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Bridgeport residency rule ignored

September 26, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — Dozens of volunteer board and commission members who oversee everything from education to zoning to ethics have not complied with a new residency reporting regulation aimed at ensuring they live in the city.

Hearst Connecticut Media also confirmed this week that Eleanor Guedes, long-time chairman of the Civil Service Commission who in the past was accused of living out-of-town, was, according to state records, for seven months up until last February registered to vote in Trumbull. Still, she continued to carry out her civil service responsibilities in Bridgeport.

Guedes is again a Bridgeport voter. But as of Wednesday at least one councilman — Peter Spain — said his colleagues should interview and consider removing Guedes from office for violating the charter: “The day Ms. Guedes became an elector in another municipality, Ms. Guedes forfeited her appointment to the ... Civil Service Commission.”

Guedes’ situation is exactly what the City Council sought to address by passing an ordinance last year requiring elected officials and members of municipal boards to, every January, file residency forms with the Town Clerk declaring their home addresses.

The council took action because, over the years, various local officials have been accused of — and even arrested for — not living in the neighborhoods they represented or within Bridgeport’s borders, in violation of the charter.

Under the new ordinance, changes of address were also supposed to be submitted to the Town Clerk within 30 days.

A majority of the council, Mayor Joe Ganim, the Town Clerk and a few other elected officials have complied. But the binder in which the residency paperwork is filed remains pretty empty. John Weldon, head of the school board, and Barbara Freddino, a zoning commissioner, are the only two members of municipal boards and commissions to so far participate.

Two council members — Karen Jackson and Eneida Martinez — signed residency forms, but Jackson did not provide an address and Martinez gave a Post Office Box. Both in interviews said their addresses are withheld because they are victims of domestic violence. Although registered to vote in Bridgeport, their addresses are similarly not on file with the Registrars of Voters.

The council did not pass any penalties for failure to comply with the residency reporting rule.

No favor, no compensation

Board and commission members are nominated by the mayor and approved by the council. Candidates, according to Ganim’s office, must sign a notarized affidavit stating that they reside in the city.

Many board and commission members have continued to serve long-expired terms without being renominated or replaced — something the Ganim administration has sought to address. But council members have been concerned that, in the meantime, no one has checked to see if those long-serving individuals had moved since first being appointed.

Guedes’ term on the Civil Service Commission expired in October 2011, according to the city’s website.

She has long-claimed 1425 Noble Ave., the offices of her family’s construction company, Primrose, as her Bridgeport address, but also has properties in surrounding towns where she sometimes stays.

When questions about Guedes’ residency were first raised in 2009, the City Attorney concluded there was not an issue. Guedes at that time had also allowed a Hearst reporter to tour her living space at Noble Avenue in Bridgeport.

Guedes’ current voting address is 1425 Noble Ave. But, according to the Secretary of the State, from late June of last year until February 1 she was instead registered at her property at 48 Teller Road, Trumbull. Guedes did not, however, vote in 2017.

Guedes on Wednesday did not deny the temporary change in her voting registration, but said the issue of her residency was settled in 2009. Guedes said she continues to consider Bridgeport her “home base” and has never voted anywhere else.

“If the City Attorney tells me otherwise, I will always comply with what’s just and appropriate,” Guedes said. “I love the city. I gain no favor, no compensation.”

Primrose and Guedes last week were in the news when the Ganim administration announced their proposal for new downtown housing on public property had been selected by economic development staff.

Guedes said she was not aware of the council’s residency reporting regulation.

“Maybe they (the city) didn’t do such a good job disseminating information on this,” she said.

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