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Questions Raised About Appointment Process For Library Board Members

February 13th, 2016 · 44 Comments · Analysis and Comment, Library, News and Events

Scott Hughes

Scott Hughes

Some Library Board members want to throw the book at Library Director Scott Hughes for poor performance. Hughes in response is challenging the board’s authority in court, alleging members were never properly appointed by the City Council. It raises questions about the self-appointing authority of the Library Board. If an existing member is reappointed for another three years, must the City Council vet and approve? Former City Council member Bob Walsh argues yes. The City Attorney’s Office is looking into the matter.

“The Library Board has failed to abide by the City Charter in regards to board members,” Walsh asserts. “It seems to have started with them feeling years ago they do not need to forward to the council names for reappointments since it is not a new “appointee” but someone previously vetted by the council. Reappointments to any board or commission always came before the council whether it was their first term or their tenth.”

Library Board of Directors:

President Jim O’Donnell
Vice President Sauda Baraka
Secretary/Treasurer Tom Errichetti
Phylicia R. Brown
Rosalina Roman Christy
Anne Cunningham
Kenya Osborne-Gant
Don Greenberg
William Holden

O’Donnell is an attorney, Holden a Superior Court judge.

From the City Charter:

CHAPTER 16 – LIBRARIES

· Section 1. – Selection of the library directors.

· (a) There shall continue to be a board of directors of the Bridgeport public library which shall be responsible for the management and direction of the Bridgeport public library and shall possess all of the powers and shall perform all of the duties of library directors, as set forth in the general statutes of the state of Connecticut.

· The board of directors of the Bridgeport public library shall consist of nine members who shall be appointed, as provided in sub Section (c) of this section, for terms of three years from the first day of July next succeeding their appointment.
· (c) In June of each year, the board of directors of the Bridgeport public library shall appoint, with the approval of the city council, three persons as library directors to succeed those whose terms are to expire in that year. Vacancies in the membership of the board of directors of the Bridgeport public library shall be filled by the library board, with the approval of the city council, for the unexpired portion of the term vacated.

· Section 2. – Annual Report.

· The board of directors of the Bridgeport public library shall make the report required by Section 11-34 of the general statutes to the mayor and city council on or before the fifteenth of July in each year. Such report shall be for the year ending June 30th.

· Section 3. – Library fund.

· All moneys collected as penalties by the board of directors of the public library for violation of the rules and regulations adopted by the directors for the governance of the library and reading room or that may be collected under other rules and regulations adopted by such directors, and all fines and penalties which may be imposed upon any person for the violation of any city ordinance relative to the use and governance of said public library and reading room, shall be placed in the treasury of said city to the credit of the “Library Fund”, and shall be expended by said directors in the same manner as any other moneys credited to said library fund.

· Section 4. – Klein Memorial—Operation and management.

· The board of directors and trustees of the Bridgeport Public Library is authorized to operate and manage the Klein Memorial in Bridgeport. Such operation and management shall be in accord with the terms this charter concerning civil service, purchasing maintenance and such other laws as affect the operation and management of city property.

· Section 5. – Same—Annual appropriation for operation.

· The city council is authorized to appropriate, annually, to the board of directors and trustees of the Bridgeport Public Library such sums as may reasonably be necessary for the operation and maintenance of said Klein Memorial in the manner and under the conditions provided by law for appropriations to the city’s various departments. Such appropriations shall not affect any amount to be appropriated for library purposes.

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44 Comments so far ↓

  • Jimfox

    See what happens when you have too many Finchettes sitting on the Library Board!
    If they beam Scotty up, the next thing they’ll can is the flucking Dewey Decimal system!

    The bastards!

  • Lisa Parziale

    Bob Walsh is correct. I’ve been off the council since ’04, but I specifically remember approving Jim O’Donnell, first because he was qualified, and second because we lived in the same district. I’m surprised by some of the commission members I know fairly well. I can’t believe they would follow the lead of the two alphas.

  • Ron Mackey

    Library Director Scott Hughes is pointing out not only a problem with the board of directors of the Bridgeport public library but also other boards and commissions in Bridgeport, now it’s time for Mayor Ganim and the City Council to act right away on the Mayor Ganim Transition Team recommendations. Time will tell. Here is the Transition Team recommendation:

    Boards and Commissions

    Findings

    Through this Task Force’s investigation, most, if not all, boards and commissions have seats which are either vacant or have expired terms.

    This indicates that these board and commission members are operating on expired terms if they are even still active on their respective board or commission.

    The status quo from prior administrations appear to have neglected to take a proactive approach in recommending new or renewal members to boards and commissions. This may be an indication that these boards and commissions are not operating productively or efficiently due to a lack of participation from citizens.

    This Task Force reviewed the City Charter, Municipal Code, City Website, and City Clerk’s records for information regarding current or most recent members of each board and commission.

    Recommendations

    1. Update Boards and Commissions and fill all vacancies and expired terms. 2. Issue a press release to search for qualified candidates to fill board and commission seats and place such information on City web site. 3. Review resumes of interested persons. 4. Submit recommendations to City Council for approval. 5. Reassess the scope of each board and commission and update as deemed necessary.

    A comprehensive review of Chapter 2 of the Bridgeport Municipal Code will give guidance as to the terms of each committee, meeting requirements, scope, and powers of each board or commission. This committee has sought to lay out each board or commission name hereunto along with whom we have found, on information and belief, currently serves on said board and commission. This list should be verified with whatever resources the City has available.

  • John Marshall Lee

    The transition committee grasped many of the problems inherent in the way Boards and Commissions operated since the last Charter change more than 20 years ago. The problems and issues referenced have been created when the “rules” were used or “abused” through purposeful inattention to allow vacancies to occur and/or “reigns” to run for long periods WITH NO EVALUATIONS of how members participated or were able.

    Also, who trained a new appointee? What on a City Board or Commission site would instruct as to knowledge expected at the beginning of a term of office and/or training opportunities throughout? If Committee minutes did not contain exhibits or financials as the case may be or were not posted on a Commission or Board site, how easy was it for people to learn the business intended? What are two or three priority goals or purposes with measuring timetables for those priorities? Posted or not? See Walsh recently (and back in the day), my own writings archived on OIB as well as transition team main message, though they say nothing about evaluations and consequences. When people stay on a Board too long (perhaps beyond two full terms), should their Board expertise be applied elsewhere in civic volunteer engagement? Time will tell.

  • Frank Gyure

    Nothing has been said in this article or comments about the political activities of Scott Hughes. Why is that? It seems some others who have had conflict of interest issues drew some very nasty invectives from people on this blog but Scott Hughes gets a pass. We can’t pick and choose whom we will crucify over conflict of interest, or maybe writers on this blog will pick and choose as to whom are guilty or innocent over conflict of interest. I do not believe there is ANY QUESTION WHATSOEVER of Mr.Hughes’ political activities. The question therefore, in his position as director of City Libraries, should he have free rein to dabble or be even heavily involved in local politics or is it too much to ask that a person in his position refrain from politics. Since this matter came up in the last few days, I have thought about it and I feel The Director of City Libraries should be NON-POLITICAL and refrain from political activities. One can parse different aspects of job responsibilities but what is the difference between the the accusations of conflict of interest in the case of Thomas McCarthy and Scott Hughes? Frankly, I think there is a little bit of hypocrisy if you don’t see a problem with the political activities of the Director of City Libraries.

    • Ron Mackey

      Frank Gyure, where in the City Charter does it support your position?

      • Frank Gyure

        It’s called ETHICS. Not enshrined in any law but it is the motherlode of how we craft laws. My sincere opinion is it is unethical for the head of City Libraries to be a political person. Please remain NON-political. Serve the needs of the Library. I was a volunteer page in the Burroughs Library before I could vote. Our Libraries deserve that. It seems Scott Hughes has done a great job as the Director but not hearing any info from the board. I hope he decides to remain a great Director. Wearing too many hats can become a burden.

        • Ron Mackey

          Frank Gyure, whose ETHICS, yours?

          • Frank Gyure

            Ron Mackey // Feb 11, 2016 at 11:51 am
            I like Scott Hughes but if Bill Holden is telling Scott something then Scott needs to pay attention because you won’t find a more honest and respected person than Bill Holden. Scott, don’t let ego get in the way of doing what’s right.

            RON MACKEY, WHY DID YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND IN 48 HOURS? Did someone give you a call?

        • Ron Mackey

          Frank Gyure, nothing has change, I still like Scott and Bill Holden. Someone give me, Ron Mackey a call, lol, you must be new to Bridgeport, when I was a City employee in the Bridgeport Fire Department and I spoke out no one called me and now that I’m retired why would someone call me?

          Boards and Commissions

          Findings

          Through this Task Force’s investigation, most, if not all, boards and commissions have seats which are either vacant or have expired terms.

          This indicates that these board and commission members are operating on expired terms if they are even still active on their respective board or commission.

          The status quo from prior administrations appear to have neglected to take a proactive approach in recommending new or renewal members to boards and commissions. This may be an indication that these boards and commissions are not operating productively or efficiently due to a lack of participation from citizens.

          This Task Force reviewed the City Charter, Municipal Code, City Website, and City Clerk’s records for information regarding current or most recent members of each board and commission.

          Recommendations

          1. Update Boards and Commissions and fill all vacancies and expired terms. 2. Issue a press release to search for qualified candidates to fill board and commission seats and place such information on City web site. 3. Review resumes of interested persons. 4. Submit recommendations to City Council for approval. 5. Reassess the scope of each board and commission and update as deemed necessary.

          A comprehensive review of Chapter 2 of the Bridgeport Municipal Code will give guidance as to the terms of each committee, meeting requirements, scope, and powers of each board or commission. This committee has sought to lay out each board or commission name hereunto along with whom we have found, on information and belief, currently serves on said board and commission. This list should be verified with whatever resources the City has available.

          • John Marshall Lee

            Ron,
            One thing I note was not stated and that is some Boards and Commissions are not located at the site with the rest. Perhaps an explanation of that with purpose would be helpful.
            For instance:
            ** City Hall Commission
            ** Airport Commission
            ** Pension A Board
            ** School Building Committee

            What other groups does the Mayor appoint resident citizens to for public service? And what is the mission, the results and the terms?
            Time will tell.

        • MLopez3

          It seems your objections are mainly rooted in his opposing political views from yours. Mr. Hughes has had a very hard time implementing the necessary changes due to the current board’s issue with his political views. He held the office of Town Committee in his district because he is a resident and the district chose him to represent their interests. As for the Library Board, let us not pretend the majority had an agenda of their own with whom they wanted as Mayor.

  • Frank Gyure

    Who wrote this article? It seems Ganim et al. are getting involved in this since there has been some limited review and comment from City Attorney R. Christopher Meyer about this board. We know Scott Hughes, Director of Libraries, became politicized in the Ganim-Finch faceoff. Is Ganim trying to save Hughes by using his proxy, the City Attorney? Is this article a warning to the Library Board to lay off Scott Hughes? Does not the lawsuit initiate by Scott Hughes seem a bit premature? Are not these type of lawsuits filed more common after termination and the issue becomes legal OR illegal termination?

  • Lisa Parziale

    Frank, I believe you see a conflict with Scott’s position with the library and his politics. Please give me an example of how you came to that conclusion.

    • Frank Gyure

      I really find it hard to believe people can’t see a problem with the political activities of the Director of the Bridgeport Public Library System. First of all, I would like to divorce the position of Director from the person and personality of Scott Hughes. I was a volunteer page at the Burroughs Library before I could vote. I did work with no pay. As a young child I so loved the library we had in the West End, I was reading in the Library and was locked in by the librarians. I had to call my parents and climb through the windows to get out. I borrowed a huge amount of books from the Black Rock Branch and remember June who was the head librarians. We go to libraries to get information–information we hope is unbiased and we can TRUST. If the Director of a Library system becomes political, it sets the standard and sends a message to the community that POLITICS is in the Libraries. This is INEXECUSABLE. I respect Scott Hughes but he really should make a decision. If he REALLY wants to be a true librarian and if he loves the Bridgeport Public Library system and those who patronize the library as a font for unvarnished information and community leadership, he needs to sacrifice any political yearnings and give his heart and soul to the Bridgeport Libraries. If he truly would like to explore the political spectrum in his life, he should leave the Library system that asks for and demands NO BIAS and then give his heart and soul to the political arena that demands BIAS and using skills of persuasion for others to follow the ideals one is espousing.

      • Jennifer Buchanan

        Are you aware of the funding history of the library, the history of raiding the budget for years until recently? Perhaps this is why Scott became publicly active, politically, for the greater good of Bridgeport citizens. I am unaware of any instance where his political views have been promoted in library materials or programs. And Scott and I are on very different political teams. I still respect and like the man.
        Serving on the DTC hardly seems an ethical issue to me. I doubt you are the only person with the concerns you have discussed, seek out others and work to change the statute. It certainly feels very rewarding when the change you believe in is enacted into law.

        • Frank Gyure

          I am quite aware of the change of funding and going to the community of Bridgeport and asking a guaranteed mil rate goes to the Library is vastly different than the other political activities of Mr. Hughes. We need to differentiate the person and the position. The Director of the City Library, whether his/her name is Scott Hughes or Jennifer Buchanan or Frank Gyure, should be NON-POLITICAL. It seems the DTC is usually damned by most people BUT NOT IN THIS CASE. There seems to be a lot of hypocrisy on this matter.

          • Jennifer Buchanan

            Are you aware the city intentionally refused to release the full 1 mil to the library year after year with the plan to repeal the 1 mil, with the argument, see, the library never used or needed the 1 mil? At one point a city councilman said to Scott–in so many words–we are coming after your funding next. Ehen I asked the councilman why, he said the library never used the full 1 mil year after year. When I asked a library board member why they never used the full 1 mil he said they ask for it every year, but the city refused to release the funds. As I recall, that is when Scott threw his hat into the political ring. While I agree with you in theory, no city employee should be elected to office and keep their city job, this one-party rule city and state pretty much bends every ethical, moral and common sense rule, which leads to fight fire with fire. Why Scott is being singled out I cannot answer. My experience (limited as it is) says It Is About The Money.

        • Frank Gyure

          Perusing the Library Board minutes, it looks like Scott Hughes asked for a .25 increase in the Library mil rate. This was rejected by the Board.

      • Lisa Parziale

        Frank, I’m not being contrary. I really believe you feel there is a conflict and that’s why I asked you to explain why you feel that way. Let’s take the name out of the equation, I still can’t understand how there’s a conflict. Anyone holding that position has the right to their political views and actions so long as it doesn’t interfere with their professional responsibilities. The Board is in place to review and insure the libraries are performing, and I haven’t heard they’re not. I’m shaking my head on this one.

  • Bob Walsh

    Frank,
    John Ricci is Director of Public Works. His budget and span of control is much greater than the Library Director. John is running for the Democratic Town Committee. Do you believe this is a conflict of interest? Do you believe this is unethical?

  • Bob Walsh

    Frank,
    Danny Roach is Ganim’s Chief of Staff. He is also a District Leader on the Democratic Town Committee. Is this a conflict of interest? Is this unethical? Please explain.

  • Bob Walsh

    Now Mr. Roach used to serve on the Police Commission. I do not know if he still does. If you ask me is there a conflict there, I would say yes.
    He works directly for the mayor and serves at the will of the mayor. The mayor is in the position to place undue influence on Danny and exercise more governmental control over the Police Dept than is allowed by charter. That is why I would see a conflict there.

  • Bob Walsh

    OK Frank, now let’s look at Tom McCarthy. Tommy is the poster child for conflicts of interest. Tom served at the pleasure of the mayor. He was not only a council member but also Council President. He was a Deputy Director. He is not only a member of the DTC but also a district leader having influence and sway over 10% of the DTC. Are you beginning to see the difference here?
    Tom is involved with negotiating Union contracts one of which determines his and the mayor’s increase. He was also in a position to advise the council their failure to reject the supervisors’ contract would lead to approval and retro increases for Tom and Finch ethics happened. And can go on and will if you continue to compare Scott to Tom.

    • Frank Gyure

      Bob Walsh,
      In the short period of time I have been reading and making comments on OIB, I have generally agreed with your comments and I am surprised and mystified at your complete U-turn on this matter and you seem to be giving the present Library Director a blank check as to the political activities and political offices he has sought in addition to his (City) job as Library Director. You seem to be back-pedaling at a fast and furious pace over this issue of holding a city job and elective office, I would not be surprised if you soon will be advocating Thomas McCarthy to return to his city job. As to the three specific examples you just provided, I will give you my opinion. As to John Ricci and Dan Roach, since their jobs are part of the classic party patronage system and since they serve at the pleasure of the chief executive of the city, the Mayor, their jobs can be instantly terminated. There is even a positive aspect of this in that a Mayor would have his own team that he might be able to establish quickly and govern with the mandate he has been given. As to their city jobs and political involvement (sitting on the DTC), I would say it is neither a conflict of interest nor unethical although, in my opinion, the lifetime “umbilical cord” we see between city jobs and party involvement do not necessarily result in better governance. To borrow an expletive used by another commentator on OIB, the relationship between city jobs and party involvement is incestuous, akin to cousins flucking cousins. It can be done and can happen but it is and should be frowned upon and usually results in bad results. Hence, the performance of our city government. Mr. Ricci is the poster boy for the older generation and Mr. Roach represents the younger generation of cousins flucking cousins. In the case of Mr. Roach, he still sits on the Police Commission so he is wearing three hats. As for Mr. McCarthy, his example is the most incestuous and egregious of mixing City employment with elective office.

  • Ron Mackey

    Frank Gyure, really, what’s your problem with Mr. Hughes? A number of people have told you why and how Mr. Hughes is able to do what he is doing but you don’t like what they say. So Frank, what is your real reason for not accepting the point of view of so many, why don’t you like Scott Hughes?

    • Frank Gyure

      Ron Mackey, February 15. I am going to be making my last comments on this matter since I truly believe I have laid out my case, the Director of the City Library should remain NON-POLITICAl. I am not going to repeat all my comments. I would ask you to review my comments in this thread and the other thread on OIB concerning this matter. I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH SCOTT HUGHES ON A PERSONAL LEVEL. I do not know Scott Hughes personally. People here have come to his defense so I will accept he is seen in a positive way by a fair amount of people. The Library Board has inferred some issues as to his performance as Library Director but I, myself, have not seen or heard anything specific from the Library Board concerning performance about Mr.Hughes. Maybe that information may (or may not) come out in the next Library Board meeting. As to my “real reason for not accepting the view of SO MANY” (or at least the EIGHT who don’t mind Scott Hughes, Director of Libraries becoming overtly political and seeking political office while still maintaining his job), my ONLY reason is exactly what I have stated since this became an issue. I DO NOT BELIEVE ANYONE WHO HOLDS THE POSITION OF DIRECTOR OF CITY LIBRARIES SHOULD SEEK POLITICAL OFFICE AND THE DIRECTOR SHOULD REMAIN NON-POLITICAL AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. If you have read some of my comments, you would have read it is NOT the question of WHO holds the position. My stance in this matter is not directed at Scott Hughes on a personal level.

  • Jimfox

    The Library Director’s job should be Nonpolitical, Non-denominational, Non-binary, and above all Non-sequitur!

  • John Marshall Lee

    The Library Board itself is apolitical, otherwise Judge Holden would be unable to continue his long service to the group for the benefit of the entire reading public. He has reminded those in attendance of that fact at one or more meetings if memory serves me correctly.
    Is that a possible rub?
    There is a Library Board Meeting on Wednesday evening. Let the public show its pleasure and support or displeasure as the case may be. Time will tell.

    • Bob Walsh

      John,
      What does this mean? Apolitical?
      All appointees to the Library Board must be approved by the elected legislative body of the city. The special mil set aside for their budget was approved only by a citizen-approved referendum.
      Is there a requirement that board members MUST refrain from partisan politics? Is there a requirement that directors cannot participate in political activities? Cannot donate money to political campaigns?
      Does this apply to just the board? To all employees?
      Or is it simply because Judge Holden says it’s so you have declared it also?
      I don’t have the time so please do tell. Cite statutory references please so I can follow your research on this matter.

      • Lisa Parziale

        Well said, Bubba!

      • John Marshall Lee

        Bob,
        Is it not enough to hear a sitting judge tell you it is so? Apolitical, meaning “without politics” of the Democrat, Republican or Working Family Party variety. It was enough for me to remember and report when I look out on the CT scene and see sitting judges stay away from the day-to-day fray including service on Boards and Commissions that so often deal with personal politics rather than justice for all issues.

        Bob, I am sorry you have so little time for research these days. Tell us, what is filling your dance card? Posting without research? And why would you wish research from a source you neither trust nor respect? Perhaps you can ask one or more members of the Library Board whether my comment is remembered from a Library Board meeting. Or maybe a librarian will research it for you, when you ask nicely. Time will tell.

      • Frank Gyure

        Bob Walsh,
        You are using a rhetorical strategy of applying a black-and-white standard to situations that are matters of degrees of grey but there are statutory codes which govern the combination of city jobs and elective office. In terms of LIMITED political activity and donating money, we run into issues of First Amendment Rights (Freedom of Speech) and donation of money has been further protected by the Supreme Court in the CITIZENS UNITED VS FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION (2010). As to the selection of board members (whether it is the Library or any other board) the general goal is to select individuals who will use common sense and self-control as to their political activities (implying it will be LIMITED) and their participation on the boards is to maintain the good performance of the entity they are entrusted with. Is there a complete vacuum of political considerations? Of course not. Since board members are chosen by the mayor and common council, political considerations do play a role, but hopefully a minor one.

    • Frank Gyure

      I just may really have to attend this meeting.

  • Lisa Parziale

    Good point, JML.

  • Tom White

    Well, another day of comments on OIB.

    Some actually checked the minutes of library board meetings to see what has lead up to this situation.

    Others, as usual, cut and paste (that is not research) and others make humorous comments while others shoot from the hip and win the praise of others.

    JML makes a logical, concise statement and Bob Walsh, the master ‘shoot from the hipper,’ demands JML cite ‘statutory references.’

    Bob Walsh, I am sure you are aware the positions of Ricci, Roach and others serve at the pleasure of the mayor as detailed in the city charter. They are what are typically referred to as political appointees. The library director is selected by the library board as covered in state statute (Chapter 190) and the board’s bylaws. It is an approach that has historically insulated their role from partisan politics.

    Let’s all hope an amiable approach to addressing the board’s concerns can be agreed to and put in place.

  • Ron Mackey

    All this for the Appointment Process For Library Board Members. But silence on life and death problems.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Ron: Nothing has changed since the election. We have a new shithead running the city the same as Finch. R (that cracks me up) Chris Meyers is hiding in his office. Ganim has stuck his nose in the police department, and why?
    Somehow we will end up with an old tired retired cop who quit Bridgeport the last time he worked here as chief of the department.

  • Frank Gyure

    02/15/2016 2:30PM. I’m pretty much finished with comments on this subject. Thoroughly discussed.

    • Frank Gyure

      WELL, SO MUCH FOR THAT!!! JUST WAS PERUSING THE MINUTES OF THE LIBRARY’S BOARD MEETING ON OCTOBER, 2015.

      City Librarian Hughes informed the Board of Directors that the Library’s Application for a State Library Construction Grant in the amount of one million dollars was not accepted due to a failure to file it by the deadline stipulated in State Statute. He took responsibility for the missed deadline and said it was due to a failure of communication and misinterpretation. Director Greenberg expressed great dismay at the major failure of our highest priority. Director Baraka suggested further inquiry into the matter be sent to the Personnel Committee for discussion and/or action.

      • Frank Gyure

        In other words, Scott Hughes BLEW a million dollar grant from the State of Connecticut towards the construction of new libraries. I would invite all commentators here to read the minutes of the Library Board meetings, and you will see a very distinct pattern emerge.

  • Frank Gyure

    I’ve been reading the minutes of the meetings of the Library Board. Very interesting.

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