Airport Driveway Deal Required Layers Of Approval Beyond Ricci’s Reach

The other day City Attorney Mark Anastasi poked an editorial stick in the eye of the Connecticut Post claiming the newspaper’s assertions regarding a $400,000 driveway at the Stratford home of a Bridgeport-based developer were “skewed to reflect the narrative of an alleged unscrupulous deal between the city government and a local developer.” Anastasi may wish he wrote that editorial with disappearing ink. On Wednesday, Airport Manager John Ricci was placed on leave pending an investigation into the matter that clearly required a series of approvals–including Anastasi’s office–way beyond the scope of Ricci’s authority.

Anastasi wrote, “Selling newspapers should not be a higher priority of the newspaper than actually reporting on the facts … There is a level of trust that residents have in their government, and false attacks like this one can have a damaging effect on that trust.” The city has certainly reversed course since Anastasi’s protest. Anastasi has been the city’s chief lawyer for more than 20 years. His title is “City Attorney” but in reality he’s the “Mayor’s City Attorney.” Mark is loyal to the mayor he serves, be it Joe Ganim, John Fabrizi and now Bill Finch. He knows no other way. Sometimes it places him in the crosshairs of controversy such as his refusal to release government cell phone records of Joe Ganim during the federal investigation that forced him from office more than 10 years ago, or his defense of John Fabrizi when he too faced personal demons that forced him from office. And now Anastasi’s front and center during an oops! moment involving this airport driveway arrangement.

We will be hearing more from Anastasi as additional details on this arrangement play out.

Andy Fardy, a regular OIB commentator, for one doesn’t pull punches about Anastasi’s role in government. He filed this response to Anastasi in a CT Post letter to the editor.

This is in response to a live letter sent in by City Attorney Mark Anastasi. Mr. Anastasi stated that the driveway construction near Sikorsky Airport was required as part of an agreement with various agencies and the town of Stratford.

That is pure baloney. There was no order from any agency stating that the driveway in question needed to be moved and rebuilt. The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection never ordered this to take place.

It’s strange that Mr. Anastasi’s letter appears in the paper so soon after the Post article appeared in print. There is an old saying “he who protests too hard is guilty.” It is strange that there is such a rush on this project after all these years of discord between Stratford and Bridgeport concerning this project.

I have a question for Mr. Anastasi and the administration–why are we doing this at all? Last year the airport ran at a $300,000 deficit and really only serves a few wealthy plane owners.

I see Mr. Anastasi used the old excuse that we needed to get this job going and so bypassed the normal bidding procedure, and it was covered by a city ordinance. How nice.

I want to bring to Mr. Anastasi’s attention a statement from one of his employees assigned this airport project. The statement of the century came from Associate City Attorney Lisa Trachtenburg, who was assigned the airport project. She stated, “Whatever is going on with Manny and the driveway, quite frankly, I didn’t care. Wasn’t thinking about it. Didn’t know much about it because it had nothing to do with me or the city.”

How does that sound? This just reflects the attitude of the city and the City Attorney’s Office.

By the way, has anyone in the City Attorney’s Office heard of due diligence?



  1. The REALLY sad thing is if and when this viable economic entity gets re-certified and upgraded, GE would seriously consider moving its fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft to Sikorsky. Right now they are housed in Newburgh NY at Stewart Airport about an hour away. Imagine the positives here … jobs, revenues, traffic, maybe a return to commercial aviation … whew!!! Just to name a few possibilities towards economic improvements.

  2. Bob, you indicate Sikorsky Airport when you say “this viable economic entity,” correct? Do you have any projections as to what additional expenses and revenues above the current budget might look like with the safety improvements? If you don’t we will continue to fly through PR cloud cover without map or instruments. Not good.

    If you do, then perhaps you can comment on what might be done at the current moment (or most any time in the past several years) to reduce expenses to get in line with revenues. I don’t fly, take lessons or own part or all of an aircraft, nor are there commercial flights for me. So I continue to be upset at the cavalier attitude of Mr. Ricci and the administration in the past several years for placing the duty of subsidizing those who benefit from Sikorsky Airport in this deficit period. It’s a drain. Good management would have taken other options. They have not and City taxpayers have paid for over $1 Million of losses in the Finch years. Poor management. Bad choices. And perhaps worse … Time will tell.

    1. JML,
      An airport like Sikorsky Memorial can be an economic development asset for communities like Bridgeport (and Stratford for that matter). But the community operating the airport must have a clear, realistic strategy for exploiting that economic advantage. I haven’t seen any evidence of that kind of strategy in Bridgeport.

      Let’s start with the basic economic realities. Scheduled airline service is not coming back to Sikorsky Memorial Airport. Bridgeport sits in the shadow of at least five much larger passenger airports. As the experience of New Haven and New London both demonstrate, the economics of the airline industry do not support the extension of service to airports the size of Bridgeport’s when other alternatives already exist.

      Support for regional companies’ air fleets can present an opportunity to both increase the airport’s use and revenues while providing a service to local companies. The state airport in Oxford is a good example of an airport that has done just that. However, at least up until now Bridgeport has not been able to duplicate that kind of success.

      The airport has done a reasonably good job of attracting a base of smaller, privately owned aircraft, many of which are used for recreational rather than business purposes. There’s nothing wrong with that approach, so long as the airport sets its rates at a level sufficient to cover the cost of its operations. As you have correctly pointed out, that isn’t currently happening.

      As a practical matter, selling and shutting down the airport are not reasonable alternatives. Given that reality, the city needs to find a way to take advantage of the economic development opportunities while operating the airport in a way that relieves the taxpayers of the financial drain.

      1. Phil (for Pete’s sake John, sorry), thank you for drawing the rationale for other readers. Reasonable administration would have related airport expenses to revenue, rather than allow the “power of the administration” to continuously fund a “non-essential service” that will never return to scheduled commercial service for passengers, and fund it at a level that regularly and significantly exceed revenues. It’s a business “crime.” Where has Mr. Ricci made alternative proposals to the Airport Commission? What have they bothered to tell the CC and when? Also, we continue to spend Capital Funds for special equipment for the Airport and pay for it for years into the future. Smart fiscal decisions? Time will tell.

    2. John, I’ve been spouting about the airport as a viable economic engine for years. Mismanagement, infighting within Bridgeport and Stratford’s political communities, the lack of state intervention to upgrade and run the airport, the NIMBYs in Lordship and others who either prevent or block any expansion or rehabilitation are the problem. None of the above mentioned have any idea how vital this airport could be economically to Bridgeport/Stratford and, by extension, the State of Connecticut. All they are interested in is lining their own pockets, protecting their jobs and resultant perquisites. I believe despite your worthy comments on this blog about the political morass in Bridgeport, you know little of running a business.

      1. Bob, thank you for acknowledging my “worthy comments.” Then you question my competence in running a business, so let me share with you and come to an understanding.
        What I have learned about business since college nearly 50 years ago comes from being self-employed in sales without a salary and starting with a negative personal balance sheet due to college loans. I learned your revenues need to exceed your expenses (as Charles Dickens observed) in order to avoid misery. I will guess you agree with that observation.

        The promise (or potential) of the Airport you recognize and reference is no excuse for causing taxpayers in a City that gets little fiscal information made available (see CT Post story this morning with Council persons questioning the issues) and it is only momentarily revealed, not a part of any type of ongoing Capital projects the public pays for over decades through bond debt and interest.

        So tell me again why Bridgeport taxpayers should subsidize ongoing losses at Sikorsky? And how long should this be endured? And how many employees do you need for the daily operations? Finally, add in all of the “matches” we share with the Feds, the State, etc. to buy special fire engines, etc. Bob, if your business manager was operating the Airport now, how much are you willing to continue losing annually, and what is the gain your investment will produce? Show us your businessman projections, please. Time will tell.

        1. An interesting analysis of a corrupt city like Bridgeport co-running a viable entity with Stratford. This airport has been beset with several preventable accidents, most of which would have been prevented had the NIMBYs in Stratford (none of whom lived there before there was an airport) not gotten involved for selfish reasons disguised as environmental problems caused by the existence of this airport.
          Properly run by a private entity this airport would generate jobs, tax revenues, and provide a currently economically devastated area with new business due to its location and available properties for those businesses. Unfortunately there are a lot of reasons not to bring a business into Connecticut, not the least of which is the costs imposed by the state in order to just get up and running.

  3. Mr. City Attorney, trust? You’ve got to be kidding me. At four hundred dollars a running foot, this driveway/road has to be the most expensive road in America.
    A no-bid contract? Trust? No asphalt, no curbs, no storm water run-off, not even a catch basin. Trust? $400K for a gravel driveway a thousand feet long? Trust?
    Sounds like a payday for the Finch Team.
    Do the taxpayers a favor, City Attorney Mark T. Anastasi, Esq. … resign!

  4. The city should not be in the airport business. However, what is the answer? Any revenues from privatization go back to the FAA. Ask former State Senator Robert Russo about this as he once had a buyer for the airport and now is a tenant or subtenant at the airport. We have legal instruments known as leases with several operators at the airport that preclude mothballing the operation. And if it were mothballed it would cost at least $300k per year. Perhaps the new safety zone once built will allow more craft to land and be positioned at the airport. BTW–We shouldn’t be in the golf course business either!

    1. Maybe the city should actively be trying to bring back commuter service to this airport. I once took a flight to DC from Sikorsky and when you consider driving into the City or any other airport it was more convenient.

  5. I checked the CC agendas from December 2012 through June 2013 and found nothing on their agenda that showed they okayed the $400K for this driveway.
    1. Does this mean there was a secret vote on these monies and no public input?
    2. Where did the money come from to pay for this driveway?

    With all that is going on in this city that just doesn’t look right. I am calling for the following.
    1. Bill Finch should RESIGN from office.
    2. Mark Anastasi should be asked to resign or retire.
    3. John Ricci should resign or retire.
    4. Tom McCarthy should also leave and I don’t care how but NOW would be nice.
    There is a saying that fits here: If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it is a duck.

  6. I think it’s interesting Mayor Finch has limited his comments about this mess to the issue of John Ricci’s relationship with Manny Moutinho. So far, he has made no effort to answer the growing list of questions about the $400,000 driveway, the no-bid contract and its inclusion in an airport safety project.

    Those questions abound:

    1. Who approved the inclusion of the driveway project in the larger airport safety project? Was the decision approved by the Airport Commission which, by law, is responsible for the “care, management, control, operation and administration” of the airport? What role did the Department of Public Facilities, which has operational responsibility for the airport, play in the project?

    2. When did the Mayor become aware of the driveway project? Did he approve the project?

    3. Is the project being paid for with city, state or federal funds? If city funds are being used, was the project approved by the City Council?

    4. Why was the original dirt road being replaced? Was it because of flooding, as claimed by Mr. Moutinho’s lawyers? Was it because of environmental contamination? Was the replacement necessary in order for this airport safety project to go forward?

    5. Who approved the waiver of competitive bidding for the project, when and why? Did the process comply with the City Charter and ordinances? Was any effort made to seek other responsible bidders?

    6. How does the $400,000 cost for a gravel road compare to the price for other similar projects in the area?

    These are just a few of the questions that need to be asked and answered. Many of the others have already appeared on this blog.

    If city officials are unwilling to answer these questions, the City Council has the power and authority to obtain that information. In other communities that sort of investigation would probably be underway already.

    Alas, the Bridgeport City Council has shown more interest in protecting the mayor, the administration and their political cronies than looking out for the voters, taxpayers of Bridgeport.

    All year, City Council members have insisted their independence is not compromised by the fact six of their members, including Council President (who is also a member of the Airport Commission) are also city employees. Now is their chance to prove it!

    If Council fails to act (and perhaps even if they do), that job will fall to state and federal entities with the resources, authority and independence necessary to get the job done.

  7. Phil,
    Thanks for your very thoughtful comments. For what The City does not appear to have a strategic plan, a responsible budget, or adequate outcome-based performance metrics. These are Management 101 factors. They combined with the lack of leadership, conflicts on the Council, etc,, and the political machine system in the City, have to be addressed and corrected if we want to create a better future. It’s up to us, “We the People.”

    1. David,
      It is certainly true in a democracy you are only as good as the people you elect to office. There aren’t, nor should there be, safeguards to protect the voters from themselves. In that sense, Shakespeare was right, “the fault … is not in the stars but in ourselves.”

      1. Phil,
        Correct, but we do need systems and controls to protect the people from abusive behavior by incompetent, conflicted and corrupt public officials.

  8. Phil Smith, excellent, but who are these questions going to for answers and then what is to be done after Mark Anastasi tells everyone nothing was done wrong? Now what action is to be taken and by whom?

  9. The airport comes under the purview of the Airport Commission that includes: Tom McCarthy, Fleeta Judson, Mayor Finch and representation from the town of Stratford. What a tangled web we weave.

  10. If the city built that road (driveway), does that make it a public road? We should all go for a little joyride. While you are out there you can look at what an eyesore the airport really is. Abandoned, derelict, unpainted buildings with broken windows. The place is a dump. If I were Mark and lived across from the airport I would report it to the blight commission.
    Cities should not be in any kind of business. They are really bad at it and it just turns into a pit of graft for nepotism and cronyism, whether it be marinas, golf courses or airports.

  11. Mark IV Construction may have been the lowest bidder, but I can’t understand why a company in the midst of a legal battle with a neighboring municipality was even afforded the opportunity to submit a bid. I sure wouldn’t hire a contractor my neighbor was suing, no matter how cheap the price was. Duh!!!

  12. Sheep, this did not go out for bids. This did not go before the Stratford Inlands wetlands Comm. Did not go before the Bridgeport City Council, or the State EPA, or CAM.

  13. Finch should fire Anastasi and Trachtenberg! Can you imagine a mayor like Malloy when he was in Stamford putting up with something like this?

  14. I’m surprised the spineless Charlie Coviello called for an FBI investigation into the driveway. General Lee, if you are looking at economics in terms of the airport you have to look at potential. Obviously it has not produced revenue because it hasn’t been utilized. That is pretty clear. And finally, now here’s a shock, a knee-jerk reaction from Jim Fox. What a fucking surprise.

    1. Potential??? Until the Finch Administration came aboard (like pirates?), Sikorsky had revenues and expenses that balanced. How long do you wait for potential before you take action? Taxpayers are tired of waiting for ill-conceived ideas that fail to be monitored or responsibly managed. Time will tell.

  15. Well, maybe it will work out. Stratford can now raise his property tax for a $400K improvement to the property. Then the wetlands commission can fine him for disturbing wetlands without the proper studies and permits and force him to remove the driveway and restore the area to its natural state. Don’t forget, the horribly endangered Piping Plover nests all over that area. He will probably have to sue the contractor who did the work without getting the proper permits to recover his losses. Oh wait, that is him.

    1. BOE SPY,
      Who will recover for the taxpayers of Bridgeport? We may need to file a class action suit against the members of the airport commission. They should be held personally responsible and liable for any and all related costs incurred by the City (taxpayers). They need to start looking for personal lawyers because the City Attorney’s office should not represent them in this matter and the taxpayers should not pay for their counsel if they engaged in improper activities.

      1. Nobody will, Dave. The $400K is gone and no one will do anything about it. Ricci was told what to do and he will be scapegoated for getting caught. You really think a $400K bill comes across and nobody noticed? No one knew what was happening until they read it in the paper? If that is true, that may actually be more disturbing than the theory Ricci was told to build the driveway. If Ricci could spend $400K with little or no oversight, how many others have done the same thing and did not get caught? Bpt pays for their poor choices at the ballot box. The sad thing, they will make the same choices in the next election. You can’t change it. You can just know when it is time to get out. Even BRG got out. Like a rat deserting a sinking ship but he has the right idea.

  16. Maybe it would have been a good idea to build that detention center in Bridgeport. Looks like it could have been converted into a Calamarian Containment Center. Looks bad for Bridgeport once again. And for what? A handful of cheap-shoe schmucks. All of whom arrogantly have kept this town in the toilet. Nice going, John Ricci.

  17. There was a time when the Airport was pretty busy. In the late ’70s and early ’80s while in the Navy I used it pretty often, whenever I found a reason to come home. There shouldn’t be any reason this airport can’t be as popular as New Haven’s or even Westchester’s. I haven’t been out there recently. I really hope it’s not in as bad shape as one would believe from some of the comments concerning its shape {unpainted and in disrepair}.

  18. I saw Donna Curren this morning. She reminded me not so many years ago Sailors Lane residents woke up to the same construction company installing sewer lines on the street. Mayor Ganim had just moved on this street. The residents were thrilled until they each received 28,000-plus bills for the construction of the sewer lines. They went to court, and the judge ruled in favor of the citizens. There were no public hearings, no bid for contracts for the sewer lines. For this administration to feign surprise with the connection(s) of this company with city officials just does not hold water–or pass the smell test.

    1. I called Donna Curran. She does not remember how this was resolved financially. One homeowner who has moved away since raised the issue and the question went to court. She had significant frontage that went into the calculation for what her property owed. Having a say in public matters is something the DTC works against regularly in their fancier “disguises.”

      Of note: We just completed the final local step in the Adopted Annual Operating Budget Pageant, right? Wait to see what the State actually distributes and adjust from there is next. But where is the Annual Capital Budget Proposal, annual hearing as indicated in City Charter, and vote? It usually precedes the April operating hearings. What is happening this year? Time will tell.

  19. Dave Walker parks a car from Virginia in his driveway and it generates over 90 comments on this blog. Airport driveway deal steals $400k from taxpayers with the stench of corruption all over it, with only 40 comments so far! Very sad. I thought only the political hacks had their heads up their asses! Only in Bpt.

  20. Anybody remember the snow storm a few months ago? What did you hear reported about commercial companies’ view of Bridgeport as a payer for services performed? The message I heard several times was Bridgeport was slow to pay, often taking six months to settle for services. That does not make the City a favorite customer in these times.

    What does that have to do with “the driveway in Stratford?” Well, when was the project completed? Andy Fardy has reported the trucking of East Side stone material within the past several weeks. The driveway itself looks very new and it has hit the media just this week. Am I reading correctly when I hear the $400,000 has already been fully paid? How does the City decide who gets paid when, and in what order? It’s an innocent question but real answers could be highly informative. What Council member might like to ask this one? Time will tell.


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