Black Rock resident Jennifer Buchanan, host of the Bridgeport Now cable access show, has asked the Internal Revenue Service to examine taxpayer-financed stipend expenditures of City Council members that “show payment to cell phone providers, Cable TV, grocery stores, drug stores, hardware stores and many restaurants.” If council members leverage stipends for personal use, must taxes be paid?
Council stipends, $9000 a year in lieu of compensation, have been debated on OIB. Theoretically, the stipends exist to cover costs associated with council responsibilities, but some members of the 20-person budget and legislative body, according to Buchanan, have taken latitude with how the taxpayer money is spent.
In a letter to the IRS requesting a review Buchanan asserts “I, like most citizens want to see my tax dollars allocated in compliance with IRS rules, just as I file my tax returns in compliance with IRS rules. It is never a good day when citizens find reason to ask for a higher governing body to investigate their local elected officials, however, sadly that day has arrived.” More from Buchanan’s letter to the IRS:
There appear to be 2 issues concerning the voting on and and disbursement of local, state and federal tax funds and the use of tax free Stipends funds by the Bridgeport CT City Council. I have enclosed official Ethics investigation request as well as documents regarding the disbursements in question. I would very much appreciate your help in investigating this matter. I have enclosed disbursement statements, Stipend disbursement statements and Bridgeport City Monthly financial analysis reports. Please note I have filed form 13909 with supporting documents. Please let me know if you wish a copy of the supporting documents.
The 20 member elected city council is the governing body to vote on and approve the city budget. The Mayor submits the budget, the most recent was 530,000,000 consisting of local tax and fees with revenue of about 300,000,000 and state and federal funds combined to make up the budget shortfall …
Many city council members are also full time city employees … The city employees all vote on the final combined funds budget.
$180,000 fund called City Council Stipends (item 51402 under Legislative Department on the general ledger), is approved to reimburse members for expenses specific to their duties. The city council members have approved and disbursed excess funds in their name from year end using the excess of the $180,000 to various charitable and religious organizations as Supportive Contributions. City Council members also have a debit card to access, which was set up so the council people would not have to pay income taxes on the stipends.
City Council members have a suite of offices, complete with computers, cable TV, Wi-Fi, copy machines, fax machines and telephones with 24 hour access at the City of Bridgeport Office building, 999 Broad Street, Bridgeport CT. The enclosed stipend statements show payment to cell phone providers, Cable TV, grocery stores, drug stores, hardware stores and many restaurants.