Thursday, June 06, 2013

Deal damaging to public trust: Sikorsky Memorial Airport (KBDR), Bridgeport, Connecticut

Published 5:06 pm, Thursday, June 6, 2013

Connecticut Post 

 Whether the latest dustup at Sikorsky Memorial Airport, this one over a $400,000 driveway built by and for a well-known political contributor and paid for by the city, is yet another contemptible bit of skullduggery or a just, honest solution to a long-standing problem remains to be seen.

Whatever the final judgment, the arrangement that resulted in local developer Manuel Moutinho, best known perhaps as owner of the local Mark IV Construction Co., winning the bid to build a $400,000 driveway through airport property to his Shangri-La by the sea sure gives off a too-long-dead-bluefish odor.

And good, bad or indifferent, the fact that the airport manager, John Ricci, has business dealings with Moutinho -- certainly not in and of itself improper -- adds to the yuck factor.

For decades, the airport -- owned by Bridgeport but physically situated in the lovely Lordship section of Stratford -- has been a grain of sand in the oyster, never developing into a pearl, however, just a persistent irritant.

After years of contention, last April, city, town, state and federal leaders finally sat down to sing Kumbaya and announce that a long-sought safety zone would be built at the end of a runway. As always, the devil -- in this case the driveway leading to the property of Moutinho and three others -- apparently was in the details of the agreement.

That no one at Bridgeport City Hall thought this might be controversial and air it publicly seems like a gross miscalculation -- or a brazen gamble.

When the Connecticut Post reported on the matter, reaction, at least from the administration, was swift and predictable: City Attorney Mark Anastasi huffed and puffed and all but blew the house down with an apologia and accusations that the newspaper portrayed the matter "inaccurately," was "misleading," was trying to "create a controversy," and concluded his letter with a lecture on the role of the press in a democracy.

"There is a level of trust that residents have in their government, and false attacks like this one can have a damaging effect on that trust," he wrote.

Ready, fire, aim.

Mayor Bill Finch has rightly suspended Ricci from his job while they look into the relationship between Ricci and Moutinho.

We'd just suggest that when it comes to "damaging effect on that trust," it seems far more likely that the wink and nod ploys, the interlocking network of tax dollar beneficiaries and the general frolicking in the public trough is far more effective than a newspaper pointing it out.

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