1 p.m. update
From the City Charter:
Section 13. Board and Commission Members; Residency Requirement.
Except as otherwise provided in this charter, no person shall be appointed to any board or commission established by this charter who is not a resident and registered voter of the city.
Where does Eleanor Guedes reside? An immediate answer is fuzzy because the president of the Civil Service Commission says she has a variety of addresses. Fair enough. But what is her bona fide residence? Some facts:
Guedes lists her voting address as 1425 Noble Avenue, location of her family-owned business Primrose Construction. She also lists her Lexus with the state Department of Motor Vehicles at that address. City land records specifically show that address as a place of business, not a residence, nor a dual business/residence. There is no notation of an apartment or bedroom. City land records do not show Guedes as owner of a residential home in the city, although she says her family owns a home on Evers Street in the Beardsley Park area.
Trumbull land records, and confirmed by Guedes, show that she owns a house at 48 Teller Road. I spoke to Guedes about her residence on Friday. She was courteous and not defensive. I asked about her residency explaining that this is not a story if she can definitively state that she has an apartment and sleeps at the 1425 Noble Avenue address occupied by her business. She could not. “I have a variety of addresses,” she said.
To Eleanor’s credit she did not lie, although she deftly sidestepped the question. She could have said I have an apartment here and sleep here. Instead she spoke about her commitment to the city, her business in Bridgeport and all the time she spends there. Does this justify her business address as her bona fide place of residence?
I don’t know Eleanor. I know her brother John, the driving force behind Primrose, from years ago. I do not doubt Eleanor’s commitment to the city. She and her brother have decided to build a business in Bridgeport.
Serving on a commission can be a thankless job. And for no pay. And then you must take the heat when you decide to fire Ralph Jacobs, the non-political Bridgeport Civil Service personnel director, for something called “breach of city loyalty” regarding a commission decision involving a city employee seeking reinstatement from a layoff. Jacobs was bounced, or so commissioners rationalized, because he told a lawyer for the city employee to seek arbitration if she could not resolve a dispute with the city’s labor office.
The Jacobs case is curious to me (and is making its way through the court system) because it’s the first time anyone can recall in the 75-year history of Bridgeport Civil Service that the non-political personnel director was terminated.
Jacobs claims he was fired without just cause. He butted heads with Mayor Bill Finch. As a result, he says, he was victimized by a trumped-up charge. Others familiar with Jacobs say there was far more at play than the one charge for which he was canned. Civil service commissioners followed the termination course as advised by legal counsel.
City officials, including Guedes, have been silent about the Jacobs case per legal advice. But since Jacobs’ firing a few weeks ago several readers have contacted me charging that Eleanor lives in Trumbull in violation of city charter provisions. (Civil service commissioners are appointed to five-year terms by the mayor and approved by the City Council.) And it raises a much broader question: what is bona fide residency?
From the Secretary of State
Residence for Voting Purposes
“Bona fide residence” of an individual is his fixed home or fixed place of abode, to which, when he is temporarily absent, he intends to return, provided that if he relinquishes his dwelling place in a town during a period of temporary absence, with the present intention of returning to that town at the end of the absence, then that town where he formerly lived is his town of bona fide residence during that period of absence.
To determine the particular residence, objective factors must substantiate a subjective declaration of intention. Admitting officials must determine from the evidence available whether an individual is actually a bone fide resident.
So to me the evidence suggests Guedes is not a bona fide resident of 1425 Noble Avenue, and likely is a resident of Trumbull in the traditional sense. But she claims to be a resident of Bridgeport. Does this constitute a breach of loyalty to either Bridgeport or Trumbull? There are consequences for living in one town and voting in another. Maybe in Eleanor’s mind she is a bona fide resident. Should the City Charter be amended to allow non residents that own a business in Bridgeport or work in the city to serve on boards and commissions? And is all of this much ado about nothing? What say you?
Poise your scorecards. One day until primary insanity. Democratic candidates for City Council in four districts and voting places below:
District 135: Peter Clarke and Mary McBride-Lee challenging incumbents Warren Blunt and Richard Bonney. Isa Mujahid is running solo.
District 136: Mark Trojanowski running solo against incumbents Angel DePara and Carlos Silva.
District 137: Maria Valle and Christina Ayala versus endorsed candidates Lydia Martinez and Manny Ayala. Valle is an incumbent City Council member who was dumped by the town committee.
District 138: Three slates here. Incumbents Bob Curwen and Rich Paoletto challenged by Andy Fardy and Ann Barney, and James Morton and Tyreke Bird.
District 135: Park City Magnet School, 1526 Chopsey Hill Rd; Wilbur Cross School, 1775 Reservoir Ave; Hallen School, 51 Omega Ave; Read Middle School, 130 Ezra St.
District 136: St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1475 Noble Ave; Geraldine Johnson School, 475 Lexington Ave; Read Middle School, 130 Ezra St. Note: Columbus School voters, due to construction there, vote at Johnson School.
District 137: Luis Muñoz Marin, 479 Helen St; Bridge Academy, 401 Kossuth St.
District 138: John F. Kennedy Campus, 700 Palisade Ave; Thomas Hooker School, 138 Roger Williams Road.
Phone number for Democratic registrar, 576-7281.
Interesting statement from Superintendent of Schools John Ramos who’s been taken to task for frittering Board of Education surplus dough. Ramos has taken heat in the past week for not compensating school nurses this summer even though they had a deal requiring payment as part of a giveback deal, and now comes word about squandered surplus money that was returned to the city. See Ramos statement below:
AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM THE SUPERINTENDENT
The Budget Surplus
Good Afternoon. Last week we shared with the Board of Education the fact that the budget balance for ’08-’09 was $2 million higher than expected. In what was a highly complex budget year, the reasons for this development are multiple and include culpability on the part of both us, the Board of Education, and the city. Once this information became evident to us, we immediately brought it to the attention of the elected Board of Education and the public. Further, we are continuing to salvage whatever portion of this surplus that we can, and working to ensure that any missteps are not repeated. I’m sharing this with you at this time so you will have heard it directly from me. I urge you not to draw your conclusions from the media or local blog. If you have questions, please call me. Most of us work hard. We need every dollar that we fight for. The additional surplus is painful, but we will continue to fight on in every venue for our scholars.
Dr. John J. Ramos, Sr., Ed.D., Superintendent
Bridgeport Public Schools
MEMO EXPLAINING THE BUDGET SURPLUS
To: John J. Ramos, Sr., Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools
PC: Board of Education Members
Robert Henry, Chief of Staff
From: Julio Molleda, Director of Finance & Business Services
RE: FY08-09 Bridgeport Public Schools Operating Budget Report
Date: September 9, 2009
The information presented below intends to provide additional factors contributing to the increased surplus.
As of 7/24/09, a modified budget surplus of $2,370,664 was being projected (see attached budget report). As of 9/4/09 and after all outstanding purchase orders were closed and year-end accruals were finally posted, a modified budget surplus of $4,571,922 resulted (budget report also enclosed). This surplus is $2,071,922 over the BOE committed surplus of $2,500,000 to assist the City in addressing the projected fiscal deficit.
Below is a summarization of variances by major account categories:
$ 546,115 In planning for fiscal year 09-10 MUNIS implementation the City stated that the payroll for July 10, ’09 would be charged 100% to fiscal year 08-09 to allow for a “as clean as possible” transition into the MUNIS system; however, the reversal of this decision by the City generated the additional surplus by charging three days of salary to the fiscal year 09-10.
$ 123,000 Unanticipated Special Education Revenues received during July and August and crediting the out-of – district tuition line.
$ 147,646 Year-end pre-buys moved to FY09-10 as a result of vendors not being able to deliver goods or services together services with invoices prior to June 30, 2009 as required by the City related to the MUNIS system implementation. In prior years, goods needed to be encumbered by 6/30 and merchandise could be received and paid against the open purchase order once the goods had been received. Services had to be rendered by 6/30 but invoices could be processed till the end of mid August.
$ 363,016 Special Education Transportation savings and gasoline.
$1,028,670 Facilities Maintenance and Repairs including Custodial Supplies, Utilities, Landscaping Services, HVAC Equipment, Maintenance & Repairs, etc. The entering and approval of invoices into the financial system is centralized under the Accounts Payable function in City Finance. The experienced staff turnover due to City wide lay-offs and the delay in replacing positions, negatively impacted the Department’s ability to perform routine financial functions. Some past-due invoices in Utilities and Cleaning supplies have been incorporated in this latest forecast. The process of identifying other past due invoices by the Facilities Department continue at the present time.
In Summary, control over some basic financial operations functions residing in City Departments does not necessarily address the operating needs of the school system. MJLM report addressed, among several recommendations, the need of a single line budget item approval by City Council that was not adopted by the Education Committee of the City Council even though this recommendation was approved in full by both the BOE and the City Council in previous meetings. Some of these functions, like the posting of payrolls, journal entries, purchase order creation, etc. are examples of items currently handled by City Finance.
Some of the current procurement issues deal with the lack of approval for “standing” orders also known as “blanket” purchase orders. This means that individual lines have to be entered in the requisition stretching limited personnel resources and delaying the creation of purchase orders and therefore the delivery of goods and services on a timely manner. It is not uncommon in the Education field to have purchase orders with multiple lines.
Regarding the Internal Service Fund, cost projections were not shared with our Department during Budget Development despite our request. Attached please find copy of City Ordinance regarding the Internal Service Fund. Attached please find FY08-09 and FY09-10 Summary information regarding the Internal Service Fund. Please note that the projected expenditures FY 09-10 are fully funded by our requested increase of 6.5% and meets the $40 million obligation.
All the above illustrate the manner in which the financial management of the BOE affairs are continuously handicapped in the performance of its duties, which in most school districts is a given. Furthermore, this was an unusual year in which we were first approached regarding a $7 million dollar contribution to the city to assist in eliminating the larger deficit of $20 million. This continued to manifest throughout the year causing employee lay offs, furloughs and bumping of staff into positions that required training and upgrading of skills