October 16, 2008

Push for chief operating officer creates partisan divide

When the Republican Town Committee took up the issue of the proposed chief operating officer last month, its members unanimously endorsed the charter change. Nobody spoke against it.
Mayor Art Ward said that the Democratic Town Committee, in striking contrast, "nobody spoke for it."
There are, of course, Republicans who oppose the change, including city Councilor Mike Rimcoski.
And there are, naturally, Democrats who favor the position, including city Councilor Craig Minor.
But the partisan divide is nonetheless obvious.
What that means for the fate of the idea at the polls, I don't know. What I do know, though, is that there are more than twice as many registered Democrats in town as there are Republicans.
*******
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
Contact Steve Collins at scollins@bristolpress.com

70 comments:

Anonymous said...

would hope that issue would be decided in a bipartisan manner and that everyone votes "NO"

Anonymous said...

Artie learned his lesson last year and has now stacked the DTC with his pals. No one is going to speak unless he tells him what they to say.

concerned observer...former activist said...

It's the Donkies vs. the RINOs.

Anonymous said...

Rimcouski will do whatever Ward wants him too!

Anonymous said...

Ward...just cares about his union buddys. Why would they want a COO? Then Ward wouldn't be able to give them everything they wanted.

Ward....moving bristol Back-Ward!!

Anonymous said...

I am confident that when the voters get the full story on this issue, they will be voting against it.

Anonymous said...

probably because now they realize how they were duped by the former town committee and the queen.

Anonymous said...

What constitutes a "professional" COO?

Anonymous said...

I don'think that there is anything in the change that allows the COO COO to negotiate contracts, so the mayor will still be responsible.

Of course, if the city would inform us, we might find out differenly.

Another snow job, but then, even the supporters do not know what the whole story is.

Anonymous said...

A "professional" is one who doesn't pinch the butt end of the Economic Development Director.

Anonymous said...

This really isn't about Ward or the big, bad boogie union. The COO is a poorly thought out, very expensive and totally unnecessary concept being pushed by a small group of individuals who couldn't get themselves elected. Vote no!

Anonymous said...

It is time for the changes recommended by the bipartisan charter revision. Vote yes on the COO.

Anonymous said...

I have no hesitation about saying it. This is definitely about the big bad boogie union in my eyes. They run this city and hold us hostage, especially in times when the Dems are in charge. They make no decisions that aren't tainted with the influence of the unions. At least if we have a COO and they make recommendations that are contrary to the Mayor or the council they will have to explain themselves why they went in another direction.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with 8:05pm. I have never seen a more involved effort from the unions as i saw last year during the primary and then in Nov. The unoins knew who they wanted and went after it big-time.

Anonymous said...

8:05 Still playing the blame game I see! Still can't convince the world that you are right and the whole world is wrong! Try something new for a change and by the way I don't mind saying it either you are nothing but a sore loser and will never amount to anything else.

Anonymous said...

"I have no hesitation about saying it. This is definitely about the big bad boogie union in my eyes"

Well, maybe you should consider some glasses? I know it's getting to be Halloween and all, but no matter how long you keep trying to scare everyone with your spooky ole evil boogie union story, it's just that....a story.

What's REALLY scary is the ill-defined, poorly patched together COO creature who will suck tax dollars and who we have no control over....now that's SCARY!

Anonymous said...

I agree with 8:05.

It is strange how much civic duty the unions suddenly have "protecting taxpayer money" which they believe will be wasted on a COO. Doesn't anyone elase find it funny how they are so actively railing against this, holding union meetings about it and posting signs on all union members' lawns. I find it incredibly suspicious. I think 8:05 is on to something. If the unions stepped up everytime taxpayer money was being wasted, then their actions could be percieved as genuine and consistent, but when they suddenly jump up as a group to protest this?!?!? and say it is b/c they are protecting taxpayer money - what a joke!

Anonymous said...

The unions are very organized. They have the resources and the motivation to see that this does not go through.

Don't believe everything you read.

Check the the information out for yourself and then decide.

Remember Bristol is more than unions, Dems or Reps. The I's have the real power -- if they vote.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing that a Town Manger or COO can do that can't be done under an elected mayor.

If Craig, Ken, Gary, Ken, and Craig have any ideas, why don't they share them and save the taxpayers some money?

Keep in mind that two are on the council, and what suggestions did Johnson make when he was running, and since?

All suggestions are welcome.

Anonymous said...

Poster 7:54

No...what's really scary is the Union's sucking all the tax payers of this town dry!

That's exactly why all you union hacks don't want the COO! You'd accually have someone to answer to and might accually have to work a FULL day!!

Anonymous said...

I find it funny that the Vote No for COO signs don't say who is paying for them! Most likly because the unions don't want the people to know they are the driving force behind the no vote.

Steve, why don't you look into this? I think the people of this town should know!!

Anonymous said...

And some city officials are key members of the pro group, illegally from what I have been told.

What is Lacy doing about that?

Anonymous said...

It's funny that Johnson, Cockayne & co. have been so incredibly quiet on this issue since the petition drive ended. I still don't know which way I will vote on this issue but am leaning toward no because my questions still have not been answered. Stortz posed some excellent questions as well that I would like to know about. I would think that the supporters would get as active as the opponents and put the information out there that is sorely lacking on this issue. It makes me wonder why that's not being done.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking that this coo was the same as a town manager but was informed today that the coo is only a failed attempt at satisfying the egos of craig minor, ken johnson, ken cockayne and craig yarde at the expense of the taxpayers. scammed again.

Anonymous said...

I was told today that the most outspoken opponents of this proposal are city union members b/c they are afraid they can't buy a COO.

Anonymous said...

I thought the COO was bogus, until someone reminded me of the experience of ourmost recent mayors - a bar owner, a clothing store owner, a diner owner, and a truant officer. Then I saw the light that they have no business handling a budget of the size of Bristol's.

Anonymous said...

"I was told"

Kinda says it all, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that this COO approach just has the COO reporting to the same people that are in charge now.

Wht didn't they do it right and give the position the authority they think it needs.

Anonymous said...

8:17pm - " I saw the light"

seems like your bulbs are not to bright - like your opinions.

Anonymous said...

Give the mayor a four year term and let him do his job.

Give him a small staff to handle lower priority tasks that are time consuming.

Minor says the COO will get an assistant yet we're not willing to afford our mayor an assistant?

The logic makes no sense.

Anonymous said...

VOTE "NO" on the COO -where do we get these signs for our yards, windows?
Can we get yard signs, bumper stickers or T-shitrs and stuff like that saying "dump cockayne and minor" for costing us all of this time and money on this stupid
idea?

Anonymous said...

"I thought the COO was bogus, until someone reminded me of the experience of ourmost recent mayors - a bar owner, a clothing store owner, a diner owner, and a truant officer. Then I saw the light that they have no business handling a budget of the size of Bristol's."

You mean that some of our most recent mayors were business owners or people who worked in the service of our City? People who were invested in Bristol? People who lived and worked, and raised their families in Bristol? Hmmm, it would seem that these are EXACTLY the kind of people we would want as leaders of our community.

As far as handling the budget, we have a system of checks and balances to aid the mayor in planning and decision making. The COO would be just another VERY EXPENSIVE check and balance. It's just not necessary.

Vote no COO!

Anonymous said...

What is the logic of having appointed officials, help select the COO COOO, who will set policy an ddirection.
How can they be open minded and objective?

Why not have some people who know how cities and non-profits are run be part of the process?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Stortz runs a thriving business into the ground and now thinks he can handle the city budget. Two failed administrations, Bill, count them, two failed administrations.

Anonymous said...

Give the Mayor two assistants? Isn't that going to cost money? Benefits also?

And in the end they will be poitical appointees with out any experience in running a city.

THis way the Mayor can spend more time in Hartford. If that happenes than who will be watching the Department heads in Bristol and running the city of Bristol?

Vote Yes on the COO!

Anonymous said...

assistants to the mayor could be on the same level as corporation counsels - part-time @ $28,000 per year and NO BENEFITS. sounds a hell of a lot cheaper than a COO @ $150,000 per year PLUS BENEFITS and another Administrative Assistant @ $50,000 - $60,000 per year PLUS BENEFITS- do the math.

Anonymous said...

just finished reading minor's comments in the Bristol Observer - if I were from Bristol, there would be no way that I would vote for this position based upon his wishy, washy answers.
he is so in love with himself that he thinks that even his bosses are stupider than him.
I guess that sometimes thinking that one is so much smarter than everyone else actually proves to be very stupid.

Anonymous said...

1:51

Stortz won three out of four of his mayoral racces, managed technology departments for major corporations, and wasn't "let go" from his job as some othre candidates were.

Anonymous said...

11:09

I though city officials couldn't take sides on the question????

What is Minor's role?

Anonymous said...

I'm a union member and I am for this COO. I woke up to a vote no sign on my lawn the other morning and threw it out. The letter telling me to call Chad if I didn't want a sign was insulting. "A COO will not be a friend to the unions." The pre COO people are right when they say this is about unions.

Anonymous said...

How much time does the mayor plan to spend in Hartford, and why?

We do have 5 legislators.

One legislator, Kosta, got more for Bristol than all the others combined.

How can the COO watchthe department heads when the contract decrees that th emayor is their manhger?

When will we get official answers?

Anonymous said...

"you union hacks don't want the COO!"

Sorry sweetheart, I'm not a "union hack." Just an average citizen who's smart enough to recognize a really, really bad idea when I see one.

VOTE NO COO!!!! (and where can I get a sign?)

Anonymous said...

12:59 - to get a sign, call anybody on either the republican or democratic town committee who is listening to the people and who is voting "NO" on this silly proposal -
by the way, shorten the list of those listening to the people by eliminating councilmembers cockayne and minor from your "fingers do the walking" list of people to call - they just don't get it.

Anonymous said...

You can't tell where to get a sign by looking at the signs themselves, but they are being put out by AFSCME.

They don't want you to know that b/c they want you to believe that this is not a union issue.

Anonymous said...

The COO is for transparency and accountability.

Anonymous said...

Holy Cow! The Unions are out in full force against this one. My father-in-law got one of those letters too. He was ripped! Not all of the "brothers" are Dems. They may be on paper, but they vote the other way behind the curtain. He told me that he was told when he got his job that he better change to Democrat or he wouldn't get hired. That is ridiculous!

People around here better wake up. This town is run by the unions and has been for years.

Anonymous said...

That's a shame. I am a proud Dem and I hate hearing things like that. I would much rather have someone join our ranks b/c they believe in what we stand for, not because they feel forced to for employment. He should blow the whistle on whoever made him feel that way.

Anonymous said...

"The COO is for transparency and accountability.:

Taking away the peoples' right to choose the COO, to vote him in (or more importantly, out) kinda kills the whole accountability thing. The only transparency I can see is the motivation of the people pushing for the COO....now that's pretty transparent!

Anonymous said...

The problem with the COO is that it is not a City Manager. Nevertheless, even a COO might realize that the city is need of some real leadership. The mayor recently told department heads to unscrew every other light bulb in some city buildings to save money. Meanwhile, some departments continue to hire new employees that are clearly not needed. I recently heard that the police department has 6 new officers in the police academy. The police department is already doubling up officers in cruisers to save gas, so where are the new officers going to go when they get out of the academy? When you consider that it costs over $80,000/year to put a new officer on the street, you are talking about a half-million dollars being spent on new personnel. Is there anyone looking to see if this is justified by an increase in calls-for-service? In these tough economic times, costs like these need to be scrutinized by someone with the education and background to make a rational decision. Our current leadership doesn't have the necessary skills.

john cullen said...

Sense there is a fear that this "COO" will take control of Bristol and will be impossible to erradicate. That may be a good thing - perhaps the "COO" hired, if we do a good job, will accomplish so much and provide such a payback that they become invaluable.

Recently, the Board of Ed hired Phillip Streifert as our School Superintendent. I don't know whether he is personally firmly behind the new schools, but he has managed to bulldoze the project back to life after it appeared to be dead for a myriad of reasons. He is serving his board well - his elected board - the folks who call the shots. Without him stepping into the picture, the schools would likely be history and we'd be back to square one.

I think the schools as proposed are a very bad idea, but I appreciate the fact that a professional administrator has quickly resurrected a foundering attempt to improve our schools with some savvy, understanding of government processes and an appreciation for who he works for.

Bristol needs a similar person to handle the operation of the rest of the city. If the right person is hired, it is likely that two of the (how many?) corporate council positions would be unnecessary. Other cost savings can be debated, but making things possible, providing the ability to make things better, to grab a bit more at the trough and make the most with it - that is how good administrators make a difference and justify their pay. They help make what we as a citizenry decide we want to do happen.

This "job" would not be an "entitlement" for some lucky sucker if out elected leaders handle it properly. It should be their greatest resource. If it is not, you find a new "COO" who is. The notion that people can't be "fired" or let go for cause seems to be so entrenched in this city that it's almost hopeless to have faith anyone will work here and produce for any other reason than altruism. This is very sad and debilitating. I don't get the sense we're in control, and I strongly feel that a capable administrator could restore control for our elected leaders. They would be the ones who would pull the strings, as always.

No one's power or ideas or ability to serve in elected office is compromised by having a COO become part of the administrative mix. All those things should, in fact, be enhanced. If our elected officials make the most of the "COO" and overcome their trepidation about how significant a resource such a professional can be for them, and utilize him/her, we could all really benefit.

It's our government regardless of what happens. The Charter Commission remains, so we can always try something different if this doesn't work. Is what we have working? Sure doesn't seem that way to me.

Be well, john cullen

Anonymous said...

"corporate council positions" - what the hell is that Mr. Cullen?
I guess if one can't justify the enormous potential cost of this coo position (over $300,000)then the answer is to "dummy up" the public by throwing rhetoric, scare tactics and nonsense into the mix?
the only part of this that is worse than the sloppy job that furey and company did, the charter revision committee, is the con job that people like yourself, minor, cockayne, yarde and ken johnson are duping the public with, get a conscience and tell the people the truth.

Anonymous said...

- New COO
- Huge salary
- Benefits
- New office space
- Assistant/Assistants
___________________________
$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

In this economy???? Are you nuts?!!!

VOTE NO COO

Anonymous said...

Cullen has it right, as do the other proponents of the COO. It is the anti-COO people who are using scare tactics with the people. And where did you come up with $300,000? I have heard $150,000 for the COO and then some for an administrative assistant. The max about $250,000. With the numbers U guys keep throwing out, by the time the election comes we will be looking at millions.

Anonymous said...

"It is the anti-COO people who are using scare tactics with the people"

There's no need for scare tactics....the economy is frightening enough. Now is defintely NOT the time to be experimenting with this half-baked COO concept. Vote no COO!

Anonymous said...

aswas stated "corporate council positions?" - what the hell are they?

Anonymous said...

Union bosses are scared of the COO because they know they can't jerk him around like they can jerk around mayors. Union workers, on the other hand, have nothing to be afraid of. The democratic party in Bristol has been car-jacked by the union but everyone is afraid to say so.

john cullen said...

Forgive me - should have done my homework and checked the proper title. I was referring to the City Corporation Counsel staffing. We have three full time "Counsels" (THE Counsel and two assistants) and one part time assistant "Counsel".

If I have read the City budget correctly, the Corporation Counsel office has a budget of $600,000 plus for this fiscal year.

Our elected officials rely heavily on the Corporation Counsel Office for procedural and legal advice that should be within the expertise of a COO to cover - if the COO is competent. It is quite feasible that one or two of those positions could be eliminated or, at minimum, reduced significantly.

If that turns out not to be the case, we hired the wrong person and should let them go and hire a new one, or figure out what is wrong with our government structure that the COO cannot be effective.

Be well, john cullen

Steve Collins said...

There are, actually, two full-time attorneys in the office and two part-time lawyers, including Dale Clift, the city attorney.
There is another position for a part-timer that remains unfilled because the mayor wants to appoint Ed Krawiecki, Jr and the City Council won't approve him.
While I'm sure a COO would take a look at the manpower there, I'd be stunned it it's out of line. Bristol's city attorney's office is small compared to the ones in similar communities.

Anonymous said...

love it - now the proponents are trying to eliminate the legal office because the coo can do it - what's next, custodians, truck drivers - get it right cullen.

john cullen said...

Forgive me for being confused, but the information below is from the City of Bristol web site for the Corporate Counsel's Office. Whether this information reflects present day reality is immaterial. This is the department budget and likely staffing levels.

I disagree strenuosly with Steve regarding the need for this continued level of expense if a COO is hired and think it is biased and unprofessional of him to infer this is not likely the case. Off the cuff remarks like he would be stunned if this "office" was somehow out of step with what we should be paying/expecting relative to similar communities/governments without some hard facts to back them up is professionally egregious.

Can we try to deal as much as possible with the facts? At least as "we the people" can ascertain?


City of Bristol

Office of the Corporation Counsel

Telephone: 860-584-6150; Facsimile: 860-584-6152



The Corporation Counsel’s office consists of one part-time Corporation Counsel, two full-time attorneys and two part-time attorneys, as well as a full-time legal secretary. The office is currently staffed as follows:

Wyland Dale Clift Corporation Counsel

Ann T. Baldwin full-time Assistant Corporation Counsel

Richard E. Lacey full-time Assistant Corporation Counsel

Jeffrey R. Steeg part-time Assistant Corporation Counsel.

Be well, john cullen

Steve Collins said...

I don't seem to have the story anymore than I wrote a decade or more ago that took a look at the number of lawyers various towns had on the payroll.
But here's one that must have run later than that one, which sheds some light on the lawyer issue:

Wed, Dec 15, 1999

City Council approves hiring of fifth lawyer

By STEVE COLLINS
The Bristol Press
BRISTOL -- The city plans to hire a fifth municipal lawyer to tackle its growing legal workload.
"We definitely need more help," Mayor Frank Nicastro said Tuesday.
With the unanimous backing of the City Council, Nicastro got the go-ahead to hire a fourth part-time attorney to share the burden with Ann Baldwin, the only full-time lawyer on the city's staff.
City Attorney Richard Lacey, who works part-time, said his office would be grateful for any additional help.
City officials gripe frequently that requests for assistance from Lacey's office are too often put on the back burner -- or never completed at all.
That's a sign of how overburdened the city lawyers have been, councilors said.
Councilman Ken Scott said instead of adding just one part-timer, the city should hire two at once.
"Two would do the job in a much more timely fashion," Scott said.
But Lacey and other politicians persuaded Scott to back off from the idea until they could review it.
"I don't even know where I'd put another lawyer," Lacey said.
Councilman Joe Wilson, who heads the salary committee, said that pressure on the city attorney's office is growing.
Wilson said the landfill closure, union issues, a soaring number of blight cases and much more are keeping the lawyers too busy to proceed without extra assistance.
"When you're getting things done, it means more work," Nicastro said.
Wilson said that when downtown renewal gets under way, the legal burden on the city will grow even more. He said there will doubtless be many real estate and contractual issues to handle.
Nicastro said the lawyers are "truly overworked" already.
Part-time city lawyers earn about $22,000 annually.
Already on the staff are two part-time assistant lawyers -- Dean Kilbourne and Dale Clift. Kilbourne typically handles foreclosures and back tax collection efforts while Clift deals with ordinances, real estate transactions and blight issues.
Baldwin takes on most of the contract work and serves as the day-to-day legal adviser for Nicastro.
Since the retirement three years ago of Edward Krawiecki Sr. as an assistant city attorney, there hasn't been a Republican attorney in the office.
A city charter committee gunned down an effort in 1996 to mandate that at least one city lawyer hail from the minority party.
Councilors are still talking about the possibility of hiring a full-time labor lawyer, but personnel experts have said the city is probably better off hiring outside professionals for negotiations and other specialized legal needs.
Most Connecticut cities with populations close to Bristol's have more lawyers on staff than the Mum City.
Nicastro said he was "shocked" when he found out how many attorneys work in some other towns.
But municipalities tend to have widely varying policies on how often they turn to outside legal help. Some prefer to keep most work in-house, while others like to farm out cases.
There was no indication Tuesday who might get the nod for the newly created position.

Steve Collins said...

Though it doesn't really shed much light on whether there is an excessive number of attorneys at City Hall, this story at least explains how we came to have two full-timers:

Monday, September 13, 2004

By STEVE COLLINS
The Bristol Press
BRISTOL – In a surprising move, the city’s corporation counsel is likely switching jobs with a subordinate and becoming a full-time attorney for City Hall.
Mayor Gerard Couture said he plans to ask councilors tonight to hire Richard Lacey, who’s been corporation counsel for more than a decade, as the city’s second full-time lawyer.
Taking Lacey’s place as the part-time corporation counsel would be Dean Kilbourne. Kilbourne has worked as a part-time city lawyer for about a decade.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a big change as far as my caseload,” Kilbourne said Monday.
Lacey would only say there are “serious discussions” about making the job switch at Tuesday’s council meeting.
City voters authorized the hiring of additional full-time attorneys almost two years ago. Before the charter change, officials were only allowed to have one full-time lawyer on the payroll.
In addition to Lacey and Kilbourne, the city has three other attorneys: full-timer Ann Baldwin and two part-timers: Jeff Steeg and Dale Clift.
Kilbourne said there hasn’t been too much discussion yet about what the change will mean within the city attorney’s office. He said that the lawyers will sit down together “and talk about how best to reorganize” their efforts.
“We’re going to run a tighter ship,” he said.
He said that with more legal help, legal requests from city departments heads should be dealt with sooner.
“Hopefully there will be a quicker turnaround,” Kilbourne said.
Couture said he expects Lacey will play a big role in dealing with the many contracts and legal paperwork connected to the downtown project.
With Lacey filling the vacant full-time slot and Kilbourne taking Lacey’s current role, there will still be a part-time city lawyer’s job open.
Couture said he’s considering hiring an attorney to work closely with him on the downtown revitalization projects. He said he could use someone at hand who can give him quick legal advice and make sure the city does what it should.
Several councilors and three city department heads said they would not be surprised if state Rep. Kosta Diamantis, a Bristol Democrat, winds up getting a part-time municipal job with the city to serve as a legal advisor to Couture.
But there is no indication that anyone will be hired for the soon-to-be-open, part-time city attorney post this month.
The council meeting is slated for 7:30 p.m. tonight in the council chambers on the first floor of City Hall. The meeting is open to the public and there is a period at the beginning of the meeting for residents to speak. A signup sheet is usually located on a table outside the chamber’s door.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Cullen, please refrain from being redundant and saying that you are confused after your postings - we all understand.

Anonymous said...

still confused?

Anonymous said...

Vote NO on the COO

Anonymous said...

we teach our kids to accept the agony of defeat but then they are exposed to retorts such as trying to use the coo mission instead of realizing that the gop slate of candidates hasn't been acceptable to the voters and trying to bring forward a better slate on candidates, Woe be the people if this coo gig goes through..

Anonymous said...

The local GOP is definitely out of touch!!

Anonymous said...

Where is Yard on all this? He doesn't seem to be willing to come forward.
Or is he waiting until the last minute when his comments can't be responded to?

Anonymous said...

guess that the workings of ken johnson and crew are becoming more and more evident every day - will be interesting to see what smoke and mirrors they use this week, if they have any left.

Anonymous said...

I know i'm not the brightest bulb in the shed...but it seems the players in this drama have all been here before. Everyone is an ex mayor, an ex councilman or so on. perhaps in addition to voting for or against the COO, perhaps we should vote out ALL the same players and start with a brand new batch of elected officials that aren't tainted in this silly discussion. Then perhaps we can ALL gain a fresh perspective on what Bristol really needs. Wards an ex mayor, Stortz is an ex mayor, Nicastro is an ex mayor....Get rid of ALL of them and start with a city council, and mayor that actually have Bristols best interest at heart. I say vote out all the incumbents and start fresh.