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Veteran city lawyer Anastasi retires, returns

August 1, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — Mark Anastasi, a long-time attorney for the city who advised and shielded mayors for 23 of his 35 years with the law department, has quietly retired.

And as quietly been rehired, part-time, for six-figures — though tens-of-thousands less than what he was earning.

Anastasi is the latest, and most high profile, member of the municipal law department to leave the job with a pension, then immediately be brought back as outside counsel.

“Mark has tons of historical knowledge,” said City Attorney R. Christopher Meyer. “The public thinks a lawyer is a lawyer is a lawyer. That’s not the case.”

Meyer argued it is a good deal. Anastasi was earning $136,214 annually plus benefits working a minimum 40-hour work week. With longevity bonuses and reimbursement for unused time off, his gross take-home pay in 2017 was $143,825.

Anastasi is now paid $112,950 as an outside attorney with no benefits for a minimum of 30 hours per week — a rate that, Meyer said, is far less than what would be charged by other private attorneys.

“The minimum outside counsel fees are $175 (an hour) plus,” Meyer said. “I get bargains.”

Two other long-time associate city lawyers — Ronald Pacacha and Russell Liskov — previously retired but are still similarly working for Meyer. Each earns $100,000 annually for a minimum of 24-hours a week.

Anastasi, 66, is a local legal legend, admired — or loathed — for his skill using the law to fit the needs of three of Bridgeport’s chief executives.

He first joined the law office in 1983. Anastasi was promoted to city attorney in 1992 by then-Mayor Joseph Ganim, and spent the next two plus decades advising Ganim, his successor, Mayor John Fabrizi, and his successor, Mayor Bill Finch.

When Ganim successfully ousted Finch in the 2015 Democratic primary and won re-election that November, he made Meyer, a political ally who used to work under Anastasi, his top attorney.

But in a sign of Anastasi’s clout and value — he is also involved in local Democratic politics — he was kept on as an associate city attorney and continued to serve as a key legal adviser to the administration and to the City Council.

Though not publicly announced by City Hall, Anastasi’s July 1 retirement and return has been rumored for a few weeks.

Thomas McCarthy, a recently retired councilman, said, “There are few people in this state that have the skill set Mark has. He is truly an expert in municipal law.”

Councilwoman Eneida Martinez, who has publicly butted heads with Anastasi during council meetings over various issues, complained he was earning two incomes — a consulting fee and a pension.

According to the mayor’s office, Anastasi’s pension amount has not yet been finalized, but will be in excess of $75,000 a year.

And, Martinez said, where did Meyer find money in his budget to rehire Anastasi?

Meyer said Anastasi is being paid out of a funds set aside to hire outside counsel.

“We don’t have money to give to the kids (public schools), but employees can retire and come on as a consultant?” said Councilman Ernie Newton, who has also sometimes been at odds with Anastasi. “He’s a smart lawyer, but he’s retired. From what he was making you could probably bring on two younger lawyers, with benefits.”

Councilwoman Jeanette Herron said Anastasi’s consulting fees may cost less than his full-time salary and benefits, “But how many more consultants do we need? Are we just going to run the law office on consultants, or hire young people on a lower salary?”

Meyer said he cannot hire applicants based on age, but “there is an ongoing effort to make sure I have the best, most professional staff possible.” Meyer also said he is trying to staff up with a variety of legal specialities, limiting his use of private lawyers.

Besides Meyer and the part-time Anastasi, Liskov and Pacacha, Bridgeport’s law office also has a deputy city attorney, six associate city attorneys and three assistant city attorneys.

“We lend value,” said Liskov, who handles tax appeals, late sewer fee collections and zoning issues. “I think we’re a bargain.”

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