Carding City Employees–What Gives!

Finance Director Dawn Norton issued this memo to city employees:

“It has come to my attention that there are major policy violations pertaining to the purchase/use of Gift Cards throughout the City. Due to these policy violations, any and all purchase/use of Gift Cards is to STOP IMMEDIATELY.

“If you are currently responsible for the disbursement of Gift Cards, consider this memo a directive to IMMEDIATELY take a full inventory of what cards you have and forward a detailed list to my attention by end of day, Friday January 6, 2012.

“I am attaching copy of memo stating this directive and copy of the Gift Card policy. Please discuss this matter with all your employees and post memo/Gift Card Policy within your department for all to see. If you have any questions, let me know.”

Michael Daly’s take on this here.

More from Tim Loh here.



  1. Without any scams involved, it works great and if you know the unique ID number of your card, you can even call up and report it stolen, without losing any of the remaining balance.

    The problem arises when you realize that small handheld mag-strip scanners are inexpensive and easily acquired. Now imagine this: a criminal has one of these devices in his (or her) pocket and walks into a store that offers these plastic gift cards.

    They grab a big handful of cards as if they’re a big spender, wander into a quiet corner (or a dressing room), then quickly scan each and every card to record their unique ID numbers. Then they’re done with the cards so they put them back on the display or leave them on a shelf for an unsuspecting employee to put away.

    Now that afternoon you innocently traipse into the store and pick up one of these tainted cards, “charging it” with $500 for your sweetie.

    That’s where the problem arises. The criminal can easily buy a gift card and charge it with $5, then reprogram the mag strip to match your card ID number (which they’d previous scanned and stored) and merrily shop until your balance goes to zero.

    Now, how would they know when your card is activated and how much is left on it? Because all of these stores that offer plastic gift cards also offer a system where you can check your card balance via telephone with just the ID number. Every 4-5 days the criminal checks the balance on their stack of card IDs, and once one goes golden, they either start shopping or, worse, perhaps offer it for sale on a site like eBay.

  2. When the hell did we get into the gift card business? Who received these cards? What was the average payout on these cards? What did it take to qualify for one of these cards? Where did the money come from? How many employees were authorized to give these out? Why did it take a crisis for Dawn Norton to act? Who was eligible for these gift cards? How many employee family members received these cards?
    This is just another financial program that has gone bad. There is no accountability on this program just like there is no accountability on the budget spending. Could this be the second scandal reported in the last 2 weeks?

  3. Good article by Mike Daly and he should do us all a favor and take that anonymous letter to heart. There is some serious shit going on under the direction of the Annex assholes: Sherwood, Wood, Nunn and Kabel. Some serious shit. The CT Post needs to be a real newspaper and INVESTIGATE all anonymous complaints. As to the gift cards, I do see a benefit when properly used. Gift cards are like money so it is up to the program manager to keep meticulous records on who is receiving the cards and for what reason. If the manager fails to keep these records, he could be accused of stealing even if he is innocent. The problem with political appointees or those who got their job politically is these people think they are exempt from following the rules. They feel protected because of their ties to Mario or the DTC. We have seen many times these people treated differently and the rules loosened a little for these “connected” people. This just makes a bad situation worse and is why the city is so out of control. To say the inmates are running the asylum is to put it mildly.

  4. As to ROBYN spelled backwards (NYBOR), the city should be investigating G. Pic and sons who are closely connected to Mario and the Julian brothers. All regulars at Testo’s. Instead of going after the little people who may or may not be guilty, the city needs to look at the running of the MBE office and why G. Pic gets all of the sidewalk work when they are obviously not a minority owned company. Just another example of the city bending the rules for the politically connected. Where is Mr. Carroll in all of this? He supervises the construction office and is himself a regular at Testo’s. I’m just sayin’. Widen your search, city of Bridgeport, and you just might catch a bigger fish.

  5. I agree with tc. Since when do City employees get gift cards at the expense of the taxpayers? Why why why??? This is a bad bad bad start for the new year for the Finch administration. What the hell is going on?????????

  6. This big investigation into Construction Services is just the tip of the iceberg. This scam is used by all the city contractors who get their work given to them through a list prepared by construction services. It’s a menu were the privileged get work given to them for donations given to the party through Mario, Finch, Adam, Charlie and those who gather up the money. It also helps to spend money at Testo’s; they charge so they can keep track of just how much is spent by these contractors. Then they are given the work based on what prices they put in for labor, equipment and different services without bidding hence the G Pic’s, County Elec., Arduini Constr. and the same landscape arch. get all the work.
    To get around the city ordinance to give City of Bridgeport WBEs, MBEs and other minority groups the required percentage of work they hire fronts that are paper company minorities and pass the work through them for a percentage. They then do the work themselves, the paper minority bills for the material or the work with their percentage, they get to keep that, pay the material bills and filter the money back to the contractor who did the contracting to them and who actually did the work, not the minority. On paper it looks as though they did the work because they bought material and presented invoices for the contracted work.
    The big boys make all the money without having to pay for the actual work which they perform with their own forces. This is one of many ways they beat the system. They are always the same players getting the work, nobody is that lucky to get every project they bid on, only when Mario or Charlie Carroll’s thumb is on the scale. This is “Pay To Play,” it was perfected by the Ganim administration now all the Finch administration does is follow the dotted line Charlie was thought well he has plenty of brown bags. Keila, dig a little deeper, ask Larry Osborne, he is asking the questions of these three civil servants, they don’t pull the strings, ask Charlie, FOI them to death.

  7. OMG!!!
    I agree with tc and Auerbach! What a way to start the new year.
    I may be able to understand the gift card as an incentive but if we are giving $100 GCs to teach someone how to buy diapers there is something seriously wrong with that equation.
    Let’s hope Loh gets us the low down so we can see how bad this program really is!

  8. And am I the only one who is wondering about the timing of all of this?
    Shortly after the election we learn of misdeeds in the construction management department.
    Shortly after the election we learn of problems with the gift card program.
    Shortly after the election we see new highly compensated positions, obscene pensions being granted and effort to hand out 15% raises.
    And shortly after the election the mayor announces his plans for charter revision.
    2012 is going to be a long year …

  9. Where’s the Mayor? Shouldn’t Bill Finch, the Greenest man in Sherwood’s Forest, explain how all of this fits into his “City Four Year Plan?” Gift cards, City purchases monitored through Construction Management rather than as all other City purchases, objective research backing recent compensation Ordinance, etc. etc.

    When public access to information is at a very low level, as I suggest it is here in the City, those who rule City processes feel very strong, because they are not challenged by accusations. Whatever intended and unused structural checks and balances within City government that are present, fold in the face of the reward structure of the DTC and current administration. Fear and cowardice predominate among elected and appointed. The citizenry is frustrated. They are not listened to. Their messages are ignored.

    Check and balance mechanisms are important in governance structure because they reinforce the goal of common good rather than let one brute-strength entity dominate to their personal interest. So charter review can be an opportunity unless the deck is stacked with Mayoral appointees and a ready-made process and timeline enforced from the outset. Multiple public hearings to indicate where work is necessary (for instance, where Mayoral appointments practices have become totally manipulative through allowing people with expired terms to serve years beyond their terms without re-appointment or removal might be one area to consider). And contrary to current public meetings and expectations in Bridgeport, will each Charter Review session allow the public to not only be present but also have an opportunity at each session to contribute to the subject being discussed, to get the widest and most informed range of alternatives for serious discussion previous to one, single public hearing after the “committee work” is complete??? Let the Committee and the public come away from the work with a clear understanding of what changes (aside from relationship between Mayor and educational goals for City youth) are embodied. And let’s authorize our Charter review to look to other communities for best practices using current technology tools to inform the public easily.

    How many people have recently looked at a monthly budget report from the City that is the material available for the Budget and Appropriations committee to review? Where would you put your hands on this report? The City administration has published this report almost monthly in the current 2012 budget year, although signs of B & A study of such matter at their meetings is not apparent from the minutes. A public copy is placed in the City Clerk’s office, 56 pages worth for November. The minutes of the B&A meeting are online. The financial numbers are not. If you wanted a copy you must go to the City Clerk’s office, ask them to locate a specific dated report, and wait for them to copy it, and then spend about $14 for the pleasure of your own copy.

    You can perform an online download from your IT equipment of the notice of the meeting, the minutes of the meeting, but NOT the financial report that is now a standing agenda item. Why NOT? Curious, isn’t it? Finance department could send a pdf file to the City Clerk’s office each month and ONE print copy of the report to be date stamped. For all the attention the current City Council gives to these reports currently, 1,200 sheets worth of paper can be saved using the 21st Century practice of pdf or other type file for those who wish to be informed. And 15,000 sheets of paper in this one area can be saved. But wouldn’t that high-tech and low-touch solution provide the public more access??? Is that desirable in Sherwood’s Forest???

    And if more people began to study and review the month-to-month expenditures, more Council persons will be asked serious questions as our check and balance or watchdog functionaries. And what will they say?

    We all need to dig a little deeper on these issues. Do you see how they are all connected in our very weak governance system, with responsibilities ignored in many cases, with lax enforcement of Charter and Ordinance responsibilities, and with a “don’t know, don’t care” attitude by too many? Is this healthy for the City, for your tax expenditures, for your quality of life? Time will tell.

  10. Although this gift card issue is serious, it is misunderstood. We are not talking big money here, $5 $10 gift cards given as incentive to motivate good baby care and good health and at times the veterans programs.
    but if you people are really serious about abuse of city funds you would look into city slush fund for selected goomba contractors who gain millions of dollars of unbid work to the selected few. It took one small East End contractor 5 minutes to open this corrupt system of handing out this work to public view but this has been going on since Ganim heyday, continued through Fabrizi and now has grown through Finch. It is a way to guarantee a steady cash flow to political fund raising fed by contractors, lawyers, consultants and architects and many others. It’s the soup kitchen for those who want city business all run by Mario, he is Santa, he checks his list to see who has been naughty and nice in reverse the naughtier the nicer they are to these big contributors.
    They are throwing the little guys Art H, Stephanie, Dennis S and Jill to the lions to hide the big crimes.

  11. bpt guy has friends in low places; Construction Management. So he blames all of the problems on Mario.
    I am not saying there are not deep0rooted problems in this city. Start with the Board of Public Purchases. The city goes out and awards contracts based on subjective grading and then Mark Anastasi recommends the BPP approve the process. Mark A is the most powerful person in the city and LOVES it.
    And Beacon, start right here. BPP meeting minutes used to be online but were taken down to make the process less transparent. Too much info on who was involved in the decision making.
    The Financial Reports only reflect the end result of all of the games played before them.

  12. Now back to bpt guy. The crooks in Construction Management should be FIRED.
    Criminal charges should be filed against them.
    And the Feds should be crawling all over that department looking for one misspent dime in federal funds and then bring in the FBI and get to serious work.

  13. Interesting that the CT POST is now breaking all these stories and writing editorials against Finch. Of course yesterday was the Feast of the Epiphany!

    Where were you guys in September? I forgot, they were busy endorsing Finch!

  14. Now let’s take a look at who else works in Construction Management. I believe the wife of a City Council member still works there. Co-chair of B & A.
    Is she totally oblivious to what is going on in her department?
    If so get her out, send her back to a lower-paying job in finance rather than one specifically created for her.

  15. There are people over the people who never get their hands dirty, and the lower people are afraid to whisper their names for fear of losing their jobs.

    Public Facility people are marching into the BOE and giving orders and dictating how the BOE will spend whatever money might be left after the rape and pillaging of their funds.

  16. Grin, I have no friends anywhere. In your lifetime you have maybe 3 to 5 friends, the rest are just acquaintances. I really don’t care what happens to these three people as long as the big crooks get their due and yes don’t think for one moment Mario doesn’t run the who gets what end of giving away city money because if you believe it or not there are real godfathers and bogeymen. You want to blame this on city council member’s wife, if that is so then Mario is not as powerful as everyone believes and we should just ask him nicely to step aside because you think this is all run by low-end city employees of this type and Adam, Charlie and Andy act on their orders. These guys go to Art’s kitchen and he tells them who gets what. Get your head out from between your legs, you can see and smell better.

  17. Google me this!
    Business Name: A.B.H., INCORPORATED
    Agent Name: ARTHUR C. HARRIS
    Agent Business Address: 1488 BARNUM AVE, BRIDGEPORT, CT, 06604
    Agent Residence Address: 256 GOVERNOR’S HILL RD, OXFORD, CT, 06483

    What other scams is this guy running?

  18. Google me more
    Arthur C Harris
    Street address: 256 Governors Hill Rd
    City: Oxford
    State: CT
    Zip code: 06478

    DBA (doing business as): ARTHUR C HARRIS BUILDER
    OXFORD, CT 06478
    Status: ACTIVE
    License Number: HIC.0560750

    Is he nybors with Tommy Coble???

  19. Yes he is. Fabrizi got him and Charlie Carroll their jobs. Old friends from the Barnum Festival Charlie calls Mario The Man on Madison Ave. Fabrizi set him up with The Man, he is in the Kitchen at Testo’s all the time, they go down to the cellar office all the time, Google that. Yes Art builds house as for years he was in the cabinet business. He is not my friend either but I bothered to find out what he didn’t want people to know not what you can find out on Google. You’re not talking FBI or CIA Google here because if Google is the end-all we might as well disband the CIA, FBI and NSA.

  20. Hey all,
    I am still curious about all the Stop & Shop gift cards that were given by the then-campaigning mayor for re-election … to the seniors …
    Bet dollars to doughnuts, you can guess Dawn (love you Andy and Tom) Norwood can tell us where they came from!

  21. In 2008 the then new mayor Finch was complaining to his transition team he only had 14 appointed positions to fill. That is because Fabrizi put all the remaining “grant funded” positions (outside civil service) into the civil service system. Here we are four years later, there were 80-some unaffiliated positions in that Ordinance that was passed on Tuesday. The fiscal oversight is nonexistent. I hope all Bridgeport homeowners and taxpayers show up on Tuesday January 12th at the North End branch of the Library to get educated on the city’s finances by John Marshall Lee and Andy Fardy. This situation is only going to get better when the electorate gets involved and educated.

  22. We must all understand they feel they have political capital to expend. They have no one to answer to because there is no one person in this city who can expose them. They bring hacks like Alanna back to the city to run depts that must be run by state law by persons who are accredited with degrees. In next few days you will hear of people who supported Mary-Jane Foster being attacked by the hatchet-bearing Alanna Kabel.
    This week will be a bloody week, many people will be attacked. Take my word for it, they are out of control. They don’t give a rat’s ass about the city, only how much can we make $$$ in the time we have. Bill Finch doesn’t have a clue, leaves the city to be run by Nunn.
    So in the next few weeks or days it will be like the Godfather movie, they will get rid of their enemies, some will sleep with the fish.

  23. countdown, let’s pray the people get involved. Remember, Bpt has poor in dollars only people who worry about heat and food every day of their lives. Some who have money work for the city and don’t want to upset the apple cart that feeds them, some are in fear for their jobs thy God Finch through His Son Adam is a vengeful God, and the unholy spirit Mario wields a heavy sword.

  24. Hey, bpt guy. If you don’t think the feds wanted Mario during the Ganim operation, just ask Lennie. But it takes a hell of a lot more than just seeing who’s in the kitchen with Mario.
    As a matter of fact, at the old restaurant Mario used to meet with people in the kitchen in full view of the patrons coming and going. Of course all conversations took place under the exhaust hood with the fan on. Mario was told no matter what listening devices the feds had going they could not pick up that conversation.
    Ask the fabulous one. His head was so far up the exhaust hood all you could really see was his cigarette and fat ass hanging out of it.


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