OIB Survey: Should City Employees Be Barred From Serving On The City Council?

The voter-approved Bridgeport City Charter prohibits city employees from serving on the City Council to avoid conflicts of interest such as approving their own wages and benefits. Irrespective of this, city employees continue to serve on the budget and legislative body citing a loophole in state law.

Do you agree with the City Charter provision prohibiting city employees from serving on the City Council?

  • Yes, city employees must be barred from the City Council. (69%, 143 Votes)
  • No, it's really much ado about nothing. (31%, 65 Votes)

Total Voters: 208

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  1. Having city employees on the city council is an obvious violation, a conflict of interest. The biggest offender is McCarthy, who hold three positions (one unpaid) as city labor attorney, city council president and district leader of his district on the Democratic Town Committee.

  2. If members of the City Council were asked to explain their vote each time they do so, how would they answer such a regular question? Would their answers show they were satisfied with the abundance of information provided by the City department advocating a course of action? Would they comment on the thorough job each Committee had done in examining the work? Would they comment on the activity by leadership (remember there is no “formal” opposition in Bridgeport to assist a check and balance process that also died years ago) to get their favorable vote? Would they tell us the primary reason was they wanted to be agreeable so they went along with the proposal? And for those with a City job, or a family member with such, or other positional advantage, would anyone ever admit to pressure to perform as the “boss” wants me to, or forfeit some advantage?
    The rest of the world can see conflicts of interest in how we operate in Bridgeport (or at least the appearance of or opportunity to be conflicted) in our current situation. Is it a sign of our moribund state of governance structure that the head repeats daily “we are getting better here in Bridgeport every day” while the rest of the body is tormented by a fever of “high taxes” and representatives who cannot see their way to open their mouths to question the fiscal health of the City? Time will tell.

    1. John Marshall Lee, you said, “there is no “formal” opposition in Bridgeport to assist a check and balance process that also died years ago) to get their favorable vote?” JML, that’s why I suggested to you to fight from within the DTC because that’s where the power is here.

      1. Ron,
        I guess you are telling me the best way you saw to attack the problem was to get active in the Democratic party, try for a Town Committee position in your District and revel in all the power that provides. Is there a party line or mission statement I am missing?

        If not then my own assessment has been to dig into fiscal matters from all perspectives because taxpayers keep all levels of government floating. Low vote has meant low knowledge of what is ongoing. And low OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE and TRANSPARENT has created big frustration. I figure if people begin to see how things have run off the track fiscally, how the watchdogs have been poisoned or killed off, how “rewards” are delivered to the incumbents, and how the public, you and I, are in organized fashion kept “dumb,” then this will undermine authority and trust that should not be offered until you see the real thing. In Bridgeport, we get to see a “half thing” at best in terms of reality. And the cupboard has become very bare.

        I am off to City Hall to see what reports are available. November monthly should be present as it was due by 4th Friday in December. But what about the 2014 CAFR? It is not on the Finance Department web site as of this morning. 2013 is the latest such report. And what about the June 2014 monthly after the audit, not just a draft? Time will tell.

        1. John Marshall Lee, yes, that’s what I’m saying. The DTC members need to hear what you have to say because they will not listen to anyone who supports or is a Republican, yes, the truth is the truth and the facts are the facts but this is Bridgeport, plus there is no Republican who has the skills to talk to Democrats to get things done.

          1. There aren’t that many Republicans talking in the City, are there. Does that mean DTC people will listen to everyone else? Or are there further screens you have to fit through before truth and facts can be understood?
            Is it possible the Democratic party faithful who make up the District Town Committees don’t care about truth or facts? Rather they wish to maintain the status quo and defend it against real or contrived accusations? But here again, who tells me what I am saying is not factual or not the truth? Help lead us all to the light, Ron.

            How do you reach those in power with a message that is factual? A message that will serve to benefit most members of the community rather than just a few. A message that is hopeful, just because more good people are needed in the City to assist youth in gaining skills, attitudes, and expectations to serve broadly as adults. Be my communications adviser for a moment, even if you won’t meet with me in person. How best to proceed from your point of view for the benefit of most of the people of the community? Time will tell.

  3. John Marshall Lee, you are friends with Andy Fardy and understand the DTC as well as anybody and he is a friend of Mario and he and his wife have served the City on different commissions, he can point you in the right direction.

    1. Ron,
      I thought your whole message was for me to move in the left direction (not the right direction). Seriously speaking, I am asking you as a regular writer and reader for the opinion you have, but you have not really shared, other than to tell me where I am wrong.
      Please jot down the necessary steps, and how many years to get to be one member of a District Democratic Town Committee group. And please provide me with how one of those folks gets to pull the strings of the elected rep or guide a message to that same person? What is the method? Who are some string pullers you admire who serve quietly on those DTC groups (and presumably keep themselves up to date with the fiscal activity of the City)? If I have wasted several years in my approach, I don’t want to repeat that to follow your advice, so I need to see some real models of the power and control of which you speak. Time will tell.

  4. I’m just going to play devil’s advocate here for a moment. It seems as if the overwhelming majority opposes people who have city jobs from holding public office. Isn’t it a violation of a person’s constitutional rights to deny them the right to run for public office based on what they do for a living and who employs them? I am inclined to believe it is.

    1. Based on what, Godiva? Fact: it’s illegal for the Speaker of the House of the United States to serve at the pleasure of the President. It’s illegal for the Speaker of the House of the State of Connecticut to serve at the pleasure of the Governor. It’s also illegal for state employees to serve in the Connecticut Legislature. But in Bridgeport it’s perfectly fine for the president of the City Council to work at the pleasure of the mayor? What do you want to do, throw out the City Charter? Fact: The voters of Bridgeport decided they don’t want city employees serving on the City Council. That’s why the provision exists. You don’t believe in checks and balances in government?

      1. Public opinion is the ultimate check and balance. OIB is part of that. However, we’re trying to pry open the juicy stuff here, right?
        To that end, your survey suggests opinions are more important than facts. I agree. In a digital world, everyone knows the facts.
        Circumventing the city charter is something that happens only in Bridgeport.
        If it happens, closing that loophole will be the most anti-climactic event in Bridgeport’s political history.

        1. Q. ow many people in Bridgeport daily read:
          NY Daily News, NY Post, NY Times, or CT POST?? (I talk about reading, not necessarily subscribing and paying for the privilege.)
          Q. How do you draw people to read your publication? Is it with a lot of content covering Sex, Money and Power issues, especially for athletes and celebrities?
          Q. Does electronic media do any more serious job in informing the process of assisting the formation of “opinion” on subjects of local governance than the print media?
          Q. And if they do not provide much assist to opinion formation, then how can you say “public opinion” is the check and balance in governance? If you do not vote every day, and if opinion does not lead you into the streets in riot and revolution, how does one person’s opinion matter to the governance structure, LE? Time will tell.

    2. Godiva–People are only barred from doing both. You can still hold public office, you would only have to quit your job. I.E.- you are only barred from doing both at the same time.

      If the reform passes it will be interesting to see how they will work around it. I.E.- employees getting elected taking a sabbatical from their job while they serve in their elected position and drawing an income from some other source or councilperson starts being a paid position with that pay being equal to your city position. Then at the end of their term the employee returns to their city job.

      1. Andy, wrong. Civil servants in the federal government cannot be members of Congress and most states and cities do not allow their employees to serve on their legislative bodies.

        1. Andy, at least 33 of the 50 states do not allow state employees to serve in the state legislature, including Connecticut. In addition, those that do typically have tough conflict rules on individual legislative matters and they preclude double payment for services rendered to the state. Most cities do not allow city employees to serve on their Councils as well. In addition, the City of Bridgeport has very weak conflict of interest rules and a very poor track record in connection with FOIA requests. The City Attorney’s office also represents the Mayor, the Council and various City Boards and Commissions. The result is unacceptable conflicts, inadequate transparency and poor performance. The taxpayers ultimately pay the price and such is clearly the case in Bridgeport.

  5. Formally establishing guidelines to avoid a conflict of interest is not denial of constitutional rights. The sudden surge in ‘no’ votes suggests an organized effort to distort the poll.

  6. Just watching the vid of McCarthy at the “rehab downtown” presser, is another reason taxpayer paid city employess shouldn’t be allowed on the council. Who was doing his job while they were there announcing Bpt’s downtown will soon be filled with Sec 8 housing?

  7. There is a clear conflict of interest for City employees to serve on the City Council. The City Charter recognizes this conflict and bars City employees from serving on the Council. It’s time to restore home rule and honor both good government principles and the City Charter.

  8. Politics has always been a conflict of interest. It’s wishful thinking to believe otherwise. After all, some think today’s city charter was devised by a socialist who wanted to remove sin from politics. Is anyone who voted for it still alive?
    Loopholes are legal. The law can be changed but it hasn’t been done yet.
    In praise of politicians who are able to stiff-arm socialism!

  9. UpData: In praise of politicians and lawyers who are able to stiff-arm the city charter in a way that is both legal and long lasting.
    Bridgeport has a lot of problems but the City Council’s composition isn’t one of them.

  10. The voters in Bridgeport don’t want City Council Members working for the City. That should be the end of it.

    What perplexes me is WHY the city Administration finds it NECESSARY to look for a loophole. The answer can only be: to advance agendas that serve the administration.

    Opinions can be what they are. The facts are the voters have spoken and are getting this crap shoved down our throats regardless of what we want. It’s infuriating. And corrupt.

  11. Bond Girl, if you haven’t noticed, anytime this administration has something not going their way, they look for a “loophole.” Most of the time Anastasi makes it up as he goes.

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