‘Moving Money Around Without Authority’

Citizen budget examiner John Marshall Lee, in his regular address to the City Council, wonders how taxpayer money ends up here and there in secrecy. From Lee:

Last month a major subject discussed was a resolution approving ‘bond refunding’ to save the City $3 Million in payments or principal and interest in the current year and $3 Million more in out years. It seems to be a smart tactic, one Bridgeport has used before, to lower repayment expense and to help reduce the current year’s budget deficit.

Since then I have attempted to see all information provided to you by Finance and OPM Directors between the Budget and Appropriations Meeting on January 11 and the January 19 City Council meeting where among other things you authorized $2,250,000 of bonding authorization for the purchase of police cars and equipment. I am still looking. The minutes that are available on the City web site and subject to any corrections you made tonight at your postponed February B&A meeting are absent any details about the Police Fleet to be purchased. Has anyone received such information? For instance the number of cars in the current City fleet? Age of cars? Mileage and operational state? The number of autos to be purchased, as to model, standard equipment, pricing and staggering of purchases if not all will be done at once? Is this detail pertinent to determining the need and expenditure of $2 Million? Is it relevant? What does the City do with the existing fleet? What values can be recovered, if any? There is no record of such discussion.

My original concern had to do with why we are financing police cars (or any vehicles for that matter) over a 20=year bonding cycle when the City recognizes in its depreciation table that cars have a 3-5-year life. Should we be purchasing cars with 3-5 year expectancy and paying for them in the same time period? Were we to buy $2 Million of cars at 3% interest and fully repay in five years the interest expense is $800,000 less than if we take 20 years to pay off the $2 Million at 3%. Do you, personally, buy cars with 20=year financing? Do you know City taxpayers who do such? If you think the City can afford funding on that basis, will someone stand up and tell us why? It is nowhere in your January Committee or Board minutes. Did you fail to ask these important questions?

In that same January bonding request was a memo from David Kooris, OPED director, to Ken Flatto, Finance Director. One line jumped out at me: “Unknown to OPED, a large transfer out of our capital account was made in late 2015 that will hamper our ability to move these and other planned projects forward.”
· Why and how can anyone access departmental capital accounts without a department director’s knowledge? Without explanation?
· Who can do any movement of funds without City Council review and approval of such a transfer? Was this a legal use of funds sourced from a bond? Has the City Attorney provided an opinion?
· Who knows about this? Anyone present at this meeting tonight?

At the moment, the rumor trail tells me the amount of funds that disappeared from OPED was around $955,000. Other research indicates a Port Authority $900,000 mortgage was settled by a check to Construction Management Services. The Port Authority does not have a City departmental budget. The City Clerk office file only contains agendas with no minutes or financials. Subsequent inquiry indicates that Port Authority bylaws direct records to the City Clerk. My inquiry finds there are no financial records or audits on Port Authority since 2008. So neither the City Council nor the public has an idea of what is going on. Your CC liaison has been active. But it is a problem you need to investigate further and report upon different parts of City governance moving money without authority or current approval to pay what, to whom, for services occurring over an extended period of time? What is it we do not know today but should know? Why is there such secrecy? Who will further investigate this serious breach? Are you concerned about the exercise of your City Council responsibilities and authority? Time will tell.



  1. JML, do you know the AVERAGE LOAN today is eight years and more and more people are leasing and re-leasing, and never owning a car. The ground is shifting under our feet as we speak.

  2. Frank,
    Do you know the Mortgage carried by Bridgeport Port Authority had an interest rate of 10.75% annually that was paid for 10 years until payoff in November 2015 from money bonded by City taxpayers for OPED projects, but rather “transferred” without Council knowledge or authorization to Construction Management Services? (Are they a City Department? NO. Were they due such funds from OPED? NO. Why did someone with authority and power send $900,000 of our borrowed funds away? Who will speak to this?)

    Frank, are you advocating funding City purchases of autos with a 3-5 year life from a depreciation viewpoint, from longer-term debt? Here we are not talking about leasing or earthquakes, just a car loan. Time will tell.


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