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Monday, May 21 Local

Ganim now driven by ex-New Haven cop

BRIDGEPORT — Criticized for using a city police detective as his driver while on the gubernatorial campaign trail, Mayor Joe Ganim has turned to an ex-New Haven cop to instead take the wheel.

“With the acquiescence of the (Bridgeport police) chief I’ve incorporated a retired New Haven officer,” Ganim said in a brief interview Monday.

Bridgeport Police Chief Armando “A.J.” Perez, who has argued Ganim, a close friend, is entitled to — and needs — regular security, confirmed he approved the campaign’s use of the ex-New Haven cop rather than Perez’s officers.

“Anytime he (Ganim) does the gubernatorial kind of thing, he’s going to take this guy,” Perez said. “And in my opinion that would suffice” for adequate security.

Perez added, “I feel comfortable. He (Ganim) feels comfortable. And the city’s not getting that bill.”

In contrast to predecessors John Fabrizi and Bill Finch, who often drove themselves or let an aide to it, Ganim has frequently availed himself of access to a security detail since returning to office in 2015. Ganim was first mayor in the 1990s and, in fact, Perez at that time was his driver.

As previously reported, the two detectives and a lieutenant that made up Ganim’s 2017 mayoral security detail earned nearly $70,000 total in overtime, even as Perez has been struggling to hold the line on overtime. And some of that overtime was earned while driving Ganim around the state in recent months as he ramped up his run for the job of Connecticut’s top executive.

The mayor’s use of taxpayer-funded cops while campaigning for governor had already drawn some criticism when a campaign rental car carrying Ganim and driven by Bridgeport Detective Ramon Garcia was stopped Jan. 3 in Southington by a state trooper for speeding at 87 mph.

A Hearst reporter in the car witnessed the speedometer needle hit 100 mph. Anything over 85 mph is reckless driving. Garcia received a verbal warning from the trooper and, back in Bridgeport, from Perez.

Subsequently at least half of the 20-person City Council agreed Ganim should voluntarily reimburse the city for the cost of the police drivers while running for governor. And one councilman, Peter Spain, has submitted a resolution to his colleagues calling on the mayor to do so.

Ganim on Monday declined to say whether he would pay back the city.

“Let’s see what the council does,” Ganim said, adding: “People want to play politics with this stuff.”

Ganim and City Attorney R. Christopher Meyer have repeatedly pointed to a 24-year-old state ethics ruling that allowed then-Lt. Gov. Eunice Groark to campaign for governor while being driven by a state trooper as long as she reimbursed the state mileage.

Ganim’s gubernatorial campaign has paid Bridgeport mileage for using his city vehicle while campaigning. Ganim on Monday said, “We’ve leased a car so we’ve eliminated pretty much 100 percent the use of city vehicles.”

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