Cops: Ganim aide runs stop sign, allegedly causes accident
BRIDGEPORT — One of Mayor Joe Ganim’s most loyal aides, Daniel Pizarro, allegedly caused an accident last month while behind the wheel of a city Sport Utility Vehicle.
The other driver said he intends to file a lawsuit for personal injuries and property damage. Meanwhile Pizarro walked away with a “verbal warning for failure to obey (a) stop sign,” according to the police report obtained by Hearst Connecticut Media.
The Oct. 17 accident happened just past noon at a 4-way intersection at Madison Avenue and Frank Street in the Hollow neighborhood.
Police said Pizarro said “he failed to stop” while traveling south on Madison in a black 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe; a 2007 Honda Accord driven by city resident Erin Jones was damaged in the right rear passenger door and fender.
The force of the impact, the police report stated, turned Jones’ Accord around, though it did not have to be towed from the scene. Pizarro was uninjured, while Jones complained of neck and back pain but refused medical attention.
Jones, through an attorney, has since filed an intent to sue with the city for unspecified personal injuries and “substantial” damage to the Accord.
Reached Wednesday, Michael Skiber, Jones’ Norwalk-based lawyer, said: “We just want an acknowledgment from the city and to pay any damages.”
Pizarro did not return a request for comment and the mayor’s office did not immediately say whether Pizarro was disciplined.
Both Pizarro, 45, and the Tahoe he was driving — a 2015 model — have previously generated some embarrassing news for Ganim.
Ganim, who first ran Bridgeport from 1991 until 2003, made a successful comeback in 2015. Pizarro was an early supporter who frequently drove then-candidate Ganim around the campaign trail and was ultimately given a $75,000 politically-appointed city job as a “project manager.”
Pizarro’s duties early on were vague. He was eventually assigned to public facilities overseeing litter patrol. Pizarro can still often be found accompanying Ganim, and is also very close with the mayor’s regular police driver/security, Detective Ramon Garcia, and with another good Ganim friend, Democratic Town Chairman Mario Testa.
In March 2016, not long after Pizarro went to work for the city, Hearst reported that he owed $55,000 in back taxes. The mayor suspended Pizarro, then brought him back a few months later without fanfare after the debt had been paid.
This past April, Pizarro was involved in another controversy. While volunteering for Ganim’s failed gubernatorial bid, Pizarro was scheduled to receive a promotion and a raise. After City Council members learned about the promotion while crafting a 2018/19 municipal budget, Ganim canceled it.
The mayor at the time said Pizarro’s $10,533 pay hike was “contemplated” but “I wasn’t aware it was in there (the budget) in that amount.”
As for the Tahoe, based on the license plate from the accident report, it is the same city-owned SUV stolen two years ago from the downtown government center’s rooftop parking lot and recovered in Kentucky.
The keys to the Tahoe had been left in the vehicle and the doors unlocked, though City Hall never made clear who on Ganim’s staff was to blame.
The Tahoe should not be confused with another SUV that caused Ganim some headaches — a Ford Expedition the mayor was riding while running for governor that got pulled over by a state trooper in January for speeding.
Though the mayor did at times use city vehicles during his failed gubernatorial bid, and though Garcia was driving the Expedition and acting as the mayor’s security at the time, the Expedition was rented by Ganim’s campaign for governor.