Republican candidates for City Council Rick Torres and Phil Blagys share this commentary about eliminating conflicts of interest such as enforcing the City Charter that prohibits city employees from serving on the city’s legislative and budget-making body. A dubious loophole in state law, cited by City Attorney Mark Anastasi, defies the charter mandate. Interestingly, Democratic incumbents in the 130th District Sue Brannelly and Steve Stafstrom are split on this issue. Brannelly says there’s no conflict for city employees to serve on the council even though they approve their own wages and benefits in violation of the City Charter. Stafstrom, an attorney, says he supports a bi-partisan state legislative bill to enforce the City Charter grandfathering in current city employees on the council. Moving forward, says Stafstrom, no city employees on the council. The 130th District covers Black Rock and the West End. Torres and Blagys’ commentary follows:
The City Council is apparently worried about “conflicts of interest” after they got hoodwinked into supporting a borrowing initiative that resulted in a politically connected developer getting a brand-new $400,000 driveway courtesy of Bridgeport’s taxpayers. City Council President Tom McCarthy is adamant that an ordinance be passed that would require city employees of these “emergency purchases” to fill out an affidavit swearing that they don’t have a relationship with the chosen contractor (see CT Post link below).
This is the same Council President who serves on the Airport Commission and, as head of the City Council, oversaw the approval of this appropriation then had this whole mess (uncovered by the CT Post) referred to the Labor Relations Office where he works. Hey, no conflicts there. This stuff reads like a bad novel. And where is in this self-righteous indignation in support of State Representative Jack Hennessy’s bill, co-sponsored by State Representative Auden Grogins, which would close the loophole in state statute and allow Bridgeport’s Charter to be honored which precludes city employees from serving on the City Council. At last count, six City Council members had city jobs including (you guessed it) Tom McCarthy. And to the best of our knowledge, not one of our City Council members supported this legislation as originally written. I mean, you just can’t make this stuff up. Does the word “hypocrisy” come to mind?
As part of our commitment to better governance, we will fight to eliminate conflicts of interest at every level, but we’ll start by honoring the will of the people of Bridgeport who have already voted to revise our charter and not allow city employees to serve on the City Council. Unlike what appears to be at best indifference and at worst disdain by the City Council for what the people have supported through an honest and fair election process, we will consider the will of the people to be sacrosanct. To do otherwise threatens the very underpinnings of our democratic republic.