case then the public needs to know.
          The driver told many people what he was moving and where.

          1. 🙂 I heard Brian Lockhart is already doing a major investigation. Frank Venna and “the Driver” broke this story first on OIB.

  8. Tom McCarthy should be council President. He is experienced and a Democrat and a worker. Joe Ganim is a smart man. Get it? Got it? Good! Only an ass believes he is not the obvious top choice.

  9. During G1 when Ganim was developing his own personal agenda he quickly learned how to bypass the council president and horse trade for his own 11 votes.
    Prior to that he was respectful of council members and their positions.
    So I guess this all depends on which Ganim we elected.

  10. I agree with the others who are questioning whether or not Ganim sticks to his campaign promise and upholds the charter with regard to employees serving on the council.
    All Joe needs is a formal opinion from the new City Attorney saying the charter is enforceable (which I believe the city can easily make the case) and then it becomes the employees or their union suing the city.

  11. Steve, our city charter says no city employees are allowed to be on the council. Are you suggesting Joe should just ignore the charter? And please don’t give me the Anastasi “finding a loophole” argument. I don’t think anyone wants to see our city run by finding “loopholes” anymore, Finch is gone, and hopefully, so are all the “loopholes” Anastasi would come up with to keep Bill happy.

    1. Bubba, Tom was reelected to the City Council and he is entitled to serve another two-year term . In this case, the conflict can easily be addressed. Since the position he holds is at the pleasure of the Mayor, he can be replaced at the pleasure of the Mayor. That would clearly eliminate the conflict. I have to believe there has been some discussion regarding the choice Tom is willing to make. If not, the political floodgates will open, and I can’t see the Mayor allowing an issue like this to cloud his agenda for the City. BTW, this is not the only council member with a conflict. Tom appears to be a competent addition to the Council, he may have already made his decision.

        1. Andy, because he was duly elected by the voters of his district. The conflict is holding a City job while serving on the Council. If he doesn’t decide between the two, than the choice may be made for him. He can’t be removed from the Council, but he can be replaced in his job.

  12. McCarthy is the poster boy for conflict of interest. Mayor Ganim must decide if he will allow it in his administration, giving grounds for doubts about his sincerity. I must believe something is being worked on to give at least the appearance of avoiding conflict. The unions like (control) McCarthy. This could be leverage McCarthy has. Allowing McCarthy to stay in city employment will send a very negative signal about the Ganim administration.

  13. I remember Joe saying he wanted to separate the conflict of interest of Council Members working for the city. If Joe is going to pursue this promise, I think it would be better served if the Council President wasn’t in the position of working for the city. How he proposes to accomplish this goal, I don’t know. But I think he should make a new law requiring any new person who is going to run for City Council can’t be a city employee. This satisfies all the current council members who are currently working for the city and moves the city forward. In what Joe and many think is a conflict of interest (and it is), they are liable to make decisions out of fear of losing their job or being badly treated. Unfortunately those decisions are mostly not in Bridgeport’s best interest.

    1. It’s already in the charter. How did this happen? More importantly how did it continue to happen for eight years? Does anybody know when this conflict of interest started? Did he work for the city before he became a council member, and when did he become a member? Or vice versa? Jesus! You don’t even obey your own laws.

    2. Robert,
      I think you are looking at a way to “grandfather” the current Council members who work for the City. Though I am not an attorney, I will doubt the City (?) can make a law that would stand higher than the Charter, which is the legal reference at this time. The Executive leader, the Mayor, must obey all laws (including Federal, State, Charter, Ordinances, etc.) without the power to make such laws while the City Council can originate, review, and draft papers that become City ordinances (city laws) after the Council votes its approval.
      If all City employees have an assumed interest in improving their pay and their employment position then when they are elected to the Council their personal “employment interest” may create conflicts of fiscal or power nature when it comes to CC decision making. Does anyone expect a person with such an inherent conflict to be so fair minded when facing a difficult Council decision, they can ignore instructions when someone higher in the “employment hierarchy” tells them to “jump?” Who is the Superman or Wonder Woman of your city dream? Time will tell.

  14. Robert, mayors do not make laws. The City Charter (the law) already addresses conflict of interest. The state statute has been interpreted by the current city attorney to accommodate what the current administration wants. The city attorney for the incoming Ganim administration (G2) can provide a different interpretation.

  15. First, don’t confuse my intelligence. I’m not a bright person. I onely have a Bridgeport Public System education. But I’m still looking for those high-pay jobs so many on this site are saying Bridgeport residents need and that’s the development Bridgeport should be seeking. Build it and those high-paying jobs will come to Bridgeport residents, but I’m sure my resume is not going to be on the top. Is it? Maybe someone from Stamford might be more qualified than I. Do you think? While your point on the mayor making a law to bar city employees is valid, I know the mayor doesn’t make the laws, and I know we like bashing people. But to bash me on my intellect from those with a proper education is a little like child abuse. An adult beating up on a child, it’s not very hard. My point comes from common sense. I was just making a case that there should be a law forbidding city employee to serve on the City Council, period. There should be no need for interpretation. Yes! I was making the case for grandfathering in any current member for a new law, regulation, ordinance, or what you want to call it, to be fair, from what I read. I think the law, regulation, ordinance, already exists. I’m glad those intellects who knew the law or lack of law based on their interpretation had the courage to take this fight on. If you’re wondering why this post was better constructed, it was because I wrote it on a computer. Thank God for programmers. PS I’m glad God’s laws are not subject to abusive interpretation. Can I get an Amen? OK, how about a hallelujah?

  16. The primary message of God of Christian faith (delivered in two sections) was to “Love God with all of your strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.” Is that “abusive interpretation” of the Ten Commandments delivered on tablets to Moses when he went mountain climbing? (Did he really drop a tablet with five more commandments or is that a tall story?)
    In any case interpretations have been with us for millennia, haven’t they? Amen? Time will tell.

    1. God was pretty wrathful in Leviticus. God’s laws changed thoughout the Torah. Not only that, the God of Abraham Who gave us the Torah, also gave us the New Testament, and the Koran, all agree on a second coming of Christ in their own interpretation from, and all claim new laws will be handed down, I would assume without interpretation. Judgment Day will tell. Good luck. AMEN?

  17. The ‘hablando Baba’ continues. Where in the Charter does it specifically and clearly state City Employees cannot serve on the council? About six months ago I posed the question with the one-sentence charter language you folks claim as the section that prohibits city employees from serving on the council. Perhaps what Joe Ganim needs to do is appoint a Charter Revision Commission to address the issue. Don’t wait for President McCarthy to do it, he had eight years to do so.

  18. *** Tom is a nice guy but should not be the council president this time around again. I’m not aware of some of the other members who may be able to step up and make a good challenge against him with the support of other members! It’s time for someone who does not drink the admin Kool-Aid so frequently! No more autopilot rubber stamping from the city council but we all know that’s just not possible with the bunch who sit presently, no? ***


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