Smith: Hiring Of Airport Manager Flies In The Face Of City Charter

Sikorsky Memorial Airport
Sikorsky Memorial Airport

Bridgeport resident Phil Smith, a student of the Bridgeport City Charter, files this commentary about the recent hiring of Pauline Mize as acting manager of the city-owned airport. Years ago Smith directed proposed changes to the City Charter presented to voters.

We appear to be well on the road to another controversy at Sikorsky Memorial Airport due in large measure to the Finch administration’s insistence on doing what it wants to without regard to the Charter, the city’s finances or the public good. I wish I could say I’m surprised.

This latest controversy is the result of the administration’s appointment of Pauline Mize as the acting airport manager following the termination/retirement of former airport manager John Ricci.

It’s important to note the airport manager is not a mayoral appointment. It is a classified, competitive position under the city’s civil service system and is subject to all of the rules of the civil service system, rules which are designed to prevent the politicization of city employment.

Those rules, set forth in the charter and the regulations of the Civil Service Commission, generally require positions in the classified service to be filled on the basis of a competitive examination. There is an exception to those rules which allows a temporary “provisional” appointment “if necessary to prevent the stoppage of public business or inconvenience to the public, but not otherwise.” (City Charter, Chapter 17, Section 214).

It’s fair to ask why the appointment was needed. The airport continued to function after former airport manager John Ricci’s suspension and has continued to do so since his subsequent termination. According to the Connecticut Post, on September 3 Mayor Finch told the Airport Commission that the airport’s longtime operation manager was in charge while a nationwide search was conducted for the position. In short, filling the airport manager’s position on an acting basis does not appear to have been “necessary to prevent the stoppage of public business or inconvenience to the public” as required by the charter. In short, it was illegal.

It is also worth noting the airport is currently operating at a deficit. Leaving a job paying almost $100,000 a year vacant for a time would help reduce that deficit.

But that’s just the beginning of the problems with this dubious appointment.

Under the civil service provisions of the charter, the responsibility for hiring and firing decisions with respect to a classified employee is vested in the “appointing authority” for that position. The appointing authority is defined as “the officer, commission, board or other body having the power of appointment to subordinate offices or positions in any municipal department, office, board or institution.”

According to Mayor Bill Finch, he fired John Ricci.

According to the Connecticut Post, Pauline Mize, was hired by Charles Carroll, the Director of Public Facilities.

But neither one of them appears to be the “appointing authority” for the airport manager’s position. That’s because chapter 7, section 12 of the city charter vests the responsibility for “the care, management, control, operation and administration of, and the use of, all airports” in the Airport Commission. That body appears to have played no role in either Ricci’s termination or Mize’s hiring.

To be fair, another part of that same section of the charter does make it clear “the powers, duties and functions of the city engineer, the director of public facilities, the director of parks and recreation and the board of park commissioners and of all other officers” extend to the airport. But nothing in that language suggests the public facilities director has any authority over the management of the airport or the hiring of the airport manager. Indeed, my understanding is historically the “appointing authority” for the airport manager’s job has been the Airport Commission.

Finally, a provisional appointment requires the approval of both the Personnel Director and the Civil Service Commission. It’s not clear whether those approvals were ever given.

Legalities aside, it is even more troubling that, at a time when the Sikorsky Memorial Airport is facing both controversy and the need to complete an important runway safety project, the Finch administration has chosen to fill this important position behind closed doors, with consideration limited to a few candidates whose resumes the city solicited. That approach is fundamentally at odds with the open, merit-based, selection process the civil service system requires.

The taxpayers of Bridgeport, and the users of the airport, deserve better.



  1. One would have thought the Great Kreskin AKA Mark Anastasi would have known this but again we have him doing what he is told to do.
    Phil, this was a very informative article you wrote. Thanks.

    1. Andy,
      Mark thinks he is on par with the Supreme Court justices. His argument will be Pauline is not a “provisional” appointment but is “acting” manager. He will then say the charter is silent on acting employees so it does not apply.
      I have heard this song so many times I can sing it without a karaoke machine.
      They have done the same thing with the Police Chief and the Fire chief in the past because the charter says those provisional employees can only serve for six months at a time.
      Then we have the Deputy Dog of Labor Relations/City Council President opine what Mark says seems appropriate. Notice I said “says” because the ball-less wonder never puts this opinions in writing for fear of being laughed at by professionals.
      And who will raise an objection on the council once Andre Baker is gone? Steven Stafstrom or Sue Brannelly? I don’t think so.

  2. It is just another flagrant slap in the face to the taxpayers in the city. When will this end??? Who can stop them? After reading your article, it seems illegal.
    Thank you for doing the research!

  3. The City Council can stop them but won’t.
    The Civil Service Commission can stop them but won’t. (See previous articles about how the President of the Civil Service Commission does not live in the city but Mark Anastasi says the residency requirement is too vague to enforce.)
    The Ethics Commission could have stopped them but my ordinance that would have made knowingly violating the charter or ordinances (as some other towns have codified) was ruled illegal by the City Attorney. And again the ruling was supported by Deputy Dog a.k.a. City Council President a.k.a. the Mayor and Mark’s Lap Dog.

  4. Let’s not forget Mayor Finch claimed he was going to have some new ethics rules and filings for purchasing decision-making employees and yet somehow this woman was hired (legally or illegally) without anyone in the administration knowing she was the significant other of a city contractor (PJF) and/or developer, who has a proposal before the city and whose company donated over $10K to the mayor’s charter campaign, who himself and other employees or family members have already donated to the mayor’s reelection campaign and who has been at least a benign facilitator of Lydia Martinez’ absentee ballot operation.
    And Phil Smith is surprised the mayor simply ignored the charter to do a favor for a friend?

  5. Well done, Phil. A common-sense understanding of the Charter is an uncommon attribute in City administration.
    You started off by acknowledging the deficits run by the Airport in the area of several hundred thousand annually. Why haven’t costs been contained to the revenues available? Is there a Council person employed who would know more than the average taxpayer about this subject? Has he ever been heard from on any of the problems or issues that fly about?
    To discover the Public Facilities director is doing executive selection and recruitment indicates he has completed the report on RESPONDING TO BRIDGEPORT BLIZZARDS. When will that be posted on the City site?
    Finally, there are a number of Charter violations we can see regularly or in passing. What about having a competition on OIB to spot the areas by chapter and section. That would be a gift to the administration so they can do the necessary repairs. Along with the systematic signing of personal ethical adherence for employees, the new form? And monthly reports on finances on the City website? And including a FINAL June report each year to replace the DRAFT report issued in 2012 and 2013? Time will tell.

  6. Thank you Phil. Can we please get a real charter revision written–one that does not have the loopholes our city attorney is so skilled at finding and using?

    1. Phil Smith and Bob Walsh, question. Seeing the position is under the Civil Service Commission, who has standing to challenge this decision and is the challenge to be brought before the Civil Service Commission?

      1. Ron,
        Nobody needs standing. Chapter 17, Section 214 of the Charter expressly requires the Civil Service Commission to approve Mize’s appointment. No approval = No job.

  7. Of course, closing loopholes in the city charter would be quite helpful, but what is paramount in importance is having a Mayor and City Council that are committed to the interests of Bridgeport and its citizens. After all, isn’t it the Mayor and the City Council that are supposed to uphold the charter, not look for ways to subvert it?

  8. A long time ago a very smart man told me something that remains true. “In a democracy you can’t write a charter that protects the voters from themselves. Any government is only going to be as good as the people they elect.”

  9. If the #2 guy has been running the airport and doing a good job of it, what’s the sense in bringing in an acting #1 who will undoubtedly have to be trained by the #2 guy? Her salary plus benefits, City vehicle and other perks will increase the airport deficit by another few hundred thousand. Common sense says to leave the #2 guy alone and let him continue to do his job. BTW, the airport commission is scheduled to meet next Tuesday afternoon in the mayor’s conference room. These meetings are open to the public. Anyone want to attend? Should be good for a few laughs.

  10. Ron Mackey,
    I believe the simple answer to your question would be anyone who is a resident, taxpayer or employee could challenge this in court. And that is exactly where the city wants any of these challenges to take place because the city will throw its entire legal department at it.


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