Lauretti’s Water Torture, Plus: Gag Order, Peck Flex, And Bridgeport’s Uninsured

Okay, give me a show of hands … who among you knows FBI Special Agent Chris Halpin?

I do, I do, I do! That would be me, Leonard. I spent a lot of time with Chris in the Joe Ganim case. Ten years ago this week I told Mayor Joe and his personal concierge Paul Pinto no more. I was through. Had enough. See ya. Well, 10 years later and much better off for it, now I do this. I write about the crazy stuff that goes on in city politics and environs.

A federal judge sitting in New Haven who’ll hear evidence involving public corruption in Shelton will ask prospective jurors if they know folks involved in the case. If they do … sayonara. They won’t be a juror.

Chris Halpin is a mighty good federal agent who’s been working the corruption investigation of Shelton Mayor Mark Lauretti (who hasn’t been charged) and James Botti who’s going on trial in October for allegedly greasing Lauretti and other folks. I’ve not spoken to Chris in more than five years and never about the Lauretti case. Spoke to him a lot about the Bridgeport case.

Why am I writing about this? OIB has thousands of suburban readers and a number of Bridgeport’s neighborly chief executives including Lauretti, former ringmaster of the Barnum Festival, are in trouble. On Tuesday former Republican State Senator Rob Russo announced his candidacy to challenge Democrat Jim Himes. Had Lauretti not been in trouble he’d be the guy challenging Himes. It was one of the reasons he decided to be Barnum ringmaster. Spread the name recognition.

The Botti trial comes tantalizingly close to Lauretti’s mayoral reelection and what happens over the course of the trial will certainly impact the Republican incumbent’s chances against Democrat Chris Jones in November. It’s rare to see a trial come so close upon an election.

One reason for this is Botti’s stubbornness to cooperate with federal investigators. He won’t fold. I don’t know Botti but he sounds like a guy who likes to dig in at home plate. That can be good and bad. Real bad if you’re being shaved by a 95-mile-per-hour fastball. The feds have a pretty good track record for making these cases stick. Not perfect, but darn good.

Botti is represented by attorney Willie Dow, an experienced criminal defense attorney. When you talk to the best defense lawyers and prosecutors about cunning lawyers Dow is near the top. Dow was the lawyer who persuaded John Rowland to fold his tent, cut a deal, when the former governor was in the crosshairs of a federal investigation. Willie had the Ganim case to go to school on. See what happened to Joe when he rolled the dice and went to trial? Pow! Rowland cut the deal.

But sometimes a client digs in. And Botti is diggin’ in. Willie now has access, through court-authorized disclosure, to most of the evidence the government will present in the case, and he’s not afraid to share some of the revelations in pre-trial hearings. Willie has told us that the feds were on Lauretti’s phone, Lauretti is a target of this investigation. Lauretti this and Lauretti that. For Lauretti, this is water-torture time.

Why do I get the feeling that part of Dow’s defense on behalf of his client may be that this is more about Lauretti than Botti? Make Lauretti the bad guy (even if his guy won’t fold). My guy was put in a bad spot. He had to pay to play otherwise he’d be cut off, and his business suffers. I’m not saying it’s the best strategy, but defense lawyers need something to work with.

I’ve actually seen this strategy argued successfully to a jury in a case I covered a long time ago, except the co-conspirator in the case, a guy named Frank Piccolo, had been gunned down and could not be at the defense table. So the lawyer representing Guido Penosi did the only thing he could do in a case involving the alleged extortion of entertainers Wayne Newton and Lola Falana … blame the dead guy. It was Piccolo, not my guy. It worked.

Lauretti is very much among the living, but if Willie’s gonna try to save his client, well he’s going to need someone to blame.

News release from the Committee to Ungag the People:

To: Planning and Zoning Commissioners listed on Attachment A and Mayor Bill Finch

From: Committee to Ungag the People!

Re: Zoning Map and Regulations

Dear Bridgeport Planning and Zoning Commissioners:

In anticipation of your public hearing on the Zoning Map and Regulations at 6:00pm on October 14, 2009, we want to make sure our positions on the matter are clearly communicated to you. We ask that you change to or keep as “low-density residential” the following areas on the Zoning Map:

· Main St and Old Town Rd. (We note that developers Joe Voll and Steve Eaton have intentions to further commercialize that area and that Messrs. Voll and Eaton are or were represented by Attorney Ray Rizio. All of these individuals have close relationships to local elected officials, the Democratic Town Committee and are regular contributors to the campaigns of local political candidates)

· Section of Main St from Fairview Ave. to Stoerhs Place (We especially note that Attorney Dan Portanova is very eager to develop a parcel of land he owns within that area and that Mr. Portanova is also represented by Attorney Rizio. Both of these individuals have close relationships to local elected officials, the Democratic Town Committee and are regular contributors to the campaigns of local political candidates)

· Testo’s Restaurant at 1775 Madison Ave. (We note that this restaurant property is owned by the current Chairman of the Democratic Town Committee, Mario Testa and members of his family )

· 9.9 acre tract off of Greenwood St. and adjacent to Read School (This property is supposedly owned by Darlene Chapdelaine, who the Connecticut Post recently identified as an “agent” of Gus Curcio, a reputed organized crime figure)

· 420 Anton Dr. (We note your favorable comments to keep this area zoned as low-density residential)

We also ask that you scrap the 250 feet set back proposed regulation as that will surely decimate our neighborhoods.

We acknowledge and understand that the influential, politically connected developers cited above have a right to seek personal profit and increases in their property values via zoning changes; however, not at the expense of the public interest, the quality of life in adjacent neighborhoods, and property value changes to affected parties. We believe that the role of the zoning and land use boards is to hear and fairly consider all sides of such matters including the overall public interest; then reasonably and fairly consider the public interest and the interests of affected property owners and their neighborhoods. This cannot be done, however, so long as the developers and their paid advocates continue to have superior access to the commissioners and commission support staff and stronger standing on the issues at hand. To level this playing field we propose granting equal access to the commissioners and staffing a forum that assures the attention of all.

We understand from both public comments made at recent meetings and hearings AND from conduct that we have observed at those hearings and meetings (both by individual commissioners and by the Associate City Attorney, Greg Conte) that you have already met with and/or discussed some of the proposed changes to the Zoning Map with certain developers, special interests and attorneys. As fellow Bridgeporters, we are asking that each of you extend the same courtesy to our group of citizens, residents and taxpayers, and likewise give us an opportunity to speak to each of you directly about our concerns regarding the Zoning Map and Regulations. We are therefore inviting you to a meeting this Thursday evening September 24th at 7:00pm at the Roma Club on 100 Front Street in Bridgeport to discuss our concerns with us directly.

We anticipate that this meeting, like recent meetings we had with members of the City Council, will be constructive. Our concerns are eminently reasonable. We trust you will share that view with us. There will be about 5-7 people there from our side – the neighborhood captains and myself – as well as perhaps State Representatives Chris Caruso and Jack Hennessy (who have been invited to attend) and City Councilwoman Michelle Lyons (who has also been invited to attend).

In order to be in full compliance with Connecticut’s ethics and FOI laws, we would like to meet with you in 25 minute intervals as follows:

1. 7:00pm – 7:25pm – Jose Tiago, Carl Kish and Mel Riley

2. 7:30pm – 7:55pm – Reginald Walker, Barbara Freddino and Gail Solis

3. 8:00pm – 8:25pm – Robert Morton, Anne Pappas-Phillips and Thomas Fedele

4. 8:30pm to 9:00pm – Mayor Bill Finch

So as to avoid any appearance of non-compliance with the ethics and FOI laws, we ask that you come at your assigned time and make any changes in your scheduled time slots amongst yourselves but maintaining a maximum of three commissioners at any one meeting.

We look forward to seeing you at this meeting and discussing the pressing matters that are of concern to so many of Bridgeport’s citizens. You can either e-mail me back as to whether or not you will be attending or call me. Regardless, we will be at the Roma Club at that time waiting.

In closing, we note that you did not even vote on our proposed changes to the Master Plan and Future Land Use Map at a recent PZC meeting to keep two areas on Main St as Residential. You now have an opportunity to stand with the voting taxpayers and residents of our City by voting to preserve and protect our neighborhoods.



Michael T. Voytek, Esq., Chairman

News release from Mayor Finch

City of Bridgeport Obtains Long-Awaited Public Housing

The Housing Authority Acquires Property to Replace Demolished Pequonnock Apartments

The long-awaited Pequonnock replacement housing settlement has been completed with the closing sale of 27 units transferred to the Bridgeport Housing Authority.

The new housing units, known as the Hanover-Norman properties, were purchased from McDillon Holdings for $2.7 million. These units, and an additional 33 units which are in different stages of development, will bring the total of replacement housing units up to 60, the number of units the City was obligated to create to replace the former Pequonnock Housing Apartment Complex when the settlement agreement was amended in December of 2006.

The total development cost for the project was $10 million with funding secured through the City of Bridgeport , the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD), the Connecticut Housing Finance Administration (CHFA), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

In addition to transferring the 60 units to the Bridgeport Housing Authority, the City contributed $4 million to the Bridgeport Public Housing Residents Support Fund, which is being administered by the Fairfield County Community Foundation. The purpose of this fund is to provide support services to residents of public housing throughout the City to help residents stabilize their households.

“This has taken a long time to accomplish, but I’m very proud of the work we’ve done, even in this time of economic decline, to fulfill the promise we made when we tore down the Pequonnock housing,” said Mayor Bill Finch. “Our staff deserves a lot of credit for their diligence in completing this project, and helping to create the kind of affordable housing that will make our residents proud of their homes. We’re also grateful to those at HUD, Connecticut Legal Services, and the Bridgeport Housing Authority and Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust who worked with the City to bring this to completion.”

“What happened today in Bridgeport does not happen in every city,” said Nick Calace, Executive Director for the Housing Authority of Bridgeport. “We are proving once again during this economic recession, that the City and the Housing Authority can come together to provide quality affordable housing for Bridgeport families. The acquisition of these units is a major milestone towards the completion of the Pequonnock replacement settlement agreement. With only a handful of units remaining to be redeveloped, I am confident the obligations of this program will be fulfilled shortly.”

The City along with the Housing Authority worked closely with Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust, which was chosen by the City as the preferred developer of the 60 public housing units.

“The Pequonnock replacement project was the largest project we at Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust had ever undertaken,” said Elizabeth Torres, Executive Director of BNT. “There were many challenges, but we worked together as a team to create high-quality affordable housing for those who need it most. We are proud to be a part of the team, and look forward to continued partnerships with the City.”

The City negotiated an amended agreement with Connecticut Legal Services, the legal representative of the Pequonnock tenants, in 2006. “A number of people played key roles to get us to this point,” said Marvin Farbman, former Executive Director of CLS.

“Alanna Kabel, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Housing & Community Development, Steve Mednick, attorney for the City, Elizabeth Torres, Executive Director of the Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust, Nicolas Calace, Executive Director of Housing Authority of the City of Bridgeport, and Peter Hance, Director of Development for HACB all worked hard and well to find ways through the challenging twists and turns that this project forced us to navigate. We would not have been successful without Mayer Finch’s support and leadership. It has been a pleasure to work with this team and a big satisfaction to produce with them sixty units of critically needed, decent and affordable housing for low-income families with children.”

When Mayor Finch took office in 2007, the Mayor made it a priority to ensure that the City fulfilled its duty to the tenants. The City’s Department of Central Grants, Housing, and Community Development worked with the Bridgeport Housing Authority, Connecticut Legal Services, HUD, and Bridgeport Neighborhood Trust to complete the obligations and create affordable housing for those who were displaced.

News release from Connecticut Voices For Children


CT Voices calls for Congressional action on health insurance reform

For the first time ever, the U.S. Census Bureau has released city-, county- and Congressional district-level estimates for health insurance coverage in Connecticut. Estimates for Connecticut city residents who were uninsured at the time they were surveyed for the American Community Survey in 2008 range from 11.8% in Waterbury to approximately 20% in Stamford, Bridgeport, and Danbury. In Connecticut, 9.0% (310,597) of all people in Connecticut were without health insurance at the time of the survey. Estimates for uninsured children range from 3.5% in New Haven to 13.4% in Danbury. In Connecticut, an estimated 4.9% of children under 18 (39,578) were uninsured at the time of the survey. In response to the findings, Connecticut Voices for Children, a research-based policy think tank, called for Congressional action on health insurance reforms that would increase access to affordable health insurance for families.

“These new estimates bring the national problem of our broken health care system down to the local level,” said Sharon Langer, senior policy fellow. “We need action on health care reform from Congress before our economic downturn makes Connecticut’s health insurance problems even worse.”

Connecticut Voices pointed to the lower uninsured rates for children as compared to all residents as evidence of the state’s success in enrolling uninsured children in the state’s HUSKY health insurance program. The HUSKY program is funded by state and federal funds.

Estimates of uninsured rates varied significantly across Connecticut’s cities: Bridgeport (20.0%), Danbury (19.7%), Hartford (14.9%), New Britain (13.1%), New Haven (13.4%), Norwalk (14.6%), Stamford (20.0%), and Waterbury (11.8%). The percentage of children under 18 who were without health insurance in Connecticut cities was also reported: Bridgeport (10.8%), Danbury (13.4%), Hartford (6.4%), New Britain (9.2%), New Haven (3.5%), Norwalk (7.1%), Stamford (9.2%), and Waterbury (8.3%). Uninsured estimates are only available for cities with populations over 65,000. The American Community Survey also provided uninsured estimates for Connecticut’s counties and Congressional districts (summarized in the attached fact sheet).

In 2008, 15.1% (45.1 million) of Americans were uninsured at the time of they were surveyed, according to the American Community Survey. Among children in the U.S., 9.9% (7.3 million) were uninsured.

“SustiNet, the universal health reform plan passed in the Connecticut General Assembly in July, will begin to address issues of the broken system in our state such as uninsurance,” said Juan A. Figueroa, president of Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut. “But we still need bold action in Washington to help Connecticut realize its goal of quality, affordable health care all we can all count on.”

“Uninsured rates as high as 20 percent in some Connecticut cities speaks to the crisis in our health care system,” commented Jim Horan, Executive Director of the Connecticut Association for Human Services. “Lack of access to affordable, quality health care hurts our families, our businesses, and in the long run, our economy.”

“The recession and job loss started in cities like Bridgeport well over a year ago. With job loss comes the loss of health insurance. We are deeply concerned about the consequences of the lack of health insurance for children and parents. National health reform, particularly a public option, is critical to ensure that all residents have equal access to affordable health care,” commented Barbara Edinberg, Acting Director of the Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition.

Also, the median household income in Connecticut in 2008 was an estimated $68,595, according to the Census data. There was no statistically significant change in median income in Connecticut from 2007.

This survey marks the first time the US Census Bureau included a question on health insurance coverage in its annual American Community Survey (ACS). The question asks whether the respondent is currently covered by any type of insurance. Since 2008 was the first year the ACS gathered this data, evaluating change over time in this measure is not yet possible. This “point in time” uninsured question in the ACS is different from the health insurance question asked in the Census Bureau’s 2008 Current Population Survey (CPS), released on September 10, 2009. The CPS asks whether respondents were uninsured for the entire previous year. CPS estimates of the uninsured are available only at the national and state levels. (See the attached fact sheet for more details on the surveys and methodological differences.)

Links to additional national, state, and local data on demographic, social, and housing indicators from the American Community Survey are available through the CT Voices site at See the attached CT Voices fact sheet for detailed survey results for Connecticut, its counties, Congressional districts, and cities; evaluation of the statistical significance of changes in state and national median household income estimates over time; and background on the measures. Note: Unless a change in Census estimates over time is statistically significant, it is not accurate to say that median family income has increased or declined in a city, county, or state. The Census Bureau has not yet posted information on whether changes in median income estimates between 2007 and 2008 for Connecticut cities, Congressional districts, and counties were statistically significant. This news release and fact sheet are also available on the CT Voices Web site at

Connecticut Voices for Children is a research-based policy think tank that works to advance strategic public investment and wise public policies to benefit our state’s children, youth and families.



  1. I have not been on here in days and the last thing I want to read about is the valley town of Shelton!!! What the heck does a town that has no problems have to do with urban Bridgeport!!!!!!!!! Now on a lighter note interesting post by someone on the CT post, they write … “Rob Russo’s father owns the largest radiology firm in Connecticut and quite connected with insurance companies and special interests. I think we know who Rob Russo will be a rubberstamp to. I found it laughable that Rob who claims to love his hometown of Bridgeport so much that he made his announcement in his daddy’s town of Fairfield.” That to me was a great post. I used to respect Russo but not anymore, from what he said he does not support health care; that means I will never support Russo. How the heck can this guy say he loves Bridgeport but does not support health care??? Russo might as well move to Fairfield or Trumbull. Russo was the only Republican I respected but now I have lost all respect for him. Himes will win easily no matter who he faces. Why would Bridgeport vote for a Republican who cares only for the rich? PS I was so damn close to voting for Russo in November but thank god I did not.

    1. donj, I don’t know if you’re just selectively reading that article, but Russo specifically said we need health care reform.

      “He said health care reform must honor the doctor-patient relationship, be portable, and accessible for all Americans, regardless of income or pre-existing conditions.”

      His father was on News12 a week ago saying we need health care reform as well. The problem is the Democrats are proposing a system that is not sustainable. It’ll be like Cash for Clunkers. They thought Cash for Clunkers would last for months, it only lasted for a few weeks.

      Obama admitted that there was billions of dollars in waste and mismanagement in the system, but he didn’t say how we would get rid of that waste. Massachusetts insured everyone in the state, but that system is going broke because they didn’t deal with waste beforehand.

      There are so many issues that need to be addressed to make this system work.

      How do we hold doctors accountable who make mistakes?

      How do we reward better doctors?

      How do we better support clinics to take the pressure off emergency rooms? Bridgeport Hospital gives great support to clinics, but St. Vincent barely does, why is that?

      How can we improve our clinics?

      None of these questions are being discussed. I think the Russo family has shown they care about Bridgeport and healthcare. Both Russo Sr. and Jr. did a lot for St. Vincent’s. Russo Jr. has helped out Bridgeport clinics and did Swim Across the Sound. Wanda Russo helped set up the Red Cross on Brooklawn. I don’t think just because he decided to announce in another town he would have to represent if elected that you need to say they don’t care about Bridgeport.

  2. By the way Lennie I am not saying anything is wrong with having suburban readers. For the hell of it I have gotten people in NYC to start reading this great blog. But can we stick to Bpt? I would have thought this was OIS.

  3. To the ungag the people, if you are going to issue a press release about a meeting get the date correct. If your meeting is on Thursday then the date is the 24th of September not the 26th.
    If I am not mistaken a meeting of 3 or more commissioners is considered a quorum and thus considered a legal zoning meeting. Just a thought.

  4. Happiness is getting dissed by The Bridgeport Kid and city hall smoker, two members of my same species who exhibit the traits of a lower, more primitive primate.

    I’m not off-topic; I’m defending myself against Lennie’s two friends.

    I cannot abandon my post at OIB: I have too many fans whose lives would be diminished if I were to leave (lol). Besides, I’m tough on those who challenge me.

    Lennie, for allowing the kind of trash talking that occurred yesterday, you’ve been declared the worst blogmaster in the history of organized blogging.


    1. “I cannot abandon my post at OIB: I have too many fans whose lives would be diminished if I were to leave.”

      You’ll have to excuse me. I just read the above statement to my pet goldfish and the little darlings are vomiting.

  5. To TC: Thanks for pointing out the date. Your watchful eyes could have been used on the City Council. The correct date is in fact the Thursday, the 24th NOT the 26th. Also, for purposes of CT FOI laws–believe that a majority is what needs to be taken into account–i.e., 5 or more given current PZC composition. If wrong about this, am sure you’ll let us know.

  6. Ungagged: I was mistaken when I said three was a quorum. Any commissioner attending this meeting to discuss future changes will compromise themselves in making a final decision on zoning and zoning map revisions. In my opinion commissioners should not meet with different groups each having a separate agenda, that’s what the public meetings are for.

    1. TC: Thanks. Of course you are entitled to your opinion and while there are times we agree with you, we will have to respectfully agree to disagree with you here. We are only trying to level the playing field by calling for this meeting given the fact that competing interests have already conveyed their views. In your parlance, the PZC commissioners have already been “compromised” by certain developers and special interests and their representatives having had their say. This should be no secret to anyone–especially those who read this blog. We only want to have the same access to the PZC that others have had.

      1. I don’t disagree with you at all. I don’t believe any commissioner will show up. What needs to be done is closer scrutiny of prospective candidates for the PZ. I think monitoring their decisions is another way to fight back. Bringing them to task in the paper and on this forum is something that can be done.
        I don’t know the makeup of your group but if you have access to a lawyer the courts as you know are another remedy.
        I thing the zoning board as it is now constituted is a disgrace. The additions that Finch has made to this board should never have passed the council vote.

  7. It’s interesting that Willie Dow, in his defense of James Botti, would point out that “… several Bridgeport Avenue developers including ‘Mr. Blakeman [Wesley or Monty] and Mr. Scinto are unindicted co-conspirators’ of James Botti,” according to a Connecticut Post news story published two days ago.

    Yesterday the Post published a related news story on the paper’s web site (which appeared on the front page this morning), the first paragraph of which read “Federal prosecutors disclosed that ‘one or more’ of their ‘prospective witnesses’ against James Botti may have been given immunity against prosecution for a crime they committed.”

    Now the paper posted yet another related story headlined “Botti scores first round victory.” It begins,

    “A federal judge gave round one to James Botti and his lawyer, William F. Dow III, in a ruling that reduces the number of charges to be tried in the Oct. 19 corruption trial.

    “Senior U.S. District Judge Charles S. Haight Jr. ordered four charges against Botti, the developer accused of buying approval for his projects from Shelton officials, tried separately from three corruption charges.

    “In a one-paragraph order, Haight ruled there will be a separate trial on charges that Botti structured bank deposits and withdrawals in amounts less than $10,001 so they would not be automatically reported to the IRS.”

    So he’s a tax cheat as well as a corrupting influence on public officials in the town of Shelton. Alllegedly.

    donj, this is important because Bob Scinto, who will shortly be revealed as “an unindicted co-conspirator” (and most likely one of the witnesses granted immunity from prosecution) is the developer that was pushing for the town of Monroe to get sewers hooked up to Trumbull’s waste treatment lines. Trumbull’s sewer system is hooked into Bridgeport’s, an overtaxed and antiquated facility that has flushed billions of gallons of raw or only partially treated sewage into Long Island Sound. To the consternation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

    Bill Finch was hot for this deal, even though it would’ve reduced Bridgeport’s waste treatment system into little more than a sewer pipe feeding into Long Island Sound. It’s not surprising Finch was hot for it: it was put together by Mr. Scinto and Paul Timpanelli, Finch’s golfing buddy and colleague from the Bridgeport Regional Business Council. (Finch worked there when he needed a real job outside of politics.)

    1. Bob, Pry Open The Juicy Stuff. What did you talk about with Halpin and Jensen? I’m sure that you didn’t feel stressed sitting between these two guys. Well, at least not as stressed as Lauretti must feel being sandwiched by Chris Halpin on one side and Chris Jones on the other.

  8. “Guido Penosi did the only thing he could do in a case involving the alleged extortion of entertainers Wayne Newton and Lola Falana … blame the dead guy. It was Piccolo, not my guy. It worked.”

    Lennie, there was more to what led the jury to clear Guido Penosi. During the federal probe in the Newton and Falana case, the feds had planted a microphone under a restaurant table near a table where known local mob figures sat to discuss business. The feds managed to record what they believe was incriminating talk. The recording had background noise that distorted the sound. Apparently, when the alleged incriminating part of the conversation was taking place, a couple with a small child had sat near the bugged table, the child wondered close to the microphone, playing and making noise that ruined the quality of the recording. The smoking gun that the feds thought they had was useless.

    Electronics have improved dramatically since. I don’t see the above scenario happening in the Botti case. The evidence is going to be clear and strong. The blame-the-other-guy strategy isn’t going to work, no one put a gun to his (Botti’s) head. Will it be Botti Bing or Botti Sing?


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