CHRIS POWELL: Connecticut keeps ignoring fraud, failure in Bridgeport

Published on Friday, 6 August 2021 21:03

Connecticut's top elected officials quickly accommodated themselves to the disgrace of Joe Ganim's return to the mayoralty in Bridgeport in 2015 despite his having served eight years in prison upon conviction in federal court for vast corruption in office.

After all, just a year after Ganim was sent away in 2003, Gov. John G. Rowland resigned and pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges as well. Rowland was a Republican and Ganim a Democrat, so together they more or less normalized and “bipartisanized” betrayal of public office.

Of course, no one in state government could have refused to deal with Ganim in his return as mayor without also disenfranchising all of Bridgeport – Connecticut's largest and most troubled city. But looking away from corruption and failure in Bridgeport, as state government long has been doing, has become a betrayal in itself.

The city's newspaper, the Connecticut Post, notes that federal prosecutors have charged five Bridgeport officials with corruption in the last 10 months. The city's former police chief, Armando Perez, and personnel director, David Dunn, close associates of Mayor Ganim, pleaded guilty to the rigging of the chief's test for promotion. They are in prison. State Sen. Dennis Bradley and Board of Education member Jessica Martinez are charged with campaign finance fraud. City Council member Michael DeFilippo is charged with absentee ballot fraud and has resigned.

The problem in Bridgeport isn't something in the city's water supply. (More than water, Ganim drank expensive wine extorted from city contractors, among other “gifts.”) More likely the problem arises from a lack of political competition in the overwhelmingly Democratic city, the ease of fooling impoverished and disengaged constituents, the corner-cutting hunger for government employment that grows amid poverty – and the indifference of the governor, state legislators, prosecutors, and civic leaders.

For it is hard to find anyone in authority who has spoken out about corruption and failure in Bridgeport, even as there is speculation that federal prosecutors are pursuing more corruption.

The cheating on the police chief test was done to secure the job for Perez, the mayor's crony, and while it may be hard to prove that Ganim directed or knew of the cheating, it is hard to believe that he had no hint about it.

The election fraud charges pending against the other three Bridgeport officials can't be tied to the mayor, but violating election law has become a tradition in Bridgeport.

The attitude at the state Capitol seems to be to keep throwing money at Bridgeport and Connecticut's other troubled cities without ever auditing them for results. This causes unaccountability and colossal waste. No one in authority seems bothered that fantastic amounts appropriated over many years have yet to diminish poverty and mayhem or improve school performance in Bridgeport and the other cities. Contenting the government class that presides over chronic failure seems to be enough.

Has anyone in authority in state government ever contemplated what Bridgeport's restoration of Ganim said about the city – its demoralization and desperation?

But now with so many corruption charges being brought in Bridgeport in such a short time, someone in authority in state government should be asking why only federal prosecutors investigate such offenses. Have the state police and state prosecutors been given confidential instructions or advice to avoid looking into corruption in state and municipal government? Or are they just afraid or incompetent?

For its own sake as well as the state's, Bridgeport should be under perpetual investigation by a special team of state auditors. But is such investigation impossible under a Democratic state administration because Bridgeport sends the largest delegation to Democratic state conventions and produces enormous pluralities for the party?

If that's why corruption and failure in Bridgeport draw no concern from state government, Democrats are the party of corruption in Connecticut.

After all, Republicans have no power in the state, and while denouncing Donald Trump makes Democrats feel good about themselves, Trump isn't president anymore and bashing him won't clean up Bridgeport or correct any expensive policy failures.

Chris Powell is a columnist for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Column on Friday, 6 August 2021 21:03. Updated: Friday, 6 August 2021 21:06.