Board Of Education Members Allen, Benejan Renege On School Chief Promise

Last September, during a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Connecticut, Democratic school board candidates Sybil Allen and Albert Benejan stated they would not support Acting Superintendent of Schools Michael Testani for the permanent job. Monday night they did an about-face as two of seven Board of Education members approving a three-year deal for Testani at $244,000 per year.

Bobbi Brown, receiving school board oath, true to her word.

Allen, an incumbent member of the board and Benejan responded to a question from the moderator. Bobbi Brown, also a candidate who won election, was true to her word Monday night  as one of two no votes along with Joe Sokolovic. In the video above, captured by Sokolovic last September, Allen said “I don’t advocate for (Testani) to be (permanent) superintendent.”

Benejan agreed and declared “We need the best for sure for our kids.”

Their remarks start at the 26 minute mark of the video.

Albert Benejan, left, and Sybil Allen, center, during last September’s school board forum.

A May 2019 job posting about the duration of the acting superintendent:

The individual selected as Interim Superintendent will be precluded from applying for the position on a permanent basis. As such, the Board will entertain a contractual provision returning any current BPS employee to their prior position at the end of this assignment, if they are selected as the Interim Superintendent.

Testani, then director of Adult Education, required a waiver from Connecticut Commissioner of Education Dianna Wentzell to serve as acting school chief commencing August 1, 2019 because  Testani lacked superintendent of schools certification, something he has been pursuing while serving in an acting capacity.

The school board announced a national search and Testani was prohibited from from applying. Testani is well liked by the city’s political establishment including Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa so the national search was shelved.

The back-story spin: Testani was prohibited from the job if a national search was completed. A dubious spin for sure on behalf of political spoils.

And so it goes.

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41 comments

  1. I’m going to have to copyright my Facebook page! Joking I’m all about open access open meetings and shedding light. The biggest irony is that was my question that the Moderator asked.

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  2. Ben and Joe,

    Was there ever as much as a discussion that Mike Testani could be appointed as the Superintendent if a search was not conducted?

    “back-story spin: Testani was prohibited from the job if a national search was completed. A dubious spin for sure on behalf of political spoils.”

    Lennie, who told you this absolute lie?

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  3. For all of those Joe Ganim supporters and those who just voted for him because they didn’t like Joe’s opponent well, this is what you get, there are consequences with elections and here is what you get, “The school board announced a national search and Testani was prohibited from from applying. Testani is well liked by the city’s political establishment including Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa so the national search was shelved.” Just look at the power that a non elected City official has, Democratic Town Chair Mario Testa can shelved national search for the Superintendent of Schools. With Ganim you get Mario Testa the same as in the movie, “With Six, you get Egg Roll” staring Doris Day.

    “With Six, you get Egg Roll”
    Top definition

    cryptic
    1. Having a hidden meaning.
    2. Secret or mysterious.
    3. Using code.

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  4. Lennie,

    The specific question regarding Testani starts at 33 minutes in, not 26 minutes in.

    Albert Benejan was the last candidate to answer the specific question. After every candidate before him stated Testani should finish his contract and they would focus on finding a permanent Superintendent, with many saying they would not support Testani as Superintendent; Albert Benejan started his answer with “I agree,too.”

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    1. Maria,

      That’s what I heard, too. All candidates agreeing that Testani should finish his contract as Interim Superintendent while focusing on finding a permanent Superintendent.

      So, Albert’s first action on the Board, his first truly important vote, he goes back on his word. What an inauspicious beginning.

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  5. I truly believe that all a politician really has is their word.

    Once a politician tells you one thing and does the opposite, you know everything you need to know.

    I spend alot of time educating voters not to listen to what politicians say, watch what they do.

    City Council President Aidee Nieves is a perfect example. I gave her the benefit of the doubt, and acquiesced to several of her requests in an attempt to establish a professional working relationship. I now know her word means absolutely nothing. Once people show you who they are you should acknowledge it, not try to make excuses or create an imaginary narrative that only exists in your mind. Don’t pretend you didn’t hear or see what you heard or saw.

    I am working on my first Op-ed focused on City Council President Aidee Nieves and the pure nonsense I have witnessed and experienced since being sworn in on December 3rd.

    I have attended three full City Council meetings and have been absolutely appalled at how Mayor Ganim, City Council President Aidee Nieves, and the majority of City Council members do not read ANY minutes, read ANY of the documentation provided in preparation for debate and action, have no working knowledge of Robert’s Rules of Order, the very City Council Rules they voted to adopt, or the Freedom of Information Act.

    I have watched one City Council member attend three committee meetings and three full City Council meetings without a single piece of paper in their hand, not even the agenda.

    Let’s just say I have witnessed some bat crazy sh_t.

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    1. Maria,last month you said to me……” Everything I do is on my “time.” Please remember I don’t receive $1 in compensation as a City Councilmember.”This was in reponse to you asking Joe not to accept Ricci’s resignation……Perhaps the reason some come to meetings without any agendas,minutes etc is because they also feel the way you do.
      Also just another observation on my part,You’ve been on the Council a little over a month and you’re already calling other members out,on this public forum, for what you feel are their short comings.This is only going to create animosity and create roadblocks,just like your actions did on the school board..Our city needs a cohesive CC for it to move forward,not a divided,bickering one.Maybe addressing your concerns with individuals on the Council personally,instead of in public would achieve that goal…

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      1. Harvey Weintraub, for the longest time Donald Day and myself have been saying what you wrote about Maria Pereira. Maria’s record shows that she has NEVER been a team player. People got blinded from the so call glow from Maria’s Halo because of her self-righteousness and how she would research something and make it public, people thought that would translate into Maria being a good City Council member. Time and time again I’ve said that Maria could not form a coalition of a majority other council members to get legislation passed because Maria doesn’t know how to win friends and influence people, Maria has NO record to show that she has that ability.

        Maria wrote this, “I have attended three full City Council meetings and have been absolutely appalled at how Mayor Ganim, City Council President Aidee Nieves, and the majority of City Council members do not read ANY minutes, read ANY of the documentation provided in preparation for debate and action, have no working knowledge of Robert’s Rules of Order, the very City Council Rules they voted to adopt, or the Freedom of Information Act.”
        “I have watched one City Council member attend three committee meetings and three full City Council meetings without a single piece of paper in their hand, not even the agenda.”
        HELLO, Maria acts like she discovered something new, once again that’s what the voters got when they voted for Joe Ganim for mayor, a vote for Ganim was a vote for Mario Testa who is the most powerful non-elected official in Bridgeport who has the influence and power over council members and boards and commissions. This is like in the movie “Casablanca,” “gambling? I’m shocked!” https://youtu.be/SjbPi00k_ME

        Here’s a little wisdom from “The Godfather 2, “Keep Your Friends Close, But Your Enemies Closer” https://youtu.be/DfHJDLoGInM

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    2. Maria
      First of all i read everything that comes across my desk. Maria you show not be attacking your colleagues on OIB Just remember you will need them if you need something passed on the City Council. We may not always agree but i have to respect that you are a colleague of mine. Just some friendly advise!

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      1. Mr. Newton, are you saying that if Ms. Pereirra submits a great resolution that could perhaps save the city money, save lives or make the city better, you and your colleagues on the city council will vote against it because she hurt your feelings? Please tell me that’s not what your saying.

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        1. Joseph
          First of all you should be concern with The Bd of Education. What i said is you cant attack people and then turn around and ask them to support something you need. Maria if she chooses to be a longranger that’s up to her. Attacking your colleagues on OIB is not the way to win friends. Joe Maria could never hurt my feeling. My moto in politics has always been No permanent Enemies and no Permanent Friends just common interest. Your enemy today my become your friend tomorrow and your friend today my become your enemy. In short you may not be able to support today but if I burn that bridge with you because you couldn’t support me by saying hurtful things about you. You will always remember that hurtful thing i said and the thing you could have supported you wont. Just Saying!

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          1. First off I am quite concerned with “my”? The cities board of Ed. I am also a citizen in this city with a right to respectfully ask a question. Was I disrespectful to you? I just want clarity. If Ms. Pereirra brings forth a great idea will you support it?

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  6. Harvey,

    After what occurred in public at the last City Council meeting I don’t owe the majority of the City Council members any deference.

    The behavior was absolutely outrageous.

    I have repeatedly made it clear that I will not tolerate being disrespected or marginalized. Don’t think for one minute that I will stand for those who don’t even read basic information in preparation for Committee and City Council meetings, are prepared with questions, suggestions or intelligent debate to judge what I am doing.

    What is needed in our City Council are intelligent,dedicated representatives who are willing to offer well researched points of view,,suggestions, and legislation that is in the BEST interest of those we serve, not what is in their, their friends and familiy’s, or those politically connected BEST interest.

    The City Council has had a pretty cohesive body for over a decade, with just a few exceptions , and how has that worked out for you and the 150,000 residents of Bridgeport?

    When people say that elected bodies need to be on the same “page” or “cohesive” I find thise to be code words for a “rubber stamp.” The purpose of having 20 City Council members is so that there are different perspectives and points of view that should be debated in order to craft legislation and budgets that meet the needs of the constiuents we serve.

    The twenty members of the City Council do not have to be “cohesive” and on the “same page” because if we did we wouldn’t have a need for twenty City Council members, we would only need one.

    I take great pride in being accurate and factual. I don’t embellish. If posting factual and accurate information about the decisions, comments, and conduct of my colleagues is offensive to them than they should either correct the behavior or not serve as an elected official.

    You cannot be a politician without facing criticism. No politician receives 100% of the vote which means there will ALWAYS be those opposed to you. As an elected official you have to deal with those who do not support you no matter what that reason maybe.

    If one of my colleagues publicly stated Maria Pereira voted against spending $50,000 – $100,000 to maintain a lighthouse that is on private property they would be factually correct. I can’t argue with that. If they say I did it because I wanted the $50,000 to $100,000 to be utilized to hire my sister for a city job then we are going to have a problem.

    We don’t need one more “rubber stamp” on the City Council. We need the complete opposite.

    I got elected being me and that’s exactly who I am going to be, me.

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    1. Council Representative Pereira,
      Meetings of Council twice monthly and the seven monthly subcommittee sessions are meant to attend to the issues affecting citizens all over the City. Such issues can be initiated, researched, developed, shared with the broad public, and formed into actionable motions and decisions. The Charter also provides powers to the City Council regarding the operating budget, capital budgets authorizations, grant requests, contracts, approving legal settlements, and a broad group of other actions. You know this general information and much more as came to the job with better personal preparation than most candidates of the past decade.
      The fact is that the “powers behind the Ganim throne”, or the City Charter, do not offer citizens potentially interested in public participation basic information, instruction or broader education on CC process and ongoing work so that they can become better informed and act in broader best interests, respectfully, and have the public hear what really happens. I have endeavored in addressing the CC over the years, and thru offering my comments in print through Only in Bridgeport or the CT Post, to be an advocate for OPEN, ACCOUNTABLE, TRANSPARENT and HONEST governance. That tends to be ignored for the most part. It does not curb my intention to bring matters to the attention of all.
      Your observation, in the short time you have been on board the CC, that fellow members are unprepared for specific or general matters of substance at meeting time is not surprising. Perhaps as an participant/observer of BOE challenges and delivery for years, you may have begun to doubt the reading and/or comprehension skills of some of your colleagues. Understanding the financial standing of the City is also difficult, and most members have never been trained to assess fiscal proposals, look at results with a critical eye (in order to praise or scold), and recognize the ‘qualifying’ status of the City so that a decision to participate in MARB is authorized. The last item reduces no practical power from the City Council imo.
      The pursuit of personal integrity is to be respected by all. And the digging for pertinent facts, support of relevant and legal process, and keeping communication with the voting and taxpaying public current are also worthy of positive comment. Keep your eyes on your values. Time will tell.

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    2. Please show the residence of the city of Bridgeport that the council is not just the cool kids table. I want to believe that each of you has your own vote , sometimes I just watch and shake my head wondering . I watched Kyle fight for more money for Board of Ed last year and got crickets from just about everyone, now all of a sudden we have money falling from the sky. Now Kyle is out and who is the voice of the people? please prove me wrong, that everyone can work together on items that make sense for the people and make life better for the residence. I hope Maria can get a second on any of her motions, I would hope that we could all leave egos at the door and do what is right for Bridgeport.

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  7. Harry,

    I recently met with someone whose opinion I value tremendously.

    We were discussing the challenges of accomplishing what is in the best interest of the residents in Bridgeport when so many of those on the City Council are entrenched in the corrupt DTC.

    The person then made the most simple but brilliant point.

    They stated that one of the most important roles they saw me fulfilling was to simply ” turn on the lights and watch the coachroaches scatter.”

    It is such a simple, easy to understand comment that I found to be so profound because ANYONE can understand its meaning and the powerful visual that comes with that statement.

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    1. Maria, that’s great advice but if you want to get something passed you will need some of those coach roaches to achieve your goal. You have dual issues, turn on the lights but to get those who you disagree with to support issues that you feel that are important. Maria, we all know what the problem is and who they are but you have no plan to make change. Defeating Joe Ganim is the most important thing to make change in Bridgeport because you take out Mario Testa, these two control the power in the City, Mario knows how to get money from donations to help fund campaigns because “Money is the Mother’s Milk of Politics” and politicians won’t bite the hand that feeds them. What you will always need in politics is 50% plus one if you want something passed but your style will get you nothing because you have no backup or support. Taking out one person, Joe Ganim would lead to change but you can’t see that, you got what you wanted, Joe Ganim , you made your bed now lay in it.

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  8. Maria
    At the last council meeting you did say ITS WAR but you have to have some bullets in your gun.The City Council is not the Board of Education. Remember 11 is the magic Number or those voting to pass anything, if all 20 members are in attendance. Attacking the Council President and member of the City Council is unacceptable because you are attacking ME!

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  9. Joseph
    Please don’t worry about how i vote on issues. You saw first hand as a Bd member how many time your colleagues Voted against anything Maria put forth you may have been one of the few people who Voted with her. I’m just making a point you can’t attack people and turn around and than ask them to support you on something. Calling people corrupt and fighting just to be fighting you will never get anything done.

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    1. No sir, I did not vote with Ms. Periera, I voted on what’s in the best interest of the children despite any personal dislike. It’s how a elected official should behave. John Weldon disrespected me, my wife and son on social media. If he brings up a good idea or resolution, I will support it regardless of my personal distaste for the man, I put it aside. This is the trouble I see on OIB many posters can’t put their personal distaste for the poster, or comment aside and stick to the topic.

      At this point it’s a simple yes and no question sir and I am becoming quite worried as my city depends on how people vote. If Ms. Periera brings forth a resolution that is guaranteed to save the city $10 million dollars would you support it?

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      1. Ernie,

        You should know that I have never liked Joe Sokolovic and Joe Sokolovic does not like me. We have never had so much as a cup of coffee together.

        Had I not been in the hospital in the Summer of 2017 I would have gone door to door in the 138th District in an attempt to defeat him, and based on his results he would have likely lost.

        Joe Sokolovic did not support me in any way, shape or form for any office I have ever run for.

        However, I have NEVER voted against a policy, proposal or amendment proposed by Joe because he proposed it. And, I honestly believe he never did the same to me.

        I believe Joe and I have always put those differences aside when it came to doing what was in the best interest of our 20,000 BPS students, 2,700 staff members and the residents and taxpayers of Bridgeport.

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  10. Ernie,

    I have “attacked” no one. I have made factual statements regarding the actions of elected officials who have responsibilities to fulfill in their capacity as elected City Council members

    To be quite honest,Ernie, I was not referencing you in my comments, however it is quite clear that you do not read the minutes prior to voting on them. In addition, I did bring up significant concerns about a proposed contract that was being referred to your committee and it was pretty clear you had not read the packet during our private conversation and prior to voting on the referral.

    Please do not attempt to defend the outrageous conduct of the majority of the City Council that voted AGAINST my attempt to enter executive session PRIOR to voting on approximately $200,000 in settlements without being provided the exact amount of each settlement, the basis of the litigation and the risk factors associated with litigating the matter.

    Many City Council members voted to settle approximately $200,000 in legal settlements, including James Nardozzi’s settlement, without having access to critical information.

    If that isn’t a “rubber stamp” City Counciil exactly what is?

    Your statement regarding how it was unfair to City Council members that do not serve on Misc. Matters., therefore they could not enter their Executive Sessions to obtain critical information, and how it was a disservice to the other 13 members who were expected to vote on settlements was quite appropriate.

    Did you have any commentary on Alfredo Castillo’s conduct as he was launching attacks at me from his seat and as he walked by me while the meeting was still in progress?

    Do you have any commentary regarding your 139th District colleague who viciously attacked a resident who spoke during public comment who behaved quite appropriately while addressing the City Council? Council President Aidee Nieves should have IMMEDIATELY called her out of order and called for a brief recess to bring about order.

    Would you rather I blindside Aidee Nieves instead of telling her directly that her repeated lies and her failure to honor her word have consequences?

    I told her directly we were going to War AFTER the City Council meeting adjourned.

    I don’t come up from behind. I believe in letting people know where they stand with you up front.

    In closing, you repeatedly attacked me on this blog about psychiatric meds.and getting back on my “meds” as if you would have any knowledge of personal medical conditions.

    I have been nothing but cordial and respectful to you since joining the City Council and will continue to do so until you give me a reason not to.

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    1. Maria
      First of all you done no what i have read.2 contracts has not met yet we meet on the 14th. in our conversation i told you that i had not read them as of yet but you will see as this is your first time on contracts I read everything that comes across my desk. I tried to point out to you attacking people who are your colleagues is not the way to get people to work with you. I am sorry that you feel your way is right. I will let you find out the hard way.Since you have basically told me that you are going to do it your way. Good Luck! P.S Maria i attacked you because we were not Colleagues at the time and you also said many hurtful things about me and my past. I was willing to give you the benefit of doubt as my colleague but i see you are going to do it your way.

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  11. Harvey, Maria said, “Once a politician tells you one thing and does the opposite, you know everything you need to know.” The same can be said for her as she has showed you who she is time and time again yet you seem to expect more from her than she purports to be. She is who she is! I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again for your edification Harvey, Maria is a great meal served on a garbage can top, although it looks good it’s not very appetizing.

    There is one good thing that I can say about Maria, unlike Moses and most of the council members, she will never kiss the ass of Mayor Ganim and Mario because it’s painfully obvious that she doesn’t like the taste or smell of shit. Moses and the rest of them, NOT SO SURE!

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  12. Is Maria “attacking” or just pointing out the obvious? Does anyone believe that ALL elected & appointed “officials” come prepared?– OR, do they not need notes or need to review much because they are told how to vote when certain issues are coming up before the boards. Does anyone believe that ALL members are in their positions because they really want to improve the City? I posted this on the other blog topic yesterday:
    “There are few people in leadership positions whether elected or appointed that are in place to help the public. Be it salaries, benefits, connections for real estate purposes, getting their liquor stores open, it’s all for personal gain.”

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    1. Rich, C’MON MAN, stop playing the devil’s advocate, you have been around the block a few times, is Maria “attacking” or just pointing out the obvious? When Maria is just pointing out the obvious . Rich, Maria just got elected and before she attended her first City Council meeting she was already attacking members with her chart on attendance thereby she is also attacking, yes we all want our elected members to attend all meetings but why is Maria going public with that? Maria is not in a leadership position on the council, leadership requires moving people from point A to point B and Maria doesn’t have that type of respect or ability to move council members from point A to point B. There have been only three council at this point and is showing that she is not a team player. Rich you know if you are the new kid on the block, the new rookie and you have issues and concerns that you feel that need to be address then you speak those in charge to see if there is a way to address those concerns and to come to a consensus but in the mean time those who are in the leadership are not going to jump through hoops for Maria. Respect is earn and not given and Maria has not earn that respect.

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      1. Ron the way I look at it is that EVERYONE knows that Bridgeport city government is dysfunctional and in many ways corrupt. . Why should Maria or anyone else who wants to make a difference wait to point out the things that contribute to that dysfunction? Sure, there may be a more “diplomatic” way to do what Maria does but tell me how long one should wait before pointing out where why and who the “problems” are, especially since one knows that the “problems” have existed and have been obvious for a long time. Some would probably blame Maria for NOT pointing out issues in a timely manner if she waited for a more “appropriate” time to relate concerns that people should be aware of. Yes respect should be earned however we know some of these “politicians” have respect for no one and are there strictly for THEMSELVES or their handlers. Why wait, are they going to change?
        Ron it’s like a getting into the ring. Your opponent is not and probably is never going to be your friend in that venue so you may as well take care of business ASAP or face the consequences.

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        1. Rich, you’re losing your fastball, your post has soooo many contradictions, ” EVERYONE knows that Bridgeport city government is dysfunctional and in many ways corrupt,” then “. Why should Maria or anyone else who wants to make a difference wait to point out the things that contribute to that dysfunction?”

          Rich, what is Maria trying to do all by herself?
          What are effective problem-solving process?

          1. Identify the issues.
          Be clear about what the problem is.
          Remember that different people might have different views of what the issues are.
          Separate the listing of issues from the identification of interests (that’s the next step!).
          2. Understand everyone’s interests.
          This is a critical step that is usually missing.
          Interests are the needs that you want satisfied by any given solution. We often ignore our true interests as we become attached to one particular solution.
          The best solution is the one that satisfies everyone’s interests.
          This is the time for active listening. Put down your differences for awhile and listen to each other with the intention to understand.
          Separate the naming of interests from the listing of solutions.

          Rich, the voters had the biggest chance to really make huge change was the Democrat primary this past Sept 2019, Joe Ganim LOST the vote count at the voting polls by over 300 votes but he won by just 270 votes vote with the absentee votes. Rich, the lost of Joe Ganim means the lost of power for Mario Testa and the money that controls the City Council and the BBOE, Rich, it was right there in front of all Bridgeport voters, no one has EVER beaten Ganim in any primary since 1991, Chris Caruso came the closest when he lost by only 270 votes.

          Rich, you said, “Ron it’s like a getting into the ring. Your opponent is not and probably is never going to be your friend in that venue so you may as well take care of business ASAP or face the consequences,” I said this earlier, “Keep Your Friends Close, But Your Enemies Closer” but Maria has no friends. In trying to make change Maria needs to learn it’s not personal it’s strictly business but with Maria it’s always personal because she doesn’t know how to be a team player. Maria can keep on pointing out things but nothing is going to change, just ask John Marshall Lee, who made every effort to bring information to the City Council.

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          1. Ron, clarification, Caruso lost to Bill Finch by 270 votes in 2007. Caruso never challenged Ganim in a mayoral primary. 2019 was the first time Ganim had a mayoral primary as an incumbent.

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      2. It seems to me that what Maria initially presented to the public at large was a record of attendance that does not necessarily indicate participation, for Council members. The results are from researching public records and are not kept in a separate public space or document. If they were then the information would be obvious, but it has not been until Maria revealed the reality of recent years.

        When someone runs and wins a Council position with 30% or less of the public voting, and generally no opposition in the general election, might it be embarrassing to have neglected attendance in the past? Now is the time to correct past attendance behavior. Periera’s data may be a challenge to some, but it is factual. Nobody has complained that she reported “fake news”.

        Raising City discussions or dialogue from personal attacks, to focus on the substance and reality of the matters at hand is a fresh approach certainly. Let’s look to see whether better behavior follows the call out? Time will tell.

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  13. JML, all politics is local, voters who like their council member have no problem if they miss a some meetings as long as they are staying in contact with them and looking out for what is best for their district. John, a council member could a 100% attendance record does not reflect their service for their district. Let’s understand this about the Bridgeport City Council, their legal advice comes from Hamilton Burger most of the time and the City Attorney’s Office and not their independent decision especially is there’s something that Mayor Ganim and Mario Testa want. I find very interesting that John that you and Maria never talk or address anything about Mario Testa, there’s absolutely no plan or conversation about how get him out of his position of power over the council, boards and commissions.

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  14. *** When a BOE fire-starter finally, after years of pointing the finger of shame gets on the city council, all that can be expected is more smoke & mirrors with the usual finger of shame pointing ; no more, no less. ***

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