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Why Is Anthony Musto Afraid Of Supporting A Good Government Bill That Prohibits City Employees From Serving On The City Council?

April 26th, 2013 · 25 Comments · Analysis and Comment

Anthony Musto

Anthony Musto's good-government challenge

Democratic State Senator Anthony Musto is hearing it from constituents, in emails, phone calls, letters, letters to the editor, from readers of OIB and Connecticut Post. They want him to support a state legislative bill co-sponsored by Bridgeport State House members Jack Hennessy and Auden Grogins that would ban city employees from serving on the City Council that also approves the city budget. Bridgeport’s City Charter, in language approved by voters, prohibits city employees from serving on the city’s legislative body. Supporters say the bill’s passage eliminates conflicts of interest such as council members approving their own wages and salaries. So far Musto has stubbornly backed away from support. He has not responded to several requests for comment.

AN ACT PROHIBITING MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES FROM SERVING ON CERTAIN MUNICIPAL LEGISLATIVE BODIES.

To prohibit municipal employees from serving on any governmental body charged with preparing the municipal budget except when authorized by charter or home rule ordinance.

Municipal employees are barred from serving on boards of finance. The bill proposed and supported by Hennessy, Grogins and many others in the legislature simply–as noted in the language above–extends state law to include “any governmental body charged with preparing the municipal budget.”

The bill had some momentum when it was voted out of the legislature’s Planning and Development Committee several weeks ago, but Hennessy says it faces oblivion without additional backing from the city’s eight-member legislative delegation because it’s too easy for some legislators on the fence to oppose it in light of heavy lobbying against the bill by city and state unions. The City Council approves collective bargaining agreements. Many Democrats in the legislature don’t want to buck union members whose support they rely on at election time. A majority of legislative Republicans support the bill including State Senator John McKinney, a potential 2014 gubernatorial candidate. The bill, if passed, would not prohibit Board of Education employees from serving on the council, only those city employees on the city-side payroll.

Several members of the city’s legislative delegation won’t admit it publicly but they fear alienating the five city employees on the City Council the bill would bar from the city’s legislative body. State Senator Andres Ayala and State Rep. Ezequiel Santiago, a city employee, are publicly against the bill. Other members of the city’s legislative delegation such as State Senator Anthony Musto, and members of the State House Christina Ayala, Don Clemons and Charlie Stallworth have largely sidestepped the bill.

City Council members Tom McCarthy, Rich Paoletto, Richard Bonney, James Holloway and Warren Blunt are on the public payroll. Opponents of the bill say let the people decide who should serve. The argument is flaccid. The people of Bridgeport have decided, they don’t want city employees serving on the council. That’s why it’s in the charter.

Musto, in particular, has placed himself at odds with his Bridgeport constituency from Black Rock, Brooklawn and the North End that has lobbied the bill’s passage. Musto represents all of Trumbull and portions of Bridgeport and Monroe. But the Bridgeport portion of his district represents the highest-turnout areas of the city with the 2014 election shaping up as a challenging year for some Democratic incumbents. Musto apparently fears alienating the Democratic Party establishment, in particular City Council President Tom McCarthy who insists city employees serving on the council poses no inherent conflict. If Musto loses some of his base city support over this issue he’ll have a battle in 2014 from a Republican challenger.

Do Democrats, be it Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa or anyone else who wants Musto to remain in the Senate, really want to lose Musto’s seat over this issue? It could happen.

It’s illegal for state employees to serve in the state legislature. It’s illegal for municipal employees to serve on boards of finance. What’s wrong with Musto supporting a provision that extends it to cover any “governmental body charged with preparing the municipal budget?”

Why is Anthony Musto afraid to support the bill?

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25 Comments so far ↓

  • John Marshall Lee

    Does the description “deer in the headlights” have any meaning to you, Tony? That’s the way it is looking right now!
    In small groups you can do the “on the one hand, and then on the other hand” lawyer thing. It may be true, as a matter of fact. But the issue is not going away.
    Remember the lollipop cop, Kojak? His famous question, “Who loves ya, baby?” And another bald pate gentleman, on the political front, Ed Koch, with his famous question, “How’m I doing?” Keep those public questions in mind. The longer you muddle in the huddle, you’re going to be losing love and looking like a supporter of DTC royal rule that ignores our Charter language and home-rule favor. Times are a-changing about basic and vital things like library referendums the Mayor opposed (and still can’t fully fund what the people decided) and elected Board of Ed members who the Mayor opposed with lots of non-Bridgeport money, staffing and commentary. But perhaps WE THE PEOPLE are coming together, listening to each other in some new ways that make sense in the 21st Century, and finding enough structural things neighbors in the suburbs would not sustain. Senator Musto, if he fails to support Grogins and Hennessy becomes a suburban OPPRESSOR automatically. How do you spin that story, Tony? (It won’t be spaghetti night in Boston’s North End, will it.) Time will tell.

    • The Fixer

      The Senator will look bad to Bridgeport voters for not supporting the bill and he will look bad to his Trumbull/Monroe constituents for caving to the Bridgeport machine. The best out for Musto is to make sure there is enough opposition to the bill so it’s guaranteed not to pass and then come out in support of the bill when it won’t make a difference. That is usually the game they play. City Council does the same thing.

    • yahooy

      Just a quick question. Did you hope to make a point here?

    • BlackRockGuy

      So now you are supporting Finch’s Board members. Not too consistent, JML. And you neglect to mention the Mayor’s people were elected with non-Bridgeport money.

      • John Marshall Lee

        BRG,
        What course in “creative reading” did you take to lead you to consider I am “supporting Finch’s Board members.” The Mayor was against elected Board members. He wanted a Charter with appointed members, by him, because he is accountable. Remember? I was opposed to appointed members. Still am because of the terrible record the Mayor has created in Bridgeport, where he fails to evaluate current members near the end of their terms and either provide them a full new term or get a new person to serve.
        Did the faucet stop dripping? Or did you lose count and remembered I had written something you had to oppose whether you read it or not? Time will tell.

  • Jimfox

    I’ll send a check to his opponent, whoever that is, and bang on some doors. MUSTO A LIGHTWEIGHT!

  • Andrew C Fardy

    Musto is a charter member of the NBA club, NBA meaning No Balls at all. I am glad he no longer represents us in the 138th.

  • indices

    “… faces oblivion without additional backing from the city’s eight-member legislative delegation …”
    Well there you go, right there. And if Andres Ayala opposes the bill, I wonder how Christina is thinking. All meshing together like a finely tuned and lubricated machine. Onward Bridgeport!

  • Baffled in Bridgeport

    Musto is a perfectly nice guy but why he is a legislator is a mystery. The guy never stands for anything. Guess he never heard if you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing. Why show up? Think being a nothing in the legislature gets you a judicial appointment? Not. You would think given the activism alive and well in Black Rock and the North End the guy would support this bill and the gun bill. No stand. Not smart.
    I’ve heard lots of rumors about people who might run against him–if he doesn’t stand up soon, he will have a primary he cannot win.

  • Steven Auerbach

    Senator Musto was elected to be a leader, not a follower. Make an impact!

  • Sue

    I say we give him a pass just for his looks alone.

  • Mojo

    *** Jesus, has this guy stated yes or no one way or another and why? If not then voters in Bpt should seriously consider dumping this baby-faced clown. Voters outside of Bpt should really not care how he votes one way or another, no? The opposition (calling all parties) needs to start preparing to unseat this guy who has not towed the line since being in office! *** DUMP MUSTO ***

  • countdown

    I really think every OIB reader who cares about this conflict of interest issue with the city council that has finance board responsibilities needs to contact their state legislator and state senator, personally, NOW! This isn’t just a Bridgeport issue either. There are at least four other municipalities in the same boat with a charter that prohibits city employees from serving on the council. Why the Speaker states this turns only on the Bridgeport delegation is very confusing to me. The State gives Bridgeport over $250 million per year. Everyone in the state has to care there isn’t an appearance of conflict as financial decisions of budget and union workrules are decided. Sure the current city council members are going to be ticked. They are all union members. Get out of the trees and see the forest. It is burning. Contact your legislators, over and over again if necessary.

  • Bond Girl

    Ken Dixon put an article in the CT Post this morning regarding HB-5724. His spin is perplexing.

  • bridgeportnow

    “Musto apparently fears alienating the Democratic Party establishment.” What are his ties there? Is that more important than fear of alienating his constituency?

  • Black Rock Barb

    CT is a Home Rule State, an amendment to the state constitution grants cities, municipalities, and/or counties the ability to pass laws to govern themselves as they see fit (so long as they obey the state and federal constitutions). The state is keeping us from following Home Rule (well actually the majority of the elected Democrats from Bridgeport). So Lawmakers–how about not being Law Breakers–and pass this amendment. We just voted to uphold our charter–sure do wish you would too!

  • John Marshall Lee

    Memory, that slippery mental tool, reminds me City Council members when sworn in pledge to uphold the Constitution of the United States. At least that is what I remember hearing when Jack Banta and Steve Stafstrom raised their hands and agreed.
    Curious that the City Charter is not sworn to, isn’t it? And are those new members who have been appointed by the DTC district leaders and agreed to by the City Council sitting familiar with the language of the Charter (and the current violations that affect the info received by the Council)? Or do they have to be a member for a year or two to come up to speed? And do they read the Ordinances passed by previous Councils and see if the City is doing what has been set into rules? Time will tell.

  • Black Rockin

    Soon to be ex-senator Musto,
    Have you heard the tale of “The Godmother” and the “Godfather” and is there a relationship?

  • bridgeportnow

    No, I never heard that. Relationship with who else?

  • Mustang Sally

    It is challenging battling discouragement with all things Bridgeport. I need a Bepocation.

  • Dave Walker

    Senator Musto is a nice guy, but we elected him to represent us and to do the tight thing. He has ducked this issue for far too long. HB 5724 is a litmus test for leadership, courage and commitment. It is all about avoiding conflicts, promoting good government and respecting home rule (i.e., City Charters). I hope Senator Musto sees the light and stands up to help this bill become law. He has not responded to recent requests by me and others to do so. One thing is for sure, Senator Musto can be defeated and, in my view, he will be unless he changes his position on this bill.

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