A public hearing for House Bill #5886 to enforce the Bridgeport City Charter barring city employees from serving on the City Council will take place Friday 11 a.m. in Room 2B of the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, according to State Rep. Jack Hennessy who introduced the legislation with State Senator Marilyn Moore. Meanwhile a petition advanced by City Councilman Enrique Torres supporting the legislation has been signed by hundreds of residents.
Hennessy is urging supporters of the bill to provide testimony before the Planning and Development Committee. If you cannot attend but want to submit testimony send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mayor Bill Finch, in words and actions, has ignored the Bridgeport City Charter approved by city voters that bars city employees from serving on the City Council to avoid conflicts of interest such as approving their own wages and benefits. Finch has balked at enforcing the charter and supporting the legislation primarily to protect strong ally City Council President Tom McCarthy who receives a six-figure salary serving at the pleasure of the mayor as deputy director of Labor Relations. Supporters of the state reform bill argue it’s impossible for taxpayers to get the best bang for their buck when the head of the legislative branch works at the pleasure of the mayor in violation of checks and balances.
Bridgeport City Attorney Mark Anastasi dubiously cites a loophole in state law as a pretext to violating the City Charter. State law prohibits public employees from serving on municipal boards of finance. The Bridgeport City Council, however, serves as a board of finance. The bill proposed seeks simply to extend state law to prohibit municipal employees from serving on any government body that has budget authority.
Hennessy’s reform bill has been killed in the past by elected officials doing the bidding of the political establishment, in particular Anthony Musto and Andres Ayala, both of whom are no longer in the State Senate.
One noteworthy person who says he’ll testify in support of the bill is retired FBI agent Ed Adams who led the investigation more than a decade ago that toppled the mayoral administration of Joe Ganim. Says Adams …
Having city employees serve on the City Council in and of itself is a conflict of interest. The Bridgeport City Council votes on pay raises, contracts and employee benefits. Therefore the City employees on the Council will vote to line their pockets with raises and better benefits rather than curb spending and think of the taxpayers. It’s a selfish act but it is human nature to look out for numero uno. It makes good sense to prohibit such a situation and I have no idea why we have not heard Mayor Finch supporting the passage of the current reform bill.
Torres says he will submit the petition at Monday’s scheduled City Council meeting as well as at the legislative public hearing on Friday.
To expect an honest political process in the City of Bridgeport the City Council must be an independent legislative body of government; a balance to the power of the mayor. What is wrong with the Common Council is exemplified by Council President Tom McCarthy. Tom works directly for the mayor. The mayor may fire him without cause. Tom has no free will to represent us. Tom is the deputy director of labor relations. He has control over the other Councilmen who work for the city. All of this leads to a city completely run out of the mayor’s office, without oversight.
Bridgeport residents object to this practice. Our City Charter prohibits the behavior. State law prohibits the behavior for Finance Boards which generally control budgetary processes. Bridgeport, however, eliminated its Finance Board and rolled the Finance Board’s purview to the Common Council. State law does not provide for this particular type of governance. It is silent on the matter. However, it is clear of the intent of the state law; namely to deny legislators the ability to vote on their own salaries.
Judging by the cross section of community support from residents and members of the city’s legislative delegation, it appears a whole bunch more than the mayor asserts care about checks and balances in government. From the online petition followed by a sampling of supporters:
We the undersigned, want the enforcement of the Bridgeport City Charter banning city employees from serving on the Common Council. We also demand the elimination of all other conflicts-of-interests from city departments, boards, commissions and council.
Marge Hiller: The lack of regard of the Conflict of Interest statute in Bridgeport is disgraceful.
Sara Witherington: It’s long overdue.
Diane Speer: This is such a simple concept … no conflict of interest makes for better city government.
Ray Laroche: The problem IS Bill Finch. He must fly away and let Bridgeport prosper to greatness it once was.
Lynda Bluestein: If you want a job with the City apply for it. If you want to serve the City in elective office, run for it. Just don’t do both. It’s so wrong for so many reasons.
John Stevens: I have lived in Bridgeport for 33 years … I’m tired of the corruption.
Jesse Rodriguez: I’m tired of getting taxed for people that don’t want to work. Tired working paycheck to paycheck to provide for my family
Tom Errichetti: I’m signing because I believe the City Charter provisions should overrule state rule where City rule is more restrictive–and separation of governing individuals and employment is good policy.
David Riccoboni: City employees should not be able to serve on the Common Council. This is such a blatant conflict of interest.
Patricia Fardy: It time for change, this has been going on for too long.
Howard Gardner: This is overdue!
Mary Farrington: The hard working taxpayers of Bridgeport can no longer support the corrupt ways of our city.
Frank Porco: Favoritism has no place in Politics. It rots the system.
Ron Barber: I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.
Carlos Silva: there is a lot of political games being played and it only hurts the citizens of Bridgeport.
John Iannuzzi: This is absurd that we even need a petition like this … but OIB.
Cecilia Manley: Bridgeport needs to be free of conflicts of interest and corruption.
Cecelie Cooper: I’m signing this because there’s absolutely no checks and balances when you have those who serve in politics and are also employed by the mayor/chief of staff. When it comes to decision making most council members make irrational decisions for the community because they’re not thinking about the people, but rather their job because they’re afraid of losing the job if they do not act in the best interest of the mayor and his cronies.
Jeff Burr: Elected officials shouldn’t have city jobs.
William Verespe: Why are we not following the charter? Seems kind of ridiculous to me.
Melanie Jackson: We need to clean up our city government and eliminate conflicts.
Angel Reyes: I want to eliminate the corruption in Bridgeport.