The Civil Service Commission’s efforts to remove from office and impose fines on Council President Pro Tem Suzanne Bielinski over the Council’s hiring of her niece, Jessica Gerratana. as the Common Council secretary, is a costly misuse of government for partisan purposes.
Ignoring the City Charter , the Commission voted last October 6th for the ouster of the long-serving Bielinski and for a $2,500 fine on the alderwoman after Commission members agreed to take up a complaint and the unsubstantiated accusations of Ward 5 Republican Ald. Louis Salvio. The Commission’s latest gambit came last week when, upon advice of lawyers from Murtha Cullina, it backed away from recommendations for a $2,500 fine and the removal of Bielinski , referring the matter “informally” to the Common Council for action, but still insisting on a $250 penalty.
Civil Service Commissioners, acting without a shred of legal standing and with the tacit approval of the Stewart Administration and its Corporation Counsel, attempted to set itself up as judge and jury of Alderwoman Bielinski’s conduct. Despite high-paid legal advice to back off, the commission continued to double down on its illegitimate actions.
Nearly forgotten in this charade of an “investigation” and abuse of power by the commission is the earlier decision by the city’s ethics commission to throw out Salvio’s complaint for insufficient evidence. By charter and ordinance, the ethics commission is the only municipal body sanctioned to consider conflicts of interest by the Mayor and Council members.
By retaining an outside firm to avoid any “conflict of interest” in advising the Civil Service Commission, Corporation Counsel Gennaro Bizzarro side-stepped his non-partisan responsibilities in favor of rewarding political friends.
His choice of a law firm reinforces the partisan nature of the Civil Service Commission’s actions against Bielinski. Murtha Cullina’s partners are Republican-leaning, having represented New Britain Republicans in the Ward 5 ballot case in 2013 and serving as “observers” on Election Day last November in an intrusive attempt to challenge Democratic voters at the polls.
Attorney Bizzarro knows very well that one of the city’s full-time staff attorneys could have interpreted the City Charter and rendered an opinion in a heartbeat. The City Charter could not be clearer on this issue. A commission in the executive branch of government has no role in the censuring or removal of a Council member.
With litigation and a grievance pending Ald, Salvio and the Republicans are heading for the exits and doing damage control. The immediate and unfortunate result, however, is that legal costs to the city are likely to escalate by the tens of thousands of dollars because of the partisan use of government by New Britain Republicans. It’s budget time and not a good time to be playing politics on the taxpayer’s dime