Should The City Council Hire Its Own Independent Investigator?

If you’re a member of the Bridgeport City Council and feel hoodwinked for approving $400,000 that financed the driveway-roadway to politically connected developer Manny Moutinho’s Lordship mansion in Stratford, pitched as an airport safety project, what’s an appropriate response?

The city’s legislative body has always handcuffed itself relying on the legal advice of the City Attorney’s Office, but in fact city staff lawyers sanctioned the arrangement allowing Moutinho to build the driveway to his waterfront home while having a longstanding business relationship with Airport Manager John Ricci, suspended with pay, who says city officials knew about the business alliance.

It seems peculiar for the very lawyers who advise the city’s executive branch to also advise the legislative branch. And so it goes in the state’s largest city. Bridgeport’s City Council is empowered with approving the city’s more than $500 million city budget, but it has never dared to appropriate money for its own independent legal counsel. City Attorney Mark Anastasi, of course, will claim a strict interpretation of the City Charter allows that only he can approve legal counsel for any city entity. So what would preclude the legislative body to hire a retired FBI agent to dig deep on its behalf?

Some council members are huffing and puffing about the airport land deal now that it’s become a major distraction for city government. Is it all just a bunch of posturing?

If the will among the 20-member council was there to really do something, why not hire an independent investigator, such as a retired seasoned law enforcement official to help sort out what was presented and what actually happened. Bring witnesses before the council. It would certainly cause trepidation among those involved in the dubious decision-making process.



  1. The City should have a qualified and independent City Auditor who reports to the Mayor and the City Council, but it doesn’t. If they did, that person could do the work. However, this Administration is not for transparency and accountability. Tom “Conflict” McCarthy, who is President of the City Council, is also on the Airport Commission! In my view, the Justice Department needs to take a look at this matter and hopefully they will.

  2. But the City Council can order a forensic audit.
    When most people hear the term “audit,” they think of IRS agents and tax fraud. A forensic audit, however, is usually commissioned by private parties and, while not associated with the IRS, can have very serious criminal and legal consequences.
    Forensic Audit Checklist – History of Forensic Accounting – Definition
    A forensic audit is an examination of an organization’s or individual’s economic affairs, resulting in a report designed especially for use in a court of law. A forensic audit is similar to the tax audits performed by the IRS; both strive to establish a comprehensive picture of an entity’s finances (assets, liabilities, total income, cash flow). However, while a tax audit is intended to determine the true size of one’s tax liability, a forensic audit can have several goals, including mapping cash flow/cash transactions, identifying accounting errors and enumerating total assets.

    When Are Forensic Audits Used?
    Forensic audits are used whenever lawyers or law enforcement officials need reliable data on a party’s financial status or activities. For example, while reaching a divorce settlement, a lawyer may request the presiding judge to permit a forensic audit to uncover assets that one spouse is trying to hide.
    If you want to sue an auditor (or the accounting firm) for negligence, you would request a separate forensic audit to determine how much the botched job cost you.
    In business.
    If an elected official is accused of accepting bribes, the FBI could set up a forensic auditing team.
    Forensic audits are sought by CEOs, chief financial officers or board members who suspect embezzlement within the company.

    Read more: What Is a Forensic Audit? | eHow

  3. Never before in the history of this great city have we needed a forensic examination more. Ganim’s transgressions appear to pale in comparison to what many expect is coming.

    The FBI will conduct a forensic examination once they are certain Ricci used Federal funds to grease Manny’s cookie jar.

    Beware, good citizens of Bridgeport, of the capital construction contracts in the BOE.

  4. Lennie, you wrote, “So what would preclude the legislative body to hire a retired FBI agent to dig deep on its behalf?” And you answered your own question when you said, “City Attorney Mark Anastasi, of course, will claim a strict interpretation of the City Charter allows that only he can approve legal counsel for any city entity.” Jimfox suggested “the City Council can order a forensic audit.” Once again, who is going to pay for it?

    1. Probably the city. As many FBI agents are CPA’s, a retired FBI agent who specializes in forensic accounting would be a good idea. Ron, it may be more expensive in the long run not to do it.

    2. Ron, the initial observation I have is what is it costing the taxpayers because the legislative body does not conduct business independently of the executive branch? The City Attorney’s Office has a dozen lawyers plus funding for millions more in outside legal counsel. What’s wrong with the council saying we’ll authorize funding for 11 lawyers for you and one independent investigator for us?

      1. Lennie, there is nothing wrong in asking for a independent investigator but I don’t see the City Council President going along with that and City Attorney Mark Anastasi will TELL council members why they cannot have an independent investigator. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great idea but not with these City Council members.

  5. The city charter clearly states the city attorney handles all legal matters. If the city council were independent (no conflict of interest as city employees and not all members of one political organization) and had some collective critical thinking skills, they may be able to organize an investigation.
    Their rules allow the council president to designate a special committee. In 2006, the council formed a ‘special committee on reform’ to address a number of issues, including ethics (how ironic).
    Included in the charter amendments last November was a change to allow the city council to hire its own legal council. Given the current makeup of the city council, the authority is better in the hands of the city attorney.
    Perhaps they should look at chapter 5 of the city charter. It allows the city council to have its own office of legislative services. My, what a concept! This was an amendment added in the 1993 charter revision based on experience gained from State oversight. The intent was to give the city council the ability to get information for their decisions from a source other than those who report to the mayor.
    The city council is complicit in this debacle in that they have accepted their role as a legislative body that operates without asking questions and insisting on answers, which they have the authority to do.
    Try to imagine a city council led by a president who is not an employee of the administration and a few more council members with triple-digit IQs like John Olson.
    Let’s hope an investigation is done by an authority outside of city of Bridgeport government.

  6. Lennie,
    If you go back into the annals of Bridgeport corruption history you might remember the last time the City Council tried flexing its independent muscle was back in the Ganim years when the council issued an RFP for an independent consultant to review the proposals for privatizing the WPCA.
    When push came to shove, Ganim told the council to shove it and vetoed their contract. And after voting to hire a consultant and approving the contract Ganim canned him and the council refused to override that veto.
    Ganim skimmed a half million off of that deal and the rest is history.

          1. Hector A. Diaz, I asked you this question on
            Ron Mackey // Jun 18, 2013 at 5:53 pm
            and I have not heard a reply yet.

            Hector A. Diaz, excuse me but I’m a little slow in understanding things so let me try this again. You said this regarding City Councilman Andre Baker, “Too bad he hasn’t groomed anyone, that I know of, to continue in his steps. All too often this is happening, everywhere.” I then asked you “perhaps you can tell us who has groomed anyone to replace them on the City Council, in fact when you held office who did you groom?” Maybe I misread your reply to my question.

            Finally, what does Andre Baker have to do with you running for the BOE?

  7. If I were still on the council I would be calling on the council to hire independent legal counsel. I would challenge the City Attorney to butt in, in light of what would be a blatant conflict of interest since his office should be one of the ones investigated.

    1. Ron, okay, I’ll accept you’re a little slow (your words, not mine) I haven’t answered any more than what I stated because a “wise friend” once told me less is more. I groom young men for life and I do that constantly and consistently. What made my statement “germane” was it had to do with the Board of Education. My answer was originally directed to Mr. Fardy (I understand firemen sleep together and are accustomed to community conversation where you could yell from bunk to bunk and anyone can answer 😉 ) and I believe he understood what I meant, since he never asked for clarification.

  8. The amount of conflict and contortion and lack of transparency and people who have the BALLS to speak up about all of this nonsense is simply disgusting and disheartening. I know we’re all amazed about a $400K driveway. That’s small stones (yes, pun intended) compared to the mysteries that surround the Capital Budget, School buildings, etc. which is in the MILLIONS. Yes! We need a forensic audit, a financial control board, anything and everything to shed some sunshine on this darkest and dankest smoke and mirrors. Can we petition the FBI as a grassroots organization to put pressure on them to get to have a little lookie?

  9. Let’s say the city does hire someone to conduct an independent investigation. What happens after? What are the chances the city will recover the $400,000 and the cost of the investigation?

    I keep hearing the question of whether federal funds were used and the city stating no federal funds were used to pay for the driveway project. The only one that must probe this deal is the FBI. Let’s get this straight: The FBI will not probe this matter just to see if federal funds were used to pay for the driveway to the mansion. The FBI will conduct a probe to see if any federal laws were violated. In other comments, I had mentioned wire fraud and mail fraud fail under federal jurisdiction and they’re among the easiest charges to prove. Despite the fact the city waived the bidding process, Ricci got three bids that were mailed to him. This is an invitation for the FBI.

    The FBI were already probing Mark IV for the Trumbull sewage project. It’s obvious someone or others in the old Trumbull administration allowed Mark IV to bill Trumbull as he pleased and there are parallels with the driveway project and the Trumbull project.

    Two years ago, serious allegations were brought against Deputy Chief Honis and Chief Gaudett turned over the case to the FBI–not just Labor Relations. When Trumbull elected a new mayor, he turned over suspected improprieties with its sewage line contract over to the FBI. The FBI is not welcome here by the city administration. But Ricci extended the invitation.

  10. The Justice Department does partner with the FBI on public corruption cases. We need to get more facts on this issue before going to the feds. At the same time, there is little doubt this situation is likely to be just one of many examples of conflicts, incompetence and possibly public corruption in Bridgeport. We need new leadership in the City and a revitalized City Council.

    1. Ron,
      Political corruption involves not acting in the interests of the people and in a manner that results in financial an/or non-financial harm. There are plenty of examples in the City and Drivewaygate is just one.

      1. So is ignoring the violence that occurs in the city’s poor neighborhoods and you are just as guilty of it as the Mayor and his friends. It is not just financial corruption or you street not getting plowed.

  11. Charter violations are corrupt practice. Keeping City business secret and away from the public is lack of transparency and this is corrupt practice. Not liking the players, in general, and calling it corruption, is kid’s stuff and not really corruption. However, corruption in the sense of deadening or killing the body politic to the standards we rise to salute: flag, Constitution, defense of country, following the law, keeping order, etc., that is CORRUPT. We are suffering the rule of folks who do not believe in democratic governance. And while we know what financial corruption that benefits one greedy person looks like, we have been provided with an example of behavior where a group of people practice pretty naked self-interest daily with a casual nod of the hat from City legal employees. Incredible examples abound. When will the howling begin? Time will tell.

  12. By the way, as OIB readers know, the City Council has an account they annually provide themselves, titled “Other Expenses.” It varies a little but it has been safe to say it averages around $90,000 each year available on July 1 of each year, and in most years nothing is spent by the Council from this account. The entire episode is “OTHER” in the sense they cannot easily find the information that would refresh their minds and comfort their consciences. So their emotional state is likewise “OTHER.” What will they do? Will enough find their voices to say we are an independent governance body and have a responsibility to the public? Will they break out of their somnolence? Time will tell.

  13. Don’t blame Bridgeport’s one-party system for institutional corruption.
    Here’s why: since inception, the United States of America has had a strong two-party system. Starting in 1965, it transformed the USA from being the world’s largest creditor into becoming the largest debtor nation in the history of mankind.
    If checks and balances worked, the Vietnam war would’ve never started, deficit spending would seem unpatriotic and America would be debt-free!
    We live in a world created by deficit spending and inflation. No city has been hurt more than Bridgeport CT USA.


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