The Council’s Counsel, Plus: Lenny, Mandy And Tizzy, And Earth To McCain

This one will be fun to watch. It probably doesn’t have the force of law and won’t become a major issue again until the 2011 mayoral election, but the Bridgeport City Council Monday night voted almost unanimously to seize authorization of City Bond Counsel, an outside legal adviser currently handled by the law firm Pullman & Comley that employs John Stafstrom, former Democratic Town Chair and friend of Mayor Bill Finch.

Background: P&C has served in that capacity for more than 10 years, advising the city on a variety of complex financial transactions involving bonding and land acquisitions. The legal work through the years has meant millions to the law firm. P&C is a respected law firm and Stafstrom a bright attorney. So, what’s the rub? The City Council, which in most instances approves city contracts, has never approved bond counsel.

City Charter and state law provide the city attorney (Mark Anastasi) wide latitude to select outside legal assistance. Several council members, including Stafstrom political enemy Bob Walsh, say Anastasi interprets his authority too broadly. Walsh has also deftly turned this into a minority contracting issue to win support of his peers.

This is what you call a good old-fashioned political dispute. Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa, who knocked Stafstrom out of power in March, had a hand in this, sending a message to both Stafstrom and Finch that he has juice with council members.

Fascinating is that for this one moment in time Walsh and Testa are aligned on a political issue. (Your enemy is my enemy.) Could this be the start of a friendship between The Troll and Testa? Probably not, but you never know. P&C’s contract with the city was recently renewed for three years. It will come up again smack in the middle of the 2011 mayoral race. But between now and then races will take place for City Council, Democratic Town Committee and vote for town chair. Stay tuned.

Count On Mount

The good folks at My Left Nutmeg ran a nice profile today about OIB friend Michele Mount who’s running for the state rep seat that covers all of Monroe and part of Newtown. Michele served as director of legislative services for Bridgeport until she resigned to devote her attention to the campaign. Check it out at  

What A Race

All the talk about the high-octane interest in this presidential election has me thinking about the two mayoral elections that caused me coverage whiplash as a young scribe.

Republican Lenny Paoletta’s win over Democrat John Mandanici in 1981 and Paoletta’s reelection in 1983 that included Democrat Charlie Tisdale and Mandy running as an independent.

Mob hits, fire bombings, bulletproof vests, charges, counter charges: you name it, those elections had it. The ’83 race, 25 years ago, is memorable because you’re never going to see a turnout like that again in a mayoral election. Lenny won the election 16,000 to Tizzy’s 15,000 to Mandy’s 10,000. Turnout was approximately 70 percent. Yes, that’s correct, 70 percent. Three full-blown operations. (By contrast Bill Finch won last year’s mayoral election with 9,700 votes.)

Mandy had served the city for three terms before Lenny squeaked a 64-vote win, amidst an FBI probe of Mandy’s administration and party chaos. (Mandy was not charged.) Think of a cross between John Fabrizi and Archie Bunker and you have Mandy. Pure emotion, in your face, sausage finger in my chest: “Look, you guinea bastard,” he’d say to me, “here’s how you’re going to write this story.” Jesus, this is what being a reporter is all about?

For his part, Lenny had balls that clanked. Handsome and stubborn, he could turn a pretty good line. Mandy really didn’t worry about appearances, so Lenny promised: “One of the images we will improve upon is how the mayor conducts himself in public.”

Tizzy emerged as the single greatest political organizer in the city. Cagey, calculating, smart, he had challenged Mandy in a 1981 primary. Mandy won, but couldn’t make peace with Tizzy. Fifty percent of the black community, believe it or not, voted for the Republican. Two years later Tizzy won the primary, in a field loaded with white guys, becoming the first African American to run on a major-party ticket in the city. Some party regulars, and white voters suspicious of Tizzy, split off with Mandy.

Two ways to look at this race: two Dems splitting the vote for a Lenny win or two white guys splitting it for Tizzy. Lenny survived, got into a fight with Superintendent of Police Joe Walsh, raised taxes and was smoked by Tom Bucci in the general election in 1985, my first campaign effort. I was press secretary. Guess who was campaign manager? Yes, Chris Caruso. Chris was indomitable then and nothing has changed.

Twenty-five years later, we have the first African American to lead a major party and first Republican woman nominated for vice president. One of them will get it in, forever changing presidential demographics.

Polls show the McCain-Obama race tight. For the latest polls, check out For my money, even though he is decidedly right-leaning in personal makeup, Scott Rasmussen is one of the best pollsters in the country.

Little things mean a lot in these kinds of races. McCain looked into the camera Monday morning at a campaign stop to announce that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. (Right, and I own nine freaking houses!) Then one of McCain’s operatives reminded his candidate that the largest financial freefall since 9-11 had occurred that day. McCain changed his tune. Egad!

This is the kind of stuff that Congressman Christopher Shays and his Democratic opponent Jim Himes want to avoid. You don’t want to appear out of touch. Shays also recently said the fundamentals of the economy are strong. The congressman’s campaign launched a new television spot. See below:


New television advertisement focuses on Shays’ efforts to energize our economy

Norwalk, CT – September 15, 2008 – Congressman Christopher Shays (CT-4) released a new television advertisement Friday, highlighting his bipartisan efforts in Congress to enact a comprehensive energy policy that will fuel our country’s economic growth. The advertisement, which is now airing on cable systems across the Fourth Congressional District, includes testimonials from constituents about Shays’ ongoing work to reduce our country’s dependence on foreign sources of energy.

“This ad speaks volumes about Christopher’s commitment to solving our nation’s energy crisis,” said Michael Sohn, Shays’ campaign manager. “He understands the burden high gas and home heating oil prices place on families across the Fourth Congressional District, and the subsequent strain that puts on our economy.”

Shays joined Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) to introduce the Energy For Our Future Act, which will save Americans money by increasing fuel economy standards, doubling the tax credit for the purchase of hybrid vehicles, repealing excessive tax breaks given to oil companies, and incentivizing the purchase of energy-efficient appliances. Last year, Shays voted for the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which requires automakers to boost their fleetwide gas mileage to 35 mpg by 2020.

In August, Shays returned to Washington in the midst of a five-week recess to protest the adjournment of the House without a vote on a sensible energy policy. He was the only member of the Connecticut delegation present for the debate on the dimly lit House floor.

“Christopher has real legislation on the table and is ready to move forward when the Democratic leadership in Congress wants to debate and vote on a comprehensive energy plan,” Sohn explained. “Christopher knows the important economic value in a forward-looking energy policy and that’s why he’s working hard to implement one.”

In New England, the cost of home heating oil could reach $5 a gallon this winter. To ease the burden, Shays introduced the Home Heating Oil Assistance Act, which provides a $500 tax credit for the purchase of home heating oil. He’s also working with Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT) to double funding of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

Click here for other Chris Shays campaign videos

If you love Connecticut, the state Manual and Register (aka Blue Book) is a must for the bookshelf. See news release from Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz below:

Bysiewicz Dedicates 2008 ‘Blue Book’ to Connecticut Women Who Have Served in Congress

Secretary of the State Also Honors Members of the Military from Connecticut who Gave Their Lives in 2008 During Annual Dedication of State Register and Manual

Hartford: Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz today paid tribute to 6 women from Connecticut who served in the United States Congress by dedicating the 2008 State Register and Manual to them at a state capitol ceremony in the Old Judiciary Room. The six honorees include Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (CT-3) and former U.S. Reps Nancy Lee Johnson (CT-5) and Barbara Bailey Kennelly (CT-1). Three other honorees, including former Governor Ella Grasso, and former U.S. Representatives Clare Boothe Luce and Chase Going Woodhouse were recognized posthumously.

“At a time when women are reaching new heights in elective office, these outstanding women are the heroes that have blazed that trail,” said Secretary Bysiewicz, “These outstanding women not only served in the United States House of Representatives but also distinguished themselves as mothers and successful career women. Through their dedication to public service and the struggle for equal rights for all, they have left an indelible mark in the history of our state and our country. They are my heroes.”

The Office of the Secretary of the State publishes the State Register and Manual every year, which is also referred to as the “Blue Book.” This book contains the state constitution, all of the general statutes, and is essentially an encyclopedia of demographic and political information on elections in Connecticut and all 169 municipalities. 2008 is the 121st year that the Secretary of the State’s office has published the Blue Book. Each year this official register and guide serves as a valuable reference for everyday citizens, along with lawmakers, reporters, historians, teachers and students.

In 2008 Secretary Bysiewicz’s office has published more than 9,000 of these books and many will be distributed to schools, municipalities, and libraries across the state, as well as lawmakers, government officials and private citizens. Far beyond containing the interesting and trivial, the Blue Book serves an official snap shot of Connecticut .

“Among other things, the Blue Books will inform people when their local taxes are due and help residents learn about the state they live in. For instance, it contains historical information such as the oldest town in Connecticut is – Windsor (settled in 1633 and named Windsor 4 years later),” said Bysiewicz, “The Blue Book also tells us that 1,570,161 Connecticut residents cast ballots in the 2004 presidential election – a number we are definitely going to top this year!”

Secretary Bysiewicz also dedicated the Blue Book to three members of the military who gave their lives in the line of duty between June 2007 and April 2008. Those honorees awarded the distinction posthumously for 2008 are: Army Private 1st Class Andre Craig Jr. of New Haven ; Navy Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Jason D. Lewis, a native of Brookfield ; and Army Sergeant Jason Lantieri of Killingworth. All three were killed in the line of duty in Iraq .

Accepting the Blue Books on behalf of the families of the fallen troops with Connecticut ties was Colonel Ron Welch of the Connecticut National Guard. Each soldier’s family will receive a complimentary copy of the book signed by Secretary Bysiewicz.

For more information about the Blue Book and to order a copy, visit the Secretary of the State’s web site or call 860-509-6200.



  1. Interesting history lesson today, Mr. Grimaldi. But was there a point to be made? I worked for Mandy for a couple years and he was gruff, very gruff, but cared about this city. He would never have had the number and caliber of staff that Finch has. Talk about the growth and expense of government. we need to lay off the council staff, eliminate stipends, and cut the mayor’s staff in half. Let brbc worry about minority contractors and let the mayor speak for himself and not through a communication specialist (maybe he can’t speak for himself?).

    As to McCain’s comments…what’s wrong with believing that the basis of our free-market system, the hard working americans, are still that way? We’re lacking leadership and that means admitting mistakes. Bush AND the congress have failed us. Obama points fingers but forgets that Joe B was a part of the club as long as McCain. And can we give Dodd some blame for the housing mess? He should have been in DC instead of on the campaign trail. How many houses someone owns doesn’t mean they can’t understand the plight of those in need. Let’s give people some credit. Let’s hear solid proposals to solve real problems. Are you listening Shays and Himes?

  2. My political enemy, John Stafstrom? Where does this come from Lennie? I remained totally neutral in the 132nd Town Committee primary. Although members of both the Stafstrom slate and the Parziale slate wanted me to run with them, I stayed out of it completely. And because of this I was not involved whatsoever in the Town Chairman race. I did not have a dog in that fight.
    And before I raised the issue of minority contracting (or more specifically what I want to see is minority subcontracting) with the bond counsel, I have raised it with the very lucrative city audit contract, the Economic Development consulting contract, etc. etc. etc.
    These are contracts worth millions that totally skirt the issue of minority contracting participation in large service contracts. And as I have said many times to my council colleagues, if we can encourage these contractors to bring on qualified minority firms as co-counsel or as subcontractors, we can begin to break down the barriers that have prohibited minorities from participating in these contracts for decades.
    Now maybe it was a smart political move by going after the most golden of the golden geese but I have been consistent in my stance since the minority contracting ordinance was adopted. Maybe I brought more light to the subject then it has previously received. If in the long run this brings about the fundamental change I would like to see then so be it.
    And as I said last night, I thanked the Contracts Committee members for their unanimous support and at least their symbolic stance on the issue and I thanked my council colleagues in anticipation of their support. I truly hope that this is the beginning of real change in the city’s contracting process.

  3. Yes, yes, the use of the word “enemy” was somewhat inappropriate. “Puppet” or “pawn” would be more descriptive of Alderman Walsh’s position on the bond counsel issue, not “enemy.”

  4. By the way Mr. Walsh,

    It is possible to effect real change in the city’s business affairs, but it takes a long time. Effecting “real change” in Bridgeport politics is a lot like mating elephants: it starts with a lot of grunting, groaning, and sweating, and it takes years to get results.

    I’m all for equal consideration for miniority contractors, but to award a city contract to a firm solely for the fact that the firm is minority-owned? We’re getting into a bad area. For all my leftist political views, I think that affirmative action is a crock of shit. If two contractors submit bids for a municipal job, one a caucasian outfit and the other minority owned, and both firms are equally qualified for the work, how would you make the selection?

    There are many bad contractors out there, businesses that provide shabby work for the city and the state. A perfect example is Connecticut Works, the private agency that allegedly “helps” people find jobs. For the most part the counselors provided offer nothing more than a a pat on the head and “assistance” in writing a résumé. A few of them will actually write or rewrite your résumé, but it takes so long that the mating-elephants principle applies.

    What about the morons that take the tolls on the Port Jeff ferry?

  5. BTW,
    The city and IPA met with the arbiter. He has thirty days to make a decision but doesn’t feel that the matter warrants that much time and wants to make a quick decision. Word around the campfire is that the arbiter asked many questions that appeared to favor the city’s position.

  6. The future is not predetermined, but it can be predicted. I predict, without aid of tarot cards or a crystal ball, that IPA will have to move out of the building they’ve been occupying at 2838 Fairfield Avenue in Black Rock. The bon voyage party is already being planned. As Joe “I’ll get the volunteers to do it for free” Celli’s motheaten green Jaguar pulls out of the municipal parking lot for the last time, a marching band will strike up “Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead” from “The Wizard of Oz.”

  7. Hey Kid,
    I don’t think we are really that far off. I am not suggesting that if you have a firm that is superior to all others then you can’t use them but what I am saying is when all other things appear equal, then let’s spread the wealth a bit.
    Let’s look at an audit contract and not get involved with the bond counsel. A mid-major CPA firm gets the contract to do the audit. What is wrong with encouraging them to subcontract 10% of the work to an African-American firm and 10% to a Latino firm? They all have to be CPA’s to do the work so through schooling and credentialing they have met the minimum standards. If none of the respondents are a minority firm, shouldn’t we be doing something to encourage minority participation, especially if it is a Bridgeport based business?
    Why should we give the contract to a firm from Meriden or Middletown or Middlebury with no ties to the city? The bids currently state that preference points will be given to MBE’s, all I am suggesting is that fewer points (but some preference points just the same) be given to non-MBE’s who will make a commitment to subcontracting.
    Too much familiarity can become a bad thing. Competition and opening the doors to firms otherwise excluded can bring a very positive impact.

  8. If there is a way to review the archived city budgets, you’d see that the mayor’s office became top-heavy under Ganim. He created the chief of staff, cao, deputy cao and mayoral spokesperson/media person. He also added many supervisors and foremen in the public facilities dept and moved several political people from grants to the general fund. Of course he didn’t do this alone, he had the approval of the city council.

    Fabrizi should have down-sized but he didn’t. Finch should have down-sized but he kept the Ganim/Fabrizi people AND added some of his own. The city is overloaded with high-paid, politically connected, ill-qualified people.

    The same scenario with city cars. Used to be that a few emergency on-call personnel had take-home cars. Now, the following people have take-home city cars: Finance Director Feeney; CAO Andy Nunn; OPM Director Sherwood; ITS Director Adam Heller; chief of staff Adam Wood; MBE Director Deborah Caviness, Labor Relations Director Osborne and the list goes on and on. No need. Case in point: Why do finance people need a take-home car, in case there’s an emergency budget transfer? Many of these employees live out of town and have long commuting expenses that we pay for. Someone should do an FOI request for 1) the list of people with take-home cars and 2) the amount spent on gas for each one specifically. They all swipe a gas card so this information is readily available.

    Proof that there is NO budget crisis: the gym in City Hall Annex used by a select few just got renovated; new carpeting, mirrors etc. If you were broke would you spend money to renovate nonessential space or would you make do? Bet dollars to donuts that Tom Sherwood found the money for this. Just goes to show: they find the money when they want to.

  9. city hall smoker – I’m told the Historical Collections Dept. of the (according to Bill Finch “non essential”) Bridgeport Public Library has copies of Bpt City budgets going back many years. Stop by and take a look.

  10. Lennie:

    I attended Monday night’s council Meeting. The Bonding resolution is only symbolic and will not hold up unless there is a Charter Revision Commission put in place and the voters are allowed to vote on the bond counsel question, then there is the State Statute. The Parent Center issue was more interesting and Bob Walsh did his homework. However, the council voted to bond $650,000 to see that the parent center is remodeled; and amended the resolution to make the Board of Education accountable for the reimbursement of this money in 10 years @ $65,000 per year. I was curious as to why Bob Walsh did not mention all the contractors who have been working on this project and getting paid for doing nothing to a building that is privately owned. Who owns the building?
    I ran into Rich Paoletto who was upset at one of my postings here at OIB. Someone here had questioned what I have done to take care of my li’l part of my hood. I wrote that for over four months I have been waiting for the City to deal with nearby blighted properties and that no actions have been taken despite reporting these properties to Paoletto. In all fairness to Rich Paoletto I must say that he did his job and turned in the required paperwork. Rich went a step further Monday night and introduced me to Tom who is working in putting together “Cityview” which is some type of effort to join several departments to deal with issues such as blighted properties. I was told that John Gomes could tell us more about Cityview and how it will work. Paging John Gomes: Tell us more about Cityview; right about now I don’t like the view from my window! Thanks Rich and I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings. You’re a gentleman.

    The Tom White matter was referred to committee and Tom didn’t look too worried about what many are saying will be the end of his job. I didn’t dare to ask him what’s his opinion as to why he is being targeted.

    I spent most of my time chatting with Ed Gomes and I reminded him that what happened to Keeley can happen to him as Milton Johnson passed out campaign literature around. I had a good chat with Eze Santiago and we reassured each other that there are no hard feelings or personal conflicts between us. All in all it was a pleasant evening, except for the fact that I forgot about the Dallas & Eagles game.

  11. Smoker says “(Ganim) created the chief of staff, cao, deputy cao and mayoral spokesperson/media person.”

    Not so. All those positions predated Ganim. Tom Bucci created the position of chief administrative officer. John Norko was the first to serve in that role.

  12. I suggest that the mayor furlough all the personnel in his office. He only needs one very good secretary (pay her what she’s worth) and one receptionist who’s trained to say “sorry you cannot see the mayor, he’s out of the office”. -Even in Bridgeport you can find one of those.

  13. I’m not sure if Eze is going, I’ll be there even if I can’t find my Mojo by then.

    Did you know that a gallon of gasoline in Puerto Rico costs $5.20? I hope City Kitty finds some relief in this.

  14. Joel – $5.20 is a lot of $$$ but a friend of mine just got back from Europe and they buy it by the liter and it comes to over $8 a gallon. I buy in Fairfield, it’s less than Bridgeport. Paid $3.81 at Cumberland yesterday, but it was $3.65 there last week. They are blaming the hurricane Ike, it’s as good an excuse as any I guess. By the way, I didn’t know there is a gym in city hall.

  15. Lennie, I hope to be there for a little while, however I’ll have to leave early due to officer elections @ the monthly NAACP meeting. Are you going to pass out blog name tags to your OIB members? It would be nice to be able to see the faces behind the blog names, there’re a few I’m looking forward to meeting I must say! ‘Til then!

  16. For the past ten years or so the city of bpt hasn’t had a balanced budget, but we keep them in office and in the same positions. Mr. Sherwood should be FIRED. Bob Curwen should be voted out of office. Not only has he robbed the city of bpt by being chairperson for the budget committee… He has a failing grade get him out, but he was also the driver for Fabrizi when picking up the coke at Fardy’s home. When is bridgeport going to wake up?


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