Rogue leadership on the City Council has been reeled in by City Attorney R. Christopher Meyer who has ruled a special meeting scheduled to vote on the city budget today (Tuesday) at 5 p.m. is illegal. The meeting has been cancelled and posted on the city website. For additional background see here.
The Bridgeport City Council’s Special Meeting to be held on Tuesday, May 10, 2022 to be conducted by Zoom/Teleconference at 5:00 p.m. is hereby CANCELLED per the City Attorney, R. Christopher Meyer’s legal opinion.
City Council members, led by Aidee Nieves, Scott Burns and Ernie Newton, assert they want to be an equal branch of government. Well, if you’re going to do that follow the law, or change it.
Let’s see if they defy the legal counsel and host an illegal zoom meeting if only to defend its legislative honor.
What does this mean for the city budget? The Budget & Appropriations Committee made alterations to Mayor Joe Ganim’s proposed spending plan including cuts to five discretionary appointee positions while plugging in money for three council staff positions and adding $500,000 for city schools on top of the additional $2 million in Ganim’s budget request. The full council will not ratify the changes legally by today’s deadline so Ganim’s budget becomes the fiscal document adopted for the July 1 fiscal year.
Money can be transferred to accommodate this and that. Let’s see if cooler heads prevail and the mayor and council leadership work out something. Some council members want to challenge Meyer’s ruling in court.
Council leadership is hanging its hat on this tonight or in a future meeting:
Sec. 7-191b. Amendments to charters to modify budget adoption dates. Notwithstanding the provisions of this title and chapters 164, 170 and 204 and any special act, municipal charter or home rule ordinance, a municipality, upon a two-thirds vote of its legislative body, may amend its charter for the sole purpose of modifying its budget adoption dates. Such budget adoption dates may include, but need not be limited to, applicable dates relating to an executive presentation of a proposed budget, public hearings, fiscal authority action, publications, referenda or final budget adoption. Any vote by the legislative body of a municipality pursuant to this section shall include a reference to this section. For the purposes of this section, “municipality” has the same meaning as provided in section 7-401.
1. You cannot add an agenda item to a special meeting.
2. A meeting must be called for that specific purpose.
3. It’s legally dubious to change something retroactively.
The City Attorney’s Office issued this opinion to City Clerk Lydia Martinez:
On behalf of the City Attorney, R. Christopher Meyer:
I notice on the City Clerk’s website that your office has posted the above-referenced document. Bridgeport Code of Ordinances, Section 2.06.030 – Special meetings provides that: “Notice of special meetings of the city council shall be given by causing the call of any such meeting, signed by the mayor, to be served by a city sheriff or some indifferent person reading the same to, or leaving a true and attested copy thereof with or at the usual place of abode of the mayor and each council member, at least twenty-four (24) hours before the hour designated for holding any such meeting, or when necessary, as provided in Chapter 5, Section 10(b) of the city Charter; and the person making such service shall at once make return of his doings upon such call, and file the same with the city clerk. The city council, when convened in special meeting under such call, may act upon any matter that may be mentioned in such call.”
The Bridgeport City Charter does not authorize a single, three, or even all, Council Members to convene a Special meeting of the City Council nor for them to lawfully issue notices of such meeting. Therefore, Council Members Burns, Newton and Nieves lack legal authority to convene and notice a Special City Council meeting for Tuesday, May 10th at 5:00 p.m.
In his May 9, 2022, email on which you both were copied, Council Member and Budget Co-Chair Scott Burns advises his fellow City Council Members in pertinent part that “according to the FOIC, as long as the Special Meeting has been properly and duly noticed, which it has, then that meeting [purportedly called by himself, Council Member Newton and Council President Nieves] can move forward.”
This is a misstatement of fact and law. Unless you have a document from the Mayor convening the meeting in accordance with his Charter authority and returns of service filed with your office by a City sheriff or indifferent person evidencing proper service at least 24 hours prior to the date/time of the proposed Special meeting, such meeting has NOT been properly and duly noticed. Absent such documentation this is an illegally scheduled Special meeting by unauthorized persons. CANCELLATION NOTICE OF THIS MEETING MUST BE POSTED IMMEDIATELY by your office.
Kindly provide me and the Mayor with a copy of the Meeting Cancellation Notice ASAP.