Council Committee Approves McCarthy’s Severance Package

McCarthy, Bass Pro
Tom McCarthy, standing in front of Bass Pro Shops at its November opening, has appeared to reel in his city job exit package.

City Council President Tom McCarthy’s employment exit with the city as deputy director of Labor Relations received a boost Monday night when his peers on the Miscellaneous Matters Committee voted to approve a severance package that sources say is roughly $35,000 with 18 months of health benefits. The full City Council could vote on the matter at its next meeting February 1.

The council committee, McCarthy did not attend, entered into an extended executive session to be briefed on the contents of the package chiefly negotiated by Associate City Attorney Mark Anastasi and former Mayor Tom Bucci, a labor attorney representing McCarthy. Bucci and McCarthy, threatening a lawsuit, shot high, Mayor Joe Ganim shot low, the parties came to an agreement to avoid lengthy litigation and bruised feelings. Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa who has a strong relationship with McCarthy said he was willing to leave his city position “in peace” with a reasonable settlement.

Ganim on the campaign trail promised to address conflicts of interest such as city employee councilors who approve their own wages and benefits. The Bridgeport City Charter prohibits city employee councilors but Anastasi years ago crafted a legal decision arguing state law allows it. McCarthy became a flashpoint of conflict during the Bill Finch mayoral years. How could the head of the legislative branch of government provide a check on the executive branch when it signs his paycheck? Ganim and City Attorney R. Christopher Meyer took the position that McCarthy, as deputy director of Labor Relations, worked at the pleasure of the mayor. Bucci countered not so fast, a court may see otherwise, you must remove him for cause. Rather than test it in court the parties agreed to settle. The full council generally approves action approved by the respective council committees.

Assuming McCarthy’s severance package is approved, that would leave only two other city employee councilors the Ganim administration could address, James Holloway and Milta Feliciano, both of whom however have union protection. The most vociferous opponents to city employee councilors argue that the egregious conflict is the council president working directly for the executive branch. McCarthy was appointed to a city job and won his council seat during Ganim’s first tenure as mayor. McCarthy was elected council president shortly after Finch became mayor in December of 2007. McCarthy was a Finch loyalist who even followed Finch’s lead in supporting Mary-Jane Foster for mayor in the general election after Ganim lanced Finch in the September Democratic primary.

Despite Ganim’s win, McCarthy remained a popular figure among his peers lining up the votes for another term as council president before Ganim received the oath of office in his comeback. McCarthy, an old-school pol who doesn’t like airing dirty laundry in public, has said very little about his severance package, referring questions to Bucci.

CT Post reporter Brian Lockhart has more on this.

“I think it’s a fair deal,” Councilwoman Milta Feliciano said. “We risk losing a lot more money … going to court and trials and dragging it out.”

Feliciano also works for Bridgeport, running the veterans affairs department. But unlike McCarthy, she enjoys union protection.

During his comeback campaign, Ganim sided with those who for years have complained that it is a conflict of interest for council members to govern the city for which they work. McCarthy, as council president, was targeted because, the understanding had been, he and his colleagues who run the labor office and negotiate union contracts served at the pleasure of the mayor.

Full story here.



  1. This is outrageous.
    This is an insult to the taxpayers of the city of Bridgeport.
    This is politics at its worse.
    Other hard working, long-term dedicated city employees are laid off due to the city finances and a politically connected individual gets a sweetheart deal.
    The council members better have the balls to explain this to the public before voting on it or it will just make it worse.

          1. Steve,
            I may have said many things about you but never did I connect you with the word “leader.”

  2. “McCarthy, an old-school pol who doesn’t like airing dirty laundry in public, has said very little about” an incredible number of things, Lennie. Isn’t that the truth? And time has not yet told us a variety of stories, like:
    ** Airport truths that cost taxpayers unnecessary dollars
    ** Ordinances out of date and causing the taxpayers to spend more on unnecessary purchases or allowing Council persons to use stipends for unwarranted purchases
    ** How Tom caused the Council members to lose legislative staffing because he feared revelations about stipends? Or what? It was not a budget saving decision, was it, Tom?
    ** How much was Tom in the loop on, compromised by wearing a City employee hat and at the same time a Council President hat, regarding fiscal games that clobbered taxpayers annually and reduced City Fund Balances?
    ** And more. By working hand-in-hand with former budget princes and keeping Council members in a blissful dark, but if your lace curtains are very thick and you have the Irish training to avoid difficult subjects in public, then more will be revealed.
    Second chances? Third chances? Taxpayers? Time will tell.

    1. Way back when this whole pay scale ordinance was developed, it was determined no individual working in OPM, Labor Relations and other departments where they were privy to either confidential fiscal or personnel matters could be a member of a collective bargaining unit and their pay and benefits were covered under the ordinance.
      Here we have Mr. McCarthy privy to any and all negotiated severance packages over the last decade or so using this information to negotiate his own severance.
      This is just another conflict from the President of the Conflict of Interest Society.
      At least going forward we can be sure Tommy will be open and honest on these matters. NOT!!!

    2. John,
      With all due respect for the good research and reporting you do, for all the community activities you participate in for the betterment of others, here in Bridgeport and beyond (e.g., Voice of the Faithful), I’d expect a bit more than the following negative stereotyping from you:

      “… but if your lace curtains are very thick, and you have the Irish training to avoid difficult subjects in public …”

      I have 7/8ths Irish ancestry. But I have no lace curtains, I don’t reside in a shanty, I don’t cudgel foes with a shillelagh, I don’t know how to play guitar like the Edge or dance like Michael Flatley. And I definitely don’t know what you mean about “Irish training.”

      What do you mean?

      Are you referring to reading Edmund Burke? Jonathan Swift? Oscar Wilde? WB Yeats? Elizabeth Bowen? GB Shaw? James Joyce? Sam Beckett? William Trevor? Edna O’Brien? Seamus Heaney? Martin McDonagh?

      That some of the keepers of the substandard status quo that marks some of our city’s current governance happen to have Irish ancestry is not the fault of all Irish or those with Irish ancestry or any training by, for, and of the Irish. Implying otherwise will most certainly not aid in any political campaigns or activities for progress in our multicultural society. Peace.

      1. Struck a “green nerve” did I, friend Peter?

        Well your 7/8ths Irish ancestry is different from that of other generations, my own included. I would not have to ask far to find those with less such ancestry on one side and more on another being much aware that those generations who came to the US and passed along ahead of us were only to
        ready to put a “happy face” on everything before those yellow icons were ever seen.

        Peter, my offering referred to the quote from OIB host Lennie who raised the subject of McCarthy not liking to air dirty laundry in public. I assumed you had read that comment about the old pol, you did, didn’t you? The “training” I reference was informally passed down to my generation at family gatherings where you did not talk about things “like that.” Like “dirty laundry.” Why you can and could talk about all those writers, and Casey too or other folks who spent summers on Dingle and wrote about science and religion for the Boston Globe but also fiction about THE DORK OF CORK, but I think you knew that.

        Perhaps it was simply you never had the “training” as I did and resented it when it resulted in the respect for individuals who had not performed their assigned duties, as in the case of Tom McCarthy. Simply said, he wore too many hats for the head on his shoulders. Now my friend Walsh has not objected to the comment, assuming he read it and there’s a strain of Irish in his heredity too, I believe.
        Perhaps you will come to the St. Patrick’s Scholarship Dinner with me this year. Some beverage, a good meal and some humor for the sake of raising four years of financial support to a local student (who need not be Irish to apply)! Time will tell.

  3. My guess is the council will gutlessly hide behind the caucus doors, claiming executive session and congratulate the council President after they unanimously approve the deal.
    And then when other former employees go running to Bucci and others looking for a McCarthyism deal, the council members will cry out “Nobody ever told us this could happen.”

  4. Last night the Miscellaneous Matters committee dealt with all but three of their Agenda items before going into Executive Session:
    ** A Workers Compensation Partial Stipulation
    ** A Tax Settlement for a Taxpayer (or not) Remgrit
    ** A proposed settlement of pending litigation with the Council President

    Brian Lockhart and Lennie Grimaldi carry the information on one of these three stories in which matters of serious import were discussed and a resolution was found by the Committee members of Miscellaneous Matters. Seriously, would anyone else like to know the reasons why people voted as they did, and what price tag in total is placed on their decision for the City taxpayers to bear over time? Not sneaked into the record for lack of personal accountability? In other words, let the discussion be held in Executive Session (or out of the ears of the public), but then, why is this “jury” not polled personally at the City Council meeting to be heard for their reasoning? I know it is not part of our current procedure, fellow citizens. But is it a worthy concept for those who are making decisions with “other people’s money” every day? Where is their training? What is their motivation? Where is the fairness and justice for all? Time will tell.

  5. This will probably run counter to most of the opinions here. To be honest, I think it is a pragmatic, practical end to this issue. FROM NOW ON, this whole issue of conflict of interest needs to be completely avoided by not have any city employees on the Common Council as the City Charter states. Now, the issues of James Holloway and Milta Feliciano need to be resolved. EVERY JOURNEY BEGINS WITH THE FIRST STEP. Possibly, the journey to achieving a Common Council that is free of conflict of interest due to having a City-Job and a seat on the Common Council will come to a conclusion.

    1. Or to change the city’s interpretation of the law. The city assigned all responsibilities of the Board of Taxation and Apportionment and the Board of Finance to the City Council. In doing so they did not eliminate the potential conflicts the state is attempting to address with its law, if anything they magnified the potential.
      As such, the City of Bridgeport is attempting to adhere to the spirit of the law and its own charter by banning city employees from serving on the council.
      Case closed.

  6. That might make me BARF. This whole sordid mess shows the need to have this exclusion applied to the council. Conflicts are everywhere. Union contracts. Ordinance that define salaries and benefits. The mere fact I have seen supervisors appearing before subordinates seeking more money for their operating and capital budgets, approval of contracts and grants for their departments, approval of leases for space. It is an incestuous relationship that must be stopped.

  7. Bob Walsh and Mojo, I don’t believe there is any one single city attorney on staff who is a match for Atty. Thomas Bucci when it comes to labor law. They city should cut their losses and like you said, pay now or pay later.

  8. There is a simple solution to avoid the conflict of city employees on the city council. The Democrat Town Committee should amend its bylaws to prohibit the endorsement of city employees as candidates.

    There is a more involved solution as well. As others have alluded to, re-establish a board of finance with those duties that were moved to the city council in charter revision of 1988. State Statute clearly prohibits municipal employees from serving on municipal boards of finance.

  9. Let’s do the math, shall we? At $400 per hour $35,000 would be depleted via legal fees in 87.5 hours. It’s a steal and a drop in the bucket compared to a $20 million deficit. Paying COBRA for 18 months adds another $7K max.

    Time to move on.

    1. Hi, Zena Lu. I know on another post you felt I was negative but we seem to agree on this issue, put it behind us and move forward on a POSITIVE note. BTW, I saw Thomas McCarthy at a fundraiser for State Rep Steve Stafstrom and he seemed in quite a good mood.

  10. I am reminded I neglected to share one other small story of Tom McCarthy’s conflicted behavior. It has been reported by OIB before, but not by the CT Post. A curiosity, that is.

    Council President Tom was part of a re-design of the Stipend process formally embodied in an Ordinance. In the waning months of the 2012-13 budget session, with no action yet taken on a change of the Stipend Ordinance, knowing that use of a non-taxable City stipend would preclude charitable donations or political uses of such stipend funds, he provided a way for Council members before the June 30 Fiscal Year close to apply $2,000 of Legislative Department–Other Services Line Item funds to their favorite charities and deliver a City check to the charities. My own Council persons, Brannelly and Stafstrom only applied $1,000 but they never would publicly defend what they did. The City got no service for the funds provided. The Council had no formal meeting with Agenda and Minutes. And were it not for the FINAL MONTHLY FINANCIAL REPORT requested in December 2013, and provided with the audit in January 2014, the public would never have been aware of what went on in the dark. Local Council persons, 15 of them, got credit for the delivery of taxpayer money to local non-profits totaling nearly $30,000. Nobody cared. Did anyone understand it was wrong? Isn’t that the reason it was kept so secret? Was the public purse quietly picked? What do you think? Time will tell.

  11. Tom should have been terminated with nothing but accrued and unused vacation. The Mayor can do what he wants, including this settlement, but it’s time to take a stand. I for one will not pay more taxes in dollar terms than I am now, irrespective of any revaluation. Waste is rampant and taxpayers have been abused for far too long!


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