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Journalism and Government Corruption

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storycon.org Headlined to H3 10/31/15

Originally Published on OpEdNews

BRIDGEPORT, CT ---- It was good to see the Connecticut Post recently published a long, front-page story detailing the many crimes of former mayor Joseph P. Ganim during his time running this city in the 1990s, before law-enforcement officials finally nailed him and sent him off to prison.

Ganim --- who was released from jail in 2010 and is now campaigning to be mayor again of Connecticut's largest city --- ran a pay-to-play scheme in City Hall, steering contracts to favored developers, and taking bribes and kickbacks in the process.

The corruption cost the city dearly, with millions of dollars in public money being either stolen or wasted and opportunities for development and job growth squandered.

The Ganim years were a big setback for Bridgeport, a one-time industrial powerhouse that has been struggling to remake itself following the exodus of factories like GE, Remington and Westinghouse.

The Post laid it all out clearly in the October 11th story, when the corruption began, who the players were, the amounts of money involved, and what happened to them.

The article, entitled "Legacy of Greed", was a nice piece, authored by veteran reporter Bill Cummings.

But what the Post didn't focus on, and is not likely to, is how the corruption went on unnoticed and unchecked.

Municipal corruption can take place anywhere; it's not just limited to Bridgeport. In New England alone, there's been corruption cases in Danbury, Waterbury and Providence, R.I., in the past several decades.

But corruption is more likely to get started and flourish where those institutions that are supposed to be 'minding the store' are not doing their job. In Bridgeport, as in most cities, the watchdog role falls on the local legislative body, or city council, and on the local newspaper.

The local council and newspaper are the ones that on a steady basis are in a position to monitor what's going in city hall, how money is being spent, who's spending it, whether there's any irregularities, etc. A local state's attorney or police department may occasionally get involved in municipal-corruption investigations, but for the most part, they've got their hands full handling property crime, street crime and acts of violence.

In Bridgeport, both the city council and the Post failed to adequately monitor what was going on in the Ganim administration with respect to contracts and financial expenditures.

Both institutions, you could say, were asleep at the switch when Ganim and his henchmen were playing their games.

 

While some members of the council during the Ganim years tried to raise questions about issues related to multi-million-dollar contract proposals that came before them, many of them did not. As a result, things like the sewage-treatment contracts for the PSG firm pushed by Ganim got approved in the end.

Federal officials later investigated those contracts, and found that Ganim had been given kickbacks and bribes as part of the deals.

But the Post --- and this was the only print media in town --- did even less than the council in watching city government. This writer, who was employed as an editor by the Post during the 1990s, had a pretty good view of what was going on in the newsroom in terms of Bridgeport news coverage.

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Reginald Johnson is a free-lance writer based in Bridgeport, Ct. His work has appeared in The New York Times, BBC-Online, the Connecticut Post, his web magazine, The Pequonnock, and Reading Between the Lines, a web magazine affiliated with the (more...)
 

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