BRIDGEPORT — Danny Roach, a veteran political leader and longtime ally of Mayor Joe Ganim, has won the first round in a fight over keeping him on the city’s Police Commission.
In a 4-3 vote, members of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee this week recommended that the full, 20-person legislative body support Ganim’s reappointment of Roach to the civilian group overseeing Bridgeport’s Finest at an upcoming meeting.
“It’s a very good board. I think we’ve been responsive to the public. I would would like to carry on, at least for the time being,” Roach told council members before his public interview, which was attended by an unusually large number of residents.
Critics of the police department argue that controversies — ranging from the May, 2017, shooting death of a 15-year-old by a rookie cop to the chief’s top aide being accused of sending racist texts to a fellow officer — require new, more proactive Police Commission members.
“With all the things going on in our police department ... I have yet to hear the commission say anything, take a stand or make a statement,” Councilman Ernie Newton told Roach.
Still, Ganim, who is close with Police Chief Armando Perez, has resubmitted four sitting commissioners for reappointment, and the council has approved three: Matthew Cumminotto, Thomas Lyons and Edwin Farrow.
Roach, who for the last few years has been the Police Commission’s acting chairman, is the mayor’s most controversial nominee, in part because he has served for 20 years.
“This ain’t the Supreme Court, when you get appointed and stay there until you die,” Newton told Roach. “Twenty years — I have a lot of problems with that.”
Newton wants term limits for appointed city boards and commissions.
“I can appreciate where you’re coming from,” Roach said. But, he said, experience matters, too.
Others questioned Roach’s ability to provide independent oversight of Perez and his department. Roach managed Ganim’s successful 2015 mayoral campaign and Perez, then a police captain, was also a key supporter. Ganim later hired Roach for a job as an aide in City Hall and promoted Perez from captain to acting top cop.
“You seem to be in lockstep with the administration,” Councilman Peter Spain told Roach. “How can you be an independent civilian monitor of the police department?”
Councilman Jack Banta similarly wondered if Roach could be impartial.
Roach said that in his years on the Police Commission he “never allowed any administration to interfere with those responsibilities or to coerce me into a position I wasn’t comfortable with.”
Newton also took issue with Roach’s city job. During his 2015 campaign, Ganim supported the movement to get municipal workers off of the City Council, and once elected, the mayor pushed veteran Council President Thomas McCarthy out of his job as deputy director of labor relations.Read Full Article
“There are others that applied (for the commission) that don’t come with all the conflicts of interest,” Councilman Kyle Langan told Roach.
Sensitive to the fact Langan and others want the Police Commission to be more proactive, Roach said that while a lot of initiatives come from the chief, “Maybe there needs to be more (commission) involvement in that.”
Councilwoman Maria Valle and Council President Aidee Nieves complimented Roach as a professional. Valle noted Roach was always responsive to her before she was a council member.
“That is the commissioner Roach I know,” she said.
After a couple rounds of questions, Councilwoman Eneida Martinez abruptly ended the meeting by calling for a vote on Roach’s re-nomination. Langan and Spain had more to ask him, but Martinez claimed some of the questions were “coming from outsiders being thrown at elected officials.”
She also told the audience — many of whom appeared to be Roach critics — that there were important matters the council deals with and she wished the public would come out for those meetings.
Martinez, who is protective of Perez and the police department, afterward declined to say who the “outsiders” were.
“A lot of organizations have been set up,” she said. “Outsiders that come here to dictate what’s happening in the city.”
Langan, Newton and Councilwoman Karen Jackson voted against Roach; Banta, Martinez, and Valle voted “yes.” Public Safety Committee Chairwoman Michelle Lyons, Police Commission member Tom Lyons’ wife, broke the tie for Roach.
When a woman from the audience wondered aloud why Lyons had not recused herself, she said, “I’m not married to Danny Roach.” Lyons had recused herself when her committee reappointed her husband.
Other audience members were critical afterward of Martinez’s effort to stop debate and her comments.
GeMeem Davis, with Generation Now, a civic group that has been pushing for police reforms, said, “I was born and raised in Bridgeport.” Davis said Roach’s re-appointment “should garner a lot of attention, given the fact he’s been there 20 years. ... The position is important and important to the safety of our community.”