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“You Don’t Sit There Until You Die”–Newton Wants Term Limits For Board, Commission Appointments

December 15th, 2017 · 28 Comments · Analysis and Comment, City Council, City Politics, News and Events

Ernie Newton

Ernie Newton

City Councilman Ernie Newton, the “returning citizen navigator” has submitted a resolution calling for term limits for mayoral appointees to city boards and commissions, asserting “this ain’t the Supreme Court where you sit there until you die.”

Whether this conflicts with the City Charter or state law is unclear, but Newton asserts “We got people on boards sitting there for 10 years because mayors don’t reappoint people. No one should be on there that long because what happens is they control the board. You got people sitting there for a long time. We can’t operate like that. C’mon.”

Newton says this practice covers several mayors including John Fabrizi, Bill Finch and Joe Ganim, now two years into his encore performance. Mayoral appointments to boards and commissions, approved by the City Council, come with specified terms, but when mayors don’t act the appointees continue to serve.

So why not reappoint or make replacements? A combination of factors: once the term expires and the appointee doesn’t toe the line, it’s easy to get rid of them. So just leave them there until they become a pain in the ass. Another lament, according to mayoral staffers past and present, the red tape to fill board and commission spots takes way too long given background checks and council approval process. It’s just easier to leave them there (as long as they vote the right way).

Newton’s request will be submitted to the Miscellaneous Matters Committee at Monday night’s council meeting.

Newton has submitted another resolution “requesting that the City Attorney’s Office, Small and Minority Business Resource Office and Purchasing Department work with the City Council to develop language concerning the hiring of city residents and ex-felons, referred to Ordinance Committee.”

Newton, co-chair of the Contracts Committee, wants a five percent set-aside to hire felons, what he calls “returning citizens.”

For Newton the issue hits close to home be it himself and/or his constituents. Newton has made a comeback to city politics following his conviction on federal corruption charges more than a decade ago while a state senator. He’s also appealing a conviction on state charges for violating campaign finance law for his 2012 run for State Senate.

Full council agenda here.

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28 Comments so far ↓

  • Joel Gonzalez

    “…submitted a resolution calling for term limits for mayoral appointees to city boards and commissions, asserting “this ain’t the Supreme Court where you sit there until you die.”

    Ernie Newton, you want to know about a Board that is like the Supreme Court where you sit there until you die? Inform yourself about the Bridgeport Public Library Board of Directors.

    I was recently offered a commission spot which idea I rejected. I’m not sure if that would be proper being a city employee. I jokingly told the person that I’d take a Justice of the Peace position if there were any available and she said, “That shouldn’t be hard to get.” I started laughing and told her I was just kidding. There is something I’m interested in and I’m going to ask around to see what kind of support I can muster. Anything that allows me to maintain my independence, freedom to write, and ruffle some feathers as I see fit, is fine to me.

  • Local Eyes

    Moses never put term limits on his people. He wanted them to excel all the time. Besides, term limits are meaningless for a job that goes unfilled, right?
    And what’s with the stripes? I see them on his jacket, his tie, even the flag on his lapel.

  • John Marshall Lee

    Boards and commissions are bodies comprised of adult residents and voters who are willing to take on a slice of public business regularly for a period of time. It can be a valuable learning experience that provides insight into what goes into a totality of municipal governance. Or it can be frustrating when positions are left vacant and quorums are difficult to come by.
    For years I have asked about evaluations of activity and behavior of members while they are on boards. Such valuation is part of everyday life, formally in the workplace and informally in many other positions of responsibility. If your absence record exceeds your presence record, or if the minutes show no participation on subject content over time, or it shows obstructionism or allegiance to a force outside the group, those might be reasons for reforming the working group.
    A police or background check takes how long for most people from the moment a request goes in? And Miscellaneous Matters process…a month or two to review proposed members and/or meet them? Rocket science?
    Finally a residence gut check it appears for current board members. Let’s see how current members provide the City with evidence that they live and vote here. January 31,2018!! Time will tell.

  • Lisa Parziale

    This disregard for the Charter as it speaks to Boards and Commissions has been going on since Joey G’s first term. It continued with Fabrizi and Finch, and still has not changed. While I applaud Ernie for taking it to the Council for action, it will be difficult to turn this unconscionable neglect around by simply addressing it by a resolution. It’s an admirable start, but unless Ernie works the open-minded members to support this effort, and they stay on it tirelessly, it will be another failed attempt. It must be presented to the residents of Bridgeport in district “town hall” gatherings, stay on the media for coverage, treat this issue as we did the takeover attempt of the BOE. Do you think the interest is there? Let’s see who gets on board.

  • Bob Walsh

    Want terms limits????
    Start with the Mayor and City Council!
    No more than ten years.
    Period.
    If a new term will carry carries them into the tenth year, they can not run.
    How’s that for reform, Ernie?

  • Bob Walsh

    No. Not the same. You know it and I know it.

    • The Bridgeport Kid

      He has a point, Bob. CC members serve two-year terms at the pleasure of the people of the city of Bridgeport. If there are a few oldtimers not doing much to improve the quality of life for us they should be removed. 

      Bob Keeley’s lawsuit has uncovered “a whole rat’s nest of illegal shit” (to quote Carl Bernstein) going on at the DTC. Absentee ballot manipulation has been going down in Bridgeport for a long long time. Bridgeport Police Officer Paul Nikola, a decorated career law enforcement officer with thirty years of service, testified that Chief Perez ordered him to Mario Testa’s pizza joint where he was directed by the DTC chairman and Michael Defilippo, the “endorsed” candidate for the 133rd District. Officer Nikola was then told to collect absentee ballots at the direction of Testa and Defilippo, neither if whom had legal authority. Then there is Max Medina’s report about the nursing home, the twelve ballots in the mail room that bore no post marks, and on and on and on…

      The city’s legal department hired a few white shoe attorneys, at city expense, to argue its case before the Connecticut Supreme Court. They will try to dazzle the justices with brilliance then baffle them when bullshit if the brilliance fails. 

      The  judicial branch takes a dim view toward attempts to rig electoral process. 

  • Bob Walsh

    Then let’s talk about the stipend.
    Complete waste of money.
    A salary not a stipend.
    Joe Ganim taxed it when he was in trouble with the IRS and now suddenly it OK.
    Two faced.

    • The Bridgeport Kid

      A few years ago expenditures were published detailing how the stipend was pissed away. Surpise surprise, Testo’s was a major beneficiary.

      • Bob Walsh

        Talk to your council representative.
        Have them publish quarterly expenses.
        Who, what, where, when.
        If they don’t publish it they don’t get their next check.

  • Lisa Parziale

    I never supported the 4-year term for Mayor. Given the history of Bridgeport, an individual serving in this position must be held accountable for his/her actions every two years. If they pass muster, they’ll be reelected. When this was first proposed, it included the CC, but the people rejected that and it was resubmitted to include only the Mayor. I served 20 years on the CC, that was too long. I was privileged, due to extenuating circumstances to serve with four exceptional council partners. While we served the 132nd district, and the City to the best of our abilities, in retrospect that is not the case anymore. Five terms are enough for CC members. There are some sitting for longer than that and have accomplished nothing. In most cases I believe it was a lack of leadership, competent mentors, and ineffective Mayors that caused this ignorance. Ernie, my brother, stop being “slick” because you know I have 16 years of council experience over you; use me as a resource and supporter, because I’m way beyond sugarcoating my opinions.

    • Local Eyes

      Confucius say, when it comes to Bridgeport’s CC, one Bridgeport-themed website is worth more than sixteen years experience.

    • The Bridgeport Kid

      Mario and Little Joe lost control of the City Council. Nearly half the newcomers got there without having to kiss Mario’s ring or Joe’s ass. The latter’s commandeering of the last BOE meeting was a desperate effort to maintain control.

      Little Joe Ganim will not see another term. He’ll run for re-ekection of course, and he will lose. The movements to restore democracy to Bridgeport City Hall will not go away. Their next target is the Democratic Town Committee, which has only passing resemblance to a Democratic organization.

      Go get ‘em, Lisa. Kick ass.

  • Andrew C Fardy

    This mayor is known for not replacing commissioners whose terms are expired. Here is an example on how he got his way. I was there>
    Joe Ganim wanted to lease the golf course to a certain friend but the sitting park commissioners were against leasing the golf course. Seven of the Nine commissioners were serving expired terms, on the night of the vote Ganim marched into the park commission meeting and told 7 of the commissioners there replacements had arrived. These 7 along with Cruz Rosa voted to lease the course to a Ganim friend and for the next 2 years the city received zero, Nada Zilch from the gold course revenue. The city had to cancel the lease or do what ever it takes to get the course back. That lying little prick cost the city about $2 million in Revenue. That is why he is not getting rid of commissioners 1 at a time. The police commission will serve until Perez retires, Dunn will serve as acting head of civil service and the president of the civil Service commission will continue to live in Trumbull Its like a soap opera As the World Pukes

  • Frank Gyure

    All the points here are relevant (I beg to differ with Joel Gonzalez about the Library Board) and it points to a need for CHARTER REVISION.

  • Donald Day

    Good job Ernie, you have to start somewhere and this is a good start. Your next venture should be a resolution like Hartford has that says all police and fire must be Hartford residents six months prior to applying for the job. Now one doesn’t have to stay a city resident, but you sure as hell have to start out as one. Give me a call and I can help you with that.

    • Ron Mackey

      Don, this is something that Ernie and those newly elected council members need to seriously do because it’s a win, win for the City because it becomes a jobs program for hiring City resident plus those who decide to stay are taxpayers, they are neighbors who would shop here, have their children in Bridgeport schools and serve as role models others who also might want to serve Bridgeport as a firefighter. A career as a Bridgeport firefighter for Bridgeport resident will allow them to financially to take care of their family.

  • Tom White

    Did I miss Lennie’s posting on the supplemental car tax?

  • Tom White

    So a council member submits a resolution (a communication) with no analysis or research and no documentation or structure. Oh well, nothing new.

    • Lisa Parziale

      Tom, after speaking with Ernie he indicated that he has all supporting information necessary to pursue his goal of addressing the issue of Boards and commissions He has made that information available to the Council members. Let’s see who follows his lead. Ernie’s long tenure in local and State politics has equipped him with the ability to change this practice, but he needs the support of willing members.

      • The Bridgeport Kid

        The problem with the past several City Councils is apathy toward the people of the city of Bridgeport. Most of the longtimers took it for granted the district would re-elect them. So year after year taxes go up because not one of the CC members could be bothered to read the proposed budgets. (It is interesting that property taxes go up the most in Black Rock. A bit of class warfare, eh?)

        Little Joe Ganim took no chances, paying twenty bucks a vote to guarantee his “redemption.” He’ll have to beat many bushes to raise the money necessary to buy votes on a statewide scale. 

    • The Bridgeport Kid

      The last time the City Council accomplished anything was when Keith Rodgerson passed an ordinance requiring all public restrooms to have coathooks on the stall door.

    • The Bridgeport Kid

      Tom,

      The Council passes budgets without looking at the numbers.

  • Tom White

    Good point.

  • Tom White

    Lisa, my cynicism is based on the many resolutions that are submitted and die a quiet death because council members think that the city attorneys office is going to do research and draft an ordinance for which there is no supporting state statute.

    Let’s see what Ernie has to support his requests.

    Guidelines for filling seats on boards and commissions will require charter revision. This is not the first time this has been brought up. Mayors want the flexibility to control boards and commissions and the city attorney reports to the mayor.

    Having a set-aside for felons is laughable, but will likely have the support of many members of the group comprising the city council. Does the mayor’s salary count towards the set-aside?

    • Lisa Parziale

      Tom I can’t argue with anything you’ve just said, however, I have a feeling Ernie’s going to follow-thru on this. It’s been going on for so long that the time has come for someone with experience and the willingness to call it out. Most of the newbies will support him, and some of the incumbents will, I’ve notice in this short time that there are still “followers” leftover, but they’ll stand out this time. No more McCarthy to cover for them, and by the time the new CP realizes her limitations, it will be a sight to observe. The City finally caught a break with intelligent minds and independence from the 130th, 132nd, AmyMarie, Karen Jackson and maybe one or two others. Ernie will do the right thing, he didn’t stay in public service to drop the ball on the Council.

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