Bridgeport Ex-Assistant Nardozzi vies for chief
BRIDGEPORT — Even as he pursues a lawsuit to force the city to give him his old job back, ex-Assistant Police Chief James Nardozzi is competing to become Bridgeport’s top cop.
“I did apply,” Nardozzi, whose position was cut in January 2015 by then-newly elected Mayor Joe Ganim, confirmed Tuesday. “I have no ill will toward the city. I loved working for the Bridgeport Police Department.”
The Ganim administration began a nationwide search for a permanent chief in March and as of recently had narrowed a list of 16 candidates down to seven.
There was no official confirmation Tuesday that Nardozzi was among those seven.
“I have not received a rejection letter,” he said. “I made it through the application phase and the second phase was a phone interview” with search consultant Randi Frank.
Nardozzi said that interview occurred July 31.
The seven remaining contenders are supposed to meet in the coming weeks with a selection committee created by the city’s Civil Service Office. That committee, whose members’ names are being kept secret, will forward three finalists to Ganim, who will then choose one to receive a five-year contract.
Nardozzi was hired from Waterbury in 2013 by then-Mayor Bill Finch to cut police overtime and investigate related internal abuses.
Ganim, who defeated Finch in the 2015 Democratic mayoral primary and won that November’s general election, eliminated Nardozzi’s position in January 2016.
Nardozzi’s firing was part of Ganim’s successful strategy to force then-Chief Joseph Gaudett, whom Finch had given a five-year contract in his final days in office, to step aside so Ganim could promote close friend and political ally Capt. Armando Perez to acting police chief.
Ultimately, Gaudett was hired as a private consultant to reorganize emergency management and communications.
Perez recently confirmed that he is one of the seven contenders for permanent chief. Two other current members of Bridgeport’s Finest — captains Brian Fitzgerald and Roderick Porter, the highest ranked black officer — also applied to be top cop, according to sources, though neither has responded to requests for comment.
Nardozzi proved to be a controversial assistant chief. He was praised by Ganim’s public safety adviser, former Chief Wilbur Chapman, and was made grand marshal of the 2015 Columbus Day Parade. But Nardozzi earned the ire of the police union, whose members endorsed Ganim over Finch and wanted Gaudett gone.
“He came in under the Finch administration with some strong messages, not taken very well,” Police Sgt. Chuck Paris, the union president, said when Ganim let Nardozzi go in January 2016.
In a letter to Ganim early last year, at around the time Nardozzi filed his wrongful termination lawsuit, his attorney, Eric Brown, wrote: “By all accounts Chief Nardozzi was doing the job that he was asked to do. ... We believe that his termination may have been politically motivated because the Bridgeport police union supported your candidacy for mayor.”
According to the Connecticut Judicial Branch, a mediation between Nardozzi and the city is scheduled for Sept. 27. Should the sides fail to reach an agreement, jury selection would take place in August 2019.
Should Nardozzi become police chief, he would again be faced with tackling overtime. Perez has worked to keep OT down, helped by Ganim keeping a campaign promise to hire around 100 new cops.
But the police department spent $8.2 million on overtime in the recently concluded 2017/18 fiscal year — $2.7 million over budget. And last week Ganim’s finance staff warned members of the City Council that, two months into the new fiscal year, the police department was already on track to be over budget by next July 1.