Jewels, Jangling And Justice

I’ve decided when I’m on my deathbed (other than my wife, of course) I want Jewel to sing me a lullaby. She could make nicotine mellow.

I saw the singer/songwriter’s intimate performance at the Klein Sunday night. Great stuff, jammed hall. She shared stories about playing biker bars in her native Alaska, living out of a car and a father who made jewelry out of animal parts. How’s that for a Valentine gift?

The Klein is a sweet venue to see a show and the good folks at the Fairfield Theatre Company such as Eileen O’Reilly and Rozanne Gates are bringing in world-class entertainment to Bridgeport. Manhattan Transfer, Art Garfunkel and The Doobie Brothers are all upcoming. Check out all the shows at 

As we watched Jewel perform, Bridgeport native John Mayer–stop the presses–was earning a couple of more Grammy awards. John keeps raking them in.

Speaking of  raking it in, did you check out the 2008 list of top city wage earners posted by the Connecticut Post? More than 30 city employees–including the usual suspects in the Board of Education and police department–earned more than Mayor Bill Finch’s $126k.

Shoot, in the old days before the mayor’s pay was modernized 15 years ago from just $52K, the mayor was buried at the bottom of the top 100, if making the list at all. With the city reeling in police overtime, the number of cops earning more than $100K should be reduced.

Courting Justice

I’ve been sitting in Superior Court Judge Kari Dooley’s courtroom on Golden Hill Street watching both with fascination and advocacy for a friend enduring an ultimate test of government castigation.

Heart wrenching does not do this case justice. On a rainy night July 4, 2007 Marsha Pitera, bright, beautiful, talented interior designer, had a car accident in which her young children daughter Morgan and son John were killed. There was some doubt whether Marsha herself and another daughter Haley would even make it. Thankfully they did, although after a lacerated liver, broken bones everywhere Marsha’s gait will never be the same, nor with what she must live with the rest of her life.

None of the above is disputable including Marsha’s SUV that crossed the center line and crashed into an oncoming vehicle on Route 110 in Stratford causing injuries to occupants.

What is in question is how the state charged the case putting Marsha on trial criminally for the deaths of her children while in a drunken state. Her experienced defense lawyer Norm Pattis says Marsha was not drunk and says evidence when he puts on his portion of the case will prove that faulty lab results showed her over the state’s legal alcohol limit.

Richard Palombo, the state’s soft-spoken prosecutor, has produced for the jury a number of first responders, medical technologists, and doctors providing testimony about the events.

With each witness, Pattis illustrates for the jury that this has not been a walk in the park for the defendant. And actually, it’s brutal for Marsha. She sits there weeping as the prosecutor presents jurors photographs of her disfigured children.

Hard to say how a jury will interpret this case, but the way the state charged this is way over the top.



  1. Oh yes, the annual Top Wage Earner story! It’s one of the best-read stories in the newspaper.

    Just from a historical (or maybe hysterical, take your pick) point of view, the origin of this journalistic endeavor started back in the days of Former Mayor John C. Mandanici, a bellicose, hard-charging individual who left many strong memories in his wake.

    Mandy–as known to one and all–was complaining about the high cost of salaries among the top ranks of the Board of Education. “You should see what those guys make!” he’d scream pointing to the third floor where the board was headquartered from his second floor office in City Hall on Lyon terrace. “They’re killing this city,” he’d rant. “You wouldn’t believe it!” Part of Mandy’s displeasure with the Board of Education stemmed from the fact they had a huge chunk of the budget and he had limited control over it.

    So in the spirit of good journalism, I asked. “How much do they make? Can we see the list of the Top 100 wage-earners in the city? It might be interesting.”

    “Sure,” the mayor answered seeing an opportunity to skewer the board. With the wave of a hand he ordered then-City Comptroller John G. Norko to get the list of the Top 100 Wage Earners and release it. So far it sounds simple. But we waited, asked again, and waited some more and some more.

    It wasn’t long before we recognized Mandy was stalling us. Now the story was starting to morph into a headline that might have read “Mayor reneges on pledge to release salary data!” (Not a good political scenario in anyone’s book.)

    So Michael Daly (now Post Managing Editor) and I had another sit-down with the mayor to press the issue to get him to agree to his promise to give us the data. It was during that meeting the mayor admitted that much to his chagrin Board of Education employees, superintendents, assistant superintendents, principals and the such (while represented on the list) weren’t at the very top of the list.

    The top wage-earners were cops and firemen; specifically cops earning outside overtime, those lucrative jobs where they guard holes in the ground being dug by utility crews. The jobs are assigned to off-duty cops and paid for by the contractors as a form of enhanced overtime. In fact, one cop made more money guarding holes in the ground than doing actual police work! Years later former Mayor Leonard S. Paoletta also questioned the practice saying the overworking of a cop had to leave him tired at some point and was the city or the utility getting his services when he was exhausted?

    The problem was clear to Mandy. He was in no mood to aggravate the uniformed services of the city. Most of them were still required at this point to live in the city. Extrapolating their number by including spouses, children over 18 years old and extended family members, neighbors and friends made them a potent voting block. Say what you want about the former A&P manager, he knew how to count votes.

    But he also knew he promised delivery of the list before witnesses. Say what you will about the former mayor, in the end, Mandy manned up, stood by his word, release the list and watched the ensuing political storm unfold.

    The real story here wasn’t and isn’t that a single cop topped the list that year or the identity of the top wage. The real story lies in the growth of municipal salaries and a look-see to determine if taxpayers are getting good bang for their buck.

  2. Are parents supposed to take any amount of alcohol while they are responsible for ferrying their children to the various events children do? Whether or not your friend met the “legal test” is irrelevant except to her criminal proceeding but from a moral perspective she has erred. Should she be incarcerated, such penalty would be far less than the penalty she must live with for the rest of her life. I think taking alcohol while responsible for children is despicable.

  3. Can anyone tell me how Richard Paoletto is able to still represent his district when he has moved out of the district? Doesn’t he have to live in the district he represents? Maybe we can finally get a councilman who cares about his job and will call you back when you call him! Anybody interested???

  4. Great to see all the cops on the top earners list. If we could only get them to do their jobs when they are on the street. My neighborhood which is the treeland area just had its 9th armed robbery last week. They robbed Food World early in the morning. This is the second time this year that they were held up at gunpoint.
    This neighborhood is slowly sliding into an area of disrepair and an area for crime to grow. The reason is that the top brass in the PD don’t give a damn.
    Rarely do we see a patrol car in this area; rarely do we see speeders pulled over. Rarely and almost never are ATVs stopped or confiscated as they tear up the neighborhood.
    We have dump trucks, box trucks and unregistered cars littering our streets. Make a call and you may get someone to put an orange sticker on the offender and that’s as far as it goes.
    May I suggest to the mayor that he fire all of the Police Department top brass including Gaudett and hire from outside the force? Hire professionals that won’t have to deal with the good old boy syndrome. That way maybe we can update the patrol areas and maybe just maybe we can regain our quality of life. Right now a once nice and quiet area is turning into a hell hole.
    The last time a cop was called for a group of kids blocking access to a local business it took 45 minutes to get anyone to show up. Big Deal.

    1. *** Maybe on warmer days & as we get closer to spring, etc. PD can get out of their cars & walk in pairs through certain areas of the communities. Get to know the business owners, the local in & out commuters & the general neighborhood and its people! Many (1-times) seem to be strangers in the very city their supposed to protect & serve; why? *** In the past, respect was a two-way street in Bpt. between the PD & community. Most people respected the badge & the individual wearing it, sometimes even on a first-name basis! Today, most people just respect the “GUN”; no more, no less. ***

  5. I find it interesting that none but a few are discussing the Stimulus Package or the governor’s actions as they relate to the budget.
    Prior to the last election this blog was inundated with posts as they relate to president Obama’s policies and what he’ll be doing for America. To date the silence is deafening.

      1. There will be unintended consequences of the $500K cap on salaries.

        First it will be a tremendous motivator to pay off the Gov’t loans, to the extent of perhaps negating the positive economic benefits. You will now have a banking sector focused on only making loans that will be paid off, at the highest possible interest rates–so that the pigs can return to the trough as soon as possible. This is a prescription for credit contraction, not expansion.

        If this is true you will see the effects in a few months as the credit contraction continues. Bankers will continue to pull credit out of the economy–a vicious cycle.

        The country will undergo credit crucifixion for bankers’ bonuses.

  6. Just sharing an article.

    Rell’s motive for shutting out watchdogs questioned
    Some suggest political payback playing a role in plan to cut agencies

    By Ted Mann Published on 2/7/2009

    Hartford – When Gov. M. Jodi Rell this week proposed to shutter a slew of state watchdog agencies, including some whose closure wouldn’t even help the state reduce its growing budget deficit, many at the Capitol posed the same question: Was this payback?

    The governor, citing a two-year budget deficit that legislative analysts peg at $8 billion to $10 billion, proposed to sharply curtail the number of state agencies and commissions, closing or eliminating 23 such bodies that she said were duplicating the work of other offices or were simply unaffordable in bad times.

    But the move would also displace a number of public officials and agencies who have occasionally clashed with or embarrassed the Rell administration, including Child Advocate Jeanne F. Milstein, who has uncovered problems at the Department of Children and Families, and Healthcare Advocate Kevin P. Lembo, who has clashed with state officials on health program reform.

    ”I have heard it from so many legislators that they’re really just stunned that the governor would do this, and a lot of them have suggested this is just political payback and a way to silence a critic,” said Ellen Andrews, a member of the advisory board that unanimously recommended Lembo for nomination to a second four-year term late last year.

    ”If he does his job right, then he’s going to be critical,” said Andrews, who works for the nonprofit Connecticut Health Policy Project, and has been allied with Lembo in his criticism of the governor’s Charter Oak Health Plan and changes to state Medicaid programs. “To silence that voice is irresponsible. It’s irresponsible policy-making.”

    In interviews and briefings since the budget was unveiled, Rell representatives and budget advisers have vigorously disputed the suggestion that anyone was targeted for opposing the governor’s policies.

    ”Kevin is a dedicated public servant and has done a fine job,” said a Rell spokesman, Rich Harris. “This is a budget matter, and that is all.”

    In a briefing for reporters shortly before Rell’s address on Wednesday, Robert L. Genuario, the governor’s budget chief, defended the elimination of Lembo’s office. “We think that consolidations and eliminations are the way to go,” he said. “We think we need to reduce the overall structure of government.”

    Some of the agencies and commissions Rell would close are already defending their relevance to legislators.

    ”We have a child-welfare agency on the brink of federal receivership,” said Milstein, whose position would be absorbed into the Attorney General’s office and her investigative staff eliminated. “What this move does by stripping us of our authority is send us back to the Dark Ages. There is a dark curtain around the executive branch and DCF. We will go back to the days when children died in state care and no one knew why.”

    ”If we are such relics, why is there still a wage disparity?” said Theresa Younger, the executive director of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, which would be eliminated, along with its $1.1 million annual budget and 10 staff members. “Why do we still hear from women about sexual harassment? Why in this day and age are women still penalized? Why’s there still a glass ceiling?”

    And then there are the offices of the Healthcare Advocate and Consumer Counsel. The proposed closure of the agencies won’t even help cut spending from the state’s bottom line. The health care office’s roughly $1 million annual budget comes from the state’s Insurance Fund, which is raised by a surcharge on insurance companies. The consumer counsel’s office, which represents utility customers, is funded through a similar surcharge on utility bills, and staff there noted dryly this week that eliminating their agency will actually cost the state more money: The counsel presently pays rent to the state for its offices in New Britain.

    ”We appreciate what the governor’s got to do and the decisions to balance the budget,” said Mary J. Healey, the consumer counsel, “but slicing and eliminating a watchdog for ratepayers makes no fiscal sense, and from a consumer protection standpoint, it makes even less.”

    The consumer counsel’s office, Healey noted, is the only entity with the legal standing to sue the state’s public utility regulators on behalf of utility customers, and is the only one dedicated to those customers’ interests.

    Defenders of the agencies also wonder about how their conflicts with the administration may have affected their fate.

    The governor’s fledgling Charter Oak Health Plan was in the midst of a run of bad press last August when M. Lisa Moody, Rell’s chief of staff, fired off an e-mail to Lembo, the health care advocate. The Day obtained the message under the state Freedom of Information Act.

    ”Your job is to advocate for ‘health care’ – PLEASE DO IT,” Moody’s message began, adding that Lembo had “not been quiet” on the significance of the fact that the Charter Oak program does not meet the coverage standards of commercial insurance plans.

    And, Moody warned, “you have been calling reporters to shop the issue – we know, because they have told us directly.”

    With Rell’s surprise decision to eliminate Lembo and his office from the state budget this week, some have suspected payback.

    Lembo wouldn’t speculate on the governor’s motives, but said butting heads with the administrative branch was part of the job.

    ”It’s no secret that dealing with independent advocates in government is not always convenient, and sometimes it even makes the job of elected officials more difficult,” he said. “It’s how elected officials deal with the discomfort that is really telling.”

  7. I am not sure whether this is a good move or a bad move. The one thing I am sure of is that the State Government is way too big. We have 53,000 or so employees for 3 million residents. That equates to 1 state employee for every 6 residents. If we need oversight groups then maybe the people we are overseeing are not doing their jobs and should be replaced with people that will do the jobs.
    I do know that I am tired of paying for all of this. It does not benefit me or a lot of people like me. We go to work every day, we raise our kids, we pay to send them to college and we don’t ask for or get help from anyone. No one in the state or local government gives a damn about us except at election time.

  8. MCAT
    I am usually in agreement with you, but I take exception to your above post. I am tired of the layers of advocates, agencies, advisers, all talking some blah-blah-blah jive which actually is a code to save their very individual job, for it seems at the end of the day they just want an excuse to collect a paycheck. I do like the “Dark Ages” touch, but those middle paperpushers are “the plague.”

  9. Andy Nunn may not be a bad guy but tell me how has he received $11,000+ dollars in raises in less than a year??? Not a good example to those trying to cooperate in difficult times.

  10. *** Wow, no smart remarks from “Dewars on the Rocks” since Feb. 3rd. He’s probably busy since he sits on a few community boards & does absolutely nothing but “do as I say, not as I do”, if in fact my info. is correct! Or, he may be getting ready for the Rainbow League this coming spring where he not only pitches but catches as well. ***


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