Lawyer salary

A potential candidate for Bridgeport’s top lawyer takes the job from Norwalk

BRIDGEPORT — Tyisha Toms, a respected city attorney who city council members hoped would soon be promoted to head of the legal department, is leaving for a job in Norwalk instead.

“Losing someone like that is really annoying and extremely disappointing,” said city council president Aidee Nieves.

“I think it’s a shame,” Councilman Ernie Newton said. “Here we had a woman who was perhaps destined to become the new (lead) attorney in town. … We have lost a good person. It’s just awful.

Toms, who did not return a request for comment, is an associate attorney for the city and one of the office’s few black and female employees. She was hired in 2016 by City Attorney R. Christopher Meyer. Previously, she had a private practice and in 2015 she unsuccessfully ran for counsel.

Meyer confirmed this week that he had received his resignation. According to the office of Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling, Toms was offered and accepted a $150,582 job as an assistant company solicitor — the term for that city’s city solicitor — and begins late. may.

The news upset Nieves, Newton and other council members who view it as a blow to Bridgeport for several reasons.

First, with Meyer planning to retire next month, their hope was that Mayor Joe Ganim would promote Toms as Meyer’s successor.

The Legal Department, in addition to defending Bridgeport against lawsuits and negotiating contracts, provides legal advice and representation to the mayor, city department heads and staff, and the council. Meyer, who previously worked in the legal department, left, then returned in 2016 to lead it after helping elect Ganim the previous year.

Over the years, council members have clashed with Meyer and some of his subordinates, questioning their independence from the mayor when advising the council, but this week they praised from Toms.

“It’s disappointing because of the caliber of a lawyer she is,” Nieves said. “And ideally she would have been a candidate to become a city attorney once that position opened up because of the level of professionalism (and) the relationships she had with council members and administrative staff. His insight and contribution are a valuable resource for many people.

Councilman Marcus Brown said he spoke with Toms and she expressed interest in the senior role, but Norwalk eventually offered better pay and benefits.

“There is a hidden talent that most people lack in municipal government and that is the ability to be able to communicate with council. She had it,” Brown said. “She was able to take our ideas and tell us what worked and what didn’t.”

And as a young black woman, Toms stood out in an office that some board members criticize as being dominated by older white men. Meyer confirmed that of the 10 attorneys in the legal department, only two — including Toms — are black. He noted that he also had a Hispanic paralegal.

“We’re losing 50% of black employees and women in this office and that’s not good,” Brown said. “And she’s on the younger side of the age bracket.”

Counselor Jeanette Herron agreed that the legal department was not diverse enough, “And his departure, that’s absolutely not the case.”

“I am very upset that Tyisha is gone. Very disturbed,” Herron said.

Council members also lamented that Toms was a resident of Bridgeport.

“We’ll bring everyone in from out of this city, and you have competent people living here who are professionals,” Newton said.

Newton said Meyer should have done more to keep Toms.

“I encouraged Tyisha to stay,” Meyer said in response. “I had lunch with her yesterday (Wednesday) and told her that we wanted her to stay, we hoped she would stay. … She is not only a great lawyer but also a great friend. I think very hard of her.

Of taking over the legal department for him, Meyer said, “She can do whatever she wants. I have no doubt that she is excellent in everything.

With a view to stepping down on May 31, Meyer is looking to replace Toms and fill a second vacancy created when a new Waterbury employee left earlier this year after just a few months.

Asked about the lack of diversity within the legal department, Meyer said: “We consider everyone and try to select the best lawyers we can to represent the city and do our best to ensure that our workforce reflects the greater diversity of Bridgeport.” He noted another black attorney on his staff moved into city government in the labor relations department.

“I wish him good luck,” Nieves said of Toms. “It only speaks to his skills that Norwalk offered him this position.”