Connecticut's attorney general on Friday called on a U.S. bankruptcy judge to turn over hearings on the constitutionality of the Bridgeport Financial Review Board to state courts.
"We believe the Connecticut Supreme Court should decide this question, which exclusively involves state law," Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said in a news release issued Friday. "This is an issue of critical importance to Connecticut state government and the relationship between the state and its municipalities."
Bankruptcy Judge Alan H.W. Shiff, who slated the hearings for his court, had not ruled on the request by late Friday.
Bridgeport filed for protection from creditors under Chapter 9 of the federal Bankruptcy Code on June 6. Other hearings, slated to commence July 16, will help Judge Shiff decide whether to accept the city's petition.
Those hearings are still scheduled, according to Delcie Mullin-Thibault, a spokeswoman for Mr. Blumenthal. Judge Shiff scheduled a conference for Monday with Bridgeport attorneys and Mr. Blumenthal to discuss the hearing move.
While the attorney general recognized that Judge Shiff had raised the questions about the financial review board as part of deciding whether to accept Bridgeport's bankruptcy petition, he said, "Even if the bankruptcy court were to rule on this question, the matter would inevitably reach the state supreme court. Pursuing this process will minimize the time required to reach an end result in this case, which is in the best interest of all concerned."
The attorney general also requested that a U.S. District Court certify the hearings to the Connecticut Supreme Court. The federal district court judge, however, declined to decide on the case pending a decision in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
In other developments last week, a new potential snag for Bridgeport's bankruptcy bid emerged as a city councilman said he was considering legislation to control Mayor Mary C. Moran's ability to pay lawyers and consultants involved in the city's Chapter 9 filing.
Councilman Tom White said the city council's members will probably consider a new resolution this week that will "tie the mayor's hands" by forcing her to gain approval for all expenditures related to the bankruptcy.
A similar measure failed the week before last because it was "inflammatory," and "poorly written, ambiguous, very vague," according to Mr. White.
Richard D. Zeisler, an attorney with the firm of Zeisler & Zeisler representing Bridgeport, last week doubted the renewed bid for control of Mayor Moran's spending would work.
"It will get defeated again," Mr. Zeisler said, adding that members of the Bridgeport Common Council voted 12 to 6 against the last attempt to tie the mayor's hands. "I don't expect the next will be any different. The authority of the mayor to file is clear." He added that Mayor Moran has ample support among the city council members.