Newton Proposes Clean Slate Hiring Policy For Bridgeport

The City Council cannot expunge criminal records, but Ernie Newton declares in a proposed resolution that the legislative body can create a municipal employment Clean Slate Hiring Policy for “people who have changed their lives, move on from past mistakes and need a second chance.”

A “clean slate” justice reform proposal is expected to go before the upcoming session of the Connecticut General Assembly to expunge criminal records for non-violent offenders after a period of years.

Newton, who represents the East End, wants to apply some form of the measure locally in the city’s hiring practices as well as appointments to boards and commissions subject to background checks. As an example the “City adopt an employment screening policy that any applicant for city employment who after 3 years for nonviolent misdemeanors, 5 years for certain nonviolent felonies, or having been free from arrest or conviction for 10 years not be automatically disqualified for employment by the City of Bridgeport simply because of a previous criminal arrest or history.”

The proposal will be submitted to the Public Safety and Transportation Committee. City Council President Aidee Nieves and East End Councilwoman Eneida Martinez are co-sponsors of the measure.

Resolution language:

WHEREAS, a criminal record should not be a life sentence to unemployment,
underemployment, and poverty; and

WHEREAS, about 13,400 people are incarcerated in the state of Connecticut currently; and

WHEREAS, about 5,000 leave prison each year and return to our communities to rebuild their lives; and

WHEREAS, 60% of people who have been incarcerated remain unemployed one year after release; and

WHEREAS, criminal records turn people into second class citizens, barring them from many professions, jobs, housing programs, and more; nearly 9 in 10 employers, 4 in 5 landlords, and 3 in 5 colleges use criminal background checks, putting employment, housing, and higher education out of reach; and

WHEREAS, on August 6, 2018 the City Council by immediate consideration passed Resolution 144-17 calling upon the Connecticut Legislature to enact “Clean Slate” legislation like that passed in Pennsylvania to remove the stigma of a past criminal record; and

WHEREAS, “Clean Slate” legislation has yet to be passed by the Legislature and many nonviolent offenders who are law-abiding, otherwise qualified citizens in the City of Bridgeport are being denied employment by the City simply because of their criminal history; and

WHEREAS, when after a certain amount of time they have not recidivated, and have stayed out of trouble, those Bridgeport residents seeking employment with the City should be considered for employment based solely on their work qualifications not their past; and

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Bridgeport City Council that in order to help people who have changed their lives, move on from past mistakes and need a second chance that the City adopt an employment screening policy that any applicant for city employment who after 3 years for nonviolent misdemeanors, 5 years for certain nonviolent felonies, or having been free from arrest or conviction for 10 years not be automatically disqualified for employment by the City of Bridgeport simply because of a previous criminal arrest or history.

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31 comments

  1. As far as I knoe, policies of the City of Bridgeport cannot supersede the policies of the State of Connecticut(or The Federal Government). As far as I know,this resolution,if passed by the City Council will have no legal impact unless The State of Connecticut passes a low that may be similar to it and state law will will prevail. As far as I can tell,this is just another powerless resolution that the City Council has been passing and has no legal substance. Maybe the members of the City Council should read the city Charter and dig into and do what the City Charter allows the City Council to do. That would be a good start. And if City Council Members or other civic leaders don’t like the powers that assigned to the City Council by thy City Charter,maybe some of them should start raising their voices about a City Charter Revision Committee. Powerless Resolutions may fool some people some of the time but the array of powerless resolutions continues to build until it reaches a critical mass. When City Council People come back to the community later this year,maybe these powerless resolutions will come back to haunt them. As we move towards primaries/election,One question that will have to be raised towards all City Council People is,” What have you REALLY done?” Meaningless resolutions will just show people if one is a phony and a fake.

    1. Frank
      You have no idea on what you are talking about. I will have Ms Hawkins who’s the Director of Labor Relations at our next Public safety and Transportation committee meeting. to address Our policies if we could Ban the Box on asking people about their criminal past. The City Council can put in place a policy which i seek to do. You and many other on this BLOG love to say whats not being done. At lease I’ve tried to think out side the Box. Frank i can only speak for myself as a Former city council President i know the powers the we have as a council and i have tried to show that through Ordinances changes and yes through Resolutions. While it hasn’t been easy i will continue to try!

      1. Mr. CC CouncilPerson Newton…. Thank you for that information. It seems we have a disagreement. I think that this idea of a “Clean Slate” is a good idea. However,I believe it shoukd be handled at the state level versus the municipal level. Take care,,Ernie.

  2. Hasn’t Bridgeport reached it’s quota of ex-criminals on the payroll?..How about the council putting it’s efforts into finding why a $187,000 paving contract to Vaz construction for the paving of the Public Facilities lot,ballooned to over $500,000??

  3. This is all just political posturing without much happening here. The state would need to adopt such measure first. Good job trying though. But this is not just a local issue.

    1. Thanks, Stephanie
      Let me first say the City of Bridgeport has a right to change policies when it comes to hiring people.
      I would let to go back in history for a moment. I was a state representative at the time. I got a call from a young man by the name of Earl king jr. Mr. King wanted to become a bridgeport fireman but he had a problem the city did a back ground check and found out the mr. king had a record. Mr. king had changed his life. He had graduated from college and had become a productive member of our society. He asked to to come and speak before the civil service commission. I had not become a felon at this point in my life so i’m not new to this i’m true to this.Long story short Mr King is a Fireman today. We can set policy in our city and a lease i’m trying to do that.

  4. Thank you brother Newton for working on his crucial piece of legislation. It is definitely needed in our city and across our state, and quite frankly, our country.

    1. Thanks,
      Rev Gaston I know as a City Councilman we set policy that’s part of our job. We have a right to waive a persons criminal record or put in
      NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Bridgeport City Council that in order to help people who have changed their lives, move on from past mistakes and need a second chance that the City adopt an employment screening policy that any applicant for city employment who after 3 years for nonviolent misdemeanor s, 5 years for certain nonviolent felonies, or having been free from arrest or conviction for 10 years not be automatically disqualified for employment by the City of Bridgeport simply because of a previous criminal arrest or history.

      1. It would be much more conducive if we contact our new state reps,state senators and new governor to make this change a part of state law. My own State rep,Steve Stafstrom,will be having a community meeting on January 15,2019@6:30n at the Burroughs Community Center ,2470 Fairfirld Avenue in the Black Rock section of BPT. I am sure that this will be a subject. All are welcome.

        1. Ernie..why don’t you come on over. East Side meets West Side. Come on,Ernie,meet the people of Black Rock. And the People of Black Rock need to meet the people of the East Side. Ernie,are you serious????

        2. Frank wish i could be there but i have to meeting on that day. WPCA meeting dealing with the foreclosures and Board of Trustee’s meeting at my church which i am a member.

  5. Sorry to Ernest Newton and his friends. The Bridgeport City Council has no authority whatsoever on this matter. BTW,CCperson Ernest Newton,can you please update us on what the City Council has done with WPCA billing. You coronated yourself a leader on this issue . So what are the new City Charter changes concerning WPCA billing that you have been a leader for?

  6. Brother Newton, I’ll just say your motives are admirable with respect to your Clean Slate Hiring Policy and good luck, but Earl King getting the job on the BFD had nothing to do with you or anything that you did. The were only two people responsible for Earl getting hired, Ron Mackey and myself.

    We addressed the Civil Service Board on behalf of Earl with our stories of what we faced and the bad decisions that we made and how we still excelled in our chosen profession. After the hearing when they upheld the appeal of Earl and a latino brother. City of Bridgeport Civil Service Commission voted 4 votes to 0 granting Earl King Jr appeal for Firefighter job with City of Bridgeport Fire Dept. Civil Service board member Carman Fernandez caught us leaving City Hall and told us that the only reason the Civil Service upheld their appeal was because of what we said. I’m sure that if you contacted her she will tell you the same story as would the Latino brother who is still a firefighter.

    1. Don, that was a 4 hour Civil Service hearing in the City Council chamber because there were so many people there just for Earl King Jr. case, the City had City Attorney Hamilton Burger (Mark Anastasi) David Dunn, City Personnel Director and Fire Chief Brian Rooney and they did and said everything they could to deny Earl King Jr. from being appointed to be a firefighter for 4 hours. Don you were the second to the last person to speak and I was the last person to speak and when we both were finish speaking you could have dropped a pin on the floor and it would have been heard in the entire chamber. There was no debate, the commissioners voted to approve Earl King Jr base on all of the information they had.

    2. My Two Brothers
      Ron and Don all i will say on this issue. Please do me a favor i want you to Call Earl King Jr. and ask him did I come down to 45 Lyon Terrace and Speak on his behalf before the civil service commission .Brother King has never stop thanking me for speaking on his behalf. It sadden me that you guys never give any credit to anyone other then Judge Lopez, Sen. Moore, Former Sen. Gomes, but i do understand.

  7. Brother Newton, you say you understand, but do you understand that CREDIT is not given, CREDIT is earned. If we gave credit to Senator Moore, to former Senator Gomes or retired judge Lopez it’s merely because they EARNED that CREDIT.

    My Brother, you’ve done enough in your career to warrant credit which I’m sure you were rightfully given, but you deserve absolutely none for this endeavor. We don’t need to call Earl because we were there. You may have spoken on behalf of Earl, but again, You had absolutely nothing to do with Earl being hired for the BFD and if he said so he is either confused or a liar. Call Carmen Fernandez and ask her why was Earl given that job which I am sure she’ll remember because Civil Service Director Jack Colligan was so mad at the decision of the board that rumor had it that he quit in protest the next day. Call the Latino brother firefighter that had his appeal heard the same night as Earl and ask him who or what got Earl his job and who or what got him his job. I guarantee he will say us and not mention you in any shape, form or fashion.

    C’mon Man, you’re better than this to try and take CREDIT for something that have absolutely no part in. I would hope that things aren’t that tough for you that you would stoop to this level for approval because your resolution is warranted and should be judged on it’s merits and not because of some phoney story that was manufactured in your mind.

  8. Don, here are the members of the Civil Service Commission that voted on Earl King Jr. Eleanor Guedes, Carmen Mercado who was the director of Helping Hands Drug Rehab and Bishop Walter Plumber.

    1. Don, also one of our Firebird Society members, Lieutenant Ray Lopez filmed the entire civil service hearing from where the 130th district members sit during council meetings.

  9. Thank you Brother Mackey it was Carman Mercado on the Civil Service board that grabbed us as we were leaving the Civil Service meeting. There is NO DOUBT that she told us that our stories of our failures and successes were the reason Earl got that BFD job. She went on to tell us that his attorney played NO part in the success of his hearing. There is also NO Doubt that she never mentioned Ernie or anyone else.

    1. Ron and DON Just call Earl King JR. Ask him if Ernest E. Newton did not come to 45 Lyon Terrance and speak on his behalf and if he saids i didn’t i will publicly own You and Ron and apology but if i’m right you and Ron must do the same! Let’s make it happen. CALL EARL KING JR.

      1. Ernie, 45 Lyon Terrance is a big building with 4 floors with offices, that’s not telling us really anything. I’m sure if you say that you spoke to someone at 45 Lyon Terrance I believe you. We are talking about there the final decision was made in the hearing in the Common Council chamber in front of the Civil Service Commission.

        1. Ron
          I know it was in the common council chambers. I spoke to Earl King Jr. today and he informed me that Ron you had advised him to be in contract with people in the community and you had advised him to reach out to me. I was a state rep at the time. its a sad day when you cant remember what you did. The point i was trying to make is the changes only help our citizens to gain employment!

  10. Ernie, ‘ban the box’ was enabled by a state statute.

    The city council cannot institute ‘clean slate’ unless there is enabling legislation by the state legislature.

    If it were to pass in the state legislature this session, it would be January of 2020 before it becomes law.

    This city council session ends in December of 2019. If an ordinance is not enacted by then, it dies at the end of the session in December of 2019. You cannot adopt an ordinance to enact a law that is not enabled by the state legislature.

    A resolution is a communication. You would need to create an ordinance, something this city council has difficulty doing.

    If you just want to make a statement, a resolution can reflect a ‘sense of the body’ but it is not an enforceable law.

    Whatever organization provided this generic resolution may have overlooked some relevant detail.

  11. i don’t disagree but the city could have a policy that after a period of time on non- violent and misdemeanors we could waive it maybe or are you telling me the the city of Bridgeport has no right to say after serving your time in prison. A person has stayed out of trouble for 3-5 years even though its still on his record. The City of Bridgeport can’t say We will not let that stop you from working for our City. In Hartford we had what was called Home rule.

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