Should city employees be allowed to serve on the Bridgeport City Council? The City Charter prohibits it, but state law provides a loophole that allows it, something State Rep. Jack Hennessy wants to close amid opposition from city employee council members trying to drum up support to kill the bill. Hennessy says city employees serving on the council leads to conflicts of interest such as approving their own wages and benefits. Council members say let the people decide whom they want to serve.
On Wednesday a public hearing will take place before the legislature’s Planning and Development Committee at 10 a.m. in the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. Several city residents are expected to trek up to Hartford to speak in support of Hennessy’s bill including Tom White, who served for several years as legislative liaison to the council. White shares a letter he sent to Jim Finley, executive director of the municipal lobbying group Connecticut Conference of Municipalities, who plans to speak in opposition to the bill. Finley’s group received roughly $88,000 in fees from the city this budget year approved by the City Council. White’s letter to Finley follows:
Perhaps you remember me. I was staff for the Bridgeport city council and often received assistance from your staff on research I compiled for city council members. I also interacted with your staff regarding arrangements and payments related to conferences frequently attended by Bridgeport city council members.
I understand that you plan to speak in opposition to HB 5724, an amendment to CGS 7-421 to extend an existing provision that prohibits municipal employees from serving on a municipal board of finance except where permitted by charter or home rule ordinance.
Jim, did you know that town employees where you reside are prohibited from serving on your town’s board of finance?
Did you know that the Bridgeport city council has the duties and powers of a municipal board of finance as a result of charter revision in 1988?
The intent of the amendment is to make the guideline that applies in your town, applicable in Bridgeport.
You object to this? Why?
You commented to the Connecticut Post that this amendment would “further limit the already shallow pool of folks who want to enter local politics.”
The pool is shallow in Bridgeport because allegiance to the Democratic Town Committee is the only requirement to serve on the city council.
This amendment would address the conflict of interest that exists on the Bridgeport city council by making laws that apply in your town apply in mine.
I will address the Joint Committee on Planning and Development at the public hearing as well and share these thoughts with them, along with some points that may explain why you are opposing this bill.
Black Rock resident Jennifer Buchanan, part of a coalition of smut busters that successfully spearheaded regulation of massage parlors and strip bars in the city, is also scheduled to speak in support of the bill. Buchanan shares the process to submit written testimony:
Subject line of the email – Written testimony for Bill HB-5724 – Public Hearing 2/13/13
Body of letter –
To: Steve Cassano, Jason Rojas and the Planning and Development Committee:
Please consider and enter this as my written testimony for HB-5724
And give them what for with your own reasons!