Ganim loses 2nd director of 2nd chance office
BRIDGEPORT — The city has lost another director of Mayor Joe Ganim’s second-chance office, established to aid residents with criminal backgrounds seeking employment and other needs outside of prison.
Eric Christmas, hired a year ago following the arrest and termination of his predecessor, was fired Friday from his job as head of the Mayor’s Initiative for Reentry Affairs.
“Eric Christmas is no longer with the city,” confirmed Ganim’s spokeswoman, Rowena White. “We would like to thank Eric for his service to the city and MIRA. ... There are a lot of great things Eric is capable of and he has a lot of skills, but they’re just not a fit for what MIRA needs at this time.”
White continued, “We’re just moving forward, and so is he, and we wish Eric the best in his future endeavors.” She said the city hoped to soon fill the vacancy.
Christmas could not immediately be reached for comment.
Ganim launched MIRA in 2016 in recognition of his own comeback story. His first tenure as mayor, which began in 1991, ended in 2003 with his conviction for public corruption, followed by seven years in federal prison.
Ganim waged a successful re-election campaign in 2015 in part by turning critics’ attacks on his criminal background and character into a message of redemption and the need to provide felons a second chance.
Good intentions aside, the MIRA project has faltered. Louis Reed, the office’s first director, had a prior criminal record and in the fall of 2017 was arrested on larceny and forgery charges unrelated to his municipal job. He was later fired.
City Council members had questioned how successful MIRA was under Reed and whether the office needed more funding and more qualified staff. Unlike other departments and offices, the initiative does not even have its own section in the municipal budget.
Shortly after being hired last year, Christmas said he would try to find ways to assess MIRA’s success helping clients. Christmas had also sought to lower expectations about what the office could realistically accomplish.
“There was a misconception in the past,” Christmas had said. “There’s no guarantee (of a job). It’s just a referral source. And hopefully they’ll get hired. ... We can’t create jobs.”
Councilman Ernie Newton, who also has a criminal past and helps felons as a staffer at the Bridgeport-based nonprofit Career Resources Inc., said Friday of MIRA: “We gotta just get it running. A lot of people depended on it.”
Councilwoman Jeanette Herron has been one of the more vocal critics of MIRA and was shocked to learn Christmas was out.
“When I met him, I was very impressed with what I heard,” Herron said. “I don’t know if it can ever be successful. It doesn’t get a lot of funding. Anybody that comes in, will they be successful?”