What’s The Point Of An Ethics Commission?

Gathering of the Vibes 2010
Gathering of the Vibes 2010. Courtesy Morgan Kaolian

The city’s Ethics Commission, according to City Council President Tom McCarthy, unanimously dismissed a complaint by Republican Town Chair Marc Delmonico over City Council members offered full free access to the Gathering of the Vibes, the city’s annual hippie fest at Seaside Park that draws more than 20,000 ticket buyers.

The Vibes is a nice event for the city, but Delmonico argued that the goodies available to the city’s legislative body violates city ethics and city charter regulations. Council members, he reasoned, receive benefits for a contract they must approve. In addition to council members afforded full access to the event that would cost hundreds of dollars to the average ticket buyer, members of the legislative body can also bring a companion. McCarthy has taken OIB to task for blowing Delmonico’s complaint out of proportion. Big Mac apparently argued his case convincingly to the ethics commissioners that the spirit of the agreement is simply to monitor the event for future viability. I believe McCarthy when he says he goes for a half hour to do his due diligence. A hippie fest may not be a cup of tea for a Generation X guy. (We Baby Boomers have a different point of view.) But the legislative policy is dubious. Council members can benefit from a contract they approve. But let’s suppose council members, as a legislative function, should receive VIP treatment. Why a companion?

Intriguing to me is that McCarthy, a defendant in the complaint, knew about the decision weeks ago. But no one from the Ethics Commission thought it proper to notify Delmonico who brought the complaint. Delmonico and Big Mac had a friendly sparring session over this at the OIB party Wednesday night.

The Ethics Commission operates largely in secret due to the sensitive nature of its business. That’s understandable. But how about a courtesy to the person bringing a complaint, even if  it’s a simple “complaint denied?”

The Ethics Commission was created 25 years ago through an executive order by Mayor Tom Bucci to monitor the conduct of elected and public officials. I know just about everyone on the Ethics Commission. All good people. It’s befuddling to me that they think, assuming McCarthy has been notified of its decision accurately (they don’t issue press releases), that most council members really attend the Vibes for the purpose of monitoring its future viability. And what about the companion?

Ethics Commission members, according to City of Bridgeport web site:

Mary Donnelly (D)
53 Reading Place
Bridgeport, CT 06604

Joseph W. Ianniello (R)
128 Balmforth Street
Bridgeport, CT 06605

Harry Weichsel (U)
64 Janet Circle
Bridgeport, CT 06606

Robert Filotei (R)
365 Sailors Lane
Bridgeport, CT 06605
Term Expires 12/31/09

Lizette Garay (D)
1394 North Avenue
Bridgeport, CT 06604


Joseph Giaquinto (D)
253 Rosewood Place
Bridgeport, CT 06610



  1. You mean there was supposed to be a “point” in the formation of the Ethics Commission? I won’t bother my fingers to comment on McCarthy and his statement. I do have a question of the two Republicans on the Ethics Commission. Paging Marc Delmonico. Did either of the Republicans attend the hearing on his complaint? Why didn’t any of the two Republicans notify Delmonico if they did attend? Who selected these two Republicans to serve on the commission? Are you sure they’re not Rinos?
    Is the mayor appointing Republicans recommended by the Republican Party leadership or are they (Democrats) planting their Rinos on commissions? Have any family members of Republicans appointed to commissions been hired and/or promoted?

  2. The ethics commission is a waste of time and is there for show only. I have another concern:
    MEMO to Police Chief Gaudett: Hey Joe they are robbing us blind up here. Community Bank gets held up on Friday and yesterday at 5PM the Sunoco gas station is held up at gunpoint. That’s at least 11 armed robberies in a year. Do you have any plans to leave Green 38 in the neighborhood or will it still be the first car shut down or used to cover other cars? Joe do you have any plans to help us or do we have to wait until spring and your 11 PM neighborhood walk? BTW most people are sleeping at that hour as they have to go to work in the AM.
    Please don’t tell me about the SET unit, that is a complete waste of police manpower good for PR but otherwise it’s all bullshit.
    There is going to come a time that one of these merchants is killed in one of these armed robberies, then what?

    1. Finch will have a midnight stroll along upper East Main and the bad guys all go away. Mind you not go away in the criminal sense but go away to another block for a day or two.
      OK that may not be true either. I heard when Hizhonnor took a hike along Reservoir Ave the drug dealers stayed in the parking lots and made fun of the march against crime.

  3. Joel:

    I’m a RINO–Republican In Name Only. I’m moderate to conservative on fiscal stuff and moderate to liberal on social stuff.

    I am more a New England Republican who the national party wants to “purge.” Politically, I’m an endangered species. I like to refer to myself as a “Bull Moose Republican” raising the specter of Teddy Roosevelt and the greatest Republican rebel of all.

    If you want to hear RINO crap come to Pennsylvania where they are shooting guns all over the place and selling the state out to Texans to pulverize the mountains with poisoned water to get natural gas. I told one smartass I wasn’t changing parties so I could make sure I could vote against one vulgarian in the primary and general election.

    In Bridgeport what you may have are people registered Republican who don’t think much of the complaint, get along with the Dems, or think the ethics commission is a big joke so what the hell, throw my name on the commission for a laugh.

    The fact that appointments are not kept up to date hurts the legitimacy of the body. Whether it is true or not, it may be an indicator that the community does not think an ethics commission is relevant.

    1. JC,
      I am certain there are RINOs everywhere, but you would have to ask Marc Delmonico as to the various branding he deals with in Bridgeport. In the past election we had a public meeting for voters to hear the candidates. The local candidate, whose name appeared on the election-day ballot, never returned calls to speak, had no organization or street signs and obviously lost to a strong Democratic incumbent.

      Now that the balance in Bridgeport looks to be about 9 or 10 to 1 (Democrat to Republican), except with some moving over from Democrat or Independent to Republican when a local candidate whom they support needs Republican primary support (Torres), there is no two-party system. The emergence of the Workers Party in the past two cycles is of note in that regard.

      The ethics issue is separate I think. If, as is alleged often in this column, the current Mayor is overlooking Ordinances, regulations, low-standard Ethical imperatives, Civil Service procedures, and the public sees conflicts of interest in too many places etc. etc. then it is more indicative of the absence of check and balance mechanisms in the structure of municipal government. All power has gone to the top with less and less interference daily. That is the big sucking sound. No public scoreboards are kept as to money or people (except in arrears per audits) for the benefit of those trying to pay attention. Nobody knows nothing, except the very few who actually do, and they are not sharing. That is damaging to the system in the long run. And when your employment, or that of a family member, is under threat of discontinuance, you cannot expect any righteous pushback mechanism to be in operation.

      Systems like this often require enough time to perform one or two actions so egregious that when the public hears about it, it’s too late to put on a parachute by the leader to escape responsibility, even if there is no FBI or other investigative body active and on site. However, when your local media have slashed their municipal coverage for their own reasons then it is fortunate when a blog becomes “the public media” substitute.

      I can think of one similar institution locally that acts in somewhat similar regal fashion. The Diocese of Bridgeport is currently led by Bishop William E. Lori, neither selected nor elected locally but rather appointed nearly ten years ago by a structural leader in a foreign land. ( No worry about hanging chads or votes not getting counted.) Through institutional law (converted into CT Law by a handful and professional legal counsel) and promises of obedience from about 300 collared professionals, the Bishop holds effective control of the land, the buildings (churches and schools), the financial assets and funds, as well as the employees of all of the Catholic operations in Fairfield County. He even controls the dead bodies (cemeteries) as well as the living ones. Personally he claims to be a communicator but his blog has been under maintenance for most of 2010 and there are no listening or teaching sessions where dialogue and discussion can take place about the nature of the structure, its resources, its mission, etc. Bishop Lori does have press resources available, indeed an entire newspaper The Fairfield County Catholic, now a monthly, to show his picture, his chosen news and share his personal message, again with no institutional pushback. The institutional web site contains numbers from mid-decade claiming 460,000 members in addition to more recent numbers from 2008 claiming 410,000 members, a decreasing trend. With declining numbers of Baptisms and instruction or teaching of young children, with older members less regular in weekly attendance, and annual deaths exceeding RCIA evangelical efforts, the air is coming out of this structure rapidly. People are fired. Programs are terminated whether important to people in the pews or not. Limited financial supporting is the rule historically and the latest year covered is not current, 2008 although the Diocese is getting current monthly financial reports from each of 87 parishes. And though there will be no election in 2011 people care and notice what is fair and ethical. That is the similarity. And there is also the rub.

      The leaders continue to move various chairs around on the deck of this titanic ship that hit the clergy sexual abuse iceberg for certain all around the world in the past decade. And good people (including many ordained clergy, men of integrity) prayerfully maintain hope that change will occur, that open and accountable behavior will become reality within a transparent institution. That would amount to change.

      It takes faith, deep faith and a certain persevering and obstinate belief that change for the better not only can occur but that it will occur; and if not in our time, then later. And is this not the case with Bridgeport the municipality also?

  4. Jim, you’re one of the first people in this area who has voiced a concern on “fracking,” where natural gas companies power blast a toxic chemical soup into the ground, usually horizontally, to break up rock and ledge to release the natural gas. The main problem is that this soup is poisoning the groundwater and people can light their water faucets so instead their H2O are rivulets of flames. People and animals are dying from using this water. Streams are igniting and people’s wells are contaminated. The contamination is not from the initial chemical compound that it used to crack open the rock but from the toxic wastewater that is produced and not stored correctly.
    In 2005 Oil and Gas Cheney orchestrated his cronies to remove drilling for natural gas from the Clean Water Act. There is now a movement to reinstate the prohibition in Congress. But if it doesn’t get done in the lame duck sessions it will unlikely get done by the new Congress.
    Pennsylvania is one of a couple dozen states allow this and now New York is considering it. Based on the fact that drilling horizontally can reach at least a mile underground is a very big concern for CT residents if New York or other border states begin this drilling. I think we need a strong effort by the State’s Washington delegation to ensure that we stop this practice everywhere and I would like to see an effort in our Legislature to ban the practice altogether. The issue is that it is a very lucrative endeavor to frack rock and sometimes one type of “green” is more than incentive to forget about the environmental green. I hope this dilemma stays out of Connecticut. (Hmmm I wonder if Stewie has been to visit in the areas around fracking, where you cook a fish and catch it all in the same water.) I hope this issue is a concern for other people as well.

  5. MCAT:

    Pennsylvania is and was home to enormous natural resources that mattered when the United States cared to be a manufacturing powerhouse.

    Despite over 200 years experience with abuses from timber interests, coal and other mining interests, oil drilling, and assorted scams run by the old Reading Railroad and such corporate characters, the blockheads in Harrisburg still don’t see the danger from inadequately controlling a 21st Century chance to repeat past abuses.

    There have been several publicized instances of drilling mishaps. There also have been some whoppers told by environmentalists trying to gin up hysteria in Pennsy. They’ve failed. And they don’t help. They don’t understand the state. They are not going to bring Santa Monica to Forty Fort.

    The coal mining areas of the state have been down so long that even Texas drillers look like up to them. The southeastern part of the state, home of one-third the population, is more urbanized, has fewer natural resource issues to consider, and is interested in only a general way on what happens in the rest of the state. The rest of Pennsylvania is “upstate” to Philly and Philly is Sin City to Pennsylvania (the suburban counties are thrown in for good measure).

    The drillers will probably have to create a real crisis to wake up Pennsylvania. They may have done it already, but people don’t know it.


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