Thursday, August 01, 2013

Ricci fired as airport manager: Sikorsky Memorial (KBDR), Bridgeport, Connecticut

Brian Lockhart and Keila Torres Ocasio
CT Post
Updated 6:15 pm, Thursday, August 1, 2013 


BRIDGEPORT -- Taxpayers are out $400,000 and Sikorsky Memorial Airport Manager John Ricci is out of his $94,000 job.

Mayor Bill Finch Thursday fired Ricci for not revealing a business relationship with developer Manuel "Manny" Moutinho, who was hired by Ricci and the city attorney's office to build a new driveway to Moutinho's waterfront mansion in Stratford.

The mayor's decision comes as the FBI and U.S. Attorney's office conducting a preliminary review of the driveway project, according to sources.

Moutinho was already in the FBI's sights. The agency is probing his botched sewer project in Trumbull.

Finch in his statement said Ricci was terminated for "reckless and intentional misconduct," but did not elaborate.

On June 5, the mayor suspended the airport manager with pay after Hearst Connecticut Newspapers asked what the administration knew of Ricci's long friendship and real estate dealings with Moutinho.

Ricci was fired following a probe by the city's Office of Labor Relations.

On Thursday, John Bohannon, an attorney for the city involved in the Ricci matter, said the whole controversy could have been easily avoided if the airport manager had recused himself.

"All that man had to do was step aside," Bohannon said.

Ricci, who did not return a request for comment Thursday, told Hearst prior to his suspension that the city administration knew about his relationship with Moutinho.

"I made that clear to the airport commission (which includes Finch and City Council President Thomas McCarthy, D-133) and city attorney's office," Ricci said.

Bohannon said Ricci told Lisa Trachtenburg, the city attorney who has been working on the airport safety project, that he had "a long personal relationship with Mr. Moutinho."

"It's very common (that) people have long personal relationships who deal with one another in the city," Bohannon said.

The problem, Bohannon said, is Ricci did not mention a long personal business relationship with Moutinho.

Bohannon said Ricci, "during a car ride," confided in Steve Ford, the airport superintendent of operations, that he should recuse himself from dealings on the driveway. But Bohannon said Ricci never mentioned it to the right people -- Trachtenburg, Ricci's supervisor, Public Facilities Manager Charles Carroll, or Chief Administrative Officer Andrew Nunn.

"You told Mr. Ford you should recuse yourself ... You're not telling people who could make a difference," Bohannon said. "It all crated the specter of impropriety in a totally unnecessary way."

Bohannon said there was no evidence Ricci received any direct financial gain.

Staff Writer Michael Mayko contributed to this report.

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