Who’s More Disingenuous In The Battle For Government Reform, Ganim Or McCarthy? Is Ed Adams Window Dressing?

McCarthy, Musto
In 2013 Tom McCarthy, left, receives oath from “his boy” Anthony Musto who lost his seat a year later to Marilyn Moore.

Joe Ganim’s first pass at his so-called watchdog office of Government Accountability is about as flaccid as the city’s Ethics Commission that has done nothing to monitor the conduct of public and elected officials in the past decade. Ganim, trying to live up to a campaign pledge assuaging concerns about his 2003 conviction on corruption charges, has proposed to appoint the people who could conceivably investigate him. Really? So much for an independent body. Just as disingenuous is City Council President Tom McCarthy’s new religion about checks and balances in government after rarely hearing a peep from him when he was on the public payroll working at the pleasure of the mayor. How convenient.

When you get to the world of potential criminal complaints and ethics complaints and vetting of those, I think independence is of the utmost importance,” McCarthy is quoted by the CT Post’s Brian Lockhart.

Funny, McCarthy, as council president for eight years with the dual role of deputy director of Labor Relations, earned about $1 million at taxpayers’ expense as a loyalist for then-Mayor Bill Finch. When Finch was paying McCarthy, the council president never challenged the mayor publicly. Now that McCarthy’s off the public payroll courtesy of a $35,000 exit package that included two years of health benefits, he pontificates watchdog in chief.

McCarthy’s contemplating a primary challenge of Democratic State Senator Marilyn Moore who spoke often about McCarthy’s conflict as council president working at the pleasure of the mayor in defiance of the City Charter. Yes, Only In Bridgeport did the head of the legislative branch work at the pleasure of the mayor that in any other likewise situation be it state or federal government would be against the law. During Finch’s eight years as mayor, McCarthy never challenged Finch. Moore called him on it. For years, City Attorney Mark Anastasi, rather than enforcing the charter, rationalized that state law allows city employee councilors. Moore defeated in a 2014 primary incumbent Anthony Musto who was in the pocket of the political establishment as a major obstacle in Hartford to a government reform bill correcting checks and balances in Bridgeport government. McCarthy often called Musto “his guy.”

In her first year as a state senator Moore achieved a major success persuading her peers to close the loophole on behalf of good government in Bridgeport. It was killed in the State House because House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz works for a union that wanted a cozy relationship with McCarthy who approved union contracts both in his capacity as deputy director of Labor Relations and City Council president. Ganim worked out a severance package with McCarthy to pacify a campaign pledge to correct conflicts of interests in government. This was on top of McCarthy receiving $14,000 in a retroactive pay raise approved by Finch, in his last days as mayor, with no “independence” from McCarthy.

This could be a fascinating race should McCarthy dare challenge Moore. Hmmm, let’s see how the Moore mailers could read against McCarthy in Bridgeport, Trumbull and Monroe: Mac Attack, he raised taxes, padded his paycheck, violated home rule, promoted conflicts of interest. Want this Mac at your back?

And as for Ganim, where is Ed Adams, the retired FBI agent who investigated Ganim then provided Ganim cover on the campaign trail with his public support, in all of this? Is Adams being paid $90,000 a year to be window dressing? Based on the Government Accountability language that he helped structure, it looks that way.



  1. As Einstein said, “you can’t fix a problem with the same people who caused the problem.”
    Then again, no one will ever confuse Bridgeport politicians with Einstein.

  2. For years, all McCarthy did was what Finch told him to do, now that he was let go from his job and has nothing to gain, he is taking a stand on issues??? What a joke.

  3. Can anyone tell me why is it our Mayor or the powers that be has not gone after the removal of Milta Feliciano or James Holloway from the council? Are there different laws for them?

  4. Question, does the City Charter allow for a person to receive a City pension paycheck each month and also to hold a City elected position that pays them a City check?

    1. Ron, the answer to your question is NO.
      They started violating the rule with Gaudett and Rooney and they are following through with Don Clemons, a retired city firefighter and serving state rep. The question is how many checks do we give this do-nothing?
      I remember the most politically connected person in the city Gene O’Neal who when he retired from the PD went to work for the BOE and had to be paid with grant money.
      I am no fan of Ganim but I am even less a fan of his staff who are amongst the least-experienced ever hired.

      1. Andrew,
        I’m with you on G2’s staff–having seen Gomes in action. When he speaks, it sounds as though he read a Wikipedia article on management to prepare for this job.

      2. Andy, in order for Gaudett and Rooney to receive their pension and their paycheck for being the chief of their departments, this has to get the approval of the Civil Service Commission and the Personnel Director, so what was their position because they don’t have to follow the direction of the mayor. Civil Service is there to protect the charter. The Civil Service Commission and the Personnel Director are not doing their jobs.

    2. Ron, I believe in most cases they are MERS (municipal employee retirement system) pensions managed by the state treasurer’s office. Pension payments are from the state treasury. Payments are not from the city treasury. Exceptions would be the police and fire A & B.

  5. OIB readers know much of the greater Bridgeport community is engaged in the variety of activities that make up Holy Week each year, the most serious days in the Christian calendar.
    Now I have not heard about Tom McCarthy and and “new religion” that benefits from a conversion experience, however I have seen nothing that would change our current state of absence of viable “checks and balances” in City government.
    Council members come to elected office, at least many of them, with the assumption the way municipal government works here is both according to Charter and Ordinances as well as “the norm” across the local and wider landscapes. Not true on both accounts. When they fail to read the Charter and observe its prescriptions, when they ignore comments about Ordinances and practice being out of order, and when they continue to have no capable support staff (eliminated by Tom McCarthy four years ago), they continue to be a nonentity, practically speaking, in holding up their end of the rope, for the taxpaying public.

    Weak, compromised, understaffed, and yet too cocky to ask for assistance, too many go about City business as if they were big wheels. Well all of that “wheeling” for the local cameras, the stipend junkets where they wine and dine at taxpayer expense and ignore improving our City with “better practices,” and attempting to make sense of all of the paperwork and decision making coming at them without support does nothing for “checks and balances.” And, interestingly enough for OIB readers, it does provide a cadre of former City Council persons who are willing to tell “war stories” about how things were when they served, but who comment little about the structural measures that hold this Council in check and almost nothing about the fiscal matters that continue to increase our taxes, lower the Grand List value, and put both operating budgets and balance sheets in the RED. Why are former CC members not greater watchdogs about what needs doing? Time will tell.

    1. Tom McCarthy did an outstanding job serving the people of Bridgeport as a city employee. McCarthy has represented his district well and I’m sure he will tell you he made every vote with the interest of the people of Bridgeport first and foremost.

      While holding both positions may have given the opportunity for McCarthy to gain personally from his elected position, it does not mean he ever did. Maybe his character is what separates him from people like Joe Ganim.

      JML, I have met many city council members, most currently sitting, who are very talented, hard-working representatives of their districts. You call many of them “weak,” yet they found a way to actually win in their districts.

      1. You are kidding, right? What has this group of 20 done that is meaningful to the citizens of Bridgeport? Are you talking about the budgets they passed where they had no idea they were voting for a deficit budget? Are you talking about the two council people who did their weekly shopping at Stop & Shop in Black Rock? Are you talking about Tom McCarthy who authorized $30K in payments to council people’s charities such as PAL and the senior drum corps? Are you talking about the two council people living in West Haven? Please get a clue.

          1. THEY NEED TO GET IT THE RIGHT WAY. Tell me how two council people shopping at Stop & Shop with our money helps us. Tell me how donations to Pal help. Tell me how money to a drum and bugle corps helps the city. Please wake up.

      2. Nick,
        Thank you for standing up for what you believe is reality. You are sharing your perception, your viewpoint. Perhaps you are a constituent of Tom’s, a long-time ballot caster for him, perhaps a good friend. OK.
        What is the basis in the public record for saying he performed his City work for which he was paid in an “outstanding manner?” I missed the article or his interviews sharing the details. Please share with the OIB reading audience.
        Tom making every vote with the people of Bridgeport in mind is fascinating. Some examples please? Tell me how his service on the Airport Commission helped the taxpayers who had to foot a bill for legal and driveway expense that should not have been theirs.
        I am happy you have met many Council representatives and are so pleased with them. Working harder than necessary because Tom McCarthy saw fit to remove their only staff supporting employee. Using as an excuse for the removal he was saving the City money, yet at the same time adding an employee who initially saw similar duties under his sole direction such as taking pictures of CC moments?
        People win in their districts because the Town Committee supports candidates who may be less able (more tractable) and less diverse, and less independent than other choices. Then registered voters sit at home and wonder why. Winning the districts is not winning for the City.
        Would you like to discuss how our City has moved REDDER and REDDER under McCarthy and the people he has charged with fiscal “responsibility” on behalf of the Council and the taxpayers of Bridgeport? Would you like to discuss further? See me and introduce yourself when I speak again to the Council in early April, first Monday. Perhaps you will be able to direct me to those articles and publications telling the story of McCarthy’s vocational and Council successes that put the people of Bridgeport ahead today. Time will tell.

        1. JML,
          I am none of the above.

          What held Bridgeport down for so long was a lack of investment. Thankfully, efforts have been made to bring jobs and businesses back. Tom served as president of the council that worked with the administration to make this a reality. Parks were built and businesses opened up expanding the tax base. Universal Pre-K came to Bridgeport.

          I am so adamant about defending McCarthy because I find this article sloppy and unsubstantiated. I also find it strange to hear OIB suggest the council president should not call for criminal and ethics complaints to be independent. RIDICULOUS. There is a reason why Tom McCarthy isn’t in prison or charged with any ethical misconduct–and it’s not some elaborate coverup conspiracy. He hasn’t done anything wrong.

          I am afraid if I talk with you in person I’ll be inundated with so many rhetorical questions my head might explode.

          1. Don’t want to make your head explode, Nick.
            Parks opened up, yes. Spent $9 Million kind of secretly, not ever really revealing the different locations in each District that were going to herald his re-election year 2015. It did not work, because “businesses opened” and others closed and so more jobs were not happening. Also the values of the existing businesses went down. Look at the Taxable Grand List that Bill and company were afraid to face in 2013. So we face it now.
            No rhetorical questions here. Just a simple question. Your justification for McCarthy, Finch and City progress hold no water. They are not factual. Operating budget numbers are real. CAFR volumes year after year are real. Balance sheets going from black into RED are real. The questions I ask are real. They are a measure of showing you the path to get to some data based reality relative to City governance. Time will tell.

          2. Several hours away from your initial comment reminded me of your comment about investment. You said you were neither friend, constituent nor voter for McCarthy but still think he is wonderful vocationally and as a legislative leader. What has he ever said about investment in the City? That is a practical question looking for your fact-based answer, as a supporter, of course.
            Perhaps you are an investor. If so you look at potential investments, look for those with a good trend and a cutting edge opportunity and with limited downside risks. And you look to diversify your investments with others that operate in contrast in terms of volatility or variability.
            And the old saw about, BUY LOW and SELL HIGH is also part of real estate investing sense.
            But then you begin to look at real estate in the City for instance and values over long periods of time do not appreciate like they have in other CT areas. Can you blame property taxes? Can you point a finger at the City Council that approved of numerous property investors who were given breaks, called abatements, to limit their expenses as owners, thereby forcing other property owner, investors (?) to foot their share also. Fair or just? But maybe, when the blood is in the streets flowing freely from RED deals unsupported by the fantasies in buyer minds at time of purchase, and property prices are so low??? Can they go lower? And what if the governmental help that keeps much housing available at less than full market price, is reduced, even a little? What happens to investors? Time will tell.

    2. Happy Easter, everyone!

      As a Jew who worships as a Unitarian Universalist (Universalism was the religion of Barnum at First Universalist Church, across Fairfield Avenue from my office at the B:Hive), my appreciation for both the universality and the special Christian nature of this holiday grows on me year by year. Thanks for mentioning it, JML.

      I hope I’m not too sacrilegious if I now say the inscrutability of the Easter story to non-Christians can be (gently) compared on a political level to the inscrutability of the Bridgeport City Council to non-council members (the 99% of us who aren’t elected). I haven’t watched it often enough in person, but I read about its meetings carefully. I covered city councils in Raleigh and Indianapolis. I served on a city legislature (a town meeting) in Massachusetts. This council meets but doesn’t deliberate. It disposes of an agenda, but it seems to reject independence of thinking. The difference between Easter and the council is what’s good dies and doesn’t live again. How do folks go on presenting solid criticism and questions about our city to a council that stoically ignores opportunities to make real change? The answer my council friends, is not blowing in the wind. It’s often right in front of you. In a theological sense, Easter is a mystery of faith for the millennia. The mystery of the council is why it ducks into its cave and stays inside while good advice is given and ignored. The ultimate divinity of Jesus was made real when he was hidden from the people. For the council, divinity would be real if they stopped hiding and let the people influence them.

      Is this comment a rant? Well, yes. It’s been gnawing at me.

      I don’t want to start council wars like in Chicago few decades ago or pick a fight between the executive and the legislative. But I do want a strong and assertive legislative in Bridgeport–a real forum that examines change, proposes change, and welcomes citizen input instead of limiting it, confining it, squeezing its time, and ignoring its meaning. It would make the mayor better; it would make the city better; it would make the council more impressive and reëlectable.

      For me, the telltale issue is the festering question over that $1 million transfer from the OPED capital budget to the Port Authority. JML has outlined the financial story. My concern is not with the movement of money hither and yon; that’s what JML is exploring. My concern is with the process. The council’s budgets are ordinances, our local laws. When I violate a parking ordinance, I get a $25 ticket. (I write this at Bagel King Downtown with four parking enforcement guys eating breakfast right next to me!) When someone violates the budget ordinance, does she or he get a $25 ticket? Um, no. Does the council look even cross-eyed at it and say, “Whoa! What part of ‘This is a freakin’ LAW,’ did you not understand? What part of ‘If you want $1 million moved from one part of our capital budget to one part of our off-budget quasi-agency, then you have to ASK us first because WE MAKE THE LAW!’ does the council not get?” It won’t assert its own power. It makes a strong mayor and weak council system (that’s a political science description of the system, not a judgement) even weaker, and that latter part is indeed a judgement. Its members are dependent, not independent. I want this council to simply call this new administration’s capable budget officers into a public forum and say, “Look, it’s not your thing. We know that. We’re not here to excoriate you because you didn’t do this; the other team did. We’re not going to ask you to explain their stuff. But we want a rock-solid promise from you. Tell us, in public, here and now, when we pass a budget, you will enforce it, not treat it as a plaything. Tell us you understand that we make law and you carry it out, Tell us if you want to change the budget or any other ordinance, you’ll come to us, not slink around our back. Because, you see, to change the LAW, you go to the LAWMAKERS, and that’s us. You haven’t done anything wrong. We just want to keep it that way, for the future.”

      If the council would assert itself, a lot of good would result. It would consider input, air it publicly, and be changed by it. Our city would change faster and for the better, and our city would operate with more transparency and increased understanding. All it takes is someone on the council to move for a hearing on budget practices. Will someone pick up that initiative? Would someone second it? Will the council design a process to place itself in its rightful place? Will it explore its own identity?

      Golly, those of us in OIB-land know the answer: Time will tell.

      1. David,
        You are correct. But who do you think is going to call the city on these moves? Tom McCarthy, the council president?
        Maybe he will now but he wasn’t saying a word while he was making over $100K a year off of the city, now was he?
        And to make matters worse, Tom would argue you cannot fine city employees unless their union agrees. Otherwise, it can go to arbitration and let an arbiter decide.
        And all the rules are in place except Tom Sherwood started changed definitions to allow him to move money without council approval.
        When I was first on the council, we were approving budget transfers all the time. Slowly they disappeared.
        Ask Tom McCarthy why. Ask Tom McCarthy how. Tom McCarthy as a city employee AND Council President was beholden to the mayor not the council or the public. Ask Tom McCarthy.

      2. Now David, in direct response to your question, the City Charter stated the council must approve any transfers of unexpended capital funds.
        But every bond authorization written by our current bond council includes language that surrenders that power to the mayor.
        When I was on the council I would constantly try to amend the resolution to remove this language and constantly the council would defeat my efforts.
        Ask Tom McCarty why.

      3. As usual Doug, good read and absolute accuracy. I served 20 years on the CC with five administrations. During my ten terms, council members came and went for a variety of reasons so I had the opportunity to see the many personalities and competency of so many different members from different districts. In that time, the press was very engaged with all aspects of City business and the performance of the CC as they reviewed, opinionated and ultimately voted. I wish you could have witnessed what a real council was like. Mayors, department heads, the City Attorney’s Office were all held to a high level of scrutiny. There were no candy jars, or conflicts, or favorites, just public servants doing what they knew had to be done, because if they didn’t, they read about it the next day and the voters would kick them out when the time came. It pains me to watch this comedy of errors, and for the life of me I don’t know why the electorate allows it. The City Council under the past two administrations are 50% to blame for the woes of Bridgeport. It will take a Citywide challenge of dedicated individuals to rid the legislative body of at least 75% of these poor souls. They don’t even realize they don’t know what they’re doing, and that’s how the past two administrations wanted it. There will be a purge, I’m hoping once the elections of this year are over, a coalition will come together representing all districts and fix this situation. The Council members are up for reelection next year, that’s plenty of time for positive action by those who really want change.

  6. JML, how correct you are. Taking pictures, fighting for instead of advocating safety measures. Just a few things that come to mind. And JML, maybe because the current cc members do not listen. They are too busy renaming streets and or taking pictures so some constituents, not all, think they are doing great things! Hah!

  7. Lennie, you are really ‘taking off the gloves’ in your assessment of McCarthy and his dual roles. The Connecticut Post approaches the topic like a pillow fight.

      1. Nick,
        There is a document that is published annually by the City when the external audit is complete. State law looks for it to appear within six months after a fiscal year ends. So when our city FY ends on June 30 each year we expect the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) to appear around New Year’s Day. (Some years, like this one, with many changes, a restatement of major proportions, and a change at City Hall, an extension is requested and granted.) Our CAFR 2015 appeared on February 15, 2016.
        Why outline this process?

        Because the CT Post has not in news or editorial pages shared with the public the major decrease in financial strength that was reported in the CAFR 2015. Nor did they talk about the 20 errors in the CAFR 2014 of various kinds or the already admitted errors in the City narration for this year. The CAFR is full of facts and narrative worthy of coverage.

        Finding major changes in the City operating budget is news, certainly, and they have talked about that, but looking at the balance sheet challenges is even more critical as we attempt to borrow more money, and use some for operations and some for items that may more prudently be leased for terms shorter than 20 years, or currently expended and controlled. The Post has ignored the story. Do they understand it? Have any of them read the CAFR, cover to cover, compared it to other years or other municipalities and connected the dots as to what trends are ongoing and in the wrong directions?

        The Post has its own “business model” problems and structural weaknesses.

        As a subscriber and reader, I am entitled to criticize and to suggest areas for more fertile reporting for the people of Bridgeport and CT. If a larger SPOTLIGHT was placed on municipal governance and its fiscal results in Bridgeport, perhaps the taxpayers of the State of CT might have less call on and need for State taxpayer funds. It’s a possibility, isn’t it? Time will tell.

  8. In case no one has noticed, it takes a certain type of person to win elected office in Bridgeport. In most cases the person must suffer from terminal dumb ass and they must not be able to think for themselves.
    The other thing is this: If you rate the voters in Bridgeport by intelligence they would rate 169th out of 169 towns and cities in Connecticut. Bridgeport has elective offices that are for certain minority group members. Are these positions getting the best candidates? NO. What are some of the positions? Town Clerk, City Clerk, State rep in 138th to name a few. I firmly believe if the town committee nominated Rootie Kazootie for elective office, the people of Bridgeport would elect him.

  9. Not straightforward or candid; insincere or calculating: Joe & Mario won hands down. McCarthy is proving to be the next best thing, just my observation and opinion. Twenty-one days and counting.

  10. Having made some comments earlier today about the City Council as a whole, I’d like to continue on that theme. Namely, let’s stay focused on the council as a whole.

    You can praise this member and criticize that member, and you have a right to do so. A person in leadership is particularly susceptible to be judged on their leadership.

    But I think the larger problem is not the capabilities or the wisdom or the motivations or the factional identities of the individuals, nor their electability. (I do think the allegations of City Councilors living out of town is interesting, though!) But the primary question for me is the mode of governance. As a group, what are the agreements, spoken and unspoken, written and unwritten, de jure and de facto, that govern how these people work in relationship to each other.

    We all know groups of people where for the most part everyone is a fine person, and yet the group doesn’t work well together. Is that one person’s fault or the group’s fault, all things being equal? Doesn’t it take two to make an agreement and relate? If you take the 20 members of the council, plus the mayor and clerk, you have something like close to 500 relationships in play at the council table. My concern is they’re making nice, not making tough and assertive. Individually, council members are fine, well-meaning, and proud people. I’d just like their group be the same way. Will it happen? Will they explore their self-process and the agreements that hold them–and us–back from the government we could have and they could deliver? Oh yes, you know how it ends. Time will tell.


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