Sue Brannelly’s Opposition To “90-99 Percent” Of Her Constituents Urging City Council Reform

At Wednesday night’s forum for City Council candidates in the 130th District, incumbent Democrat Sue Brannelly was trapped in one of those “uh oh” moments in the Black Rock Branch library when even her running partner Steven Stafstrom disagreed with her embrace of city employees serving on the City Council in violation of the City Charter. Brannelly, speaking to the issue, acknowledged she’s in the minority with her constituents. “I know 90 percent of you don’t agree with me, probably 99 … but that is where I am.” (See video above.) If there was a thud moment during the forum, it was Brannelly’s response.

The four candidates responded to a question posed by Black Rock resident Kevin Cassidy, a Fairfield University professor. In trying to explain away her position Brannelly said, “If you’re an outsider and you really don’t know where the bodies are buried, how do you fix it?”

Blagys, Torres
Phil Blagys and Rick Torres support City Charter.

Well, if you know where the bodies are buried, they don’t have a pulse. Afterwards, her answer was one of the topics of conversation among the 75 in the audience. Brannelly was essentially saying I don’t care what 99 percent of my constituency thinks. I’m standing firm. Some say she scores points by sticking to her guns. But what’s wrong with saying hey look, here’s where I stand on this position, but what matters most is what my constituents think. I lead on the side of my constituents.

Brannelly, Stafstrom
Sue Brannelly and Steve Stafstrom disagree on City Charter provision.

Stafstrom said he supports a state legislative provision to grandfather in current city employees serving on the council while prohibiting city employees from sitting on the legislative body moving forward. Some say Stafstrom’s position doesn’t go far enough but his position at least limits the number of city employees that can serve on the council. Brannelly’s position is come on in, the water’s fine.

OIB asked Brannelly and Stafstrom’s Republican opponents, Phil Blagys and Rick Torres, to issue follow-up statements to Brannelly’s “99 percent” comment. From Blagys:

My comment would simply reaffirm my stated position which is to follow the charter. No elected official should take a stand that is against this. If Sue or any other person feels strongly about their position then they should pursue charter revision efforts. And it was a bit unsettling to hear an elected official admit that 90 to 99% of the people disagree with her position, and not follow this with at least a reconsideration or more appropriately, a change in position. In our representative democracy, elected officials are charged with representing the people. not their own personal views.

Response from Rick Torres:

If you Google ‘conflict of interest’ (COI) you are overwhelmed by countless negative postings. From the legal website is the following: “A member of a profession who has been involved in a conflict of interest might be subject to disciplinary proceedings before the body that granted permission to practice that profession.”

Sue stated that she understands that 99% of her constituents disagree with her support for COI. Her support for COI places her in opposition to the honest democratic process. Her position also puts into question her obligation to her district.

Stafstrom’s response equally disrespects the district. He believes those currently in conflict may serve as long as they choose. His employment by the city’s largest contractor puts the question directly on his plate as well. As a lawyer, he understands his exposure to ‘disciplinary action’ by the Connecticut Bar Association if he violates COI rules with his clients. Why does Steve treat his constituents with less professionalism?

In fairness to Brannelly, OIB sent her an email Friday asking her if she wanted to clarify her position on this issue. Email to Brannelly follows:

Just doing a follow up from the Wednesday forum regarding your support for city employees serving on the City Council in defiance of the City Charter. A number of your constituents–and you indicated that as well–support the will of the charter. It’s illegal for state employees to serve in the Connecticut legislature, it’s illegal for federal employees to serve in Congress. The City Charter, in a vote approved by city electors, prohibits city employees from serving on the council out of concern for conflicts of interest. In fact, state and federal laws prohibit respective legislative leaders from serving at the pleasure of the chief of the executive branch. In Bridgeport the head of the legislative branch of government currently serves at the pleasure of the mayor, the chief of the executive branch.

State law prohibits municipal employees from serving on boards of finance, but in Bridgeport the City Council has budget authority (that too was approved by voters about 25 years ago). City Attorney Mark Anastasi has rationalized, some say dubiously, that it’s okay for city employees to serve on the council. To close the supposed loophole in state law, the bill proposed by (State Reps) Hennessy, Grogins and others seeks to clear up any confusion by extending the law to all municipal budget-making bodies.

I’m not sure if any of the information I just provided here is new to you. If it is, knowing what I just shared, do you still support city employees serving on the council? Either way, I’d like to share your perspective on this with OIB readers.

Sue, feel free to send a response.



  1. I am not sure why people are surprised by council member Brannelly thumbing her nose at her constituents. Both she and Steve heard from their community this spring about the tax increase. The clear message was zero tax increase, not a little, not a tiny amount but zero. Instead both Steve and Sue knew what was best for us and voted for the proposed increase. What is the point if they just going to do whatever they want or what their party leaders tell them is acceptable?

    Other council people had the backbone to vote no, but those two rubber stamped the increase. Why would you think this would ever change? I would hope Phil and Rick would follow their constituents’ lead, but that would remain to be seen if they are elected. But we know what we have with Sue and Steve already.

  2. *** Yes Sue, I would also love it if many more of our police and fire personnel actually lived and voted in the city of Bpt, however being also on the city council is different and would not be in the good interest of the taxpayers! As Mr. Torres stated in answering the same question, it’s simple, it’s basic, you cannot serve two masters at the same time. And anyone who does not work for the city and is on the city council can understand by simply talking to city workers and finding out where those “bodies” you talked about are buried, no? *** BODY SNATCHERS! ***

  3. This comment is hilarious.
    Brannelly said, “If you’re an outsider and you really don’t know where the bodies are buried, how do you fix it?” Sue Brannelly an outsider in Bridgeport Democratic politics? You have got to be kidding!
    We can start with a father and sister having served as City Clerks for the City of Bridgeport as well as a brother on the City Council. She has a sister serving in a highly visible (not to mention compensated) position within the BOE. She has one brother-in-law working in the Labor Relations Dept and another heading up the most financially troubled Authority in the city.
    Talk about getting dealt an inside straight! Talk about someone who believes they are entitled by birthright to hold either a job or political position in the city.
    And the only way she is going to find out what is really going on in the city is by having city employees serving with her on the city council? If this weren’t so sad it would be funny.
    So Sue, let’s talk about Manny’s driveway. You have a fellow council member who works at the airport. You have a fellow council member who is in a supervisor’s position in Streets and Sidewalks in the Public Facilities Dept. You have your City Council President who sits on the Airport Commission and runs the Labor Relations Dept. And your fellow council member works for the law firm that serves as bond counsel for the city of Bridgeport. And still no one could give you a heads up and no one can tell you what the Airport Manager did wrong.
    Even to the extent when recent changes to the procurement process came before the council, you supported tabling them because you still didn’t know enough.
    What is your campaign slogan? Supporting the Status Quo is the only way to go! Vote the second row!
    I think the only way you will find where the bodies are buried is if you add an undertaker and a grave robber to your council caucus.

    1. And S & S, aka s-squared, have refused to ask Anastasi why the city went at risk to build the access road with a pending zoning appeal. Furthermore, why didn’t Anastasi file intervenor status on the appeal?

      S-Squared are really S-O-S! Same Old Sh#t!

  4. And to Rick Torres and Phil Blagys, if you cannot beat opponents making statements like this then not only has the Republican party in the city become a shadow of what it once was, it now resides in the shadow of the Working Families Party.

  5. The obvious point to my mind is the fact the conflicted folks who are the subject matter of this question know where the bodies are buried because they buried them.

    1. From a Democratic voter to self-aggrandizing insider Sue:
      When you lose, you should offer your special body-detection services to the FBI, UN investigators, or the producers of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.

      For all the insider knowledge you claim, you have tripped over quite a few “bodies.”

      Bridgeport deserves better.

      Finally, can anyone imagine this kind of rationale (i.e. a vote for me is a vote for the status quo on managing the buried bodies) … being presented by any viable candidate in a neighboring town? OIB!

  6. Just stop the arguing and clean house. Time for the Republicans to run this city and maybe something productive will happen.
    Brannelly and her family have been flies and leeches in the Bridgeport system long enough. Stafstrom is a product of nepotism and is ethically challenged by being employed by Pullman & Comley.

    1. “… and maybe something productive will happen.”

      Don’t sound confident. Then again, Brannelly doesn’t sound confident either. Does she believe 90-99 percent of the people disagree with her on the City employee issue only? Is she expecting 90-99 percent of her constituency to vote against her?

      1. Joel … it (productivity) hasn’t happened under the Democratic watch. So maybe something productive will happen with Rick and Phil on the council. It also looks like a stepping stone to the city’s administration for Rick. Try as he might, there have been all kinds of barriers to that end. Maybe this just might wake up Bridgeport.

    2. Bob, no way will Republicans run Bridgeport because they have NO outreach to Hispanics and blacks, none. So they win Black Rock, those two councilmen cannot and will not change anything. How are they going to get nine Democrats on the City Council to support any issue and Rick Torres will be lucky if anyone on the council will listen to him.

      1. Ron, the Finch administration is putting a lot of effort into producing a Brannelly-Stafstrom win. They want Brannelly to return as budget co-chair so it’s more than just two Republicans, if they win, on the council. The next two budget cycles are crucial for the mayor’s reelection effort in 2015. But let’s assume Torres and Blagys do win, you have two more voices raising questions along with several new Democrats coming on the council, assuming they win, such as Bob Halstead, Trish Swain and Rev. Lee. On some issues there could be eight or nine votes against, depending on the issue. Now if the Council members in the 134th Michelle Lyons and AmyMarie Vizzo-Paniccia break from Finch on some issues, the mayor will then be in the position of sweating for enough votes instead of most of them just going along, which has generally been the case during his six years as mayor. And with more anti votes on the council, I dare say effective watchdogs such as Carmen Lopez, John Marshall Lee and Andy Fardy will have even more relevance because they can raise issues some council members will carry legislatively. Plus, I get the feeling the mayoral candidate cycle is going to start much earlier this time around.

      2. So Ron, why don’t you try and reach out? I’d bet they’d welcome the African Americans and more Hispanics with open arms. Republican politics in Bridgeport would probably put this bankrupt city on the road to fiscal responsibility. As to the charges Blagys and Torres would be ineffective, this might be true for the short term. I’ll bet fiscal conservatism, proper administrative management and social equity is their mantra and that’s what sensible people on both sides of the aisle need, and quickly. Also, enough with the nepotism and cronyism the Democrats have been foisting on Bridgeport for the past 40 years.

        1. Bob, why should I do any reaching out for the Republican Party? General Colin Powell is probably the most respected Republican the Party has but they are pushing him out. Here is a loyal black Republican whom the Party could use to expand their Party but no, they don’t even listen to him.

          The Republican Party in Bridgeport had a black female, Sauda Baraka, who ran as a Republican and got elected to a Citywide position, the BOE. So instead of building on that success the Party didn’t support her for her reelection, now how bad of BOE Republican could she had been that the Republican Party couldn’t support her? So now what happens, Sauda Baraka runs on the WFP line and gets elected again, the Republicans helped jump start the WFP by kicking her out of the Republican Party and now the WFP has replaced the Republican Party with elected members.

          Change is already here in Bridgeport, the last primary showed voters the influence of the WFP. The WFP has very few members but they have a lot of people who vote for their candidates and get them elected, that’s what you call respect because they have no money or jobs to give out but they put up candidates Bridgeport voters support.

          1. Geez, I’d hate to ruin your image. I am a lifelong Democrat, but I vote in general elections for the most qualified, most interactive, and who I think is the best candidate regardless of party. Just voting one party or the other regardless of quality is mindless. Regretfully 40-45% of each registered party’s members do that. It’s the 20% or so who think for themselves.

  7. Now Ron, that is not necessarily true. You have two independent Democrats in the 132nd district. And two new members in the 135th. On some fiscal matters Michelle Lyons has bolted from the Dems and Andre Baker has said his replacement will be an independent vote. So you have the potential to forge a majority on fiscal and reform issues. It will not be easy but it is possible.

    1. Bob Walsh and Lennie, I can agree with your point but I listed two points. Yes, I can see Republican Torres and Blagys supporting and voting with Democrats on certain issues. My second point was no way will Republicans run Bridgeport because they have NO outreach to Hispanic and blacks, none, and I stand by that.

      1. Ron, I still don’t see your point. I’m in the 130th district for City Council and I was still Hispanic the last time I checked. I’ve been represented (at least that’s what the councilpersons would like me to believe) by Democrats. Not once can I recall ever being reached out to by any one one of them. Unless what you mean by “outreach” is to receive campaign literature. Let me give you an example of the kind of outreach we get from them, Ron. For weeks, there was an outcry from parents of Cesar Batalla students and West End residents regarding the BPD plans for a shooting range across from the school. Where were the two City Council persons representing us? Perhaps they were a block away taking that picture at the Fuel Cell Plant you seen them posing at.

        1. Joel Gonzalez, I agree with your example and that’s what I’m talking about. Go into the community and listen to what the issues are and how best the Republican Party can support and help voters and taxpayers. It is much easier for Republicans to do on the local level because there is no “Tea Party” label over their head. As a Democrat I would love to see a a strong two-party system here in Bridgeport.

    1. So invincible,
      How come you’re not out knocking on doors right now on such a beautiful fall afternoon? Catch a lot of people at home doing yard work.
      Feeling a little too invincible, are we???

  8. There’s a lot of twisted logic going on here. Readers who don’t post here might be confused and deserve an explanation.
    Sue Brannelly never said she didn’t care about her constituents.
    Those are someone else’s words. She wants to serve where she lives and voted accordingly. She’s being ambushed in the name of fairness. After careful scrutiny–the kind bomb experts use at airports–the law was upheld. In sharp contrast to the tone shown here, I support Sue Brannelly.

    1. Correct, she never SAID she didn’t care about her constituents.

      Her actions just demonstrated she does not care for what her constituents think or care about. I am sure she likes her constituents as people but when their desires/opinions conflict with hers and her political directors, she has no time for that, and votes her own way.

      Actions speak louder than words.

  9. Rumor Mill:
    Throughout Black Rock CT USA a choir is forming. As their numbers increase, a chorus emerges and the sound grows louder. They’re all chanting the same thing:
    What could be more BASIC than The Law?

    1. You must mean The Hatch Act, right? And CT is a home-rule state, the state statute is a loophole–the real question is, why does this city on all levels search for loopholes rather than follow the city charter?

  10. Sue and Steve,
    Whatever happens when the voters have been heard on November 5, you might care to state what the “duties of a City Council” person consist of, as they are not currently available in the Charter or by Ordinance except by reference to stipends where such “duties” are assumed, apparently. Yes, you listen to constituents and respond to some, but others you have written off when the questions asked come up with answers you would rather not provide. And, yes, there is street cleaning, beach repair, pre-election cleanup events as well as groundbreaking sites where your participation is evident. But as an example, Sue, how do you account for the budgeting of “ghost positions” for years where millions were spent in other areas? It might have been much more popular with your neighbors to decry this exercise in misrepresentation, but you did not. And once items like this became a CC-supported annual item, no work of monitoring or conscientious oversight has been part of your Co-Chair effort for the past couple years, anyway. Who governs? Where is the check and the balance to fiscal matters?
    Sue, you referenced the matter of “where the bodies are buried.” I think what you were trying to establish is if a City employee is also on the Council then Council members will have an automatic channel of information with which to prudently and effectively play their legislative role. (By that logic, perhaps only City employees should run for office? But you did not advocate that, I know.)
    However, info as to where the bodies are buried is most important in cemetery management. It has not proved effective in City governance, where opening up more listening (and response meetings, hearings and other such opportunities) would have proved more effective. Violations of the Charter including the decreased variance-type reporting in monthly financials, the late monthly reporting, the failure for over 20 years now to post a final June 12th month report are reasons for replacement of City Council members. (If you do not look at a final 12-month report, where do you draw your impressions of actual line item surplus and deficit information? If you answer you trust City reports, I say OK, but how do you verify? And if you tell me it all comes out in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report from the outside auditor, I ask why this report is not subject to public discourse in a Q & A session? When seven members of the B & A committee get these reports electronically, why are they not available on the City website each month as well?)

    For the most part you have ignored the info offered to you free of charge, up to date and often ahead of when it became something of record on OIB or in the CT Post. It has taken several years of sharing the actual broken mechanisms and structure of Bridgeport governance to point at these things, but many have listened more specifically than those in office and when the train leaves this year some will be left on the platform. There is still much to be done, whatever happens on November 5. Budget Oversight Bridgeport (BOB) will continue and there is plenty of room for more participants. Real progress in governance change will require more people paying attention, attending meetings to become informed, and certainly getting out the vote. Time will tell.

  11. Dear Sue Brannelly,
    Your statement “… can tell you how things go wrong and how things don’t go wrong … if you listen you can fix it” is 100% accurate.

    However, with the current administration, if an employee DARES point out a problem, a conflict of interest or an outright illegal act … if an employee DARES make a suggestion or speak out at all … that employee is reprimanded, shunned, bullied, demoted and otherwise illegally and unfairly treated. That used to happen frequently. It doesn’t happen so much anymore because those employees who had the years for retirement simply left. Look at Economic Development. Much of the talent is gone. Those who are forced to stay keep their mouths shut and no longer point out problems or make suggestions except to their co-workers.

    If regular employees are treated like this and are forced into survival mode, what do you think the employee City Council members do? The pressure to conform is much greater on them.

    Having employees on the City Council is just wrong and 99% of us know it. How you can justify it’s okay is just ridiculous.


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