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The City Council’s Chief Thode Intervention–Semantics Of ‘Appointment’ Versus ‘Contract’

October 28th, 2017 · 30 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Council, Firefighters, Law Enforcement, News and Events

Thode with council

Fire Chief Richard Thode in background as Contracts Committee discusses his contract.

When the City Council’s Contracts Committee went into caucus Wednesday night to discuss the contract terms for Fire Chief Richard Thode the chief made one thing very clear: “I am receiving just my city paycheck. No pension. Please clear that up with your readers.” The reference was to some OIB reader comments that the chief was grabbing both his city pay as a contract employee and a city pension from his decades of city service, a double dip that had been allowed in the past under the terms of the city’s former pension terms.

Several years ago came a change, active members of the Fire Department were moved into the Connecticut Municipal Employee Retirement System. Collecting both, says the chief, is a no-no.

In 1988, under a charter provision approved by city voters, the positions of police and fire chief could have up to two, five-year terms in which the mayor chose from the top three finalists. Why the change? Under the old Civil Service rules the chiefs of police and fire came up through the ranks and could serve for an indefinite period. Government reformers, backed by the voters, believed the city needed fresh blood and new perspective every 5 to 10 years.

In 2016 Bridgeport Fire Chief Brian Rooney retired from the department, per city charter regulation limiting the chief’s tenure to two five-year terms.

As chief, Rooney earned something of a financial windfall during his second five-year appointment. As a contract appointment, he was placed into a 401k pension plan run by the International City Managers Association, outside of the municipal pension system. As a result, because he came up from the ranks of the department, he was allowed to receive his city pension for years of fire service while also receiving the chief’s pay.

Former Police Chief Joe Gaudett was allowed to receive his city pension in addition to his pay as chief.

By ordinance annual salaries of unaffiliated positions are adjusted in accordance with the negotiated across-the-board increases granted to other city supervisors. Updated ranges are set each July 1.

When Mayor Joe Ganim, following a search, selected Thode as chief, the municipal salary range for police and fire chiefs was $129,778 to $142,576. The mayor may authorize salary increases within the salary ranges established by ordinance. Thode receives the highest end of the range.

Wednesday night’s Contracts Committee meeting became testy at times as Associate City Attorney Mark Anastasi declared committee members were tasked with approving a five-year “appointment letter” granted by the mayor and not a “contract.”

That received blowback by committee members including outgoing City Council President Tom McCarthy who says that violated past practice. “You’re not slaves to past practice,” countered Anastasi who argued the mayor was not handing out “contracts to people.” Thode sat quietly in the background as this played out.

For OIB readers who assert council members are a rubber stamp, certainly not in this case. Several council members bristled at this change in policy defending Thode as an effective public servant who deserved a contract. Several announced they would not approve the “appointment letter” and demanded a “contract” for the chief. As they went into caucus to discuss the matter, a phone call was made to the mayor sharing the pushback.

Ganim got the message. In an OIB moment the “appointment letter” was magically switched over to “contract” language.

Thode’s “contract” passed unanimously and now goes to the full council for approval.

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30 Comments so far ↓

  • Donald Day

    I talked to Chief Thode last Wednesday and he told me hasn’t received a new contract nor was he collecting both pension and salary like Rooney and Gaudett. Anyway, good luck Rich and make us proud.

  • Ron Mackey

    For years Donald Day and myself spoke out about former Bridgeport Fire Chief Brian Rooney being allowed to receive his city pension in addition to his regular pay. Rooney was allowed to retired as a provisional fire chief and receive his pension. Later Rooney passed the fire chief exam and  became the permanent fire chief. Later when former Police Chief Joe Gaudett was allowed to receive his city pension in addition to his pay as chief. 

    The article above states, “Fire Chief Richard Thode made one thing very clear: “I am receiving just my city paycheck. No pension. Please clear that up with your readers.” Now that’s Richard Thode and the type of person that he is, he has character but it was  former Fire Chief Brian Rooney who demanded the change but former Personnel Director Ralph Jacobs was totally against this move and he gave the Civil Service Commissioners a written report stating his disagreement and the past history.  I’ve said on OIB a number of times that I was waiting for both provisional chiefs Perez and Thode to retire and then receive two City paychecks like the previous police and fire chief Gaudett and Rooney. I’m glad Chief Thode made it clear to the taxpayers that he’s  receiving just his city paycheck and no pension. 

  • Joel Gonzalez

    Really silly reaction from the members of the “contracts” Committee. Wait a minute Lennie, was there a change to what I remember as the Contracts and Appointments Committee? Sounds like what they did or triggered sets a precedent. Next time the council names or appoints new members to committees, can the council president then move to appoint people to two committees– the contracts one and the appointments one? Some appointments like boards and commissions don’t require a contract as members are not paid. Appointments like Fire Chief and Police Chief do require a contract as they receive compensation for their appointment. They sound like a better fit on The Drama and Grand-Standing Committee. All in favor, say…

  • Bob Walsh

    OK. So Thode is not receiving his pension and a paycheck.
    Lets see what happens with A.J. Perez.
    Then see what happens with Thode.

  • Bob Walsh

    You have Burns and McCarthy in the picture. They’re out as council members.
    Herron maybe.
    Who else is on this committee?
    Is there another game going on here?

    • LennieGrimaldi

      Troll, committee members: Banta, Herron, Feliciano, Vizzo-Paniccia, Holloway, Castillo, Paoletto. Banta and Holloway absent. McCarthy, as council president, sat in for Banta. A half dozen other members not on the committee attended.

      • Joel Gonzalez

        Yes Lennie, you failed to name the half dozen other member.

        Lets take a closer look at the photo. Who is that woman sitting behind McCarthy? That’s councilwoman Moye of the 131st., the partner of Banta, who McCarthy is sitting for. Why couldn’t Moye sit in her partners place and McCarthy or Martinez (absent Holloway partner) sit for Holloway? The more heads the better they say! Council rules? Change!

  • Maria Pereira

    I have nothing but respect for Chief Thode. He has always conducted himself as a professional whenever I have dealt with him.

  • Frank Gyure

    maybe another issue that can be looked at by Charter Revision unless State or Federal Law supercedes it.

  • John Marshall Lee

    So G2 consented to a “contract” rather than an appointment letter when push and shove met? Interesting? And when are the Civil Service exams scheduled for the several currently compensated who have run months or years beyond the timeline for setting exams? Can a City employee be sued for failure to perform, or is there a quasi legal explanation available to taxpayers for holding up the wheels of government? How does Dunn fail to get tested for his own position? Is this the type of administrative gaffe that G2 will expose when he shares his administrative brilliance on the campaign trail? Can he outrun a tsunami of incompetence? Time will tell.

    • Ron Mackey

      David Dunn has been on the payroll of the City of Bridgeport for well over 40 years, always in appointment positions going back to Bridgeport Mayor John Mandanici. All one has to do is to go back to old Bridgeport Post articles like this one:

      Nov 28, 1975 – Publication: The Bridgeport Post i; Location: Bridgeport, Connecticut; Issue Date: … Fulfilling Campaign Promise to Dump PUC By JOHN J. G1LMORE With … but David Dunn, the City’s labor negotiator and an aide to Mayor Mandanici sail … Mayor Mandanici changed the work schedule to save the City an …

      Dunn has had his own problems while being a City employee during his time working for Mayor Mandanici. Dunn has never pass any exam as a City employee. Mayor Ganim, when are you going to do a national search and give a exam for the Personnel Director?

    • Phil Smith

      They can call it whatever they want to call it but legally it’s still a contract.

  • Ron Mackey

    During the time that David Dunn has been the City’s Personnel Director the City’s Fire Department has NOT hired ANY females to become firefighters, NONE, ZERO. The City’s is truly lucky that there hasn’t been a class action lawsuit for discrimination for not hiring any women and Mayor Ganim has no problem with that record.

  • Donald Day

    Mayor Ganim like former mayor Finch leave David Dunn in this position which he has never tested, so that they can circumvent the civil service system and hire political appointees. David Dunn is the worst Civil Service Director probably in the history of Bridgeport, but definitely the worst in the last 40 years.

    David Dunn had been in the position as the Civil Service Director for over eight years while never testing for said position and while lacking the knowledge and expertise to perform this job. The city of Bridgeport and its residents deserve better than this Mayor Ganim and you and former Mayor Finch should be ashamed of yourselves for putting this incompetent fool in charge of civil service.

    • Ron Mackey

      There is no way in the world that Joe Ganim could be the governor of Connecticut when he can’t manage his personnel in City Hall and make good decisions for the taxpayers of Bridgeport. This is the type of poor leadership that he would bring to governor office and the state has enough problems beside Ganim inability to manage Bridgeport. True leaders lead and Joe Ganim is not a leader, just look at his record.

  • John Marshall Lee

    Listed below are the names of those currently “listed” as Civil Service Commission members, even though four of the five are serving EXPIRED TERMS. Even though one of the Mayor’s assistant project administrators is tasked with Boards and Commissions as an assignment, the TASK is not outlined. Since the “expiiry” and vacancy situations for many Boards and Commissions continues from the Finch administration, one can assume that the task is “MAINTAIN THE STATUS QUO”.
    But what if one or more of these “Bridgeport residents” actually step into beds in other towns most nights? Are they still eligible to serve on Bridgeport Boards and Commissions because they provide an address in the City that is other than their home? What process do we have to blow the whistle on this long standing practice?
    Mayor Joseph Ganim, how does such executive or administrative action bode well for your campaign for Governor of the State? Voters outside Bridgeport will be asking such questions? Where are your answers for the City itself?

    Melva Falberg (R)
    2445 Park Avenue
    Bridgeport, CT 06604
    Term Expires: 10/1/2017

    Eleanor Guedes (U)
    1425 Noble Avenue
    Bridgeport, CT 06610
    Term Expires: 10/1/2011

    T. Walter Plummer (D)
    32 Beechwood Avenue
    Bridgeport, CT 06604
    Term Expires 10/1/2009

    Richard P. Rodgers (D)
    94 Soundview Avenue
    Bridgeport, CT 06606
    Term Expires 10/1/2010

    *Salvatore Emanuel, Employee (*Elected member)
    225 Lighthouse Avenue
    Stratford, CT 06615
    Term Expires:10/1/2018

    OIB readers, what do you have to contribute to the swamp that this part of municipal government has become? Time will tell.

    • Ron Mackey

      JML, David Dunn the City’s Personnel Director is the unofficial 6th Board because he sit in on all of the Civil Service meetings and he is deeply involved in all decisions.

      • John Marshall Lee

        The City site says that there are five members, four appointed by Mayor, and one elected every fifth year by employees.
        The Civil Service Director may appear at each meeting as head of the staff, but the Director has no Board or voting role, I believe.

        As in most Boards and Commissions in the City where members are volunteers, generally untrained, and not evaluated for their expertise, attendance, or qualifications other than that no more than persons from any party may sit on the Board, expectations high levels of competency and integrity may be disappointed? Time will tell.

    • Joel Gonzalez

      What proof do you have to show that anyone of them don’t live in Bridgeport? The City Employee is elected by city employees and I believe that he or she must live in Bridgeport per rule or requirement. I disagree with that part. When that election is near, we don’t hear about it ahead of time. I’m not sure if only Civil Servants can run for that spot. They could use a maintenance man to start cleaning things up in the Civil Service Commission. I’d be interested in that spot, if the term expires 10/1/2018, it’s not that far down the road. Ask long time city employees who is Joel Gonzalez and ask them who is Salvatore Emanuel. I believe more will recognize or have heard of me more than Salvatore Emanuel. I’ve never had any fear to speak up for and stand up for any city employee. Should I start my campaign after New Years>

  • Ron Mackey

    Joel, Salvatore (Sal) Emanuel is very knowledgeable, smart and understands the problems and concerns of the City’s employees.

    • Joel Gonzalez

      Are you implying I don’t. I’ve been a victim in a way of the practices of Civil Service. If Emanuel is like you say, then tell us of his accomplishment so far. We heard the same of McBride.

      • Ron Mackey

        Joel, I’m not saying anything against you and if you think that you can do the job then you should run. I’ve known Sal for over 20 years, I’ve worked with Sal and we would talk about a lot of issues. Sal has always been involve and working on a number of committees.

  • Joel Gonzalez

    Ron, thank you for keeping this discussion going. IThe biggest problem with all civil service employed elected to that single seat is that once elected they never truly communicate or create a line of communication with all city employees. Pretty much like all elected officials. No need for any charter rule for this. One city employees is not enough for fair overall city employees representation in CS board. We need to change with time and the modern era we live in today. This is how I feel changes should be made: I believe that the Civil Service Commission should have more than one city employee elected. One per every union. Like 1159 members elected theirs, Nage elects theirs, etc, etc. The mayor can appoint who ever he or she desires. If we hold elections like I propose, there will not be expired terms of any elected members as long as elections are hel as scheduled.

  • John Marshall Lee

    Joel,
    If a person has a driver license with a suburban address what do you say? If a board member votes in another community, what do you say? Are either of these ‘evidence’? What would constitute evidence for you as a fair minded observer? TIME WILL TELL.

    • Ron Mackey

      The appointed board member must a Bridgeport resident but as for the City Employee member they are elected by city employees and City employees are not require to be City residents.

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