The Wizard Of Vaz–Feds Examine Relationship Between Tiago And Contractor

Privately Joe Tiago, fired last week by Mayor Joe Ganim, is telling friends he’s a scapegoat in this ScrapGate thing. Cash for scrap metal may be the least of his worries as federal investigators dig deeper into his relationship with a local contractor who’s received tons of city work. It’s a company that has a reputation for solid work.

Former City Councilman Bob Halstead, an urban planner, notes in the OIB comments section “The Vaz Brothers are an asset to BPT. Central HS alums. Loyal to their native city. They’ve invested a lot and do a great job on the properties they purchase including the former Dangerous Curves in Black Rock. They really stabilized the 100 Block on William St. They do quality work, Perfect gentlemen. Model citizens. Nice guys!”

Tiago has hired John Gulash, a preeminent criminal defense attorney, as subpoenas mount. If you’re in trouble, hire Gulash.

Love her or loathe her, school board member Maria Pereira marinates in the transactional relationships of the politically connected. On February 6, she wrote this about Tiago, former deputy director of Public Works–hired under the Bill Finch administration and promoted by Public Facilities Director John Ricci–and his business dealings with local contractor VAZ.

I had time to do a deep dive on the sale of the Crescent Ave. property Tiago sold to a Vaz brother.

Tiago actually sold three adjacent lots to a Vaz brother in 2014.

640 Crescent Ave was assessed at $270,000 in the 2010 reevaluation. After the 2015 reevaluation it was only assessed at $153,170.

The next lot was on 1581 Crescent Ave. and was assessed at $142,546 in 2010. After the 2015 reevaluation it was assessed at only $115,330.

The last lot was 69 Crescent Avenue. It was assessed at $54,600 in 2014. After the 2015 reevaluation it was assessed at $46,800.

So all three properties were assessed at a combined value of $410,352. Its total market value would have been $586,217 when it was sold to a Vaz brother in 2014, yet he paid $845,000 for all three lots. That is still well over $250,000 more than the full value of the three lots combined.

After the 2015 reevaluation all three properties are now only valued at $450,428. The Vaz brother lost $136,000 in property value only one year after he purchased all three lots.

Any way you analyze this it just doesn’t make sense. Was the extra $250,000 part of a quid pro quo? Is it a bribe built into what is supposed to be a legitimate transaction on the surface?

I have no idea, however it looks bad in my opinion.

Federal investigators also think it smells and they’re looking into it.

From CT Post reporter Brian Lockhart:

Federal authorities have subpoenaed the city for three years worth of records on scrap metal sales and dealings with local contractors–VAZ Quality Works, Seaview Equipment Sales & Rental, and G. Pic and Sons Construction.

Several sources said the subpoenas, part of an ongoing FBI criminal probe, were issued Thursday and Friday, and multiple departments scrambled to respond to the wide-ranging demand for bids, contracts, payment receipts, emails, text messages, voicemails and more.

… Seaview Equipment is located at 640 Crescent Ave. State and city records show that a limited liability corporation owned by Luis Vaz and Jose Vaz, Yellow Mill Pond, purchased that land and two neighboring parcels–600 Crescent and 1581 Seaview Avenue–from Tiago’s Citywide Properties LLC in August, 2014.

Luis and Jose Vaz paid Tiago $845,000. The properties in 2014 were appraised at $304,577 for 640 Crescent Ave., $203,637 for 1581 Seaview Ave. and $78,000 for 600 Crescent Ave.

That transaction took place about four months after Tiago, himself a contractor as well as a restaurateur, was hired by then-Mayor Bill Finch as a politically appointed, $91,304-a-year project manager in Public Facilities overseeing road construction.

Full story here.

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31 comments

  1. Interesting… It would seem that the Tax Assessor/Assessment Appeals might also need to answer some questions… Will the new Congress Street Bridge add value to these properties? (Are the properties on the “navigable” or “un-navigable” side of the bridge?)

    1. Yes, and I think that OPED and their practices need to come under the microscope as well. OPED says that the contracts with Vaz have been signed and are going forward. The feds need to investigate- among other things-the text amendments proposed by OPED. They have proposed text amendments drawn up with assistance of private attorneys to allow changes in zoning laws that only benefit particular individuals which those private attorneys represent. Look at the attempts by the “un-indicted co-conspirator” from the JG 1 era : Willinger, and his “client”- now council person Defilippo. They have been “using” Lynn Haig from OPED et al as their own stooges to help them attain goals that are forbidden to the common citizen. There have been other instances where OPED has duped zoning and other entities into doing someone else’s bidding and I’m sure people have profited at the tax payers expense. Let’s see how far the net has been cast.
      More to come………….Cheers!

    2. The CT Post article fails to mention that one of the Vaz brothers is related to Gina Malheiro. Gina was the key individual orchestrating the fundraising for Ganim’s 2015 mayoral campaign. This is when the Vaz brothers first became significant donors to Ganim’s campaigns.

      Gina was originally made a Deputy CAO and played a major role in the parking meter debacle that cost taxpayers $500,000.

      She was then moved to the Port Authority but worked on Ganim’s campaign for Governor.

      Tiago and Jose DeMaura are first cousins. What makes this even more interesting is that Jose DeMaura’s wife works in Purchasing.

      I have never met her but my understanding is she is very sweet and kind. I have never had a negative experience with Tiago. He has always behaved professionally when I have dealt with him.

      The Vaz brothers and I were on opposite sides of the fence on a project they wanted approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals in the Thomas Hooker Precinct. The 138th TC organized the neighborhood and successfully blocked it.

      Approximately one year later, Mayor Ganim sent the then acting Chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals and Linda Grace a letter thanking them for their service and notifying them they would no longer be serving on the ZBA. They had both been serving with expired terms. Linda Grace led the charge to block the Vaz brothers project in our neighborhood. The Chair also took a strong position against it.

      Shortly after they were removed the Vaz brothers were back with their new attorney, Ray Rizzio.

      There were almost no changes in the proposed new plan and they were seeking a whopping 5 variances. We organized the neighborhood again. The new Chair is now a Portuguese woman.

      The project should have easily been rejected, however it instead passed unanimously.

      The reason Linda Grace and the former Chair were suddenly sent packing was to ensure the new application would be approved.

      Joe Ganim appoints the Commissioners with City Council approval. The Vaz brothers have become significant donors. I have absolutely ZERO doubt this was a quid pro quo.

      1. I also want to state that the entire time that I and others were fighting against their project, the Vaz brothers were polite and professional at all times.

        They are not arrogant or cocky in any way.

        Unfortunately, all of this questionable conduct reflects poorly on the Portuguese community because Tiago, DeMaura, the Vaz brothers, etc. are all Portuguese.

    3. Jeff, wouldn’t you say that Tiago has big kohunas? Take a look of the Crescent and Central Avenue garage photo connected to Tiago. Notice the old City of Bridgeport street sweeper parked in plain sight on the yard. How did that end up there? A piece of equipment like that can fetch $500 at least. What are the chances of any City Council member noticing what’s wrong with this picture and ask questions as to who is the legal owner of the street sweeper?

  2. How long before Tiago, Ricci, Joe, Mario etc start singing to the Feds about each other?All trying to save themselves.And how ironic is it that Joe said Chief Perez is the one who started this investigation by personally asking the Feds to look into Scrapgate?..You can’t make this up, Joe rigs the police Chief “search” to make sure his old friend gets the job,then in turn, his old friend blows the whistle on Joe and his cronies newest scam to rip off the city he “loves”.. haha.

  3. Bridgeport voters would think that Mayor Joe Ganim would have a disstain for any kind of cash and scraps by City employees that wasn’t legal and that he would be outraged and he would demand answers. Not Joe Ganim, he served time in federal prison for the pay to play with contractors and not telling the truth to the FBI. Only two City employees were fired but not the department head, why Joe?

    1. Ricci wasn’t fired yet because Joe still needs an operative in the Public Facilities office, at least for the time being.Tiago is going to sing like a carnary soon, then all the players will start going down.
      Tick tic, tick toc… Joe, you’re going down again, you just couldn’t stay clean, could you?

    1. Bob, when it comes down to “ tell us what you know to save yourself”, every one of these guys will talk.They are all thieves,and will be looking to help themselves first.

      1. First of all they tried that already with Joe and it didn’t work. I lived through Ganim1.
        They rumor was they offered him a year if he would give them information on Mario and his father.
        He did the time.

  4. And can someone tell me what Bern Tardy is still doing a purchasing agent for the city?
    This is the same guy who has been in charge or deputy during all of the corruption during the past 20 years.

  5. The Vaz Brothers are an asset to BPT. Central HS alums. Loyal to their native city.
    They’ve invested a lot and do a great job on the properties they purchase including the former Dangerous Curves in Black Rock
    They really stabilized the 100 Block on William St
    They do quality work,
    Perfect gentlemen. Model citizens. Nice guys!

    1. But Bob Halstead..most respectfully..the Vaz Quality Works are showing a pattern of low bids(maybe way toooo low) and City of Bridgeport pays for all the extra over-costs. Something stinks here.

      1. Frank. On paving and sidewalks, bids are done on a square foot basis. Subsequent work can then be fast tracked without going through the bidding process again. This is actually efficient.

    2. Bob,

      I was raised on the 100 Block of William St. right across the street from Daddario. We would play hide and seek in and out of the trucks there at night.

      Our home was directly across the street. I had a meeting with the Vaz brothers and their partner about their Ohio Ave. project at their office which is now where the old Daddario was.

      When I arrived I couldn’t help but notice how dilapidated, cluttered, and unkempt the property looked. We had a pleasant and productive meeting.

      The current home they own on Ohio Ave. has been an eyesore for years. I have visited the property every year since 2013, and it has been absolutely blighted every single time. It really angers the neighbors.

      I can’t comment on the quality of their work, I can say they are both understated and pleasant during every interaction I have had with them.

  6. While there are many really disturbing things to note about shady business dealings involving Bridgeport city officials, it seems useful to remember that there is a legislative session going on in which Bridgeport is again on track to be ignored and otherwise short-changed by Ned Lamont and the GA…

    The economic effects on the average Bridgeporter of the relatively-minor corruption occupying the Bridgeport-related headlines in the news are negligible compared to the effects of the deliberate stifling of the Bridgeport legislative agenda by our Gold Coast Governor and our suburb-controlled GA…

    No municipality in Connecticut is free of the headline-grabbing types of corruption being uncovered in Bridgeport right now… Look at the huge scandal that was brewing about the Stamford train-station shenanigans just one year ago… That corruption story had a lot of flesh — it was big-time corruption (and there was even a scandal-story brewing about that Stamford-train-station developer’s Bridgeport Stamford-housing project)… But now it has been swept under the rug — because the Gold Coast Oligarchs wanted it stifled, and their news outlet (Hearst Publications) wanted it to die, because it involved some of their own and it was besmirching the reputation of “their” city…

    So; while we Bridgeporters should be mindful of the dark side of our political picture, we should also be mindful that there are shadier municipal governments throughout the state, but because these municipalities are whiter and richer than Bridgeport (in most cases, e.g. Stamford) there is a hands-off policy involved in their media treatment… And in the mean-time, Bridgeport’s situation in Hartford and DC gets overlooked (conveniently) while attention is given to “BRIDGEPORT CORRUPTION(!)” — as if the “white-gold” communities of the state don’t have politicians and developers lining their pockets with state and local $, big-time… But who cares about that? There’s plenty of money to go around there — with all of the millionaires and billionaires who control the state’s wealth and purse-strings, and with the very low property-tax rates in those towns…

    So, while we indulge our local obsession of noting local, political shenanigans and speculating on who in City Hall and/or Madison-Brooklawn Avenue might be providing the leverage and coverage for such relatively-minor shenanigans, we have 0 support for our major economic-development needs in Hartford/DC even as we have a flood of guns and gang violence being acted-out (and simmering to a boil) in our neighborhoods, with very little concern for those needs by our Governor/GA in Hartford or Greenwich-based, DC delegation…

    Bridgeport is a pawn for the rest of the state, and they love it when we keep our gaze focused inward and rip out own bowels, even as they (the Gold Coast/suburbs) enjoy the short-changing and exploitation of our city..

    So let’s certainly look for better leadership for our city government, but let’s not allow our gaze to be diverted away from the big-picture and our treatment as the state’s mentally-challenged bastard-stepchild in Hartford/DC…

  7. I just came across this couple of days ago and thanks to those who pointed this out. G.Pic and Sons are a part of this investigation as well. G.Pic and Sons are the contractors working on the City program to fix sidewalks.

    Sidewalk Repair Program
    Numerous sidewalks in the City of Bridgeport are in varying states of disrepair and the City can be held liable under certain circumstances for injuries resulting there from. As such, the City has the legal right to force sidewalk repairs and recoup from the homeowner 100% of the costs for the repair.

    Mayor Ganim desires to continue his efforts to make the City a safer place for its citizens and visitors to live and work, and to engage in an aggressive and proactive program to have sidewalks repaired while significantly reducing the financial burden on the homeowner(s).

    How Program Will Work: (50% or more contribution from City)
    The Program will invite and encourage homeowners to identify their sidewalks in need of repair and to participate. If accepted, the City will absorb 50% of the cost (more in certain instances where residents receive Tax Relief credits). This Pilot Program will expire upon the expenditure of $3 million City dollars in Program sidewalk repairs.

    Criteria for Program Participation:
    Residential homeowners must occupy the property as their primary residence.
    Taxes (real, personal & WPCA charges) must be current. Priority will be afforded for conditions already reported by the start of the Program, highly-traveled locations, and those directly affecting the elderly and disabled.

    How to Take Part in the Program:
    Identify your suggested sidewalk repair location by calling (203) 576-7236 or e-mailing bonnie.lambert@bridgeportct.gov. You must indicate that you are the owner, that it is your primary residence, and that you wish to participate in the “Sidewalk Repair Pilot Program”. You will receive a subsequent mailing and further instructions. If accepted to participate, you will also receive an advance estimate of the cost of repair.

    1. Frank Gyure, you sir are opening a can of worms by mentioning the sidewalk repair program. Have you ever looked into the awarding of that bid and how many different companies bid on that program.? Also how the winner of that initial bid process was then, with no valid explanation, told sorry but you are not being awarded the contract. Right next to the municipal garage bid, this also should be investigated thoroughly. Also there are more than just G.Pic & Vaz contractors that should be looked at closely as well. This city needs a good douching!!!

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