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Ganim plans new scrap metal policy

December 15, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — As questions mount about municipal employees selling scrap metal for thousands of dollars in cash and where that money went, Mayor Joe Ganim said he will implement tighter restrictions “to prevent the mishandling or misappropriation of city property.”

But specific details about the new policy — announced about 6 p.m. Friday — were not immediately provided by Ganim’s office.

“Anything short of full compliance with this directive going forward will be subject to disciplinary actions, as we continue to review past practices,” Ganim said in a brief statement emailed Friday evening. “Any employee found in violation will be subject to immediate disciplinary action.”

Ganim’s announcement came 24 hours after Hearst Connecticut Media reported on documents showing how city workers — many employed by the Public Facilities Department or its parks office — over the past two years sold $35,482 worth of scrap metal to P.C. Metals on Central Avenue.

It is unclear how many of those cash payments were deposited with City Hall.

When Hearst in early November first reported on anonymous allegations about scrap metal disposal made in a letter to the City Council, Public Facilities Director John Ricci admitted in an interview some of his employees participated in off-the-books cash sales.

Scrap metal collected at Bridgeport’s dump is sold to Sims of New Haven, which pays Bridgeport in checks. Ricci said some of his staff had sold metal left over from work sites or found on the side of the road to P.C. Metals, but he did not believe the cash from those sales was a lot.

Ricci said proceeds from individual sales was kept in a petty cash fund in public facilities to boost employee morale, make minor equipment purchases or donate to local causes. However, some ex-public facilities employees told Hearst they did not recall scrap metal being sold for cash with the proceeds deposited in a petty cash fund.

Ricci estimated at the time the net profit of individual sales over three years was around $5,500.

But the anonymous letter writer alleged those off-the-books sales amounted to more than $25,000, and Finance Director Ken Flatto ordered the practice stopped and any remaining proceeds turned over. Flatto had said he got a little over $6,000 from public facilities.

Meanwhile, Hearst and some City Council members recently received copies of P.C. Metals’ detailed transaction records showing $35,482 in cash payments between October 2016 and October 2018 to city employees.

In November, the Bridgeport Police Department’s Office of Internal Affairs opened an ongoing probe into the scrap metal sales based on the anonymous letter.

Ganim was mayor from 1991 until 2003 and re-elected in 2015. He hired Ricci, the retired long-time manager of Sikorsky Memorial Airport and a veteran of Bridgeport politics, soon afterward to run the massive Public Facilities Department. Public facilities oversees the maintenance of roads, city buildings, sidewalks, vehicle fleets and parks, along with trash hauling and recycling operations.

Ganim, who was convicted of corruption in 2003, in Friday’s announcement said his current administration was not responsible for the scrap metal controversy.

“It has come to light that we may have inherited past practices that are unacceptable with this administration,” the mayor said.

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