BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The former mayor of Bridgeport, who spent seven years in federal prison for public corruption, was sworn in again Tuesday as mayor of Connecticut’s largest city.
Joe Ganim completed a stunning political comeback when he defeated incumbent Mayor Bill Finch in the Sept. 16 primary and easily defeated seven opponents in the general election to win back his old job. The campaign by the Democrat, who was released from prison just five years ago, was fueled by a wave of goodwill from voters who fondly remembered his years in office, from 1991 until 2003.
The 56-year-old former attorney took take the oath of office Tuesday evening at Klein Memorial Auditorium. The inauguration originally was to be held at a park, but plans were changed due to expected inclement weather.
Ganim promised the crowd an approachable city hall, a diverse government and better morale at the city police department. He says he knows how to create new jobs and pledged to “bring Bridgeport back together.”
Ganim acknowledged a year ago he wouldn’t have dreamed or conceived of being sworn in as mayor once again.
Since his election night victory, Ganim has been busy meeting with state and federal officials, rebuilding relationships that may have been bruised during the campaign. Few elected officials endorsed Ganim.
Ganim is looking to mend fences, pledging a special effort toward Gov. Dan Malloy.
“We look forward to working with the governor,” he told WCBS 880’s Fran Schneidau earlier Tuesday. “We’ve had conversations after the election about both of our intentions and working together for the betterment of Bridgeport.”
Ganim said his focus this time around will be on tackling neighborhood crime and seeking tax relief for his constituency.
“There will be dramatic changes,” Ganim said.
He has already made some initial appointments and created a 75-member transition task force with seven committees.
Those committees have been focusing on economic development, community neighborhood services, education and youth, government operations and financial policies, government accountability and transparency, and public safety and emergency services. They have until Feb. 1 to make a formal presentation to the new mayor.
On Monday, Ganim announced he was appointing 10 people, most of whom supported him during the campaign, to positions in the mayor’s office. He tapped former FBI agent Edward Adams to serve as his senior adviser and director of governmental accountability and integrity. Adams, who said he played a leading role in the corruption probe that sent Ganim to prison, was actively involved in the Democrat’s efforts to win back his old job.
Ganim has promised a “transparent government, accessible and accountable to our citizens,” adding how the city’s government “will be clean and effective.”
Ganim also appointed state Rep. Charles Stallworth, who is pastor of the East End Tabernacle, as another senior adviser and as director of community outreach and diversity. Daniel Roach, a Bridgeport police commissioner and Ganim’s campaign manager, was named director of city operations and government affairs.
Former Fairfield First Selectman Kenneth Flatto was tapped as the city’s director of finance.
In one of his last political moves, Finch reappointed Bridgeport police Chief Joseph Gaudett to a new five-year term. It was a blow to Ganim, who had expected to name his own chief. Ganim is now looking into the legality of the appointment, but notes the potential high cost of buying out Gaudett’s contract.
“I think that, that eleventh-hour appointment certainly by the outgoing administration is at best disappointing and poor judgment,” Ganim said.
Ganim said that every newly appointed leader deserves to choose his or her own team, and hopes for a positive change.
On his last day in office, Finch also signed a contract that gives himself, his appointees and other City Hall workers raises, a move Ganim says may put the city in financial straits.
Finch said it was a negotiated contract and insisted it was not done to sabotage the new mayor.
When WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau asked Finch if it was a vindictive move, Finch responded: “Fran, you know me. I’m not a vindictive person whatsoever.”
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