Ganim’s Proposed Office Of Government Accountability Stalls–Why Not Support A Pilot Program With The State?

Mayor Joe Ganim’s proposal for an Office of Government Accountability has stalled in a City Council committee. Perhaps he’s now reticent about creating another layer of bureaucracy in a difficult budget cycle? And how is it different than the city’s flaccid Ethics Commission?

Ganim promised on the 2015 campaign trail he would create a public integrity unit to assuage voter concerns about his 2003 public corruption conviction. In March Ganim released a copy of a proposed ordinance calling for a three-member commission and Office Of Government Accountability that would be presumably directed by Ed Adams, the retired FBI agent who had investigated Ganim but supported his historic mayoral comeback. Adams is a mayoral staffer. Under the proposal the mayor would choose two commissioners, the other chosen by the City Council. The three commissioners must be approved by the council.

But how could it be truly independent if the mayor has a hand in appointing the staff and commissioners?

“I promised an open, transparent and accountable city government when I ran for mayor, and this ordinance begins to make that a reality,” said Ganim in a March statement.

Ganim said then the office would serve as a clearinghouse for complaints related to government performance, including response to constituent inquiries, waste, inefficiency and potential misconduct. The office would review complaints and make a determination as to whether the issue warrants further investigation or should be referred to another office in city government for action. The proposed office would also consolidate all Freedom of Information requests and “manage timely responses to those requests.” The director of the office of Government Accountability would also submit reports to the three-member Government Accountability Commission.

But it was unclear how the new bureaucracy would differ from Bridgeport’s Ethics Commission that has served largely as a toothless tiger. The proposal has not advanced through the City Council. And now it sounds like the administration has second thoughts about pushing it in light of a tight city budget.

There’s another option that would provide Ganim credibility on a matter that was a campaign promise.

Rather than the city wrangling over rhetoric, why not support a state measure that would monitor the conduct of municipal officials? OIB asked Carol Carson, executive director of the Connecticut Office of State Ethics, about placing a code of ethics for municipalities under its umbrella. She shares that’s something her office has been working on including a legislative proposal that has not come out of a key committee. She says her office supports a pilot program for Bridgeport “provided we receive appropriate, though minimal, funding.”

Carson shared her observations in March:

For several years, the Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board, the governing Board of the Office of State Ethics, has made municipal ethics its number one priority.

I’ve attached our most recent proposal, which calls for adding a section to the Code of Ethics, which currently has four sections (State Employees and Public Officials, Lobbyists, Lobbying: Miscellaneous Provisions, and Ethical Considerations Concerning Bidding and State Contracts). This bill did not come out of the GAE committee.

Here is a brief description of each section:

Section 1. Provides for definitions relevant to the Code of Ethics for Municipal Officials, including the definition of “municipal employee,” “municipal official,” “municipality,” and “special district.”
Section 2. Allows existing municipal ethics boards to complete pending matters that have been submitted for consideration and disposition prior to January 1, 2017.
Section 3. Articulates the duties and authority of the Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board with respect to the Code of Ethics for Municipal Officials, including issuance of advisory opinions and management of annual ethics training.
Section 4. Provides for the Board’s authority to adopt regulations for purposes of the Code of Ethics for Municipal Officials.
Section 5. Provides for investigation of complaints and establishes procedures involving probable hearings and board hearings to determine whether the Code of Ethics for Municipal Officials has been violated. The provision is modeled on the Code of Ethics for Public Officials (Ethics Code for State Officials).
Section 6. Provides for confidentiality of complaints and establishes procedures for disposition of complaints when the finding of no probable cause is made. The provision is modeled on the Code of Ethics for Public Officials (Ethics Code for State Officials).
Section 7. Extends various prohibited activities to municipal employees and officials, including the prohibition on entering into contracts valued at five hundred dollars or more with the municipality in which the employee or official serves, unless the contract has been awarded through an open and public process. Municipal employees and officials may represent themselves in their own interest or the individual interest of an immediate family member before any municipal board. Municipal officials may be employed by private persons who are in the business or representing others before the municipal board on which such official serves, provided the official shall take no part in any matter involving any such municipal board and shall not receive compensation from any such matter.
Section 8. Extends the revolving-door restrictions to municipal employees and officials, including one-year prohibition on post-municipal employment with an entity that has been a recipient of a municipal contract valued at $25,000 if the restricted employee or official was substantially involved in the negotiation, proposal or award of such contract.
Section 9. Permits for donation of goods or services to municipality.
Section 10. Extends the substantial conflict of interest provision to municipal employees and officials.
Section 11. Extends the potential conflict of interest provision to municipal employees and officials.
Section 12. Extends the provision regarding the establishment and financial management of a legal defense fund to municipal employees and officials.
Section 13. Extends various prohibited activities to municipal consultants and independent contractors.
Section 14. Provides for the appeal process of any final decision of the Board.
Section 15. Articulates the authority of the Citizen’s Ethics Advisory Board after finding of a violation of the Code of Ethics for Municipal Officials.
Section 16. Provides for penalties that may be imposed for violation of the Code of Ethics for Municipal Officials and articulates disciplinary powers of municipal legislative bodies, boards, commissions, councils and departments.
Sections 17-18. Contain technical amendments to § 1-92 and subsection (d) of § 1-80 of the general statutes.



  1. Readers of OIB, do you have a sense of what words like OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE, TRANSPARENT and HONEST mean? These are words I have been using for some years now and providing examples of governance practices in Bridgeport that fall below a reasonable application of such qualities. Along comes “the second chance” Ganim campaign using such words, words that may have many applications in the real world as well as in law school, but that indicated a sensitivity to the low level of actual OATH achievement in the city.

    But it’s eight months and where are we, not so much with the original OFFICE OF PUBLIC INTEGRITY concept or where the relatively expensive “complaint bureau” fits into or does not fit into city life, but where are Ganim’s or McCarthy’s NEW and REFORMED practices in evidence??? Anyone seen anything show up on their radar? (Full Disclosure: During the campaign Candidate Ganim sat through several of my five-minute addresses to the City Council and also received from me copies of those talks. However, he never has called to see what OATH might mean or discuss such concept. I was not approached for the Transition Team, either. And Joe’s “right-hand man” Dan Roach provided me with my first Democratic Town Committee lesson when he indicated he would support a family member for Council endorsement last year because “blood is thicker than water.”)

    With Finance Department disclosures during the presentation of the 2015 CAFR, failure to produce a FINAL 2015 monthly report YET, and errors, format changes, and purposefully flawed data in the actual budget (See Police Department personnel data), we have dipped lower in reasons to trust and respect this administration. Phil Smith has history with the State and sees possibilities I cannot see. He may be right. However, one observation of the City Council in the years I have been doing just that and commenting, is that what the Mayor wants he is able to get it passed. So maybe there is a bill in committee, but maybe there is no pressure? There has never been a public discussion or “hearing” called for, has there? Why not? It would be a way for citizens to offer ideas and opinions about what is wrong, where they are hurting, etc. Joe Ganim ran on “STOP RAISING TAXES” and then raised them, never seriously acknowledging the damage to property values represented in the $1 Billion decrease in the NET TAXABLE GRAND LIST during the last two terms. If it turns out that 65% of property owners have lower tax payments this year as claimed weeks ago, it is only because bad city management of finances have caused folks to move away and sell at whatever price they can get for their property. That is not a good value proposition to put on a banner, is it? But then neither is having no factual answers to show priorities, how specifically costs have been cut, etc.

    I have often asked the City Council, “Where is the Sheriff?” perhaps most notably, when Tom McCarthy as Council President in June 2013 guided 15 of 20 Council persons to place purchase orders with the City to provide up to $2,000 total per Council rep to city not-for-profit programs from their “OTHER SERVICES” Line item budget. But the City did not get any services, and neither did the City Council as a body. Failure to notice the meeting of Council persons to the public? Any Agenda? Any minutes? Since 2013 has McCarthy ever addressed the subject to the taxpaying public? NO, NO, NO, and NO!!! Illegal? What consequences? (By the way, this activity would never have seen the light of day, had there not been a FINAL JUNE MONTHLY FINANCIAL REPORT FOR 2013. It was the first such report in over two decades. And Ken Flatto has not been willing to provide such for June, 2015. What is he hiding? “Draft” reports from a City that brags about “national awards for transparency” that are merely beauty contests are not worthy when “FINAL” reports should be shared. What will it matter? Time will tell.

    1. JML,
      I think if the state handles these functions there is a lot less chance of political manipulation than there would be in the hands of a political appointee.

  2. Without subpoena powers, the OOGA’s authority would be nothing more than a kangaroo court.
    I prefer a Grand Jury to examine the validity of an accusation before a trial.

  3. Isn’t this the office that was going to be operated by Ed Adams the former FBI agent who no one on that job liked? This is bullshit and nothing more than a dog and pony show.

  4. A message to Joe Ganim: Get off your ass and out of your office and become the mayor people elected.
    You are managing this city from a far. You know how to do the job; if you can’t do the job, quit. If you are afraid to do the job, quit. We need a leader not a candy ass.

    1. Attaboy, Andy. After almost eight months there should have been some movement or attempt to go forward with this “Office of Public Integrity.” I agree there’s no way it could be formed by the Mayor with objectivity and integrity. But if there’s some movement with that campaign promise, people will have the opportunity to see where he’s going with it, and then be proactive if it’s just a sham.

  5. I ran the U.S. Government Accountability Office for almost 10 years and we generated a $110 return for every dollar invested in our budget. Ganim’s office of accountability is a bad joke!

  6. Scrap the office of government accountability.
    Incorporate the reasonable administrative points in amendments to the ethics ordinance.
    Appoint independent legal counsel for the ethics commission as originally prescribed when the ethics ordinance was adopted.
    Participate in a State pilot program to monitor the conduct of municipal officials.
    Lay off Adams and spare the elimination of a functional position.


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