A freedom of information request to the city by Democratic mayoral candidate Mary-Jane Foster reveals a bunch of lawyers financing Mayor Bill Finch’s reelection making small fortunes since the mayor assumed office including Bill Beccaro who controls a political action committee aligned with the mayor. Beccaro has made more than $250K from city taxpayers since the mayor assumed office in December 2007, according to figures calculated by the Foster campaign provided by the city, as well as another Finch friend Ed Maley, both of whom are veteran capitol lobbyists/attorneys. Hey Bill and Ed, let’s be friends. I know a few restaurants with great wine lists!
Beccaro and Maley are being paid under two professional services contracts with the city totaling $7,000 per month providing legal and consulting advice for a variety of city projects including a regional wastewater treatment authority, regional magnet high school and state legislative issues. In total, according to a spread sheet the city provided to Foster, since Finch became mayor roughly $8 million has been paid to lawyers outside of the city’s paid city attorney staffers. This is something City Councilman Bob “Troll” Walsh has been screaming about for years, even before Finch became mayor: The mayor has an attorney friend he trusts or wants to take care of so he runs it through City Attorney Mark Anastasi. Bingo!
Other firms making big bucks include Pullman & Comley where former Democratic Town Chair and Finch supporter John Stafstrom is a partner, roughly $750,000. Pullman & Comley is the city’s bond counsel advising the mayor on financial and economic development matters. The Foster campaign says the law firm’s bond counsel fees are not included in the $750K. Also Berchem, Moses & Devlin, led by Bob Berchem, the mayor’s lead attorney on the regional high school, roughly $100,000. Most of the lawyers paid on an outside basis are major campaign contributors to the mayor.
Stafstrom and Berchem are accomplished lawyers. One of the the questions Foster asserts is why can’t the city’s 12 paid city staff attorneys handle these matters? Are they not qualified? The city also hired as a professional services contractor former Republican State Senator Rob Russo, a former Finch state senate opponent, to help with regional issues, particularly with Trumbull because Finch and Trumbull Republican First Selectman Tim Herbst don’t get along.
A couple of firms have earned more than $1 million handling education and labor relations matters, for instance the termination of several city employees such as former Civil Service Personnel Director Ralph Jacobs.
Finch says he has reduced reliance on outside lawyers. Many city projects and lawsuits require specialized legal counsel, according to the mayor.
The PAC for which Beccaro is treasurer, People for Excellence in Government, is here.
The Foster campaign released copies of professional services contracts signed by Beccaro and Maley, one for $5,500 and the other for $1,500 for a total of $7,000 per month. The Connecticut Post web story characterizes them being reduced to $1,500 per month when they were actually increased by that much. Post story on this: www.ctpost.com/news/article/Foster-Finch-clash-over-millions-spent-by-1397953.php
From the Foster campaign:
Foster FOI Reveals $8 Million Paid To Lawyers Financing Finch’s Campaign
“The mayor’s friends pay for his campaign in exchange for rich contracts at taxpayer’s expense.”
Bridgeport businesswoman and social action advocate Mary-Jane Foster, who is running for mayor, revealed today the preliminary findings from an FOI request regarding City of Bridgeport payments to outside law firms during the Finch administration:
In total, Mayor Finch has authorized almost $8 million in outside legal fees since Dec. 1, 2007, with most of these taxpayer dollars going to hefty campaign contributors or their law firms. This includes the treasurer of a political action committee benefiting Bill Finch, who has received more than $250,000 in taxpayer money purportedly for legal fees since the mayor assumed office.
“Unfortunately, the contracts for campaign cash quid pro quo is alive and well,” said Foster. “The sinister head of pay to play is back in business. The mayor’s friends pay for his campaign in exchange for rich contracts at taxpayers’ expense. What work are they doing? What special qualifications do they have? How is it possible that none of the 12 city attorneys on staff are qualified to handle this work? Millions of taxpayer dollars are being squandered on the mayor’s campaign contributors.”
Bill Beccaro, treasurer of People for Excellence in Government, the PAC that has subsidized multiple expenses for close associates of the mayor, is among many lawyers and high profile law firms hired by the mayor who have supported his reelection. Beccaro is a principal at the Law Offices of William Beccaro. He also serves as attorney to the Connecticut Senate Democrats.
“It is impossible to serve three masters,” Foster pointed out. “What is in the interest of Bill Finch may not be in the best interest of the City of Bridgeport and the City’s interests most certainly will not always be in sync with the Senate Democrats, and vice versa. How does he decide which hat to wear and who gets the short end of the stick? This kind of triple dipping is outrageous. The taxpayers lose while Beccaro laughs all the way to the bank.”
The mayor has authorized millions in fees to outside legal counsel financing his race. The City Attorney’s Office budget has totaled roughly $14 million in the four budgets proposed by Finch and approved by the City Council. In a classic Finch blue smoke and mirrors budget move, some of these outside legal fees are paid for by the city attorney’s office while others are paid by the department having the work done making it difficult, if not impossible, to know the true amount being paid to outside law firms.
Foster added, “Violent crime is high, economic development low, unemployment at 15 percent, fiscal chaos looms, yet Finch–who promised voters a $600 tax cut–finds the money to reward big campaign contributors financing his race.”
In addition to Beccaro, attorney Ed Maley, another major Finch financial supporter, has received in excess of $250,000 during the Finch term. Other high profile law firms such as Pullman & Comley, Robinson and Cole, and Berchem, Moses & Devlin have received millions in legal fees.
A list of some of the best-known law firms is provide below followed by the total paid to the firm since Finch took office.
As of April 20, 2011:
William Beccaro, Attorney at Law
Berchem, Moses & Devlin
John P. Bohannon, Jr.*
*Finch’s private counsel in 2007 Caruso Election Court Case
Durant, Nichols & Houston*
*Includes Board of Education
Pullman & Comley
Robinson & Cole
Updike, Kelley & Spellacy
Legal fees and expenses associated with the Port Authority, Workers’ Compensation, WPCA, certain foreclosures, and Central Grants expenditures are not included in this report as the information was not provide in the response to the FOI request.