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Council looks to enforce residency reporting

September 28, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — The City Council is considering ousting the majority of board and commission members after learning they failed to comply with residency reporting requirements by the Jan. 31 deadline.

“It’s a little shaming there are so many people that have not adhered to it,” Council President Aidee Nieves said Thursday. “If we (city officials) don’t follow our own ordinances, how do we expect other residents (to)?”

But long-time Police Commission member Thomas Lyons, whose wife, Michelle Lyons, serves on the council, said Thursday that no one told him to fill out the new form in the Town Clerk’s office declaring his home address.

The council passed that rule last year because of ongoing concerns that elected and appointed municipal officials do not live in the neighborhoods they represent or within city borders, in violation of the municipal charter. Such allegations have dogged many Bridgeport movers-and-shakers over the years, and at least one — former state Rep. Christina Ayala — faced criminal prosecution four years ago for elections fraud.

The residency forms are supposed to be filled out every January and updated during the year if addresses change.

But as Hearst Connecticut Media reported Wednesday, of the dozens serving on boards and commissions, only two, John Weldon, head of the school board, and Barbara Freddino, a zoning commissioner, had given their information to the Town Clerk.

Meanwhile, most of the council, Mayor Joe Ganim, the Town and City Clerks and Republican Registrar, have complied.

When the rule was passed in 2017, the council did not include penalties. So Nieves and Councilman Ernie Newton are drafting a resolution for the council to consider Monday seeking the resignation of anyone who does not fill out the residency form.

“It shouldn’t take a whole year,” Newton said. “That goes for council people, too. They should lead by example.”

The mayor nominates board and commission members, his staff screens them, and the council interviews and votes on the candidates. According to the mayor’s office, candidates sign notarized affidavits stating they reside in the city. But many board and commission members were first appointed years ago and have continued to serve until renominated or replaced without being asked to update their information.

Thomas Lyons, who over the summer was reappointed to the police commission, said he knew his wife submitted her address to the Town Clerk, “But I was never given any notification of this.”

“I’ll make sure he goes down there (to City Hall) ASAP and does that,” Michelle Lyons said. “Maybe I should have told him. ... Listen, my husband is the most follow-the-rule-guy I know. I don’t think any of these people were notified.”

Chris Taylor, a member of the school board, on Thursday morning said some residency reporting forms might have gotten lost. Taylor told Hearst that he mailed and emailed his missing document to the Town Clerk in February.

Separate from Nieves’ and Newton’s effort, Councilman Peter Spain has submitted a resolution seeking the ouster of Eleanor Guedes, long-time chairman of the Civil Service Commission, which deals with various personnel issues.

Guedes, who has long-claimed 1425 Noble Ave., her family’s construction company, as her residence, was accused in 2009 of living out-of-town at other properties she owns. The City Attorney at the time concluded she could have multiple residences but still declare Bridgeport home, and a Hearst reporter was allowed to tour her quarters on Noble Ave.

But as part of Wednesday’s story on the residency forms, Hearst also reported that Guedes, from late June 2017 until February 2018, had changed her voting address from Bridgeport to her house at 48 Teller Road, Trumbull.

Spain’s resolution calls on the council to interview and consider removing Guedes, whose voting address is back at Noble Avenue, from office for violating the charter. As of Thursday, Lyons was a co-sponsor and Newton said he, too, was supportive of her removal.

Guedes on Wednesday told Hearst that Bridgeport remains her “home base,” that she has never voted elsewhere, she pays taxes to the city, and that she thought questions about her residency were settled in 2009.

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