Force-feeding OATS To City Budget–‘Ghost Positions’ Or Needed Positions?

City fiscal watchdogs John Marshall Lee and Andy Fardy present the second in a series of video windows into Bridgeport’s budget process: What’s in it? What’s not? What should be? Following budgetary twists and turns can be painful, even more painful say Lee and Fardy when you receive the bill with little input. And come July 1 taxpayers stand to receive a mighty large bill if the City Council approves Mayor Bill Finch’s spending plan.

Lee and Fardy have formed Budget Oversight Bridgeport (BOB) in search of Open, Accountable and Transparent (OAT) city budget sessions that have high financial impact on taxpayers’ lifestyles. One bone they pick in the budget is what they call “ghost positions,” jobs built into the budget but not yet filled. Mayor Bill Finch and city budget director Tom Sherwood say those positions wouldn’t be there unless they had intention to fill them. As Sherwood says the budget is fluid. Lee and Fardy question Sherwood’s budgetary fluidity. Grab a cup of joe (or drink of your choice) and check out the video.



  1. You know what would be great? Instead of having candidates debate each other, we should arrange debates between public officials and people like Fardy and Lee.

  2. Within the past three years every town/city in Fairfield County has raised their taxes. National figures are similar. Ghost positions are used by every municipality to gain flexibility with finances. Corporations have an easier time doing this because shareholders simply sell and directors are employees. Bottom-of-the-barrel (BOB) is a good way to describe their approach as Fardy and Lee attempt to hijack that authority. Overly aggressive tactics (OAT) are their preferred style and OIB is where they get attention.

  3. Sherwood stated the ghost positions would not be there if they did not intend to fill them. That is BS. At last year’s budget hearings he was asked about the numerous ghost positions in public facilities (approx 62) and he stated “these positions are there in case the economy improves.”
    Here we are, the second year in a row and we have more positions not filled but budgeted for (approx 80). In both years including benefits paid the amount is approx $5 million. There is no accounting where this money goes; it does make a nice slush fund.
    If you add the $2.5 in ESC funds and the $1.2 in library funds plus the $5 million in unfilled positions you have filled in the money needed to avoid a tax increase.

  4. Perhaps you have not read my previous postings. You need to question Sherwood on the grants. Since Sherwood took over the grants, he has made many illegal moves:
    1. Refused or gave back valuable grant money coming into our city as an excuse to lay off people he didn’t like.
    2. Eliminating services to a most needy community because he lives in Fairfield and has no use for these services.
    3. Violating the city charter by removing the grant financial reporting and giving this responsibility to employees who are not trained or qualified to do this job.
    4. Sherwood is a control freak. He wants to control ALL the money. OPM was set up per charter (or ordinance) to keep control over the general fund, not the grant money.

    Sherwood plays with the money all year long and during the 12th month he makes all of his transfers to cover up the changes he made during the year. That’s why you are not getting the 12th-month report.

    1. I have read all of your posts; I have only been able to look at the budget so far. It is my understanding from a good source the Feds have spoken to or are about to speak to former grants employees and eventually the ones now running the grants program. I know there is something going on there; I am waiting for my source to fill me in as things progress. I have not forgotten.

    2. Bruce,
      To question Sherwood on Grants while the General Budget is in play would be right up his alley. Keeps most eyes off the subject at hand that must be voted upon.
      I have asked for a comprehensive statement by the administration, for the benefit of the CC and the public in general, that will indicate the level of expenditures intended and revenues expected. The CAFR monitors the actual results in a fiscal year, but in no document do we get a coherent plan or proposal. Is it because the City administration has no such plan? Or is it they do not want us to see how many people are performing what kind of work? For instance, there may be a RAIN BARREL CZAR lurking in City government. What does such a person do day in and day out, especially when there is a drought? Does that seem like genuine value for over $55K of salary and benefits? All fiscal reports of monthly expense and revenues should coordinate and report by department with current employment levels, filled, vacant, etc. Time will tell.

  5. John or Andy, do you have a confidential email where employees/former employees can send you information? People are afraid to talk. One dept is under a gag order. Employees will be written up for insubordination if they speak about the illegalities in their dept.

  6. Yes I do. I can be reached at
    All information sent will be used and the person sending it will be protected.
    Just so people know, I have no secret agenda. I just want the city to operate correctly and its employees protected. I am tired of seeing the workers of the city getting abused while the political hacks flourish.

  7. Or you can call me at 203-259-9642 during the business day. We can meet face to face as others have done. The City requires of all stewards of the taxpayer funds (whether elected, appointed or employed), people of integrity, competence and diverse experience and interests. It takes a community and not a ZOMBIE LAND.

    Neither Andy nor I have an agenda beyond assisting all parts of our City to pursue and embrace OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE and TRANSPARENT governance, and that includes the financial sphere. We have spoken to enough current as well as former employees to know there are people who understand stewardship and want the truth to appear. Reach out. Talk to us. Those in City governance who continue their tight hold will be seen by the public ultimately to have been less than they could have been, holding the City back from successful growth in favor of a private agenda. It will be tough for them to face the necessary changes. Time will tell.

  8. I have also heard the Feds are looking into the grants. It started with one but then Sherwood pissed someone off and now they are looking at everything. Sherwood is a liability. It will all come out in the wash. Karma is a wonderful thing.

    Last night I attended the B & A committee hearing that was called to go over the public facilities budget. Charlie Carroll was there with six of his deputies. The following council people were there: Curwin, DePara, Panicia, Silva, Baker, Olson Brannely and McCarthy.
    After two good presentations by Gregg Dancho and John Ricci, things went to hell in a handbasket.
    Someone asked why Sherwood was doing most of the talking and Curwin piped in and said he should do the talking as he and the mayor put this budget together. Gee I always thought the department head put his/her budget together and submitted it to the mayor, How Stupid of Me!!!
    The one and only question asked was about the drop in revenue from parking freakin’ meters. It got to the point of stupid when one councilperson spoke about employing satellites to monitor parking spaces.
    There was not one question about the 18 ghost positions, not one question about where the funds came from for all the new equipment, not one question about the overall dollar amount for this public facilities budget.
    Why have these damned hearings if you on the committee are not going to do your job? SHAME ON YOU AND THE WHOLE DAMNED PROCESS.

  10. Andy,
    Bob Curwen and Angel DePara as co-chairs of Budget and Appropriations SIMPLY need to ask Tom Sherwood for the following:
    Compile a list of every position marked VACANT in the 2013 budget. List them by Department. Indicate how long these positions (or predecessor/changed) have been vacant. Show the salary in the 2013 budget and all benefit expenses assumed by category. Indicate whether a placement for this position is being actively pursued. Finally, what specific departmental GOAL will be compromised if this position is not filled.
    Now Andy, on one report, we can get over the implications of “ghost positions” and move on to the implications and mysteries of “ghost expenses” that create “slush” for the City and headaches for the City Council who are having trouble appearing competent while the hearings continue.
    Let’s see whether one Council member is interested or whether the whole Council will ask for this information that may shed some light on $5 Million of proposed slush. Wonder how they feel about the “slush” they authorized for this year? Do they remember they “adopted $1,664,223 in the Citywide Contingency account for unforeseen circumstances in FY 2012?” The footnote in the February 2012 Expenditures explanation goes on to say “The City will try to contain all expenses within each department FY 2012 budgeted amount.”
    I wonder how that is working out with Police overtime. Nine accounts expand to 81 categories to track to see what is happening? $6-7 Million is inadequate for overtime and has to be increased by $2,750,000? Where is Tom Sherwood’s “report” on Police OT unit by unit, that indicates how the potential deficit in this account developed because of “gang-related activities, homicides and storms” as he told the audience in Black Rock?
    So many questions the City Council B&A needs to ask to get to the bottom of things it seems. Is this “budget transparency” as the Mayor declares? Mayor Finch needs to hear from you as a taxpayer. If it is not OPEN, if it is not TRANSPARENT, and if the parties are not ACCOUNTABLE, we are in a system of broken fiscal governance. Who is going to fix it?? Who is waiting for Superman or Wonder Woman? Time will tell.


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