State Ethics Chief Supports Oversight Of Municipal Officials

Bridgeport’s Ethics Commission is a toothless tiger. Mayor Joe Ganim’s proposal for an Office of Government Accountability adds little more to the table for an independent watchdog of city officials. Rather than the city wrangling over rhetoric, why not support a state measure that would monitor the conduct of municipal officials? OIB asked Carol Carson, executive director of the Connecticut Office of State Ethics, about placing a code of ethics for municipalities under its umbrella. She shares that’s something her office has been working on including a legislative proposal that has not come out of a key committee. She says her office supports a pilot program for Bridgeport “provided we receive appropriate, though minimal, funding.”

Carson shares her observations:

For several years, the Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board, the governing Board of the Office of State Ethics, has made municipal ethics its number one priority.

I’ve attached our most recent proposal which calls for adding a section to the Code of Ethics, which currently has four sections (State Employees and Public Officials, Lobbyists, Lobbying: Miscellaneous Provisions, and Ethical Considerations Concerning Bidding and State Contracts). This bill did not come out of the GAE committee.

Here is a brief description of each section:

Section 1. Provides for definitions relevant to the Code of Ethics for Municipal Officials, including the definition of “municipal employee,” “municipal official,” “municipality,” and “special district.”
Section 2. Allows existing municipal ethics boards to complete pending matters that have been submitted for consideration and disposition prior to January 1, 2017.
Section 3. Articulates the duties and authority of the Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board with respect to the Code of Ethics for Municipal Officials, including issuance of advisory opinions and management of annual ethics trainings.
Section 4. Provides for the Board’s authority to adopt regulations for purposes of the Code of Ethics for Municipal Officials.
Section 5. Provides for investigation of complaints and establishes procedures involving probable hearings and board hearings to determine whether the Code of Ethics for Municipal Officials has been violated. The provision is modeled on the Code of Ethics for Public Officials (Ethics Code for State Officials).
Section 6. Provides for confidentiality of complaints and establishes procedures for disposition of complaints when the finding of no probable cause is made. The provision is modeled on the Code of Ethics for Public Officials (Ethics Code for State Officials).
Section 7. Extends various prohibited activities to municipal employees and officials, including the prohibition on entering into contracts valued at five hundred dollars or more with the municipality in which the employee or official serves, unless the contract has been awarded through an open and public process. Municipal employees and officials may represent themselves in their own interest or the individual interest of an immediate family member before any municipal board. Municipal officials may be employed by private persons who are in the business or representing others before the municipal board on which such official serves, provided the official shall take no part in any matter involving any such municipal board and shall not receive compensation from any such matter.
Section 8. Extends the revolving-door restrictions to municipal employees and officials, including one-year prohibition on post-municipal employment with an entity that has been a recipient of a municipal contract valued at $25,000 if the restricted employee or official was substantially involved in the negotiation, proposal or award of such contract.
Section 9. Permits for donation of goods or services to municipality.
Section 10. Extends the substantial conflict of interest provision to municipal employees and officials.
Section 11. Extends the potential conflict of interest provision to municipal employees and officials.
Section 12. Extends the provision regarding the establishment and financial management of a legal defense fund to municipal employees and officials.
Section 13. Extends various prohibited activities to municipal consultants and independent contractors.
Section 14. Provides for the appeal process of any final decision of the Board.
Section 15. Articulates the authority of the Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board after finding of a violation of the Code of Ethics for Municipal Officials.
Section 16. Provides for penalties that may be imposed for violation of the Code of Ethics for Municipal Officials and articulates disciplinary powers of municipal legislative bodies, boards, commissions, councils and departments.
Sections 17-18. Contain technical amendments to § 1-92 and subsection (d) of § 1-80 of the general statutes.



  1. This is an excellent idea.
    I would even be happy if the state simply allowed an individual who filed a complaint against the city that was dismissed on the municipal level to be appealed to the state. If the public had that ability, I am sure we would see a different attitude in our Bridgeport Ethics Commission.
    I am still mystified by the fact our Ethics Commission found nothing wrong with council members and city employees receiving free weekend-long passes to the the Vibes AND a pass for a guest. In an Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. moment, our Ethics Commission divined since it was a PASS not a TICKET they could not determine the real value of the benefit.
    Shortly thereafter the City Council approved sweeping changes to the ordinance that eliminated certain provisions aimed at making it independent including term limits.
    How and why did that happen? Ask Tom McCarthy.

  2. Although it could be considered an Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. moment since he was considered a greater writer of fiction in his days because the Ethics Commission always errs on the side of fiction.

  3. I still have to really read and digest this posting and I really wonder how close it is to coming out of committee, voted upon by the State Legislature and signed into law. This law illustrates to what degree the State is really in control of even municipal affairs and how Home Rule is more illusory than it really is in practice. I will be returning to this point in regards to issues where we seem to feel Bridgeport is TRULY the master of its own destiny. As to the situation as it stands now in Bridgeport, it is shocking, shameful the virtual lack of power and authority of ALL the various boards and commissions. I would also like to point out the City Council, which has been thoroughly discussed lately especially in regards to Council President Tom McCarthy, has historically been a weak link in city government and the Office of The Mayor has held the most significant power. In the end, I think governance would improve dramatically if we had a true two-party situation in Bridgeport, whether it be Republican (very doubtful) or a Reform Democratic Party completely separate from the present DTC. POWER CORRUPTS AND TOTAL POWER CORRUPTS TOTALLY.

  4. They should look into “Big Head” who is manager of the Roadway Dept. Former Director of Public Facilities was his best man. His mother works in city hall. That’s the only reason he holds that position. The only equipment he ever ran was a street sweeper. A marginal employee to say the least. Big ego and a big head. No knowledge, not impressed. Do better, Joe! The city needs it!

  5. I hope this effort is taken seriously.

    Bob Walsh mentioned the passes to the Vibes. Given that McCarthy is the poster boy for conflict of interest in Bridgeport, I rubbed McCarthy the wrong way a few years back when I suggested it was inappropriate and likely unethical for city council members (and guests) to accept gifts of weekend ‘VIP’ passes to the Vibes with a face value of (I recall) $360. I suggested I make arrangements with Vibes organizers (I had already approached them) for council members to have a tour of their operations instead. I even declined to accept the passes on their behalf as I felt strongly they were doing the wrong thing. What did McCarthy do? He made the arrangements for the passes himself and continued to do so in following years. It’s called reward power.
    The ethics complaint was dismissed on recommendation of the commission’s counsel, the city attorney. The ethics commission must have independent counsel and should be part of any arrangements for State oversight.


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