Pullman & Comley To Remain As City Bond Counsel

Bridgeport-based law firm Pullman & Comley’s 20-year run as city bond counsel led by partner John Stafstrom will continue, according to City Attorney R. Christopher Meyer who says the firm submitted the strongest and least expensive proposal after the city solicited price proposals for upcoming bond counsel services from qualified firms in Connecticut.

“We felt their proposal was the best for the taxpayers and they are a Bridgeport firm,” said Meyer. “It is of the utmost importance to myself and Mayor Ganim to make decisions for the ultimate benefit of the taxpayer not politics.”

It doesn’t hurt that Stafstrom, former Democratic town chair, also has a strong relationship with Governor Dan Malloy, something Ganim will need to maximize state financial support for the city as he tries to close a current year budget gap while building the next budget for the year beginning July 1. The General Assembly heads into session next month. Stafstrom’s nephew Steve Stafstrom is a member of the State House where relationships are also key to drive home state dollars.

Pullman & Comley was first appointed bond counsel under Joe Ganim and remained there through the John Fabrizi and Bill Finch mayoral years. Stafstrom, a mighty fundraiser, supported the reelection bid of Finch who lost to Ganim in the Democratic primary. Stafstrom then backed petitioning candidate Mary-Jane Foster in the general election that Ganim won handily.

The City Council’s Budget and Appropriations Committee at a meeting Monday night were also informed that Pullman & Comley will stay on as bond counsel, a specialized area of legal practice that provides guidance in structuring financial and development transactions.

City fiscal watchdog John Marshall Lee attended the session and provides this report:

A mostly attentive group of 10 current City Council members including all seven members of the Budget and Appropriations Committee were present for that monthly session last evening. Three items were on their Agenda:
· Minutes of the December 2015 meeting were tabled for corrections.
· A review of the November monthly financial report, in an executive summary format with VARIANCES indicated that produce a likely projected deficit of $20 Million by June 2016
· Bonding Resolution that would approve refunding of some existing bonds and the issuance of $6.25 Million in new bonds from the previously authorized Capital budget of $42 Million.

In addition to Council members and their recording clerk, Nestor Nkwo, Ken Flatto and Bill Fazzioli (sp?) were present to provide fiscal commentary on the latter two items in the face of many basic questions about specific revenue or expense line items. However there was no general question as to what G2 administration has in mind to deal with the huge deficit despite the presence of Mayoral representatives, Roach, DePara, and (Tom) Gaudett.

The bonding resolution, if adopted by the City Council at its next meeting will allow as much as $3 Million to be saved this year in operating budget by the City, with another $3 Million next year and into the future, without extending the repayment calendar any longer than they are today. So far, so good, it seems. Relative to the items selected for new funding including Public Facilities $2 Million, Fire Department $1,250 Million, Economic Development $750,000 (mostly for land acquisition) and Police Department $2,250 Million (mostly for fleet upgrade and re-equipping cars) the members were reminded at least three times by member Brantley that while running for office, Ganim had promised sidewalk repairs. The discussion allowed those assembled to increase Public Facilities funding for Paving/Culverts/Intersections by $500,000 with an amendment.

No question was raised as to what this added sum would cost in the new budget year 2016-17. No question or comment was raised about the continuation of using 20-year bonding to fund vehicles that last only 3-5 years per City budget policy. No specific question was raised in how a large transfer of OPED funds ($750,000 or greater) was made without their knowledge in “late 2015.” Where were those funds applied? By whom? (There was a request for presentations from finance in the future to be paginated.) But there was no request that the status of all Capital Accounts be part of a regular report to the B&A group! Why not?

Pullman, Comley will be the new, as well as former, City bond counsel based on their response to the recent request that brought forth a good number of responses. Flatto was questioned as to why the bond counsel was not present and responded that at $300 per hour or whatever a specific professional may charge, he is aware and concerned with such expenses and tries to avoid such when possible. (That was an unusual comment to hear. As the sole ‘taxpayer’ representative in the meeting room I applauded him for common sense.) Look for more of that behavior in the future.

Perhaps the most revealing discussion dealt with the Monthly Financial Report. A revenue item, Police Outside Overtime Reimbursement, was budgeted in error by $1 Million. Have you always heard that this line item produces a profit for the City? Well it seems that it does not any longer since the Police Department contract moved to MERS. The State is requiring a 20-year amortization of past service costs close to $5 Million annually in addition to lump sums transferred to the State from Plan B assets several years ago. And that is not all, because we are also paying $300,000 per month currently to the State extra for the amount of Overtime currently getting rung up. That gets us to the $8,700,000 deficit for Police pensions showing up under Health Benefit Administration, rather than in the Police Department budget where I will argue, it belongs.

What it means at the moment is the undermanned, and seemingly over-administered Police Department, while having to deal with serious issues of public safety daily, is costing ever more to taxpayers. Who is studying that issue with a long-term plan in mind? When can it be shared with the public and monitored by review of certain City line items in the monthly report? Does traffic control for outside contractors today require what has been in place for 40 years, or is there a simpler and more just solution that would provide jobs, benefits and training to a new and different group of City residents? Time will tell.



  1. Not surprising, the talk that came out the other day was pure BS. We all knew this was going to happen. Anyone who thinks things will be different under Ganim is in for a surprise.

  2. John and Steve Stafstom’s relationship with the State should not be commingled with the City’s recommendation to retain Pullman and Comley/John Stafstrom as bond council. The true reason, I believe, is they have performed well for the City of Bridgeport and will most likely be chosen to continue to do so. In politics, it’s not uncommon to add reasons that have nothing to do with reality. As for the comment from Brantley regarding Mayor Ganim’s realization as to the condition of City sidewalks, it was me who walked with him through my district (132nd) and saw his shock when we almost fell a half dozen times. If she weren’t so busy backing a loser, it might have been her observation also.

  3. I would be remiss if I didn’t remind folks she cost the taxpayers $85,000 granted to a public speaker whom she attacked while he was speaking before a City Council meeting. That settlement would have gone a way in improving some sidewalks, instead, rightfully so, the aggrieved speaker has seen justice and we’re carrying the freight. Out with Evette Brantley!!!

    1. If memory serves me correctly while other council members jumped into the melee in defense of their colleague and further attacked that speaker, her very own council partner just sat there with a look of horror on his face. Not once did he move to help her out.

  4. *** Did anyone really expect any relevant questions from the B&A on the financial report or bonding funds, etc? Of course not!!! The blind B&A leading the other blind council members, no? *** We’ll see come budget time! ***

  5. Lisa, this is more than about sidewalks in need of repair I assure you. And it’s also about Council members keeping their ears and eyes open to process the substance of what we are learning weekly.
    Need more of the public attending some of these meetings, raising questions that come to your mind as you hear the stories unwind. Perhaps you will raise your hand and be allowed by a Committee Chair to participate with a question or comment. More public observation and comments to Council members is one way to speed change.

    Let’s keep the public eyes on “reducing the deficit” at the same time as we discover the “errors” made, the redirection of monies without City Council approval, the “embargo” of Capital budget information from the Council and the public except when a vote on the process was necessary, the “go along to get along” attitude of many City Council members who have not worked to reinstate legislative assistants who can do the research, answer the questions, and make them look much brighter than they have ever appeared, and the fear of asking questions. That is a lot to overcome, and the list is not exhaustive. I have observed the behavior for too many years. At the moment many folks on all sides of the governance issue seem ready to cooperate.

    Let us see what else is in store for us to digest as taxpayers as “parting gifts” from the Finch team. We will wish we were able to recover dollars spent by them during the past eight years, I am sure, but are such actions open to us? Who moved what monies from one place to another to what end? That’s just one big question to be answered by: TIME WILL TELL.

  6. Well said, John. I’m a bit preoccupied for the next few weeks, but I will be joining you and following your lead. I respect your knowledge and the time you dedicate for the good of Bridgeport.

  7. Bubba, I still feel guilty about dumping that despicable woman on you, but don’t rub it in, I’m sorry. She has to go down as the worst, most incompetent, selfish member ever to serve on the CC. She raided stipend funds, voted for tax increases, cost the taxpayers $85,000 because of her anger issues, and still the rocket scientists on the Town Committee supported her nomination. Shame on Mike Freddino, Tony Lancis, Elaine Piverotto and Reggie. They don’t belong on the 132nd TC. As JML says, “time will tell.”

  8. *** Hey Lisa, you got that right about being one of the worst, most incompetent, selfish, hot-tempered member to serve on the council! But stop and look around at some of the other 19 members, no? ***

  9. Ralph, come back or move to my district, I’ll be looking for two good people to take Brantley and Olson’s place. Time goes by quickly in politics, they’ll be gone before anyone realizes who they are. Come on Ralph, you’re the best.

  10. On one hand you’ve got Brantley, an over-opinionated, can’t keep quiet, angry woman. Then you have Amy Vizzo-Paniccia, who never lets her opinions be known, doesn’t take a stand on anything, and in fact hardly talks at all during the meetings. Which is worse?

    1. Pretty sure the husband of council woman Vizzo-Paniccia has a six-figure contract to repair police (and possibly city) cars–perhaps that factor can help balance the equation of which is worse.

  11. Harvey, I admit neither are good for the City, however Brantley is by far the worst. She has no filter, boundaries or conscience. She was elected because of her deal made with the Mayor. Her vote, her partner Warren Blunt’s vote, and the nomination for Clemons bought her. Finch put paid people, including city employees in her district to gather absentee ballots for her. She is not well-received by the constituency in the Brooklawn area, so she needed intervention by Finch during the primary. In addition, she had no real opposition so it wasn’t hard to accomplish. Finch is gone now, so let’s see how she fares on her own. In addition to Finch, she had John Stafstrom walking with her. I have notified John Stafstrom if I get one indication he’s sticking his nose in this district primary, there will be consequences. I would hate to see his nephew go through an unnecessary primary because of his uncle’s poor judgment. I conveyed to him he should enjoy his good fortune and be invisible in the 132nd race. Let’s see! While John is good at what he does, he doesn’t always use common sense. Time will tell! As John S. knows, I always find out when he’s doing something he shouldn’t be doing. That’s what 30 years of knowing him allows me. I know him better than anyone in local politics and I hope he realizes that all’s fair in love, war and politics!!!

    1. Lisa, all primaries are necessary, as our neighborhood grows and become more integrated, there will be a noticeable shift in representation. One day Steve will probably make a good congressional candidate, but in a city where the voters only recently proved the “Status Quo” can be defeated, he may want to distance himself from Himes, he may just be his next opponent. That Mayor seat must have looked within reach until Mayor Joe won! Oh and Congrats to Pullman & Comley, I had the pleasure of working with some of their lobbyists in Hartford and they always proved themselves honorable.

      1. Hector, as always I agree with you. I’m leading this primary because I believe it’s time to make room for younger, bright individuals in the 132nd district. The present slate consists of a bunch of self-serving individuals. Mike likes the title of District Leader, 85-year-old Olson needs something to occupy his time as well as being intent on voting to raise our taxes, Brantley loves that stipend money, Reggie Walker now out of a job is submitting his resume to “gulp” Joe Ganim. Lancia still can’t get over losing a primary he waged against Joe Ganim when Joe was only in his second two-year term. Poor Joanie Thornton tried to resign on two occasions and Freddino wouldn’t submit her resignation because he wanted control over her vote. I’ll leave Pivorotto alone because I believe she’s just misled. Carol Cocco and I are the only two members who are there for the right reasons. If my slate prevails, we already discussed some of us stepping aside to look for new blood. If God forbid the hangers-on prevail, we should just keep a funeral transport van on speed-call, because that’s the only way we’ll see a new generation in the 132nd district.

  12. Lisa,
    It does not surprise me there was more than met the proverbial eye in the 132 Council Race. John Stafstrom walked with Brantley? My reason not to like the guy. No shame.

  13. I for one am glad Pullman & Comley is keeping this contract. They are arguably the absolute best in the bonding capacity. They have been working with the City for quite a long time. They know their way around the bonding landscape here and all the nuances associated therewith. They are a Bridgeport firm so they do their fair share to support OUR economy. The fact the contract was put out to bid and they were selected for the reasons Meyer stated (which are very relevant if you ask me) makes the choice of them even more appropriate. This choice is the best for the City. The fact Stafstrom still makes big bucks off it is irrelevant to me.

    1. I don’t recall any comments on this blog, so far, with anyone being concerned with the compensation P&C receive for services rendered. I also don’t recall anyone stating the firm is not competent, and good for Bridgeport. So what’s the point of the above blog by ZL? If she’s who I think she is, don’t feel guilty for pulling Stafstrom’s political cover. My warning to him saves your ass also.

  14. Zena Lu,
    You certainly have hit the critical points. Professional capacity, continuity of representation, and lowest cost for bond representation are three good reasons for celebrating this action by the City Attorney’s office. We have been using PC for two TANs annually to meet City cash flow needs as well as bonding for Capital needs every couple years. PC understands the drill better than a new firm, which would have to get up to speed with City processes, and has adjusted their bid accordingly it seems.

    What John Stafstrom does outside of the role, professionally, avocationally, etc. seems irrelevant to this assignment, so I agree with you. However, would it be reasonable to ask whether the contract with the City has an expiry date, or some time period indicated where another review may be called for? Time will tell.

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