In a rare move Monday night, the City Council rejected a resolution–customarily referred to committee–proposing the Education and Social Services Committee create a task force to recommend specific strategies to “acquire the charter and assets of the University of Bridgeport.”
What gives? The two councilors who authored the resolution, Jorge Cruz and Alfredo Castillo, sit on the board of Bridgeport Labs, the organization that would benefit from such a move, bringing into question their motives for government insertion into the private sector.
On Monday, at the request of City Council President Aidee Nieves, the City Attorney’s Office issued a decision urging the resolution’s withdrawal citing several factors including “potential conflicts of interest or ethical violations.”
Sometimes council members can swallow the nuances of conflicts. This one was just too obvious to ignore in a city corralled by way too many federal investigations.
Behind the scenes, a majority of council members said this resolution is nuts.
Councilman Matthew McCarthy summed it up quite nicely during public discussion: “The city of Bridgeport has no business running a university.”
South End council member Denese Taylor-Moye was the most vocal Monday night wondering what in the world her council partner Cruz was thinking attaching his name to this resolution.
Castillo was all over the place trying to rationalize the resolution, pulling so far back from the language he signed onto, you’d think he was on the far side of the earth.
It left Cruz to defend the turf with no basis in fact other than his peers wondering why he placed himself in a position of conflict.
The obvious? Castillo and Cruz, way in over their heads, didn’t write the resolution. Begs the question, who did?
From Bridgeport Labs website:
One of the purposes of Bridgeport Labs is, through its board membership and community support, seeks to acquire a private educational charter for conversion as a public university certified to be certified as a US DOI Minority Service Institution (MSI) thus joining the MSI ranks of prestigious minority universities.
Bridgeport Labs Board of Directors includes a whole bunch of city pols including East End District Leader Ralph Ford, City Clerk Lydia Martinez, Cruz and Castillo, with the behind-the-scenes backing of State Senator Dennis Bradley who’s on the radar of the federal government for a variety of things such as campaign finance violations.
Cruz and Castillo also fronted the principals of Bridgeport Labs’ efforts to install a cricket league in Seaside Park rejected by the Parks Board.
0 for 2.
City Attorney recommendation:
Dear Council Members:
At the request of City Council President Aidee Nieves the Office of the City Attorney has reviewed Resolution No. 53-20 which appears on the April 19, 2021 City Council agenda for referral to the Committee on Education and Social Services.
This matter has been assigned to me by City Attorney R. Christopher Meyer; and upon review I respectfully recommend that this matter be withdrawn (pursuant to City Council Rule of Order XXXI Withdrawal of Matters) from the City Council or denied for the following reasons:
• Resolution No. 53-20 proposes “the creation of a task force to review and recommend specific strategies to acquire the charter and assets of the University of Bridgeport” which we do not find to be a subject matter or purpose within the legal authority of the City of Bridgeport;
• Connecticut municipalities have limited statutory authority to utilize powers of eminent domain to acquire property for legitimate public purposes, which do not appear to include operation of colleges or universities;
• The City Council must refrain from engaging in activities or discussions that (however well intentioned) may inadvertently give rise to third-party legal claims (e.g. inverse condemnation, tortious interference with contract rights or pending negotiations, etc.).
In the event the co-sponsors of this resolution determine to withdraw the item from City Council consideration we suggest usage of the following motion:
MOTION to Approve Withdrawal of Resolution 53-20 in accordance with the written withdrawal submitted by the sponsors of the resolution.
City Attorney staff and I are available to consult with the sponsors of this resolution and the City Council President concerning whether, and under what circumstances, an appropriate committee informational session might be scheduled pursuant to City Council Rule of Order Rule XIII References to Committees, section 14 to examine legal and proper methods, means and opportunities for the City Council to cooperate with, and assist, the ownership and management of the University of Bridgeport in achieving maximum success in providing world class educational opportunities to the benefit of the citizens of the City of Bridgeport.
In exploring this option of conducting an informational session, it will be critical to ensure that the purposes of such meeting are public in nature and legally proper; the City Council’s role is coordinated with any other ongoing City outreach initiatives; and the Council’s involvement is not for the purposes of advancing the personal agenda and goals of any private or non-profit entity, including those with which individual Council Members may be affiliated. We will make ourselves available to assist the City Council in avoiding any potential conflicts of interest or ethical violations (including those set forth in BPT Code of Ordinances, Ch. 2.38 Code of Ethics).
Very truly yours,
/s/ Mark T. Anastasi
Bridgeport Labs wrote the resolution because everybody knows that Jorge Cruz and Alfredo Castillo didn’t write the resolution because they couldn’t write resolution.
Cruz is just a puppet on that board, placed there for just this very reason.I would bet Jorge never even read the resolution for himself. Bpt Labs authored it and had Cruz & Castillo turn it in.
What would Christopher Columbus do?
Impeach Cruz & Castillo!
What would Christopher Caruso do?
Mark Anastasi should be disbarred for this legal opinion. First of all how could the city of Bridgeport have the gall to use eminent domain to seize private property, some of which had specific historical value to the city and its resident, raze useful buildings and turn it into one piece of development-ready property to be sold to the highest bidder and question in this case eminent domain?
Surely Mark Anastasi is aware of these facts AND the majority of the land sits still undeveloped and taxed at the lowest rate, a burden on the city of Bridgeport.
Please Mark enlighten the City Council because you fully supported this. Why is one right even though it benefits private property owners and the other wrong?
And for Mark to suggest the city of Bridgeport has no right or reason the operate a university, has Mark ever heard of City University of New York? A university chartered to the city of New York for the purpose of providing affordable college education to the city’s poor or lower income residents. Really, what greater public good could a city do for its citizens than this?
CUNY was started in 1961 and is thriving today. It enrolls 275,000 students a year. So can Mark tell us why Bridgeport can not run a university but New York manages quite well?
BS from a City Attorney is simply that BS.
So don’t go Blowing Smoke up the council’s ass just to get your way.
Don’t get me wrong. I do not think this is a good idea but please don’t just make up some arguments and claim because your an attorney you are smarter than 20 city council members.
And, again, Aidee Nieves why don’t you spend you time fighting FOR your City Council instead of AGAINST.
Why don’t you fight for your own legal counsel and get some legal independence instead of just doing what Mark and the Mayor tell you?
I would have far greater respect for you if you let the Council decide what is right or wrong than just running and hiding behind the coattails of the City Attorney.
Comments to the Bridgeport City Council Last Evening…..
CC- Ethical Challenges Presently April 19, 2021 6:30 PM
How many of the members of the City Council have been closely following the excitement caused by Federal investigators in town for months, the convening of a Grand Jury that provided widespread speculation as to what they were looking into, what they would find, and the potential for a pathway from behavior of the accused Chief of Police, and Acting Personnel Director to the one man who supposedly is in charge of everything?
How many of you read the CTPost coverage of comments by sentencing Judge Dooley after former Chief Perez received his “year and one day” sentence, when she addressed former Director Dunn after a slight pause, saying: ”Mr. Dunn, I still don’t know why you are here.” His response to the Judge: “I don’t know either.”
Seriously Mr. Dunn? Let’s see, you have been up to your yellow pad in investigators looking for law breaking, and you have availed yourself of legal representation provided by you personally, and likely some from taxpayers as well. You have not told us this story.
But you did not appear in a court of law for a public trial by a judge or jury? And you have been talking with those Federal lawyers for months now to fashion a plea that is acceptable to them and to you. There’s more consideration for you in those dynamics than for any of us mere taxpayers who wait for truth, justice, and consequences for those who practice power supremacy on the rest of us. Was it ethical of you to fashion a slick and sure way to provide a way around the City testing procedure for Chief of Police? (And continue for a decade your own test avoidance for gain appointment to personnel leadership?)
But that is history, and you have current hijinks ongoing in the City with no official word. And this has to do with School Building Committee decisions, City land purchases with no comments about climate issues and cost increases made necessary, and a variety of elected officials who are showing up wearing other interests that may cause the appearance, at least, of serious interest conflicts? Three minutes tonight does not provide adequate time to question you, obviously, and when I regularly ask questions, you rarely respond. Perhaps it is time? Ethics phone calls have gone unanswered for months while their site’s latest info is about items in 2018. Perhaps communication with Accountability and Integrity Tsar will draw us closer to understanding a fuller narrative?
Time will tell.
Let me begin by “I DID NOT WRITE THE RESOLUTION”, LOL
The UB Charter should have never been mentioned in that resolutions, but lets talk about land/assets.
The resolution may have been misguided in wording but the spirit of the city forming an alternative plan to save its anchor institution is not a bad idea. Goodwin has been unable to close the deal or receive accreditation since Oct. 2020 when they said it’s a done deal. Commencement is quickly approaching o 05/15/21
I think the city should be concerned today. The city came up with $6M in July,2020 for Bassick HS land. The public has no idea that for $27.5M more, BPT could have owned the entire lot of UB land/assets because they are in default. Instead that deal has now been offered to Goodwin. For $32.5M , they will own all land /assets regardless of accreditation or saving you UB.
The spirit of the resolution was to eliminate UB’s debt load, take over land/assets, and the city can then lease to UB, Paier, Goodwin and anyone else wishing to partake in the University Campus. The leases would have produced income for the city of Bridgeport. With no debt, maybe UB can maintain accreditation and stabilize operations and seek infusion of capital elsewhere. Again, a task force to look into the above possibilities would be a positive for the city, UB, employees, students, and residents alike.
So Truly, creating a “task force” or strategic committee to look into alternative options is not a bad thing. The possibility of the city taking land ownership does not benefit cruz/castillo, that’s for sure.
At what point, if any, should the city step in and show concern? I just want it on the record that for $32.5M the city still has the opportunity to own the 50+ acres of UB land/assets. Citizen’s Bank has set the price and it’s available to the first person who comes up with the money.
Maybe Cruz & Castillo were not the right messengers but in a twisted city where basically no elected official is trusted, was there another option to get this in front of council for discussion?
The legal opinion was trash BTW, no one mentioned immanent domain, and Mr. Walsh eloquently discussed that matter above. If we can buy 13 parcels for Bassick, we can’t buy the rest of the land???? So yeah, his legal expertise is useless.
I’ll add one last note, the University of Bridgeport Charter is clear. Only a Fairfield County University with similar mission can take it over, which is why SHU was so important to the deal. Is Goodwin U. in Fairfield County?
Last point, in the case of UB being insolvent or having to declare bankruptcy, it’s land/assets revert back to the state of Connecticut per the charter because it was originally founded as a junior college of the state.
But hey, an article claims UB contributes $1B in Economic impact locally. https://www.bridgeport.edu/news/2021-03-17/study-shows-ubs-billion-dollar-impact#:~:text=A%20new%20study%20by%20the,impact%20on%20the%20local%20economy.
And the City Administration / City Council thinks it’s laughable to pursue an alternative strategy despite such a clear impact on the local economy. Time will Tell (in my JML voice)