Ricci: ‘You Be The Judge’–Issues Statement On Airport Controversy, “Acted Only As Directed By City”

John Ricci, terminated by the city as airport manager, issued a statement to OIB Thursday afternoon explaining, “By revealing that I had a long history and close friendship with Manny (Moutinho) to everyone involved, in effect, I recused myself at all levels of my participation and acted only as directed by the City Attorneys’ Office and did nothing including making any expenditures without its approval.”

This is Ricci’s first public remarks on the matter following his suspension with pay by the city in connection with an airport improvement project for the municipally owned Sikorsky Memorial Airport. His full statement follows:

You be the Judge …

In early March 2013 I was informed by Associate City Attorney Lisa Trachtenburg that an access road servicing four property owners, one of whom is Manny Moutinho, needed to be removed to complete a Safety Improvement Project at the Airport. Removing this road would deny the property owners access to their homes. A few years earlier these same property owners approached the Airport to request that their right of way over Airport property be relocated to construct a new access road because of frequent flooding conditions on the road in their existing right of way. The request was approved by the Airport Commission and Manny Moutinho for himself and the other property owners made application to the Town of Stratford Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission and Stratford Zoning Board of Appeals to construct a new road which was approved except that the adjoining property owners, Breakwater Key Condo Association, appealed the decision of the Stratford Board of Appeals. Manny and his neighbors decided not to build the road until the appeal would be decided.

The safety improvement project was on a Congressional-mandated deadline and was in jeopardy because relocation of the access road was holding it up. The City Attorneys’ Office was the facilitator for the project so the City Attorney decided that the City had an obligation to provide the four property owners an alternate access to their homes/properties. The City Attorney then decided that the most expeditious way to get this done was to acquire the approval rights from Manny to construct a new access road. The City Attorney also decided that the City would pay all costs and assume all conditions to get the access road built. These decisions presented a problem for me. I had an association and long history with Manny and these decisions involved the Airport of which I was manager. Every time Manny or his Company Mark IV Construction had any dealings with the Airport in the past I would recuse myself from the process which is well documented. The Airport Commission and the City Attorneys’ Office was aware of my recusals on certain matters.

Knowing of my having a close relationship with and direct access to Manny, I was directed by Lisa Tractenburg to obtain a proposal from Manny to acquire his rights to construct the new access road regardless. Manny consented to transfer his rights but he made three demands contingent to the transfer. He wanted to be reimbursed for all his costs to get the approvals, he wanted the City to pay for all costs going forward to develop finalized plans to his standards and Town of Stratford imposed conditions to issue a permit and he wanted an opportunity to bid on the work. The City Attorneys’ Office agreed to all of his demands and after its review of the costs incurred by Manny to date I was directed by Lisa Tractenburg to pay Manny $46,000 for his rights and get the final construction plans completed which cost the City an additional $10,000. The final plans were done to the Town Of Stratford standards and imposed conditions which increased the cost of construction considerably. The costs of the access road before construction started stood at $56,000.

Lisa Tractenburg, to keep on schedule to meet the Congressional deadline decided to use a Qualified Purchase which is an expedited process to choose a contractor to build the access road. The City Purchasing Agent suggested that she get three Qualified Price Quotes (QPQs). Lisa Tractenburg directed me to get the three OPQs, one of which must come from Manny by prior agreement and I choose the other two. My choices were based on using Bridgeport contractors with known qualifications because they had done work at the Airport/City before. Contrary to what was written in newspaper articles, I received all three QPQs on the same day, April 16, 2013. I submitted the QPQs to Lisa Tractenburg and she/the Purchasing agent awarded the contract to construct the road to Mark IV Construction based on price. The contract was drawn up by Lisa Tractenburg and she instructed me to sign it on behalf of the City.

Knowing that there was an appeal that Manny decided to wait out for a judgment, the City Attorney still decided the City would take the risk and proceed to build the access road regardless. During construction, for my part in it, I hired a Professional Engineer at a cost of $4,400 to oversee the project to insure all requirements were met and I could deal arms length with Manny to avoid any conflict under the City’s Code of Ethics. The only extra cost on the job was the addition of a second fire hydrant required by the Stratford Fire Department which cost $5,500. The total cost of construction paid to Mark IV Construction was $394,500. Another expense unanticipated was $16,000 to Aquarian to inspect, test and charge the eight-inch water main installed to feed the hydrants. Also once completed the Town of Stratford requires that an as-built construction plan and survey be prepared which I estimate would cost at least $12,000. So adding it all up the total costs to date are just below $483,000. The costs are still increasing because now the city Attorneys’ Office is negotiating a settlement with Breakwater Key Condominiums on the appeal taken by them. What will that cost? Another $60,000 or $70,000? This does not include any additional legal costs the City now faces. This road will most likely have a total cost of $600,000. However, I did negotiate the sale of surplus Airport properties which should net the Airport $1,200,000 and by federal law must be used for capital improvements at the Airport. Some of the money from these property sales could be used to pay the costs of the access road instead of using money that was bonded for the Safety Improvement Project or City budget dollars.

During the entire process of getting the access road constructed I made no assumptions or decisions regarding method of procurement, final choice of contractor, or award of contract for construction. By revealing that I had a long history and close friendship with Manny to everyone involved, in effect, I recused myself at all levels of my participation and acted only as directed by the City Attorneys’ Office and did nothing including making any expenditures without its approval. Regardless of what was reported by the Connecticut Post through a series of clever cut and paste articles the extent of my business relationship with Manny throughout the entire process was that I received mortgages at prevailing market rates with full consideration from a licensed lender in which he is a principal.

Because many decisions were made above my level, be they good or bad, the Safety Improvement Project is still in jeopardy and a lot of taxpayers’ money could be spent for nothing. There could be a less expense alternative which I will bring out at a later date.

During the investigation done by the Office Of labor Relations it was alleged that I may not have performed my duties properly as my job description requires so just for the record, not as a defense, I will state that I have served under 10 of the last 11 Mayors with nearly 40 years of service to the City with a squeaky clean personnel file and numerous accomplishments. Does anyone really think I would put that record at risk? You be the judge. However questions regarding the process still remain:

Who signed the bid waiver or does one exist?

Why the lack of information to the City Council or the public about the bid waiver and the decisions made?

Why was the contract drawn up for my signature and not for the Mayor to sign? It is now known publicly that Manny was a financial supporter of Mayor Finch, did the administration create a public controversy by trying to avoid one?

Was my friendship with Manny regarded as a benefit by the City Attorney’s Office when I was directed to approach him?

Did the Mayor really not know about my close relationship with Manny especially when the investigation proved I had recused myself because of that relationship at a meeting he was chairing?

Did the Mayor lie to the public, or did the City Attorney lie to the City Council on July 1, 2013?

Did the administration create a bigger controversy than actually existed to cover up incompetence?

Maybe someone will find the answers, and once known publicly, you can be the judge.



  1. If you follow the money, this is just the tip of the iceberg of what this is going to cost the city. I hope the City Council reads this piece and starts demanding answers from the Mayor and Mark Anastasi.

    1. Trust me, Follow the Money, Mark Anastasi will copy this piece; do some cut and paste; and “demand” the City Council accepts his recommendations on the matter.

  2. Statement from Finch:
    “In a statement issued by the city Thursday afternoon, Mayor Bill Finch said he will be implementing new reporting requirements for officials to monitor compliance with the city;s Code of Ethics. Ricci’s case has also been referred to the city’s Ethics Commission.”

    Did Finch, Wood and their spouses ever disclose to the Ethics Commission their relationship with Bill Becarro, who was on the pad for $91k a year, and People for Excellence in Government PAC?

    1. “O” how the morally corrupt politician will compromise the interest of the taxpayer at the slightest whiff of the sweet smell of political success.–Author Unknown

  3. The entire City Council should RESIGN!

    Drivewaygate will cost the city taxpayers over a million dollars just in legal fees when Attorney Saxl gets done with us.

    Oust Finch Now!

  4. More wasted taxpayers’ money, instead of Finch and company taking the blame, they fire Ricci, he takes a vacation, sues, gets his job back, and Finch says I did my job by firing him and everything goes back to status quo.

    1. Exactly, concerned, just like the firing of the Public Facilities personnel (names forgotten) who were running a minority-owned business on the side and being awarded contracts. Taken to court and found city did not follow proper procedure, awarded job back. “Well, we gave it the old college try but the courts overruled us again … and again … and again …”

      1. Not all of those employees were fired. One is still out on paid leave and has been out since 2011. The fact his father is a district leader has absolutely nothing to do with it.

    2. Agree 100%. Finch will say I did the right thing. I terminated him. Blame the court for overruling me.
      By the way, based on what happened with the Vallas case, should we expect the city to pay for Ricci’s legal defense?
      We probably will one way or the other. Upfront or when the judge orders it on the back end.

  5. *** For someone who’s been there so long and knows the ropes and many of the players, why would Ricci continue to pursue this project and also sign on behalf of the city anything with Mark IV construction (Manny) knowing the possibility exists of a “conflict of interest?” Was he just trying to do the right thing for the taxpayers still knowing the city and the Finch Admin have a history of throwing employees under the bus to save face; I don’t buy it! The city has or had in place a system by which you just about have to jump through hurdles just to purchase a box of pencils for a city dept, never mind getting the proper agreements for contracts and the rest of the purchasing requirements needed and legal screenings to move forward. And for the Mayors office, city council and committee, city attorneys office, etc. to all claim little or not at all awareness of the actual facts concerning this quick $400,000. road relocation to be able to continue forward with an airport safety improvement project is political B/S! There’s more to this screw-up, lots more and all the FOI paperwork should be applieed for as well as an outside investigation. And to believe this is the “first and only time” a rush to judgement in bypassing city protocol, or back-room city deals costing thousands of dollars, etc.. would be ludicrous! *** CITY GOVERNMENT VOTED IN BY 18% OF THE PEOPLE! ***

  6. Not to repeat myself, but … Finch, Wood, et al. wouldn’t know ethics if it bit them on their incredibly wide and available asses. And the taxpayers of Bridgeport are over and over and over again left holding the bag for their incompetence and arrogance. This is just one more example of their incompetence and arrogance. What a sad, sorry joke.

  7. Wasn’t the City Council waiting for a report on the Driveway Deal from the City Attorney? Now that Ricci is terminated, will the report be ready? Will the report be consistent with what Ricci stated here? Will the City Attorney claim the matter is under litigation and therefore he cannot comment?

  8. “It’s very common people have long personal relationships who deal with one another in the city,” Bohannon said.

    “Finch said, as a result, department heads and employees involved in procurement will file annual disclosure forms in which the staffer must reveal any financial or personal interests that may conflict with city contracts.”

    Will the mayor ask Bohannon who these “people” are? Nice to know there is communication between the administration and City Departments.
    www .ctpost.com/local/article/Ricci-fired-as-airport-manager-4701591.php

  9. Ricci is the Sacrificial Lamb in this deal to obfuscate the ineptitude of the city attorney’s office. They made Ricci an offer he could refuse, retire. He balked and then they terminated him. I think he will be serving the city for unlawful termination and make some mint jelly from the court Ricci is fast approaching 70. I bet he knows how to spell CHRO!

      1. He is no criminal either. He knew exactly what he is doing and what he was doing.
        He put out there for public consumption the facts as he knows them.
        Finch has offered nothing. Remember, we did everything by the book. We did nothing wrong.
        If you believe anything Ricci says, that Lisa T should be fired too. You can bet your bottom dollar that ain’t gonna happen.

        1. That ain’t gonna happen. That’s why Labor Relations did the “investigation.” The outcome was pre-determined. Bohannon was called in to make sure the i’s were dotted and the t’s were crossed. Too bad it won’t hold up in court. The City’s case has so many holes in it, I hope it goes all the way to federal court. We should all show up to watch these guys make fools of themselves. Has Bucci been retained yet?

  10. Perhaps the most telling revelation during this entire fiasco came at the start of the City Council’s last “discussion” of the project. In his opening statement Mayor Finch insisted the first he knew of the driveway project was when “he read it in the newspaper.”

    In other words the city made the legally questionable decision it had an obligation to replace the roadway; waived competitive bidding; awarded the contract to a company owned by one of the property owners (who is a sometimes controversial developer); rushed to get work done and spent almost a half a million dollars, all without anyone consulting the Mayor?

    One of two things are true. Either the Mayor is lying or he is out of touch and his administration is out of control.

    Frankly, I don’t know which is worse.

  11. Having worked with all the players involved, I must say first, Lisa knew dam well what was going on, as well as Finch and Wood. Second, the bid waiver is used all the time. It’s easy, the powers that be contact the local pols and justify the simple reason for the waiver. Once OK the process begins. Third, L. Osborne has no say in any matter regarding labor relations. He just follows instructions.

  12. Phil Smith,
    Shame on you for underestimating our mayor. I believe the answer to your question is BOTH.
    Remember when this story first broke, both the mayor and Mark Anastasi swore on a stack of bibles everything was done by the book on the up and up.
    Then all of a sudden a scapegoat emerged and then it was all wrong and we are going to fire his ass.

  13. Someone help me out here …
    Airport Manager John Ricci today was terminated by the city for ‘reckless and intentional misconduct.’
    From Statement from Mayor Bill Finch:
    In addition, the City solicited two independent post-construction scope of work/price analyses to determine the true cost range of the access way project: (1) Epic Construction at $810,000 and, (2) PJ’s Construction at $517,000. Significantly, both figures were substantially more than the $389,000 bid by Mark IV Construction, as well as higher than the other two original unsuccessful bids submitted by Candee Construction ($410,000) and Julian Construction ($605,000). This analysis belies the unsubstantiated reports and estimates that have recently been circulating concerning the appropriate cost for the access way project.
    So what was the ‘reckless and intentional misconduct?’
    Finding the lowest bid? Now we have not only the bids Ricci solicited (based on advise from the City Attorney’s office) but two post-completion bids the city sought that were higher than any of the bids Ricci requested. I am almost at a loss for words.
    And let’s not forget the Finch Administration presented the council with a contract that was in direct violation of the Procurement Ordinance by preordaining the same Julian Construction as the contractor totally bypassing competitive bidding.
    That to me is much more “reckless and intentional misconduct.”

  14. And speaking of “reckless and intentional misconduct,” shouldn’t that apply to the failure of either the Purchasing Agent or the Mayor to issue a signed bid waiver in violation of City Ordinances?
    Shouldn’t that apply to the failure of either the Purchasing Agent or the Mayor to notify the City Council in writing of the bid waiver in violation of City Ordinances?
    Why don’t you fall on that sword, Bill?

    1. I totally agree with Bob Walsh’s statement to Finch, “Why don’t you fall on that sword, Bill?” No need to worry about getting hurt; you need a brain and a heart for that.

    2. Bob,
      Excellent points! However, can we assume the driveway project was Bridgeport’s to do in the first place?

      The outcome of the Stratford Breakwater Condo case against the city of Bridgeport would suggest it was NOT.

      CT Post July 2 story entitled, “Judge: Developer’s $400K driveway must go” … from that article: “[Judge] Radcliffe said Moutinho should not have been allowed to build the driveway, which runs over Bridgeport property to the developer’s Stratford home. And the judge said Bridgeport shouldn’t have paid for it.”

      “Bridgeport City Attorney Mark Anastasi said in a prepared statement, ‘The city is reviewing the court’s decision, as we are certain the named defendants are also doing, and we will determine an appropriate course of action.'”

      So OIB readers, any news from how the city’s doing on determining that “appropriate course of action?”

  15. And why aren’t heads rolling in the City Attorney’s office for going at risk with a pending appeal, and then not filing for intervenor status on the appeal?

  16. Ricci alleges he recused himself because of his relationship with Manny and then participates in the bid process. Either you recuse yourself and do not get involved or you are in the middle of a process that smells.

  17. Well Recuse Me! He had no decisions to make regarding Manny. He was a paper boy receiving his directions from the City Attorney’s office. Mark Anastasi through an agreement mandated Manny could not be excluded from the bid. If Scott Candee received the job, it would still be in limbo on this deal!

  18. *** Great city actors not only follow their script to the letter but can also ad-lib during a scene if needed to capture the viewer’s attention on OIB. *** RASPBERRY AWARDS ***


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