S.O.S. – Save Our Souls

Story and Photographs by John Murray

   The Soldier’s Monument was cloaked in brilliant orange light from the late afternoon sun. After working out at the YMCA I headed up West Main Street and came to a stop at the first traffic light. When I turned to check out the monument I saw Waterbury Mayor Phil Giordano heading the other way on a motorcycle.

   He was traveling towards the Green when he caught a red light and came to a stop about 25 feet away. Both trapped at red lights I hollered over my regret for missing his press conference two days earlier. After much speculation the mayor had announced on July 18 that he had no intention of seeking re-election in November. 

   We had talked about his options during a long interview in June, and although he hadn’t made it official, it was clear Giordano had no intention of offering his scalp to voters in November.

   For the past 30 years our mayors have begged, borrowed and stolen from Waterbury’s future to balance the annual budget. The destructive game of time bomb was a dirty secret passed from one administration to the next. Rig the books and hold onto power. Let the secret out, and your political career was destroyed.

   The bomb was passed around like a hot potato from one administration to the next until it exploded in Giordano’s face last autumn. In November, Giordano announced the city had a deficit of seven million dollars, but after the state of Connecticut seized control of Waterbury’s finances the deficit was revealed turned out to be $100 million.

   The secret was out.

   Taxes had to be raised. Revaluation had to be implemented. Outraged citizens screamed for Giordano’s resignation. The impact on Waterbury taxpayers was as destructive as an elephant stomping a carton of eggs.

 Giordano and wife Dawn on election night 1999.

   Although the crisis was clearly not all his doing, Giordano was the man holding the time bomb when it detonated. His political career was over, and he knew it.

   Giordano said some days he contemplated running for re-election just to screw up a possible mayoral run by State Representative Tony D’Amelio. Although D’Amelio was a fellow Republican, the two men had a strong mutual dislike.

   But in the end he knew he had to get on with life outside of politics and it was time to return to the private sector. There was some talk about landing a political job down in Washington D.C., or the option of stepping back into the private law practice he ran on West Main Street before being elected mayor.

   Phil Giordano had important personal decisions to make, but they could wait. It was a steamy summer night and Waterbury’s high octane mayor was out cruising the mean streets on his motorcycle.

   Before the traffic lights changed I asked Giordano how it felt to make his plans public. He smiled broadly, threw his hands in the air and said “A weight came off my shoulders that day,” he said. ” Now I’m free as a bird.”

   The light turned green, he gave me a little wave and roared off into the night. Five days later, on July 26, Giordano made an early morning drive to New Haven and was arrested by the FBI on federal sex charges. Giordano hasn’t tasted a moment of freedom since.

   There are so many unanswered questions floating around Waterbury right now that we need Regis Philbin to drop in and give us some answers.

   For starters, why exactly is Waterbury Mayor Philip Giordano being detained by the United States government without bail? All we know is that Giordano has been charged with using a telephone, or the internet, to solicit sex with two minor children. The details of his alleged crime have been sealed by a court order. Most of Waterbury is left wondering if our mayor is a pedophile.

   The alleged sexual misconduct by Giordano was discovered by federal agents probing into possible municipal corruption in Waterbury. The feds used bugs and electronic listening devices to eavesdrop on Giordano, and City Hall, since January. Besides the alleged sexual activity, what else did they find?

Federal prosecutor speaks to the press after Giordano is arraigned in August 2001

   Who else in Waterbury was targeted by the federal probe? Does it involve kickbacks from towing companies? Fraudulent asbestos removal? The disastrous Angram deal?

   And what about the Mafia? Are there mob ties in Waterbury that led Giordano to select Worth Construction to build the new sewage treatment plant in the south end? If not, then why did Giordano withhold critical information from the board of alderman about Worth Construction? Why didn’t he divulge to the board that Worth Construction was under investigation in Philadelphia for alleged ties to the Mafia? Why didn’t Giordano tell the board that Worth Construction is banned from doing business in New York City for refusing to answer questions about its ties to organized crime?

   Although they didn’t get the contract, why did Giordano pressure the Naugatuck Valley Development Corporation to select Worth Construction for the massive $100 million downtown revitalization project?

   Why did the mayor allow Worth Construction to build a million dollar dog pound without the project going to bid? How in the world did a slab of concrete, wire mesh and a metal roof cost a million dollars?

Giordano’s attorney Andy Bowman speaks with press.

   Why did political operative Paul Pinto, the key player in the Bridgeport corruption scandal, give more than a thousand dollars to Giordano’s failed senate campaign? Pinto, who has already pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in Bridgeport, is a close personal friend of Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim. Pinto has confessed to soliciting nearly a million dollars in kickback schemes, ranging from asbestos removal to awarding a contract to a Texas based company to run the city’s waste water treatment facility. The Texas company kicked back nearly $500,000 to Pinto and friends in an elaborate money laundering scheme.

   Was Pinto, who has ties to Worth Construction, trying to orchestrate a similar scheme in Waterbury? If not, why was Giordano so persistent in attempting to privatize the sewage treatment plant?

   What triggered the federal probe into Waterbury? Is it simply coincidence that seven months ago Paul Pinto was confronted by federal agents in Bridgeport and decided to cooperate with the investigation?

   Pinto ratted on his friends and associates in exchange for leniency. Pinto’s cooperation was instrumental in the Feds obtaining five subsequent guilty pleas from contractors and city officials. The target of the probe – Mayor Joe Ganim – continues to proclaim his innocence, but the feds have him surrounded.

   Did the two year federal probe into Bridgeport spawn the Waterbury probe? Worth Construction won several building contracts in Bridgeport and Waterbury. Paul Pinto’s name pops up in both probes. When he was singing like a canary to the feds did Pinto rat out Giordano, as well as Ganim?

   Giordano had been under intense electronic surveillance for months. His office was bugged. His car was bugged. Telephones throughout City Hall were bugged. Giordano’s home at 157 Southwind Drive was bugged. A satellite dish reportedly sold to Giordano by undercover agents monitored computer activity in the mayor’s home.

   Virtually every word uttered by Giordano for seven months was scrutinized by federal agents. Big Brother wasn’t only watching, they were listening.

   And when the Feds heard Giordano allegedly conspiring to have sex with minor children they had to act quickly. There are guidelines that govern how federal agents conduct wire tap surveillance. When they overhear that a crime is about to be committed they are bound by law to intervene. Although they were clearly not ready to move on corruption charges, the federal investigation was forced out into the open to deal with Giordano. The corruption probe may have been ruined, but Giordano had to be stopped.


The Battered City

   It could be worse.

   The citizens of Waterbury could actually believe the media reports suggesting there is something wrong with everybody in this city. That we are all peeping Toms and pedophiles, that the only deal we understand is a crooked one.

Election night 1995  from left to right, Nick Augelli, Giordano, Mike Stolfi and Pat Mangini.

   It’s our mayor, Philip A. Giordano, who is locked up in a Federal jail, not Waterbury’s 105,000 citizens. Yet this city, and her people, are being battered by a relentless media onslaught asking “What’s wrong with Waterbury?”

   It is Phil Giordano who stands accused of being a pedophile. It is Phil Giordano who is the target of a federal probe into municipal corruption. It is Phil Giordano behind bars, yet somehow, strangely, it feels like he’s dragged 105,000 fellow citizens into the Big House with him.

   But unlike Phil, the rest of Waterbury can make their way to freedom. Giordano’s future will ultimately be placed in the hands of a jury. Waterbury’s future is in the hands of her people, and will largely be determined on how we respond to this crisis.

   If the first two weeks are any indication, Waterbury’s future is unsteady, but bright. The shocking and tawdry charges leveled at the mayor have galvanized Waterbury for the first time in recent memory. Decisions are being made without regard to political posturing. Democrats and Republicans are universally appalled and disgusted by the charges leveled at Giordano.

   While Giordano continues to be detained by federal authorities Alderman Sam Caligiuri has stepped into the difficult role of acting mayor, and has performed brilliantly. His calm demeanor and steady hand have already provided Waterbury with focus and leadership. It is widely assumed Caligiuri will continue in his role as acting mayor until Giordano’s term expires January 1, 2002.

   If Giordano is released on bail and attempts a self-serving return to the mayor’s seat, the board of aldermen appear poised to oust him. The aldermen voted 10-0, with Caligiuri abstaining, to ask Giordano to resign as mayor. If Giordano doesn’t respond by the next aldermanic meeting, August 27th, the aldermen have announced their intention to remove the mayor from office on grounds he is derelict in performing his duties. (It’s kind of hard to run a city of 105,000 residents when you are locked up in federal prison.)

   The mayor stands accused of having sex with two girls aged 9 and 10, and although in America one is innocent until proven guilty, the allegations are so repulsive that the media – and most of Connecticut – have already tarred and feathered him.

   Adding to the popular perception was the fact that Giordano couldn’t present his side of the story because he is being held without bail. After his arrest, the feds convinced Judge Allan Nevas that Giordano presented a risk to flee the state and was a danger to the community.

   All records of the arrest were sealed. Five days later Giordano was brought before Nevas for a bail hearing. The legal wrangling was immediately delayed for a week while Giordano’s attorney, Andy Bowman, of Westport, familiarized himself with the case.

   Bowman is one to the state’s top defense attorneys, charges $300 an hour, and defended clients in the Santopietro scandal and the ongoing Bridgeport probe. As a former federal prosecutor, Bowman has long established ties, and friendships, with federal agents. His strong contacts serve his clients well when it’s time to cut a deal with the feds – cooperation for leniency.

   One week after Bowman was hired he brilliantly argued that Giordano’s bail hearing should be closed to the public. He argued that the media attention could deny Giordano his sixth amendment right to a fair trial. It was an argument that didn’t appear to sway the judge.

   But then Bowman hit pay dirt. The prosecution’s entire case was based on wiretap evidence, which is also called title three material. Bowman had yet to see the evidence and was unable to challenge the legality of the material. There are strict laws surrounding the collection of wiretap material, and the Giordano evidence had yet to be legally tested to see if it would be admissible in court. Were the warrants legal? How had the feds installed the monitoring devices? Had they legally collected the evidence being used against Giordano?

   Bowman successfully argued that those questions had yet to be answered – the evidence was still untested – so Judge Nevas cleared the courtroom for Giordano’s bail hearing. At one point Nevas stated he was reluctant to publicly release the material – which he said could incite the community – until it was tested and found admissible.

   As the court was being cleared the Judge asked Bowman and Giordano if the mayor wished his family to be present during the bail hearing. The federal prosecutors were expected to read graphic transcripts of Giordano’s phone conversations aloud. Bowman immediately answered “No.”

   During the closed hearing federal prosecutors presented evidence against Giordano and requested that he remain in federal custody. Bowman argued for his release, but Judge Nevas ordered Giordano to remain in federal custody to await the findings of a grand jury (which will indict Giordano, or set him free by the end of August).

   With a lack of official information to report on, the media went to work digging out the story. Journalists who have actively reported on the corruption probe in Bridgeport have established contacts in the federal bureaucracy. Much of the damaging information published about the Bridgeport investigation has been leaked to the media by federal agents and federal officials.

   The feds supply highly sensitive information to reporters on the condition that the journalist attribute the material to an unnamed source. Confidentiality is paramount. Trust is built over time. Almost all the information the public has received about the Giordano case has been leaked to the media as a way to circumvent Judge Nevas’s decision to seal the files.

Just Do It
   During the past six years I have met with Giordano in the Mayor’s Office more than 50 times for lengthy interviews on elections, aldermen- by-district, alleged police corruption and downtown revitalization. He was almost always exceptionally friendly – except for the times we needed to ask hard personal questions about the 911 incident at his house, or about the time he was discovered by the Cheshire Police in a remote parking lot on a Sunday afternoon with a married female staff member.

   But the vast majority of time I found Giordano to be bright, funny and extraordinarily charming. He was a very likable man who from time to time had difficulty telling the truth. During interviews there were several instances where he flat out denied a statement, or position, I knew he had made. When challenged he simply dug in his heels and denied it even more emphatically.

   Usually at the end of interviews I would put down my pen and shoot the breeze with him, laughing about the latest rumor or scandal sweeping through Waterbury.

   During my last visit to his office in June we had an exceptionally wild conversation. I hadn’t seen him in months and we spent two and half hours talking about the state take over, local politics and his plans for the future.


 Giordano at a press conference speaking out about a 911 call made from his house.

   At one point I asked him what he thought about the corruption probe down in Bridgeport. I knew Giordano had a personal and friendly relationship with Mayor Ganim, and I wanted to hear his take on the unfolding drama in the Park City.

   He wanted to know how the feds cracked open the investigation, and I told him I believed it was because they had gotten a key figure to roll.
Giordano looked disgusted.

   “I don’t condone what happened down there,” he said. “But if you’re going to do something, keep your mouth shut”.

   Like a code of silence, I asked.

   Giordano smiled, and said “Yeah, something like that.”

Did Giordano Sing?
   The Hartford Courant reported in its August 12th edition that Giordano had been confronted by federal agents on July 23rd regarding his sexual relations with the minor children. During the confrontation Giordano was given the opportunity to assist the federal probe into municipal corruption with the promise he would serve less time in jail.

   The Courant reported that for three days federal agents accompanied Giordano around town as the mayor used his cell phone to try and entice various targets into kickback schemes. For some unknown reason, the paper reported, the deal fell through and Giordano was arrested July 26th at 7:45 am in New Haven.

Giordano in court, with defense attorney Andy Bowman.

   If the Courant story proves to be true and it turns out that there are indeed mob ties to Waterbury, Giordano might be in federal custody for his own protection.

   On the local scene reporters at the Republican-American newspaper used their contacts to shed light on the children Giordano allegedly came in sexual contact with. The paper reported that the two girls were cousins and that one of their mothers, a convicted prostitute, conspired with Giordano to arrange sexual contact between the mayor and the two minor children.

 Giordano mugshot from his arrest in 2001.

   How often, if ever, Giordano rendezvoused with the girls is unknown.

   The mother was quietly arrested a week before Giordano’s arrest, and the girls were taken into custody by state officials. It has been widely rumored in Waterbury for years that the mayor had an illegitimate child with a black prostitute. Flyers were distributed around town and the rumors grew so strong that the woman publicly stated that Giordano was not the father of any of her three children.

   Giordano and the woman said their only contact was professional, that the mayor had defended her on various charges before getting elected.

   Until the government is allowed to air out the evidence against Giordano, speculation and rumor will continue to rule the day.

Hometown Pride
   Perhaps the most destructive question being posed at this time is “What’s wrong with Waterbury?” In addition to digging out information from its network of sources, the statewide media have battered Waterbury.

   For nearly three weeks the story captured the attention of every media outlet from New York to Boston and dozens of journalists came to Waterbury to find what there was about this city that spawned corruption.

                      Giordano celebrating election night 1997 with campaign manager Tim Longino.

    Consider the New York Times, perhaps the most respected newspaper in the world. The Times pulled a national reporter off a coal mining story and redirected him to Waterbury. His assignment? Waterbury, here they go again.

   When the likable and engaging Time’s reporter arrived on the scene he met with alderman John Sarlo. Unlike the staid Times’ image, the reporter, Charlie LeDuff, with loop earrings in both ears, looked more rock star than journalist.

  He had just arrived in Waterbury minutes before and was immediately impressed with his sense of the city. “What a nice city,” he told Sarlo. “The architecture looks great and the sidewalks are fixed. This is a good looking city.”

   The next day’s report in the Times, however, shared no such impression with the newspaper’s several million readers. “Blocks away from the City Hall and the picturesque town green, old factories crumble like rotten teeth,” he wrote.

   The report goes on to describe the unspeakable shame Waterbury residents suffer from living in the shadow of Connecticut’s affluence. The shame people feel for living in Waterbury.

   A New London Day headline was even more direct. “Waterbury: When it comes to anything but brass, a tacky place to be.”

   If one accepts the fact that the city is being bashed in a media pig pile, then the Hartford Courant is Boss Hog.

   The Courant appears to be making political hay out of Waterbury’s misfortune. The state’s largest newspaper has been tangling with Republican Governor John Rowland for nearly seven years, and has taken delight in jamming an ice pick into Waterbury – Rowland’s hometown – during this crisis.

   Rowland has touted Waterbury as “The Center of the Universe” for the past seven years. The Governor’s unabashed love for Waterbury has been instrumental in millions of state aid being funneled into a massive downtown revitalization project, and in relocating the Motor Vehicle headquarters to Waterbury.

   Rowland’s passion for Waterbury has made the city a political target. The Courant and it’s esteemed corp. of journalists have used Giordano’s arrest to assault the core and fiber of the city.

   In a column published August 5 in the Courant’s Northeast Magazine, writer Colin McEnroe suggests the FBI move its headquarters from Quantico, Virginia, to Waterbury, so the academy can train its recruits on the indigenous criminals living in the city.

   McEnroe further suggests Waterbury enter into the federal witness protection program to gain a new name and identity. “I don’t think Waterbury can go on being Waterbury,” McEnroe informed his readers.

   Hartford Courant columnist Denis Horgan weighed in with a column entitled “Waterbury’s Low Is Hard To Top”. He began his raking of the Brass City with “Think your town has dim bulb leadership or a tax rate that’s creeping too high or contentiousness in public sessions or even some fiscal irregularities? Count Your blessings. You could live in Waterbury.”

   Then Horgan quotes a city resident saying “This place is totally rotten, right to the core.”
The Courant and New York Times missed the point. There is something wrong in Waterbury, terribly wrong, but it’s not the city or its people.

   It’s the way government operates. And despite the Courant’s smug appraisal of Waterbury, the problem isn’t just in Waterbury. It’s all across Connecticut, and America. The political system is broken.

   Bridgeport is ensnared in a nasty Federal probe that has Mayor Joe Ganim circling the wagons trying to hold off a battalion of federal tanks with a bb gun.

   And another federal probe snagged state treasurer Paul Sylvester in a kick back scheme, an investigation that remains open to this day.

   So it’s not just Waterbury. We just happen to provide an easy target for the cheap shot artists unable to smell the garbage in their own backyard. When alderman Sam Caligiuri stepped before a media throng four days into the crisis he was asked “What is it about Waterbury that…”

   “It’s not Waterbury,” Caligiuri bristled. “It’s failed leadership.”

   The acting mayor defended Waterbury and rebuked the notion that something was wrong with the entire city.

   It was his most important answer of the day.

   Caligiuri is right, the problem has been failed leadership. Our last three mayors have been arrested on a variety of corruption and sex charges.

   • Edward D. Bergin Jr. was arrested in 1988 on charges that he accepted cash payments in exchange for awarding city towing contracts. The star witness against Bergin at trial was his former best friend, and political confidant, Thomas Gahan. The towing companies testified that they handed over thousands of dollars in cash to Gahan, and Gahan testified he delivered the money directly to the mayor. Bergin was acquitted and later won re-election to a sixth and seventh term in office.

   • Joe Santopietro was convicted in 1992 on charges of conspiring with developers and bankers to exchange favors for bribes and kickbacks concealed as loans. Santopietro and six others, including the Republican Town Chairman, spent time in jail. Santopietro served the longest stint in prison, more than six years.

   And now Giordano.

Giordano aptly came to work dressed as The Joker for Halloween.

   One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get a different result. Can’t we elect an honest politician?

   But that question doesn’t just pertain to Waterbury, failed leadership is a plague across the state and country. Too many politicians have let us down. Public trust is an oxymoron. After being lied to, and cheated, the public is disinterested and disgusted by the current state of politics in America.

   This current crisis isn’t about the people of Waterbury. It is about Phil Giordano and the political machinery that continues to keep Waterbury citizens – the soul of Waterbury – blindfolded and gagged. The vast majority of Waterbury citizens are honest, hard working individuals who have been unable to shrug the yoke of political oppression that strangles this city.

   Instead of asking what’s wrong with Waterbury, or condemning her 105,000 citizens, a more accurate question might be – How does Waterbury fix it’s obviously faulty political terrain?

   An extraordinary book written thirty years ago by Bill and Nancy Boyarsky gives us a clue. The two investigative reporters from the Los Angeles Times co-authored “Backroom Politics”, a glimpse at the cast of characters and unforeseen forces – the special interest groups representing business, construction and labor – that control elected officials. After a several year investigation the authors concluded that most local officials are not controlled by the public. The notion that politicians are responsive to voters is a great myth, they proclaimed. A single voter has little influence on government.

   “The notion that if you don’t like what a politician is doing you can vote them out of office is naïve at best,” they wrote. “The voter is ineffective alone. Effectiveness comes only in affiliation with groups strong enough to compete on the battleground of influence.”

   Voters cannot understand how local government works by reading the newspapers or attending board meetings. Politicians only tell reporters what they want the voters to believe. Reporters are not invited to back room dealings or privy to the eavesdropping capability of the FBI.

   That means disgruntled voters must unite.

   Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence 225 years ago that governments derive their just power from the consent of the governed. How applicable is that in Waterbury?

   Did anybody in Waterbury give their consent to Mayor T. Frank Hayes sixty years ago to swipe millions of dollars from the construction of Municipal Stadium?

   Did the public give their consent to Mayor Joseph Santopietro to cut secret deals with developers and bankers to control city projects?

   Did the public have any input before Mayor Edward Bergin signed a casino agreement with the Golden Hill Paugausetts? Or before bombastic Frank Davino stood in front of a packed aldermanic chamber and proclaimed a “done deal” on a secretly negotiated Palace Theater lease?

   Did the public have any input into the $112 million downtown revitalization project (as promised by the governor) before NVDC director Jeff Cugno slammed it through the board of aldermen and sent it off to the state bond commission?

  Waterbury is governed behind an iron curtain of silence. Deals are forged in back rooms and slammed down the throats of an unsuspecting public.

   “Business control of government is not new,” the book states. “Men with money to invest in growth have always managed to get a special break in America.”

   The authors told the story of journalist Lincoln Steffens who uncovered corruption in Boston government 100 years ago. Steffens concluded that “Boston suggests to me that the idea of business and politics must be one; that is was natural, inevitable, and possibly right that business should by bribery and corruption get, and be, the government.”

   Times have changed and it is more difficult for today’s politicians to accept bribes. But business has found a new way to manipulate government – campaign contributions. Waterbury residents need to know who is backing a candidate and why. Campaign contributions need to be questioned and motives sought. In his failed bid for U.S. Senate last autumn Giordano collected thousands of dollars from individuals with direct ties to Worth Construction.

   In Backroom Politics the authors wrote “political scandals result when we, and those that govern us, forget they are supposed to have consent from the governed.”

   Every once and awhile the public fights back. Several Waterbury citizens thwarted the “done deal” on the Palace Theater by forcing a referendum. An irate public flared up and snagged the attention of Governor John Rowland on the downtown revitalization project. Rowland skillfully conducted a rap session with community leaders and sent the project back to the people who effectively changed the plans.

   Although there have been successes, the vast majority of decisions are made with bankers, developers and party bosses behind closed doors. City residents have to do something different to reform the way political leaders make decisions in Waterbury.

   In Backroom Politics the authors encourage involvement. “By using the system skillfully,” they wrote “people can force government to meet their needs, or at least consider them.”
Consider Jimmy Griffin. Since reemerging in Waterbury seven years ago he has been a one man wrecking crew. He helped lead the initial fight to change the city charter on the aldermen by district issue. He ran for mayor as an Independent against Bergin and Giordano in 1995, and later organized a protest against the Republican-American newspaper for what he called “its racist handling” of the arrest and subsequent suicide of Joe Jaynes.

   With a few nights of picketing in front of the Republican-American, Griffin and crew pressured concessions out of Publisher Bill Pape. Suddenly black faces were all over the newspaper and entire society pages were dedicated to important events in the black community. And from that moment on whenever the paper needed quotes from a leader in the black community, they call Jimmy Griffin.

   Later Griffin was elected president of the local chapter of the NAACP and in one year tripled the chapter’s membership. Griffin is now a candidate for the NAACP leadership position in the state of Connecticut.

   The man gets results. But how?

   Jimmy Griffin knows how the system works and engages it to push his own agenda. Griffin is at every important political event in Waterbury. He attends nearly all the board of education meetings and the board of alderman meetings. He has had his own cable access television show and is a frequent visitor to the Republican-American newspaper, WATR radio and the Observer.

   While the rest of Waterbury waited to hear the news about Giordano’s bail hearing, Griffin, David Gilmore and Cicero Booker were mobbed by reporters outside the Federal Court in Bridgeport as they addressed racism, political corruption and Giordano’s failed leadership. Besides Giordano’s immediate family, the three community activists were the only people from Waterbury at the hearing. They have made a commitment to get involved and they get results. Some residents may be sickened by Griffin’s actions and call him an opportunist. But he is a one man wrecking crew on how to play the game and increase your clout.

   Perhaps the biggest monster in Waterbury politics is the machinery that drives the Republican and Democrat parties. Slates are hand picked by strong armed party bosses and the public has little to say. 15 out of 18 aldermanic candidates are elected to office every two years. The real battle is to be an endorsed candidate because you then have an 80% chance of being elected.  That system has to change.

   We also elect individuals to run the city without the necessary qualifications to succeed. Giordano was a likable young attorney, but would any corporation in America hire a 32 year old attorney to run its $300 million business.


  Why do we elect these guys and then expect them to make sharp business decisions?Santopietro was a 26 year old landscaper when he was elected. Who put him up? The machinery. And when he was easily swayed by high powered bankers and developers we were surprised? Voters need to change their expectations and be more realistic. What are the candidates qualifications?

   We have to know.

   Many city residents also mistakenly believe that the local media is the watchdog for voters. This is absolute nonsense. The most powerful and controlling force in Waterbury is the daily newspaper, the Republican-American. Although the paper has many talented and passionate journalists the newspaper is an extremely influential behind the scenes player.

   In a small and cozy city the Pape Family has many sacred cows that are off-limit to its reporters; McDermid Corporation, The United Way, Teikyo Post University, and the biggest sacred cow – the local Republican party.

   The newspaper stonewalled information its reporters had uncovered about corruption in the Santopietro Administration 11 years ago. Why?

   Publisher Bill Pape was afraid of injuring the Republican Party. He wasn’t sure the information was right so he hesitated for political reasons. The Hartford Courant with no beat reporter in Waterbury, and no bureau, broke the Santopietro story and then the Republican-American followed suit.

   And it was the over-zealous reporting during the municipal election six years ago that played a large role in Phil Giordano getting elected. In an all out witch hunt that drew national criticism in journalism trade magazines, the Republican – American attacked incumbent Mike Bergin with truck loads of ink.

  The Sunday before the election they published a front page editorial stating voters had to get Bergin out of office now, or he would be in the mayor’s seat for life.

   So the voters fired a seven term incumbent and hired – on the Republican-American’s recommendation – a 32 year old attorney with limited business experience. It was ‘anybody but Bergin’, and in the end it hasn’t turned out real well.

What Now?
   We have to take this crisis and use it as an opportunity to grow. The community needs to demand more accountability from the daily newspaper and from our elected leaders.

Giordano being searched before seeing President Bush at Tinker School in Town Plot.

   We have to change the way we do business. Remember the earlier definition of insanity……doing the same thing over and over again with the expectation that the results will be different this time.

   We have to change the way we elect our public officials. We need to pry the chubby fingers off the political machines and restore the power with the people.

   Two months ago the Observer began a year long project to uncover the soul of Waterbury. It is a journey that we will continue in next month’s paper.

   It is our firm belief that by learning more about the rich and storied history of this once great city, we can begin to climb out of the dark place that now conceals the city’s soul.