Friday, August 02, 2013

Bill Finch: Strengthen ethics code and airport safety -- Sikorsky Memorial (KBDR), Bridgeport, Connecticut


Published 3:04 pm, Friday, August 2, 2013

As I said from the moment I was first sworn in as Bridgeport's mayor, any time any wrongdoing in my administration is brought to my attention by any person, I will ensure a full and thorough investigation is conducted by the appropriate individuals or agencies.

As a result of a thorough and highly professional internal labor relations investigation, I have made the decision to terminate Airport Director John Ricci for "reckless and intentional misconduct" in regard to the construction of an access way on airport property.

In light of the recent internal investigation into Mr. Ricci's actions, I am implementing new and enhanced reporting requirements of city officials to more effectively and comprehensively monitor full organization-wide compliance with the city's Code of Ethics.

The city of Bridgeport requires a very high standard of conduct from its employees. The current Code of Ethics, however, does not require an annual accounting of the outside financial interests of city employees, which creates potential for conflict for those employees involved in the decision-making process for city contracts. We have examined the current best practices to determine how we can best modernize our oversight in this area.

Department heads and those other employees involved in procurement will now be required to annually fill out a disclosure form, similar to that used by the state of Connecticut, in which the employee must disclose any financial or personal interests which may conflict with city contracts.

Prospectively, all city employees also will be required to take part in ongoing annual ethics training and testing, which has been developed in conjunction with the city's Human Resources Department and the former chairman of the Ethics Commission Joseph Ianniello, a retired human resources executive.

With these enhanced requirements, our goal is to have the strongest ethics standards in the state. This will enable us to proactively determine, on an annual basis, whether any of our senior city employees might have a conflict of interest that could cause problems in contract compliance or the award of contracts.

Several weeks ago, the city engaged John King, a partner in the law firm Updike, Kelly & Spellacy, and city attorney for New Britain, and Hugh I. Manke, a senior principal in the firm and a specialist in municipal land use matters who represented Tweed-New Haven Airport Authority and the city of New Haven in suits against the town of East Haven, to conduct a comprehensive review of the city's procurement procedures, particularly as related to the airport access way issue.

In addition, the city solicited and received two independent post-construction scope of work/price analyses to determine the true cost range of the access way project from: (1) Epic Construction, at $810,000 and, (2) PJ's Construction, at $517,000. Significantly, both figures are substantially more than the $389,000 bid by Mark IV Construction, as well as higher than the other two original unsuccessful bids submitted by Candee Construction ($410,000) and Julian Construction ($605,000). This analysis belies the unsubstantiated reports and estimates that have recently been circulating concerning the appropriate cost for the access way project.

This episode has only served to reinforce my administration's commitment to maintaining the public's trust and faith in their government, and the implementation of these enhanced ethics reporting requirements will help us achieve that goal.

Nothing is more important to me than for you, the citizens of our great city of Bridgeport, to have full faith and trust that your government is working for you. I will never stop working toward this goal. Bridgeport's past remains a challenge for our city, but this administration will always tackle issues of any wrongdoing head-on and address them in the best interest of the residents of Bridgeport. That is my commitment to our citizens.

Finally, be assured that we will continue to move forward aggressively with the runway safety zone improvements at Sikorsky Airport as planned, in order to meet Congress' Dec. 31, 2015, construction deadline. As we are only too aware, the installation of an EMAS system at the end of Runway 6/24 is vital to preventing future tragedies such as the 1994 multiple-fatality crash at Sikorsky. We have received full assurance from both state and federal officials that this vital project remains firmly on track for timely completion.

Bill Finch, a Democrat, is mayor of Bridgeport.