City Council Starts New Session, McCarthy Seeks Leadership Post Again

City Council President Tom McCarthy receives oath for new two-year term council seat.

Mayor Joe Ganim will chair his administration’s first City Council meeting Monday night when Tom McCarthy seeks the support of his peers as president of the budget and legislative body, a position he’s occupied for eight years. Will a challenger emerge? McCarthy is popular among his constituents in the North End 133rd Council District that Ganim also carried handily in the November election while McCarthy supported Mary-Jane Foster. McCarthy supported Bill Finch in the Democratic primary.

McCarthy was elected to the City Council and received his city job during Ganim’s previous service as mayor. McCarthy is deputy director of Labor Relations where he serves as employment attorney that has included negotiating union contracts on behalf of city management. He received his law degree from Case Western Reserve University of Law in Cleveland, Ohio. He graduated with a degree in Political Science from Fairfield University.

The job of council president is no walk in the park, the hours are long building consensus among 19 others. McCarthy assigns his peers to key committees where the real work of the council is conducted one of the most important the Budget and Appropriations Committee that will review Ganim’s spending plan submitted to the body in early April. As council president, McCarthy shepherds through contract approvals, ordinances and proposals from the mayor. The rub this time going in, as opposed to Bill Finch, how will his strained relationship with Ganim play out? Much easier for the mayor to conduct business with the council president on board. And that also raises the obvious question: how will McCarthy’s city job play out?

Irrespective of McCarthy’s relationship with Ganim, McCarthy has a solid base of support among his peers.

Incoming City Council, 130th District Kathryn Bukovsky, Scott Burns; 131 Jack Banta, Denese Taylor-Moye; 132 Evette Brantley, John Olson; 133 Tom McCarthy, Jeanette Heron; 134 Michelle Lyons, AnyMarie Vizzo-Paniccia; 135 Richard Salters, Mary-McBride-Lee; 136 Jose Caco, Alfredo Castillo; 137 Milta Feliciano, Aidee Nieves; 138 Nessah Smith, Anthony Paoletto; 139 James Holloway, Eneida Martinez.

Full council agenda here.



    1. I might also add, much to the chagrin of the alias posters on this blog I will no longer respond to, like myself, I can easily see McCarthy becoming a strong supporter of Ganim. Sometimes converts are the strongest supporters!

  1. “McCarthy assigns his peers to key committees where the real work of the council is conducted one of the most important the Budget and Appropriations Committee that will review Ganim’s spending plan submitted to the body in early April.”

    You know I have great respect for your knowledge, instincts and practical savvy. However, as a close observer of City Council practices in recent years, I have to differ with your observation above.
    First of all, McCarthy has no peers on the Council in terms of professional education as well as experience of how things can and have worked across the entire front line in recent years where the EXECUTIVE branch meets the LEGISLATIVE ‘tendril.’ Peers only in the sense each representative received one of the top two votes in their home district.
    Having sat it on a number of Committee meetings in recent years, I honestly cannot say “real work of the Council” happens in too many cases. As a matter of practice, were Council members to be given a test on the fiscal aspects of their votes, in my opinion too many of them would fail such an exam. Were a fair-minded group of taxpayers to look at the minutes of the Budget and Appropriations Committee just ended, would there be enough examples of practical discussion of fiscal subjects facing the City to assume that B&A was a genuine check and balance? If there will be at least five new faces on B&A on December 14 when they gather, what fiscal qualifications will that leadership have as well as the other members? Who represents the taxpayer? Certainly not McCarthy who will favor his political leadership position as an elected person as well as his vocational job for the City (though we do not often hear about his “work for pay” around labor relations subjects).
    So are we still stuck with Mayor Ganim, the real shepherd with his crook to ward off predators, the conflicted wooliest sheep in the flock with history and operations savvy, and all the other sheep lesser in smarts, experience, courage and understanding of the potential serious, necessary and courageous role expected of representatives for checks and balance governance to work?

    If McCarthy’s employment is at the Mayor’s appointment and McCarthy is allowed to continue in this position, have we taken any step forward in correcting the “conflict of interest” issue so many both in the City as well as around the State find so out-of-step with best practices? Time will tell.

    1. Lest I stand accused of holding forth an opinion about the intelligence of any or all past, present or future Council members, relative to my statement about “sheep lesser in smarts” above, I was referring to governance or City Council or legislative “smarts.” This is not a reference to IQ, street smarts or any other “smarts” reference. Is it fair to expect Council members to have read and understand the laws, rules and regulations governing the people they represent, or at a minimum to have read or scanned the subject area headings recently? I hope so, but my own observations during the past five years have undercut my assumption, so “City smarts” may be a phrase I use ongoing. I tip my hat to people like Phil Smith, Tom White, Lennie Grimaldi and a few others who have been my educators over time on these subjects, as well as a continuous reference back to the texts themselves as issues and contexts change. It has been popular in some circles to say I do not respect Council persons for one reason or another. I haven’t left the field of battle on that account because I do respect the task Council members have taken on. It is a sad feeling I encounter when I find Council members not living up to the responsibility they have assumed from their public when they fail to attend to basic law and practice of municipal governance. Who teaches the subject, anyway? What is the agenda of such instruction? Time will tell.

  2. Steve, Tom’s loyalty and support should first be to the people of Bridgeport. I have no reason to believe it has always been his priority. I hope to see him share his experience and knowledge with those council members who require guidance with the role and responsibilities assigned to them from their constituents.

  3. It is time for a change of the guard. Tom has been head of the City Council for too long. New mayor, new leadership all around. He has a conflict of interest to begin with.

  4. *** Even though Tom has served at the Mayor’s call and is a conflict of interest by trying to serve the Mayor, the council and his constituents as well as himself, he’s still one of the only few who can handle the responsibilities that come with being council president. So rather than end up with one of the other dummy council members who have problems speaking, reading and writing English and most of the time don’t understand the legislative material given to them to research and make a vote, Tom seems to have learned to make lemonade with the lemon council members he has to work with for what it’s worth! If you don’t believe me, watch them in action during a council meeting or committee meetings especially during budget season! *** IT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND ***

  5. Why are we still talking about this? Mayor Ganim said he supports the City Charter and does not believe City employees should be on the Council. He should make Tom McCarthy choose between the Council or his City job. One or the other but not both. It’s time to choose.

    1. Dave, that would be the logical decision, but then that would be too easy. Something’s going on or Tom would not be putting his name in nomination. One thing I know for sure; wait, and answers always follow. Sometimes it takes a little longer, but the answers always come. There’re no secrets in politics, I’ve observed this fact for decades. Patience really is a virtue!

      1. Lisa,
        Good post earlier regarding your support for the notion a representative has a primary obligation to the people. That loyalty may be to all the citizens of Bridgeport, or at least someone should have that objective while in office, or it may be the more limited concept of voters in “my district.” Unfortunately we have seen where conflicted circumstances causes “loyalty” or “obligation” to be focused on personal matters or concerns. That situation leads me to your other post.

        Yes, patience is a virtue in many cases. Though sometimes it leads you to miss important deadlines in politics.

        But in governance, there are secrets that go unreported, unnoticed, unaccounted for and the secrecy costs many. Think of the multiple victims of AIRPORT GATE and the still-secret story. Would you be suggesting the story may have legs in the near future? Time will tell.

  6. Tom should stay because he has a brain? Bullshit! New council members have been elected. A few I can assure are competent. Time for the new and out with the old. Let’s see who can think outside the box. Tom and Finch had their run. If we ever want to see change and prosperity in this city, we need to embrace new ideas with new people in leadership roles. If this fails to happen, it’s just a horse of a different color. God help us!

  7. The last people standing in Bridgeport may be the janitors, sweeping out the broken remains of a once-thriving shithole people love to hate. Arguing about the respective merits of the council’s nearly complete lack of brain power, John Lee will be left to talk to himself and still be the only one who understands his points. Let me know when Bridgeport actually gets anywhere other than as a feeding ground where the ethically bankrupt vie for positions of grandeur. The ethnic restaurants, neighborhoods, families that receive no support from this graft are the true life of the city. The well-to-do simply suck the shine off its potential. There is no sign of that stopping any time soon. Cheers.

  8. Lennie, a point of clarification. McCarthy is not “employment attorney.” He does not practice law for the City of Bridgeport.

    Lennie’s posting is about the selection of the council president. Whether or not McCarthy continues in city employment can be viewed as another issue, but it is a decision Mayor Ganim must make. If he ignores his campaign promise, he will have eroded any trust in his sense of good government he came into office with.

    Phil, the state statute does not prohibit municipal employees from serving on municipal legislative bodies and the now-former city attorney interpreted it at face value. The new city attorney can render a different opinion because the state statute does not take into consideration the Bridgeport city council has the role of a municipal board of finance. The same state statute prohibits municipal employees from serving on municipal boards of finance. Also, as Dave Walker noted, McCarthy’s position is not in classified service. He serves at the pleasure of the Mayor.

  9. Tom,
    This is not a result that I relish but we need to follow the law as it is not as we want it to be.

    A couple points. First, whatever else is true, the language of the statute is clear. As you correctly point out it allows city employees to serve on local legislative bodies but not on boards of finance. That appears to be an intentional decision, especially since Bridgeport is far from the only city where the legislative body has similar powers. Simply stated, if the legislature intended to treat legislative bodies and boards of finance the same way, they could have, and would have, done so. They didn’t.
    Personally I think the legislature was wrong to override local Charter provisions in this area. But it seems clear that is exactly what they intended to do.
    Finally, I would like someone to show me the provision in the Charter which (outside of the Mayor’s staff) authorizes the creation of positions that are “not in the classified service” and “serve at the pleasure of the Mayor.”

    1. Phil,
      Wow, that appears to be a great new question (or an old question most have forgotten). Can you explain how that relates to the 85 identified officials positions covered in the July 1, 2012 and the November 30, 2015 salary ranges for officers and unaffiliated employees pursuant to Ordinance Section 2.36.010? If something is operating outside of the Charter or Ordinance provisions, isn’t it the right moment to address it and correct it? Time will tell.

    2. What’s good for the State should be good for the City!

      § 1-85. (Formerly Sec. 1-68). Interest in conflict with discharge of duties.
      A public official, including an elected state official, or state employee has an interest which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his duties or employment in the public interest and of his responsibilities as prescribed in the laws of this state, if he has reason to believe or expect that he, his spouse, a dependent child, or a business with which he is associated will derive a direct monetary gain or suffer a direct monetary loss, as the case may be, by reason of his official activity. A public official, including an elected state official, or state employee does not have an interest which is in substantial conflict with the proper discharge of his duties in the public interest and of his responsibilities as prescribed by the laws of this state, if any benefit or detriment accrues to him, his spouse, a dependent child, or a business with which he, his spouse or such dependent child is associated as a member of a profession, occupation or group to no greater extent than any other member of such profession, occupation or group. A public official, including an elected state official or state employee who has a substantial conflict may not take official action on the matter.

    3. Phil, only about five municipalities out of 169 have legislative bodies that have the responsibilities of a board of finance. We can only speculate why the statute was written as it was. The most likely reason was because government employee unions supported this legislation so their members could influence decisions at the local level.
      I believe the city attorney can provide an opinion that the state statute overlooks the conflict created by allowing municipal employees from serving on municipal legislative bodies whereas it does address conflict of interest by prohibiting municipal employees from serving on municipal boards of finance.
      Could this lead to court action by government employee unions? Probably. Then this matter could be settled.
      It would be admirable if the new Ganim administration would consider tackling this (and other issues of Charter/Ordinances) with assistance from experienced people like you (Phil), given the last eight years have been devoid of openness and transparency and this city council does not appear to have the experience or knowledge that is needed.

  10. JML,
    Section 2.36.010 of the Code of Ordinances includes a mixture of Civil Service positions (Police and Fire Chiefs, City Engineer, Tax Collector and Assessor etc), positions the Charter expressly places outside classified service (for example, many department heads and their deputies, the mayor’s staff, the city attorney and the deputy and assistant city attorneys), and other positions whose status is less clear.

    There is a very real legal question about the legal status of some of those positions, including, but not limited to, whether they serve, as Dave Walker and others have argued, at the pleasure of the mayor.

    Of particular note is Chapter 17 (Civil Service), Section 205(a) of the Charter, which lists positions that are outside the classified service and then goes on to provide:

    “The classified service shall include all other offices or positions existing at the time of the passage of this act [1934] or thereafter created, including all positions and offices in the police department, including that of chief of police, and all positions and offices in the fire department including that of fire chief.”

    That issue alone could be a real can of worms.

  11. JML,
    I now realize why you were turned down on that job application after graduation by Readers Digest.
    Happy Birthday but man I don’t want to grow old reading your stuff, you should read Samuel Beckett, hint, hint.
    But you are still a good man. Try Zumba classes.

  12. Mayor Ganim should give Tom McCarthy a choice between his job or the City Council. Chris Meyer should reconsider the legal opinion. Unless there is express and direct legislative history that makes it clear the legislature intended to allow this situation, then it is debatable and the Courts should decide the issue, not a single attorney, no matter who that attorney might be. The current situation with City employees serving on the Council is a clear and direct violation of the City Charter and a violation of the substance over form doctrine. It is also a clear ethical breach for City employees to participate in any actions involving the budget, labor contracts or other issues that could have a direct or significant indirect impact on them or their family.

    1. The partial problem, Mr. Walker, is in Bridgeport it has been hard to tell the balance between council members knowing these things and not caring. That is the only debate really. Are they too stupid, or too self-concerned to care? It seems nobody but McCarthy would know how to do the job, or be able to figure it out this century. So the new conflict of interest would be Ganim would become the only person who knows what is going on. So what is better, a job position where the council president serves at the whim of the mayor, or one where there is a big-bang theory of government where everything is random and Joe Ganim is the only possibility of an existing god?

      1. The problem with Bridgeport’s City Council is it has been cooped by lethargy, complacency and plain old apathy for about twelve years. A majority of members cared more for their privilege and being a member of the “in” crowd more than representing the interests of the people of the city of Bridgeport. Given the incoming freshmen and who endorsed them it looks like nothing has changed.

        For the past eight years Bill Finch gave away the ranch in the form of tax abatements the city’s property owners ended up paying for. Where were the checks and balances? The City Council voted to approve it all.

      2. Here is one of the major problems I noticed during years I would attend council meetings, it’s called, “consent calendar.” In reading about consent calendar, many of you have probably looked at a City Council agenda and noticed the large majority of items are located under “Consent Calendar.”

        And if you’ve watched a City Council meeting, you’ve also noticed the “Consent Calendar” items are usually passed as one item with no discussion, no debate, and take less time to pass than it took me to type this paragraph.

        The History of the Consent Calendar:

        Under parliamentary rules governing City Council meetings, Consent Calendar items are reserved for items that are deemed to be non-controversial. They allow a City Council to save the bulk of its meeting time for issues in which there is a need for a serious public debate.

        Thus, you’ll see a lot of Consent Calendar items deal with the routine maintenance of our City infrastructure dealing with items necessary for the health and well-being of our City.

        Well this allows certain council members to do nothing and let those in the know to do the work.

        1. Perhaps the consent calendar also hides items from the public view. Whether intentional or not, it could have that practical effect. The council is a public forum, items discussed in private committee meetings and agreed upon by members to be passed through the consent calendar are effectively invisible to those who don’t want to take the time to research. Bridgeport would do well with a few professional conspiracy theorists. Who knew the biggest community garden to need weeding was the government itself? Oh that’s right, everybody knew that.

          1. Ron, the use of the consent calendar is another abuse of disclosure. Every item coming out of committee should be brought to the floor and voted on. If it’s not controversial, it takes about two minutes to pass, and it provides interested parties information. Any council member can request an item be removed from the consent calendar for discussion. I bet that is rarely done because it would require council members to understand and be prepared to discuss every item requiring a vote. It’s lazy legislating, and that’s one of the reasons most council members never learn what they were elected to do. I place this blame not only on the lack of interest of some members, but the abdication of responsibility on Tom’s part.

    2. Dave,
      How is this for legislative history? It is taken from a public act summary published by the legislature’s own Office of Legislative Research (OLR) shortly after the law passed:

      “This act explicitly allows municipal employees to serve on any appointed or elected local government body in towns where they live except (1) bodies responsible for supervising them directly as employees; (2) boards of finance; (3) bodies exercising zoning, land use, or planning powers; and (4) bodies regulating inland wetlands and watercourses.”

      That language is consistent with the bill summaries OLR issued while that legislation was under consideration.

      That’s not a loophole or a technicality. It is exactly what the legislature–rightly or wrongly–intended.

      My bottom line is pretty simple. If you don’t like the law your remedy is to change the law, not ignore it. As long as it remains the law, everyone–especially public officials–are required to abide by it.

      I have no problem with the new City Attorney taking another look at Mark Anastasi’s opinion. Chris Meyer is a good lawyer and knows how to read a statute and judge legislative intent. In this case they are both pretty clear.

        1. Yes. However, the language about Boards of Finance is also crystal clear. That provision is limited to a “board of finance created pursuant to chapter 106 or any special act or municipal charter.” The Bridgeport City Council is none of those.

          I certainly understand why some people feel the restrictions applicable to Boards of Finance should apply to the City Council. But that’s not what the law says.

          1. Dave,
            Under Connecticut’s constitutional home rule provision, the legislature retains the right to pass laws of general applicability that affect the operation of local government and generally prevail over local charter provisions.

            What it can’t do–except in a few limited circumstances–is pass laws dealing with the “powers, organization, terms of elective office or form of government of any single town, city or borough.”

            Nothing in this law appears to violate the state constitutional provision.

          2. Phil, Dave and Lennie.

            This is good dialogue.
            Phil, we have seen the interpretation of the law by OLR. It was researched as part of unsuccessful attempts to change the statute that failed because of the relationship of government employee unions with the ruling Democrats in the legislature. We have all seen this. Efforts to change the statute should continue.
            I believe the city attorney can provide an opinion based on the effect of the statute. The effect is conflict of interest, conflict that is recognized in the statute that prohibits municipal employees from serving on boards of finance.
            Bridgeport did have a board of finance (apportionment and taxation), which was dissolved in the charter revision of 1988 and the functions moved to the city council.
            The Ganim administration must decide if McCarthy will continue in city employment. If McCarthy continues in city employment it clearly indicates Ganim will not address conflict of interest although the decision should be based on whether McCarthy is viewed as competent and would be valued a a member of his team.
            Ganim has a decision to make regarding McCarthy but conflict of interest should be addressed more long-term.

        2. Lennie,
          You are structurally accurate when you ask the question about the City Council functioning as a “board of finance” because their internal committee, Budget and Appropriations, is the only place an elected representative gets to see, say and examine in detail fiscal matters in Bridgeport.
          In other communities, the Board of Finance does its own practical and in-detail functioning to question, examine, and monitor new data and concepts as well as operating programs before they provide their approval, after which the matter moves to their legislative body for a vote. We have nothing operating like surrounding communities most unfortunately for Bridgeport and it shows in the way the executive body has handled financial affairs both in decision making and in keeping fiscal affairs out of the public eye.
          Perhaps those in power in Bridgeport have considered B&A as our “board of finance” and not assigned people to that group who are employed by the City? Board of Finance are always interested in bonding and building, so why are City employees running School Building Committees with $100 Million per year expenditures but no commentary to the Council committees? And why has there been no findings report from the Airport Commission on which Tom McCarthy served with the Mayor? Will Bill Finch spend the next year writing a book that will “tell all” about snowstorms, public-relations campaigns and solar-powered splash pads? Time will tell.

  13. Whomever nominates and votes for Tom McCarthy as City Council President would be equally guilty of violating the City Charter. These individuals should also be held accountable for their actions. ANY elected official who condones this action or any action(s) that violate the city charter should also be considered not worthy of their respected elected position. Further, whomever supports Tom McCarthy’s position should always be a questionable elected official in what their true intent is as a elected official.

  14. Tom,
    I generally agree with most of your comment, however I think there is an another course open to the mayor and the city administration. They can live with the law while at the same time seeking to change it in a way that allows these kinds of issues to be addressed by local charters rather than state law.

  15. If Tom McCarthy transfers his job over to the BOE, his conflict of interest on the city council would then be eliminated and in keeping with the charter. He would only have to recuse himself when it came to a vote on the BOE budget. Does that work?

  16. *** In the end, there are city and state rules that must be followed in regard to city council president regardless of what people looking for change want. I hope the person picked can at least be able to read, write, be able to figure out some adding and subtraction during budget time and also learn to speak in public! I don’t know some of the new members but I can tell you some of the old rubber-stamping ones just don’t have what’s needed for council president. And just having a new Mayor on board is just not enough without a decent, halfway intelligent, learn as you go city council and president. Let’s hope for the best, no? ***

  17. *** Holloway does not hang around long enough during council meetings let alone committee meetings, which shows he’s not interested, he just likes the title and the few perks that go with the territory is the feeling I got when I was on the council those six years! Besides, he’s never shown interest that I know of nor would have enough votes to get him over the top in my opinion. However you never know, stranger things have happened on the council throughout the years! Anyway I keep reading “not McCarthy” so then who would some OIB readers like to see as council president? ***


Leave a Reply