Former Councilman Asserts Hennessey’s School Board Party Switch Not Straight Up

Hennessey, Baker, Gardner
Dave Hennessey, left, in 2013 with school board running mates Andre Baker and Howard Gardner. All were elected.

The resignation of Dave Hennessey from the Board of Education has triggered a controversy about the political affiliation of his replacement. Elected as a Democrat in 2013, Hennessey switched his party affiliation in January to Republican. Lawyers advising the BOE say his replacement must be a Republican. Board members are in the process of selecting a replacement. A number of political activists including former City Councilman Joel “Speedy” Gonzalez are taking shots at Hennessey’s party switch. Gonzalez says he’s submitting his resume to the school board as a Democrat even though it will not be considered. Commentary from Gonzalez follows.

The sudden resignation of Bridgeport Board of Education member Dave Hennessey makes me angry. Before the summer of 2013, as a parent of two Bridgeport School District students (girls) with autism and discussing my desire to run for a seat on the Bridgeport Board of Education with my wife, I waited for the red light to change to green upon getting her blessings. I knew that to seek the Bridgeport DTC support would be a waste of time and petitioning my way on to the ballot was a must. I also knew there were going to be some unexpected turns of events and other challengers would rise up to the occasion.

Joel Gonzalez
Joel Gonzalez

Bill Finch picking the DTC slate was a no-brainer. I submitted the petition paperwork after the Bill Finch slate was nominated and the BEA/Working Family slate were selected. The only Hispanic candidate was Rev. Simon Castillo who had made it clear he was a Bill Finch puppet. The challenger slate had one white, Hennessey and two blacks, Howard Gardner and Andre Baker, and none of them spoke Spanish.

I found out Charlie Coviello was managing the petition drive for the challenger slate and I met with him to discuss my concerns and get answers to my questions. The explanation was lame to say the least and I raised the potential consequences in the event of a seven candidate primary. They wanted me to help them, but they didn’t want to help me circulate my petition. I then met Howard Gardner and found him to be a very likable, sincere, and smart man. I advised him to gather signatures in heavy populated sections in order to speed up the process. I suggested the P.T. Barnum Housing facility and we circulated our petitions there together.

My ability to speak Spanish proved worthy. I eventually stopped circulating my petition and just helped Gardner. I took one for the team that failed to even consider anyone of my race (Hispanic). I soon noticed the other candidates on the slate like Dave Hennessey weren’t helping Gardner in P.T. and folks there didn’t know Hennessey. I called Hennessey and he stated his African American goddaughter lived in P.T.  and he gave me her cell number and address for me to find her and tell her to call him. I found her and she didn’t do much for him.

Gardner and I got Hennessey to agree to gather signatures in P.T. The day he was supposed to meet us there, he didn’t show up and after contacting him on the phone he and I met. Dave Hennessey was driving a black older model SUV and he was kind of hesitant to get moving and when I asked if there was a problem, he said he didn’t want to park his vehicle in P.T. for fear it would get broken into. I told him to park his vehicle at the Stop & Shop and we’d drive to P.T. in my vehicle.

Throughout the petitioning process and the 2013 BOE primary, Hennessey proudly bragged about coaching little league baseball for over 25 years and being a retired teacher. He proclaimed he was running “for the children.” He managed to get selected by his peers for BOE President. Last week, out of left field, news breaks of Dave Hennessey walking away from a commitment he made to 22,000 Bridgeport school district students and their parents, countless political activists, Bridgeport Democratic Party members and financial supporters like ME with NO explanation.

This matter to me is totally NOT acceptable. Real teachers, coaches, and especially Bridgeport BOE elected members must NEVER resign in such a selfish and disrespectful fashion. There is no doubt the INTENT of the majority of voters in the 2013 BOE primary and election was and still is: To elect a Democratic Party Majority of six (6) and a Minority Party Representation of three (3). The cowardly departure of Dave Hennessey is definitely not one the “unexpected turns of events” of which I expected early in 2013.

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25 comments

  1. Next thing you’ll learn is the city has decided not only does the replacement have to be a member of the party the resigning member is at the time of the resignation but they must also be of the same gender, religious affiliation, ethnicity and age.
    Then the city will really be able to stuff the ballot box with a candidate of their choosing.

  2. The purpose of the minority party representation is to ensure there is no “super” majority on boards similar to what you see on the City Council.
    That will not be the case with replacing Hennessey. If one of the Democrats on the board switched to a Republican and then resigned, the BOE would not be able to replace his with a Dem.
    We have already seen this be the case with the resignation of John Bagley. So the most consistent way of qualifying replacement candidates would be to base it on the party at time of election.
    We know the results will be rigged; we just don’t know how badly yet.
    Paging Ricky Torres. Step up, dude. Chances are you won’t be selected but make it difficult on the BOE just the same.

    1. That’s a good thing to do, Hector. I will submit other “paperwork” to challenge another ruling from the City Attorney’s Office. If they lose on that one–they will, many pols will be mad as hell. Some will point a finger at me, I will point all my nine fingers on the City Attorney and the person who selected him.

    2. Hector, the thinking of the powers that be is there will be another BOE member stepping down. Baker should have done that a long time ago. I spoke with Dawn Cole and told her I’m a Democrat and she started giving me her legal opinion when I pointed out the position taken when Bagley resigned and she finished by pointing out there was going to be another vacancy. When Baker resigns if that does happens, the race card will come into play and the idea or thinking is to have the Hispanics and blacks fight each other. Where are the district leaders on this? Is Maria Pereira the only district leader with a voice? They need to step up and go on record or forever remain silent.

  3. It is an insult to all good Democrats that Dennis Bradley simply rolled over and played dead so the powers that be can select a Republican to replace Hennessey.
    Bradley has shown no care and no compassion towards the minority community in Bridgeport, towards the school students so they can have truly representative members of the BOE, towards the root problems with the Bridgeport School System.
    Instead he will bend the rules and bend over backwards to please Joe Ganim and Mario Testa so they can get greater control over the BOE budget and funds for hiring patronage positions and rewarding contractors.
    Sham on you, Mr. Bradley.

    1. Bubba, there’s no shame to be had. Dennis is going to lose; another casualty of the Party bosses. Think back to when you and I were fighting the good fight alone, around 2000, 2001, 2002. I don’t have to remind you how that turned out. If memory serves me, you and I stayed right where we were, but some went bye bye. Two years to get rid of Testa, and four to see G2 go off into the sunset, either by choice or not. I would say to you as we spoke nightly, it would take divine intervention to stop what was going on. Maybe it was, let’s hope for it again.

  4. *** WHO WANTS THAT THANKLESS JOB THAT IS ONLY GOING TO MAKE A BOE MEMBER END UP HALF STEPPING IN THE END DUE TO ALL THE POLITICAL B/S AND PARENTS/TEACHERS NONSENSE. ***

    1. Mojo, you and others are the ones who feel the BOE job is a thankless one. Perhaps you don’t have children in the district or have contacts with others who do. Yes, the district has problems and challenges, but that doesn’t mean all or most students, parents, district employees etc. don’t appreciate the effort made by those who volunteer their time such as the BOE members. The following is part of the letter of interest I recently submitted to the BOE: “Many times I’ve heard and read people state that being on the BOE is to serve on a thankless job. I don’t agree with such opinions and on behalf of my daughters, wife, family, and countless parents and students, I thank you all for the effort and time you put in.”

    2. Mojo, I wanted it. I have no political aspirations at all. I only wanted to see if I could help the children, parents and education community. So far, I have met obstruction at every turn. Things have got to change, or we’re up shite’s creek.

      1. *** Good luck to all interested candidates and those already on the BOE board. First rule of order should be having a P/O for about 4 hours during the public speaking part of the BOE meetings. Also to have a Bpt. Public Schools policy & procedures rules book handy for any questions, etc. And a professional Pysch. on call for the board members who may find themselves a bit stressed out, no? *** WHOOP ***

      2. Hello, Ben Walker. I must point out, days ago you posted a comment similar to that of Mojo’s. I served six years on the council and I was considered a troublemaker, bickering baby, obstructionist, and worse. All I and some of my colleagues like Lisa Parziale and Bob Walsh were doing was our job/elected duty. The main thing I expect from you and others is: DO NOT QUIT ON OUR CHILDREN. There are lots of parents who do appreciate and are paying attention to what’s happening on the BOE. It’s the plotting taking place behind the scene by Democrats and Republicans that must be monitored and exposed. I never had political aspirations or was ever a politician. I despise politicians, but I must accept the fact they exist. I believe you and others out there have publictical aspirations. You sound and act like a Publictician. A person who understands you were elected by the voting public and they come first when making decisions. The political party or politics comes second or third. Don’t look up the word Publictician.

        1. Joel, you were never any of the names you mentioned while serving on the Council. I wish I realized then how intelligent and knowledgeable you are, but you know I had my hands full keeping the devils from us.

  5. I have an attorney ready in the wings. I want to move forward with an injunction but will have to see what my colleagues want to do. I requested the legal opinion that stated the vacancy must be filled with a Republican.

    I LOL when I received it. It was an email Chris Meyer sent to Linda Lambeck from the CT Post stating his interpretation of the City Charter. He did not reference a single legal precedent in the email.

    I have always liked and respected Chris Meyer, but in that moment I lost all respect for him. He just sounded like another political hack.

    The advertisement for the vacancy ran in the CT Post yesterday and your letter of interest had to be submitted by noon today in order to be concerned. We are not interviewing candidates ’til next Monday so why such a tight timeline? It is so there are as few potential candidates to consider as possible.

    There is no doubt in my mind Danny ROACH has his white Republican for Black Rock all ready to go, and has known since December who the proposed replacement would be. Let’s see if I am right.

    I would encourage everyone to attend the Special Meeting being held at 5:00 p.m. at Geraldine Johnson on Monday, June 13, 2016 where we will be interviewing the prospective candidates.

    1. So will I. It really hurts me to see men I’ve known, admired and respected go the way of those in the past administrations. Please Chris Meyers, your family and reputation are above reproach, get out as soon as you can. And Danny, a man I have known since he was in his early 20s, always fair with a loving disposition. Please Danny, you don’t need the money, and I’ve never ever known you to chase power. Do what you have to do and get out and back to being whom you were. I feel as if I’ve lost someone very important to me, go back to your real life. You know as well as I, Mayors come and go, but friendships are a gift.

  6. This is worse than it was with Mark Anastasi. An email from the City Attorney to a reporter is accepted as a written legal opinion.
    And the Superintendent, who has a vested interest in who is selected as the replacement, acts on this informal advice.
    What a crying f’n shame.

  7. I assure you, Fran Rabinowitz worked behind the scenes to have the four university presidents who have NEVER attended a BOE meeting in my seven years of involvement submit that ridiculous op-ed to the CT Post.

    At an administrator meeting weeks ago she stated she was sure they were aware of the issues with the BOE and she “was working quietly behind the scenes to address it.” She then claimed the CT Association of Boards of Education pressed the Commissioner of Ed. to call a meeting with Fran Rabinowitz.

    We pay CABE a $22,000 annual membership fee to assist the Board but apparently they are assisting her.

    She stated in the CT Mirror she met with the Commissioner of Ed. to request we be provided training by the state which is the first step in a takeover. She then discussed a Special Master be appointed which makes the local board basically powerless. They did it in Hartford and New London and parents and staff wanted him ousted.

    I feel pretty confident a takeover is a brewing. I filed an FOI request with the CSDE for all communication regarding the Bridgeport Board of Education and/or any individual board member.

    Fran Rabinowitz is 100% involved in this vacancy and the chosen Republican whom they are going to try to push through.

    Here we go! Fran Rabinowitz does not live in Bridgeport, pay taxes here, have children or grandchildren in Bridgeport yet she goes to the State to request her SUPERVISORS receive training.

    1. I’m getting the impression Fran Rabinowitz is the real cause of all the turmoil with the BOE. Why isn’t she administrating instead of involving herself in schemes to undercut and cast aspersions on the members of the BOE? They have a difficult job that includes so much of their time and effort to improve the quality of the children of Bridgeport. Of course there will be differences of opinion, that’s inherent in any Board or Commission, or should be. I don’t know her, never met her, but all I’m reading and hearing can’t be wrong. I believe the problem is Mrs. Rabinowitz, and it’s time for her to move on, and she will be a wealthy lady when she does; all at the expense of Bridgeport.

  8. Lisa, Fran Rabinowitz is receiving 100% of her pension, $190,000 per year as the Interim-Superintendent, she receives a vehicle for which we pay for the insurance, maintenance, gas, etc., we are making payments into the annuity of her choice, we reimburse her cell-phone expenses, and provide her with a laptop.

    She has violated so many CT state statutes, BOE policies and the FOIA so many times it is too extensive to list here.

    There are definitely those who would benefit from “training” with her and Dennis Bradley at the top of the list.

    We had a meeting last night and we were speaking about how it was impossible for our school district with over 21,000 students to only have 50 Bullying incidents in 2014/2015. When we moved onto this school year an asst. superintendent admitted as of yesterday that the BPS has not substantiated one incident of Bullying in this school year with over 21,000 students and over 5,000 in our high schools alone.

    ZERO. NOT ONE. If this doesn’t reflect complete incompetence I don’t know what does.

  9. *** The past blogs concerning the BOE, etc. and its polices, do’s & don’ts and all the rest of the political speeches, is just a small part of the bigger problem with the Bpt BOE and all the B/S that has plagued it for years! *** JUST STOP AND REALLY LOOK AT WHERE THEY’VE BEEN, WHERE THEY ARE TODAY AND WHAT’S IN STORE FOR THE FUTURE OF THE BPT PUBLIC SCHOOLS SYSTEM AND THEIR BOE! *** NO DREAMING, JUST COLD HARD FACTS PLEASE. ***

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