Ricci, 3 staffers disciplined in scrap metal scandal
BRIDGEPORT — Public Facilities Director John Ricci, a close ally of Mayor Joe Ganim’s, and three members of Ricci’s staff are being punished for their roles in selling municipal scrap metal for cash that was never deposited in the city’s bank account.
“I’m taking immediate action today and disciplining a number of city employees as part of mismanagement in public facilities,” Ganim, seeking to get ahead of the scandal at the start of a re-election year, said in an interview Tuesday evening.
He also confirmed for the first time that the city believes “there’s money missing” from the scrap metal proceeds. As previously reported, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is conducting an ongoing criminal probe of the scrap metal controversy, and agents interviewed Ricci and some of his employees last Thursday in the downtown government center.
Ganim emphasized that Tuesday’s announcement followed a civil review of violations of municipal rules governing city property and funds and should not be considered “a commentary on guilt or innocence” in the ongoing criminal probe.
The mayor said Ricci, a politically-appointed, non-union department head, will be docked two weeks pay, and lose two weeks of vacation pay that, if unused, could have been cashed out. Ricci’s salary is $126,592.
Ganim emphasized that Ricci will work without a salary “to make sure everything continues to run properly” in his massive department, which oversees the maintenance of roads, city buildings, sidewalks, vehicle fleets, along with trash hauling and recycling operations.
Ricci last November had told Hearst Connecticut Media he was aware of some scrap metal being sold for cash, with the money placed in a department “sunshine fund” — a petty account — to pay for meals, cakes, event tickets and other morale-boosting activities.
But Ricci, who has run public facilities since 2016, at the time said only around $5,500 had been deposited in the sunshine fund and that he understood it predated him.
An anonymous letter sent to the City Council last fall which first alleged the existance of the off-the-books scrap metal operation said over $25,000 had been raised. And documents obtained by Hearst in December showed over $35,500 worth of cash-for-scrap transactions between municipal workers and Bridgeport-based P.C. Metals.
The mayor on Tuesday said he could not immediately provide details on the other three employees because they must receive written notification of the disciplinary action and will have a right to a hearing.
“John stepped up and took a level of responsibility as a department head,” said Ganim.
While for the first time confirming “we think there’s money missing” from Bridgeport’s coffers as a result of the scrap metal sales, Ganim did not say how much.
“That’s what I get from our internal review,” the mayor said. “And they’re (the FBI) best able to get to the bottom of it. ... We think we’ve gone as far as we could on the civil side.”