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"Secrecy hovers over Sikorsky airport hiring"



Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Secrecy hovers over airport hiring
By Brian Lockhart
The Connecticut Post


BRIDGEPORT -- The hiring of Pauline Mize, the new acting manager at Sikorsky
Memorial Airport, could be a fresh start for the scandal-plagued facility.

She brings prior experience running a small airport, something fired
predecessor John Ricci lacked when he landed at Sikorsky more than two
decades ago.

But the details of how Mize, the longtime companion of Bridgeport-Port
Jefferson Ferry Manager Fred Hall, was chosen have been as secret as the
$400,000 taxpayer-funded driveway that got Ricci terminated.

The mayor's office has ignored repeated questions about the hiring process,
such as whether the opening was advertised, how many candidates applied with
Mize and did the administration know about her link to Hall?

Mize began work last Monday and the mayor's office issued a formal
announcement Thursday, saying she would fill the job while a national search
continued. But Mize is in the running to be the permanent airport manager. 

"I don't know anybody at the airport that was not surprised," said David
Faile Jr., head of the 650-member strong Friends of Sikorsky. The group uses
and promotes Sikorsky.

The last Faile knew, Steve Ford, Sikorsky's longtime superintendent of
operations, was running things during the nationwide search.

And that was what the mayor told members of the Sikorsky Airport Commission,
according to minutes of the group's Sept. 3 meeting. The commission includes
Finch, Bridgeport City Council President Thomas McCarthy, D-133, and
Stratford Mayor John Harkins.

Finch fired Ricci in August for allegedly failing to reveal his business
relationship with developer Manuel "Manny" Moutinho. The city, with Ricci's
help, quietly hired Moutinho earlier this year to build a $400,000, no-bid
driveway over airport land to Moutinho's mansion and three neighboring
properties.

Hearst Connecticut Newspapers first reported on the driveway in early June
when it was completed. The city has insisted that, despite the Ricci
scandal, Moutinho was owed a driveway because his original access way will
be taken as part of a Sikorsky runway safety project.

Faile said the first time many people learned of Mize was last Wednesday in
an email about a change in the procedure for requesting an airport security
badge. Mize was mentioned as the person initiating the change. 

"I was just blown out of the water," Faile said. "Let us know she's coming,
and make sure there's introductions."

He added he thought Ford was doing a good job filling Ricci's role.

"To me it's confusing," Faile said.

A week later and the Finch administration has provided little additional
insight.

At first, the mayor's office ignored basic questions from Hearst Connecticut
Newspapers about Mize's selection.

"Ms. Mize was chosen from amongst various solicited resumes," Finch
spokeswoman Elaine Ficarra wrote late Monday in an email, ignoring questions
about whether the airport manager job was advertised, how many others
applied and whether Mize was approved by the Civil Service Office.

Finally Tuesday afternoon, Ficarra said Mize was selected over two other
candidates. Ficarra said the city decided it had to move "expeditiously" to
hire an interim airport manager to move ahead with the runway safety work. 

But the mayor's office refused to release any other resumes submitted by the
additional candidates. Ficarra cited restrictions within the state Freedom
of Information Act.

"The city is not obligated to release the identity of applicants," Ficarra
said. "Indeed, to do so would be violating the confidentiality that the
applicants had reason to rely upon based upon and expressed exemption to the
FOIA."

But according to the state's FOIA office, that exemption only applies if the
city formed an official executive search committee, which also remained
unclear.

In an interview late last week, Mize recalled learning of Ricci's departure
through news articles and submitting her resume to Bridgeport.

She said she was interviewed by three members of Finch's staff -- Chief
Administrative Officer Andrew Nunn, Alanna Kabel, assistant chief
administrative officer, and a third, unnamed employee.

Ficarra Tuesday said Public Facilities Director Charles Carroll hired Mize
following the interview process.

Nunn is also acting director of the city Port Authority, which is helping
negotiate the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson Ferry's relocation across the city's
harbor after the Zoning Commission denied the move.

Mize confirmed last week that she has been in a relationship with the
ferry's general manager, Fred Hall, for 16 years and the two live together
in a home on Long Island.

The mayor's office has also ignored questions about whether that
relationship was known when Mize was hired. But City Attorney Mark Anastasi
and Mize last week said there is no conflict of interest because the ferry
has no dealings with the airport.

Lennie Grimaldi, who ran Finch's successful 2000 race for state Senate and
runs the Only in Bridgeport news site, said he too is puzzled by how the
administration has handled Mize's introduction.

"Because of the recent airport controversy, the city has to roll out this
kind of story in full before the media rolls it out; otherwise it can take
on a life of its own," Grimaldi said. "She appears to be someone who has
background in running at least one airport, and that brings something
positive to the table."

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