August 20, 2007

Zoppo blasted for "lies" and more by 5 department heads

-- Story is still developing so check back later --
** Check Wednesday's paper for the final version of this story. But go ahead and read this entry, too, because there's more here than could ever fit in a newspaper story! **

Just before the polls closed on Election Day two years ago, five city department heads wrote a scathing letter to the city’s personnel director claiming that city Councilor Ellen Zoppo had subjected them “to lies, misinformation, innuendos and made-up stories.”
“We believe that this has contributed to a very hostile work environment that should not have been tolerated by any city employee,” said the letter signed by Fire Chief Jon Pose, Comptroller Glenn Klocko, Park Director Ed Swicklas, Police Chief John DiVenere and Jonathan Rosenthal, the city’s economic development director.
They said in the letter that Zoppo, the Democratic Party’s mayoral nominee, had referred to them as the “Fab 5” or the “Fat 5” and “publicly stated that she is going to get us fired for various unwarranted reasons.”
“In addition, she has spread lies and misinformation to the employees who work for and with us,” the letter said.
Calling the situation “intolerable,” the five supervisors asked Personnel Director Diane Ferguson to do something to help.
Here's the letter:

To see the letter much more clearly, go here: Flickr link

10:20 Update:
City Comptroller Glenn Klocko said Tuesday he signed the letter “slightly kicking and dragging” because he’d heard secondhand “from several different sources the same exact thing” about what Zoppo had been telling people.
“That had to cease,” Klocko said, so he agreed to take what he considered a serious step.
Since the letter, Klocko said he has had “no issues with Councilwoman Zoppo” at all.
“She’s been cordial to me,” he said, and supported his reappointment.
Klocko said that when the five signed the letter, they were worried about retribution against them. That never happened, he said.
“There was no backlash to us,” Klocko said.
He said he suspects the letter “focused her attention” on the problem of talking harshly about city workers and probably helped resolve the situation.
Klocko said he feels “positive” about his relationship with Zoppo these days.
Klocko also said he doesn’t see the letter as meaning too much any longer.
“I dismiss it at this time because it’s the silly season,” Klocko said.
He said that from his point of view, he will work with “whoever the citizens to tell me to” when they vote in November.
Klocko said that he hopes that a decade from now “the Fab 5” can get together and chuckle over the letter they felt they had to write.

10:45 Update:

“It was a big misunderstanding at the time,” Police Chief John DiVenere said Tuesday.
“Whatever issues there may have been have been resolved,” he said.
DiVenere said that he has confidence in Zoppo now and that he has had no issues with her since the letter was sent in 2005.

11:10 a.m. Update:

Both Park Director Ed Swicklas and Jonathan Rosenthal, the city's economic development director, said they haven't had any problems with Zoppo since writing the letter in 2005.

Pose said the letter speaks for itself.

I haven't heard back from Zoppo or Ferguson.

11:15 a.m.

From Ellen Zoppo, minutes ago:

Why am I not surprised that this letter has surfaced 3 weeks before a primary?
This is a blatant attempt by supporters of Art Ward to discredit me before the primary. There would never be a letter from department heads complaining about Art Ward because he is not capable of holding them accountable, because he does not have a grasp of the issues to know how to hold them accountable. He is more concerned about being their buddy.
This is the same man who is afraid to debate me in public on the issues, but his supporters will dust off a complaint that was found to be without merit two years ago. This is clearly a desperate move by the Ward campaign to keep the focus off the issues and make it personal instead. If Art had the nerve to meet me face-to-face in a debate, we would not have to air these issues via the newspaper.
The city has a talented set of department heads with whom I have good working relationships, and who care about Bristol and do their jobs well. My concern for the taxpayer, and the safety of the line firefighters, as it related to Chief Pose's disregard for policy and procedures set us on a path to confrontation when I was on the Fire Board.
I expect that department heads adhere to a high standard because that is what leadership is all about. It is unfortunate that in Chief Pose's need to go after me, he involved other department heads. Chief Pose's complaint had no merit then, and still doesn't today.

12:30 p.m.
Tom Bentivengo, president of the firefighters union, said that Pose wrote the letter and convinced the other four department heads to sign it.
“He’s behind the whole thing,” Bentivengo said.
He said that “there’s no substance to that letter” and that Pose didn’t like Zoppo because she insisted he follow the correct procedures and policies within city government.
Moreoever, Bentivengo said, Pose is a big supporter for Ward.
“He is his number one backer,” Bentivengo said. “He is his number one advisor.”
In his off-hours, Pose even helped get signatures for Ward, the fire union president said.
He said the problem between Zoppo and Pose began because Pose “has no patience” and did not want to follow the sometimes cumbersome procedures to get new equipment for a fire department that needed updating.
Zoppo “was like guiding him through the process and procedure” of how to get what the department needed, Bentivengo said.
But Pose didn’t listen to her and wound up delaying things by mishandling them in his rush to try to get what the department needed, Bentivengo said.
Pose “started to say Ellen was interfering with him. He wanted to do it his way” and not wait for the proper approvals, Bentivengo said. “He wanted it done today.”
“Everything fell apart” between Pose and Zoppo, he said, because of the chief’s impatience. “He thought it was all her and, of course, it was not.”
About the time of the letter, Zoppo was also holding other department heads to account, Bentivengo said, because they were acting too much like a city manager and not necessarily following procedures. Some were overstepping their roles, he said.
“At that particular time, things got a little shrill,” Bentivengo said. The department heads “were in a panic mind.”

1:50 p.m.

From Art Ward: "I would appreciate it if you were to inform Ms. Zoppo-Sassu and anyone else of the same mindset, that I was not the person to provide you with the letter in question and that I will state, unequivocally, that I did not have any knowledge of it being presented to you.These preconceived rants and rages of Ms. Zoppo-Sassu are completely in concert with the reasons that I don't believe that a debate would provide any positive assurances of respect or decency that the voters might utilize to arrive at their ultimate decision on Primary Day, Tuesday, September, 11."

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at


Anonymous said...

How many more reasons do people need in order for them to see Zoppo for the mean, backstabber that she is?
More lies from her and yet the DTC endorsed her?

amarko55 said...

HMMM - A letter written by Ward supporters two years ago surfaces a few weeks before the Democratic primary.

HMMM - The letter basically says that Ellen talked mean about a group of adult males who, one would assume, should have thicker skins as a result of years in government service. Could this have been a pre-emptive strike by a few city employees worried about their job security?

FURTHER HMMM - so far we don't know anything about the resolution of this letter by the Personnel Director. Was it rejected out of hand as political gamesmanship? Was any action taken on it at all? I await further info as promised by Mr. Collins.
FINAL NOTE - The link that allegedly makes the letter more legible, doesn't - at least on my computer.

Steve Collins said...

Try doubleclicking on the image when you get to Flickr.
If that doesn't work, you can just download the picture (it's a JPG) and open it on your own computer with picture viewing software.

By the way, as of 10:20 a.m., there's an update with Glenn Klocko's comments.

amarko55 said...

Well - It appears that at least three of the letter signers say this is now a non-issue. The fourth, Chief Pose, basically said no comment.

How many of us have never made smart-allecky comments about co-workers / higher - ups?

This is mainly an issue because Ellen is female. If she were a male, this would be spun as her taking charge, being a no-nonsense manager, etc. But females in positions of power are accussed of being "B*tches" when they do what males have done for centuries.

Steve Collins said...

Four of the five signers said they have not had problems with Zoppo since 2005. Pose said the letter speaks for itself.

Anonymous said...

looks as though minor and mccauley have adopted a new tag-a-long with this marko fella

Anonymous said...

The issue is that anyone, male or female, who uses intimidation, misinformation, lies and innuendos is not just being a "no-nonsense manager."

not a city employee said...

The issue is that these well-paid department heads have had it easy for a very long time without being accountable to anyone.

Zoppo holds their feet to the fire and reminds them that this a job, not a boys social club, and they get all crabby about it. It was a really sorry display by these so-called men, and even sorrier that Art Ward would rather slime Ellen from the safe sidelines instead of confronting her face to face in a debate for all of Bristol to see.

Anonymous said...

Where did this come from and why did it have to come down to the departments heads writing a letter to the personnel department to have the issue resolved? It's because Ellen can't establish a professional relationship that includes good communication with city employees. She needs to understand that department heads are hired for their role based on their experience in that field and she shouldn't pretend to know more about how their departments should be run than they do. She's never been a fireman, policeman, economic development executive, financial expert or park expert.

And for the Fireman Union President to say that the fire chief is Wards biggest supporter is hypocritical. Bentivengo has always held Ellen's coat tails and carried her around even when the rest of the fire department didn't agree with him. He shouldn't be defending her against the Chief. Ellen should be held accountable for not treating people with respect.

Anonymous said...

Typical that Zoppo would come out stating that Ward sent the letter - I can assure you he did not! And I wish Zoppo would stop whinning about a debate - get over it already it won't prove anything to the voters who already know how you operate. You lie, and call people names behind their back and you think it won't come back to bite you in the butt - think again.


Anonymous said...

Why is Ellen so determined to debate Ward? Is she having a hard time getting her message across to the democratic voters? He said NO countless times and gave a good reason why. A debate should be saved for the September election. What part of that doesn't she understand and why is she so adamant about it? Art doesn't need a debate to get his point across to the democratic voters in this town. He talks to them all the time. Maybe she should consider doing the same OUTSIDE her circle of supporters.

It's too bad she is dragging the other endorsed candidates down with her. Some of them might actually be good for this city!

Steve Collins said...

Where did this come from?
That's a legitimate question. The answer is, I don't know. It came in the mail, anonymously.
However, I heard about it more tha a year ago and have been asking people for a copy for a long time. Everyone claimed they either didn't know what it was or didn't have it. Someone obviously did.

Anonymous said...

yeah, like those that wrote the letter two years ago are foolish enough to stand up for their statements when the offender, zoppo, could, GOD, I hope not, possibly be their boss in a couple of months

Anonymous said...

Maybe the personnel office gave it out?

Anonymous said...

Steve, if you have been asking about it for a while now and haven't received it formally from anyone, I have to wonder what else has been kept from the media and essentially from the public? There seems to be to many secrets and skeletons in different closets.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm do you think Ellen called everybody trying to cover her sorry excuse for being rude? All the posts are about 5 mins apart from one another. Like those that signed the letter will go against her now, knowing she could (fat chance) be their boss one day?

Proud Bristol Man.

amarko55 said...

Proud Bristol Man - I haven't talked to Ellen Zoppo in at least a week. I am a high school teacher enjoying the last of my summer break and was posting here since it's raining too hard to do the yardwork I should be doing.

amarko55 said...

Ellen didn't accuse Art of personally forwarding this letter, she said it came from the Ward campaign. Considering that Art is the main beneficiary of this tempest in a teapot and that the majority of the letter writers are Ward supporters, I would have to say that's a pretty good guess. However, it is a guess since according to Steve Collins, the sender didn't have the guts to identify him/herself. Character assassination works best in secret I guess.

lefty said...

It only makes sense that the person who forwarded the letter chose to be a coward and stay anonymous, since Art Ward doesn't have the guts to debate Ellen. Ward's people like to call Ellen a backstabber, but it's Art Ward and his people who are hiding and hurling insults.

Since Art Ward is all about openness and seems to hate secrets, Ellen should publicly call on Art Ward to demand that whoever shared this letter with the Press identify himself/herself.

Anonymous said...

Again, Zoppo is grasping at straws of who sent this. She has backstabbed many people along her road to glory. I am sure the list of names is very long and trying to pinpoint one is going to be very difficult, however is wouldn't surprise me that Ellen herself did it (she saves everything) just to make Ward look bad. This is a dirty game that Ellen would stoop too. So maybe we should be asking why Ellen or her campaign sent this to Steve.

Insider who knows Ellen.

Anonymous said...

so amarko, why do you keep alluding that it is associated with ward when you even admit that you are not sure - ward said that it was not him and that he didn't know about it being presented - what part of that do you refuse to grasp? - and you are a teacher? try start thinking with some dignity because the smarts are definately lacking.

Anonymous said...

I am getting tired of people stating if we make mention of Ellen and the things she has done over the years - we are on Ward's campaign. I not on ANY campaign, and just because I add my comments I shouldn'tbe accused of being a on one side. I am a voter not a basher.
Please be considerate of those who would like to offer their opinions on how they were treated by certain members of the council.

Jay Gordon

Anonymous said...

Ward said he had nothing to do with this letter coming out, just like he said he had nothing to do with the FOI complaint.

Yeah right.

Why should we believe him?

Anonymous said...

As stated by Ellen:
"There would never be a letter from department heads complaining about Art Ward because he is not capable of holding them accountable, because he does not have a grasp of the issues to know how to hold them accountable. He is more concerned about being their buddy."

1. You feel Ward does not have the ability to hold people accountable?
How disrespectful & condescending is this remark? He has a full time positon with the state and holds accountable Washington Delegates for veteran claims.
2. Since when is working well with others, regarded as being ones "buddy?" Are you saying you should be mean, carry a whip then people would respond better to you?
3. Why not address your "Script" of "leaks" and "don't let Art see the script" - address those remarks for the rest of us.
You come out bashing Ward because he won't debate you - so what! Can't have it "your way" so now you come out with remarks on his abilities? Aren't you the kettle calling the pot black.
Grow up Ms. Zoppo, stop throwing your rants & tantrums.
Come Sept. the voters are smarter & more educated then you think.
We know what Art stands for and his issues. Unlike you who likes to Script meetings & most likely debates, with your venomous mouth and yes backstabbing modus operandi.

N. DiMatteo

Anonymous said...

That's ellen's way, my way or the highway

Anonymous said...

Now why doesn't this surprise me that Mr. Bentivengo is supporting Ms. Zoppo he is helping run her campaign.

Furthermore, at the Policeman/Firefighter of the year banquet she was sitting with him instead of her husband. What's up with that? Pete is a great guy.

Everytime something comes out about her it is politcally motivated. Give it up Ms. Zoppo enough, is enough. The real you is coming out and you cannot handle it.

I say we poll the City Hall employees anonymously to see who they would rather work with. That should be a tell all, and not one in the press.

amarko55 go away, everyone knows you are Minor's treasurer. Who cares what you say. HMMM...

I cannot believe that Mr. Bentivengo a firefighter would state what he has stated about the Fire Chief. I guess he has his own agenda, or should I say Ellen's.

What happened when she ran against Hamzy. I thought she made a very negative comment about him, or his family. Steve do you know?

Anonymous said...

Must be nice doing nothing all day Marko. Maybe you should do something to hone your teaching skills in order to better the pathetic public school system you so ademately defend rather then dabble in chat room politics? Is this where my tax money is going?

As far as Zop-su and Ward go, Bristol deserves better than these class-less hacks.

Anonymous said...

Marko - GIVE US A BREAK - because she is female? Talk about a line of bull. Many woman are in power today with the attached labels Ellen has craved out for herself. NYC had a real nasty lady who passed away - Leona Helmsly - well Bristol has its own "Queen of Mean" - ZOPPO. Please don't use her gender as an excuse we woman worked to hard for so long to be put in her catagory!

Woman and proud to be without being mean!!

amarko55 said...

Boo Hoo Hoo - you're all being so mean to me. I think I'll write my Personnel Director and tell on you!

Anonymous said...

Please stop. We couldn't care less if you make a fool of yourself. But this letter is damning. As if the "scripting" wasn't bad enough. I almost feel sorry for her.

Mayor Ellen Zoppo = "never" is a long time but not this time, that's for sure.

mickey moose said...

The only thing damning about the letter is that it makes 5 grown men who are supposed to be professionals look like crybabies.

But considering most of them are inept and don't deserve to be supervisors (like what has Swicklas ever done besides being a football coach?) I am not surprised they would feel threatened by a girl.

Anonymous said...

To the Pres. of the fire union Tom B.Have you stopped campaigning for Zoppo in all the firehouses yet? If you cared to know, not very many of the rank and file want her asMayor.Please try to make better use of my tax money than spending time that could be done doing real fire related work. Come on the taxpayers that pay your salary deserve better.

Anonymous said...


A 39 year old "girl"? Yes, you're right. But one that may have acted inappropriately and these people sought to take the proper action to make her stop.

Would you have preferred that Swicklas go up to her and "get in her face"? Then he'd be the one in trouble.

Anonymous said...

"We know what Art stands for and his issues."

Really? Then you must be a mind-reader. I am active in Bristol politics and I have no idea what he stands for other than "it's my turn". Where can I go to read what he has to say about the issues? His website still isn't up. He refuses to debate Ellen because his inadequacies will be revealed. I realize he's desperate because he knows this is his last chance to ever become mayor, but this is pathetic.

Anonymous said...

Try reading the paper once in awhile instead of typing on your computer all day - Ward had letters to the press on all his issues. We could all careless what cry baby Zoppo has to say these days - like it really matters. Her trust and honesty with voters is shot!

Anonymous said...

Beleive whatever Ellen tells you - just because Ward won't debate her proves nothing, except what is in your head. Ellen heard Art would not debate her until after a primary, it was then, and only then she came out with letting him pcik the questions, pick the group and place - its called a back door game by Ellen. This way she can say, "I gave him all the chances to debate me." or If Ward takes her up on this offer it makes him look as if he would only debate if he got his way. Ellen's game days are over! When the voters have their say, let we can all talk debates, until then - Ellen put your knives away.

Anonymous said...

Ellen - PLEASE get off your ego trip - Art is NOT AFRAID TO DEBATE YOU! I am sure it just really bugs you he keeps saying NO. Now what part of no do you not understand?
Why can't you answer the questions about your scripted letter? Address what you meant by "Leaks" and "don't let Art see it" Picking and choosing who plays your game is WRONG!!

Not fooled by Zoppo.
M. A. Miller

Anonymous said...

Steve - I don't think your article was fair to Art. You gave Ellen more line space accusing Ward supporters of sending the letter to you than you did of Art informing you that he had nothing to do with the letter. Her accusations aren't worthy of print when no one knows where the letter came from. For all anyone knows it could have come from a Johnson supporter.

Anonymous said...

Disrespecting department heads to the point where five of them feel that their only avenue to resolution is to involve the personnel department via a formal letter is sickening. That is definately a sign of someone that considers their power as an elected official a free ticket to do or say anything they want.

Anonymous said...

I think that all the firemen in town need to take a good hard look at this. It's VERY DISTURBING that the Union President was so quick to support a politician while degrading his Chief at the same time. It wasn't his role to say anything at all, never mind work so hard to back the actions or attitudes of a politician over his own boss.

He should have bowed out of this one instead of trying to speak on an issue that he is obviously only hearing one side too - Ellen's side.

Anonymous said...

Shame on you Bentivengo.

The Chief didn't deserve being referred to as part of a Fab 5 or Fat 5 and he certainly didn't deserve to have one of his own crew defend the politician that humiliated him like that.

You know what a good Fire Chief Pose is. You should have remembered that BEFORE you decided to save Ellen from her own unprofessional words.

Pose has the right to support anyone he wants just as you do, but you don't see him publicly humiliating you because you support Ellen.

When this letter came out in 2005 it had nothing to do with Art or anyone's support of him as a councilman or as a potential Mayor.

You should be ashamed of yourself as a fireman, a friend of Jon's and as a Union President. You abandoned your respect for the firemen in this town to support a politician.

You should have stayed out of it and kept your mouth shut. It wasn't your battle.

Anonymous said...

Everyone is soo quick to blame Art and/or his supporters even though Art states that he didn't have anything to do with it, and I believe him.

Ever consider the other possibilities?

MAYBE Mayor Stortz sent it to Steve and is now sitting back and enjoying the show? He has the letter.

MAYBE a Johnson supporter sent it to encourage another internal battle with the democrats? They could have received the letter through Stortz or one of the department heads.

MAYBE an Ellen supporter sent it so that they could pin the blame on Art? Ellen had a copy of the letter that could have fallen into a supporters hands.

MAYBE one of the department heads that signed it sent it and didn't want anyone to know they still have not come to closure with the issue?

The possibilities are endless as to who chould be "blamed" for this letter being leaked (pardon the pun).

However, it doesn't change the original issue that caused the letter to be written in the first place or that the issue became so out of hand that these department heads felt they had to involve the personnel department.

To my knowledge none of these gentlemen have been written up or formally repromanded for poor performance or other faults within their position. Therefore there would be no reason for Ellen to threaten their positions, disrespectfully refer to them as the Fab 5 or Fat 5, or degrade them in the presence of their staff.

Elected officials should be held to the same professional standards as any employee in a municipal, corporate or non-profit company.

Anonymous said...

But all the boys come to poor Ellen's defense because she is a woman. I agree Tom should have stayed out of it. As for the letter Stortz could have sent it because we all know how much he loves Ward. Afterall Stortz and Ellen have been "working" togehter to discredit him. Ellen bad mouths anyone who does not think her way or goes against her projects. A few weeks she was bad mouthing a park commissioner.
Nice of Ellen - grow up.

Anonymous said...

Hey Steve -- why don't you resurrect the article about Art Ward abusing power a couple of years ago when he got arrested by a rookie cop for drunk driving? He was highly insulted that a cop dare to arrest him -- yelling out "Don't you know who I am?" His camp is certainly keeping that story under wraps because it shows him abusing his power as a councilman. Never did find out what happened with that arrest. I'm sure he went scott-free because he was a police commissioner at the time.

Anonymous said...

"Try reading the paper once in awhile instead of typing on your computer all day - Ward had letters to the press on all his issues."

Okay, but maybe I'm not one of the thirty or forty people who read the Brisol Press. Where can I find out where he stands on these issues: K-8 schools; economic development; public safety; environmental protection; etc.? Ellen has her position on these issues on her website for everyone to read. Where is Art's website?

Steve Collins said...

I can't let that one pass without comment.
Anyone who cares about Bristol and doesn't read the newspaper is a fool. You can fairly criticize the Press or any paper -- I do! -- but to argue that Ward doesn't discuss the issues while simultaneously, and rather proudly, saying you don't read the paper is ridiculous.
The way to find out what is happening in town, and to find out what our elected officials are doing, is to read the paper. That's not the end of your civic duty, but it is the beginning of it. If you don't read the paper, your opinions don't hold much weight because you can't help being largely ignorant of what goes on.
And I would have said the same long before I got a job working for newspapers.

Anonymous said...

Reading the paper seems to be waste of time for some on here. They would rather read garbage on sites rather then read the paper of a town the live in. Myabe if they attended a few council meetings or even watched them on TV they would know what Ward stands for and his issues. He is not for spending tax money and wasting it away the way Zoppo has been doing for the last 2 years.

Anonymous said...

I was in the audience of a public meeting, when Zoppo was discussing a department head, at the end of the meeting she stood up and said out loud that the department head needs to fired. The person I was with looked at me and said did you just hear what she said and I most definitely did.

It is time someone stands up to her. Everyone knows she has it out for several department heads.

What was she going to do when Mr. Klocko's reappointment came up vote against him after they had sent that letter to personnel.

Ms. Zoppo is what corrupt politics are all about. Who needs it.

Anonymous said...

Zoppo doesn't hold anyone's feet to the fire, if you don't do what she wants you are on her hit list.

Anonymous said...

You can't treat people like trash for years, abuse your elected so called power and NOT expect it to catch up to you. Someday, maybe Ellen will learn how to treat ALL people.
Until then, we all have to tolerate her rants until she is voted out.

Anonymous said...

This question is for Mr. Bentivengo, why do firefighters talk about brotherhood, what does that mean? Obviously you don't believe in it. Is that a fairy tale?

Anonymous said...

Bentivengo is into Womanhood these days. Sold his fellow firefighters down the line to support Zoppo & caused major tense with his comments about Pose.

One brother he forgot about.

Anonymous said...

if bentivengo was in the military, he'd be brought up on charges of insubordination, if he were in the private sector, his butt would be history but if ellen wins the election, he'll become her lap-dog.

Anonymous said...

To thePrez. of the fire union.Think it`s time to step down as the head of the LOCAL? It`s common knowledge around town that you do not represent the brotherhood at the firehouse anymore.

bristol guy said...

"Anonymous said...
Zoppo doesn't hold anyone's feet to the fire, if you don't do what she wants you are on her hit list.
August 22, 2007 6:26 PM "


Anonymous said...

Only Rush Bimboids say "mega-dittos". Thanks for showing your true colors.