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Court Battle For School Board Control Resumes Monday

October 19th, 2016 · 16 Comments · Education, News and Events

Judge Barbara Bellis

Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis. CT Post file photo.

Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis who has issued several key decisions impacting city government and politics in recent years has set a hearing for Monday afternoon to consider school board member Maria Pereira’s complaint challenging Mayor Joe Ganim’s authority to fill two recent Board of Education vacancies.

Bellis has already told the parties she has researched the issue and expects to move quickly on a decision. The genesis of Pereira’s complaint is Ganim’s assertion state statute provides him authority to fill school board vacancies if Board of Education members don’t act within 30 days of the resignation. Pereira contends Ganim’s position is faulty arguing only the school board per the Bridgeport City Charter is authorized to fill vacancies with no specific time frame.

Ganim appointed Annette Segarra-Negron and Raphael Fonseca to fill the vacancies of Dave Hennessey and Andre Baker respectively. In addition to the mayor and state of Connecticut, Segarra-Negron and Fonseca are named defendants.

Another issue of the complaint centers on the rightful political party to serve as a replacement. The City Charter declares the vacancy must be filled from the same political party. But it begs the question, the party on whose line the candidate was elected or the one from which the school board member resigned? Hennessey was elected as a Democrat in 2013, but resigned as a registered Republican.

Retired Superior Court Judge Bruce Levin, an employee of the City’s Attorney’s Office, is representing city government. Mayor Ganim’s brother Paul Ganim, who also is judge of probate in Bridgeport, has entered an appearance on behalf of Segarra-Negron.

Bellis’ decision could resolve the balance of power among a deeply divided school board in which Chair Dennis Bradley has boycotted meetings demanding the resignation of Pereira who’s not budging an inch.

As Bellis nears her decision, another vacancy on the school board exists with the recent resignation of Republican Kevin McSpirit.

In the past year Bellis has ruled against the city’s authority to throw out the pay raises of the Bridgeport City Supervisors Association implemented in the final days of Bill Finch’s mayoralty. She also ordered State Senator Ed Gomes’ name placed on the August primary ballot against Democratic-endorsed Bradley following a paperwork snafu in which the Connecticut Secretary of State’s Office disqualified Gomes’ candidacy.

Bellis issued harsh words in her decision asserting Gomes was railroaded by party operatives. Gomes won the primary.

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16 Comments so far ↓

  • Lisa Parziale

    Only the Judge knows how she’s going to rule, but hopefully in the future our City Attorney’s office will abide by the intent of the City Charter and stop trying to placate the powers that be. It’s bad opinions by this office that keep us in court, not to mention in the end the Mayor takes the heat. (I know, the Mayor’s the one who encourages these bad decisions.)

    • Frank Gyure

      Lisa Parziale, most respectfully, I think Ganim is playing much more of a pro-active role and he is doing these things fully aware of what he is doing. And if he is not aware, just as bad, if not worse. Ganim has his fingerprints on all decisions of his administration PLUS he needs to take FULL responsibility of his administration.

      • Lisa Parziale

        I agree, Frank!

        • Maria Pereira

          Here we go again. Fran Rabinowitz’ administrative assistant emailed Ben Walker a notice canceling the Regular BOE Meeting for Monday, October 24th requesting his signature so that it can be filed with the City Clerk.

          I NEVER want to hear Rabinowitz, Bradley or Larcheveque ever express concern for our over 21,000 BPS children, their families or our staff again.

          No one who cares about our true public school children, community, and Bridgeport would ever behave like this. No one.

          Ben will not sign it as Secretary of the BOE. I bet Dennis Bradley will.

  • Donald Day

    Lisa, the sad part is the City attorneys work at the pleasure of the Mayor and when he says get it done it is they who would rather circumvent the law than tell their boss it can’t be done legally.

    • Lisa Parziale

      I know Donald, I’ve seen it over the years. But wouldn’t you think at least one of them would say no, this is not a good idea, and we’re going to lose?

      • Maria Pereira

        Lisa, Ganim, Chris Meyer and Mark Anastasi believe they can do these things because no one will challenge them in court. At this point everyone should know when it comes to interfering with the BBOE, there are those of us who will not stand for it.

        Ganim is no different than Finch when it comes to his arrogance around the BOE. Finch’s constant interference with the BBOE was a significant contributor to his demise.

  • Joseph Sokolovic

    The way I see it there’s a few ways this could play out.

    One: the judge decides the mayor has no right to appoint and both appointees are out.

    Two: the judge decides the mayor has the right to appoint, but his first appointee should have been a Democrat and Negron is out but the second appointee Fonesca stays.

    Three: the judge decides the mayor has the right to appoint and the first appointee is okay to be a Republican, both stay.

    Regardless of what the judge decides, this board needs to unify whatever the composition of the new board comes to be in the next few weeks.

  • Maria Pereira

    Lennie, Dave Hennessey was elected in 2013.

    The hearing is scheduled for Monday, October 24th at 2:00pm on the sixth floor. I hope to see some familiar faces there. This also happens to be the same date of our next regular meeting scheduled for 6:30pm.

  • Bob Walsh

    I hope Maria wins on both arguments and more importantly I hope the judge awards her damages; both monetary for her attorneys and punitive to discourage this continued behavior by the city.

    • Ron Mackey

      Bob, I’m in total agreement with your statement, “judge awards her damages; both monetary for her attorneys and punitive to discourage this continued behavior by the city.”

  • Bob Walsh

    The city has a retired judge working in the City Attorney’s office? Talk about political overkill.

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