Business | Commerce RI Hires Former Bridgeport Port Director Who Spent $35K on Credit Cards for Travel & Gifts
Friday, June 15, 2018
Commerce RI has hired Joseph Riccio — the one-time director of the Bridgeport Port Authority who spent more than $35,000 in less than three years attending conferences around the country and guys gifts and meals using the public agency’s credit cards.
When the Connecticut Post newspaper unveiled the questionable spending which included upwards of $1,200 a month, or $35,932, between January of 2007 and April 2009 on a variety of expenses, including travel to cities like Houston and Detroit as well as an engraved wine decanter — the members of the city council took action and said the agencies spending was reckless. The reports by the paper were based on public record request of the port lead to the departure of Riccio and the abolishment of the Authority. A new agency has subsequently been created.
Riccio was recently hired as a senior development advisor for Commerce RI earning $125,000.
“It is what it is, and it’s water under the bridge. But $36,000 in three years with no activity coming into Bridgeport, that’s lavish and a little overboard,” then-City Council member Robert Curwen told the Connecticut Post.
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City Council member Robert Walsh, D-132, told the paper at the time that the overseeing board exercised more control over Riccio. “It’s been a free-spending organization and the city has to look into reorganizing the board.”
At the time, Riccio earner $119,000 per year. His “lavish” spending was not authorized and was considered excessive as the Authority was financially struggling.
The paper reported, “He stayed at a variety of hotels, sometimes racking up over $600 bills for lodging. He charged meals to the card, including during meetings in the Bridgeport area. One tab, at Joseph’s Steakhouse in downtown Bridgeport, cost the port authority $124. The former director also charged car repairs and the cost of new tires for his BPA-issued vehicle on the credit card, along with other routine expenses, including food for staff events and equipment for the BPA.”
Despite his ouster, the then chair of the Board defended Riccio. Denis O’Malley, then the chair of Board of Directors, told the Connecticut paper, that “he authorized Riccio to purchase the gift for Savino. And he said that overall he had no problem with Riccio’s travel and expenses.”
The paper also reported that “O’Malley recalled one instance in which Riccio proposed traveling to Hawaii for an event and he advised against the trip. ‘I found Joe to be an aggressive, grow the business type. I’ve found that if you get a personal relationship with people you can grow the business.'”