Retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez writes in a commentary that State Senator Marilyn Moore’s support of a bill to remove elected school board members “is a “Bad Idea” which will enable a tyranny of a super majority, and, will strengthen the hand of the political machine Senator Moore opposes and seeks to topple.”
Philosopher George Santayana famously said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Mr. Santayana, meet State Senator Marilyn Moore.
Not so long ago, (2009), Mayor Bill Finch and his employee and rubber stamp City Council President, Tom McCarthy, sought to remove an elected member of the City Council.
That member was Bob Walsh.
They sought removal, because of a private message left by Walsh for another member of the Council.
The message had racial overtones.
A group met in my dining room to devise a strategy designed to counter what was a blatantly illegal attempt to remove a legally elected official from office. Senator Marilyn Moore was present at the meeting as a show of support for her long-time ally, Bob Walsh. I presented a body of research, and a letter was sent out, describing the reasons that any ouster from the Council was illegal.
That battle was won; Finch and McCarthy backed down when the legal basis of their removal efforts crumbled.
I couldn’t help but remember that 2009 meeting as I read the press release that Lennie Grimaldi published in today’s Only in Bridgeport post. The release announced Senator Moore’s support for SB 393, “An Act Establishing a Process for the Removal of a Member of a Board of Education.”
It is incredible that the Education Committee of the Connecticut General Assembly would propose legislation that would grant to members of a Board of Education the power to remove a duly elected colleague. It is astonishing that Senator Moore supports and endorses this bill.
This is a “Bad Idea” which will enable a tyranny of a super majority, and, will strengthen the hand of the political machine Senator Moore opposes and seeks to topple.
It was a bad idea in 2009, and it is a bad idea in 2020.
While the bill only covers elected members of a Board of Education, it is a small step on the slippery slope of removing elected officials from a municipal legislative body, land use boards, boards of finance or even the General Assembly.
It is a tool that will be used to chill dissent, whip recalcitrant members into line and get rid of “troublemakers,” a/k/a “independent thinkers.”
While the use of this tool to remove Jessica Martinez from her elected position may be appealing to Senator Moore and others, this may not be the case if it is used to remove an elected official who happens to be an ally or supporter.
Whether we like it or not, we are still living in a democracy.
The respected theologian and public intellectual, Reinhold Niebuhr, said it best when he said, “Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.”
The plain language of SB 393 allows for the removal of an elected member of a board of education “that has been convicted of a crime or is guilty of misconduct or willful and material neglect of duty in the conduct of such board member’s office.”
Furthermore, the bill gives discretion to the members of the Board of Education to “make such investigation of the charges as such board deems proper, and shall, if such board is of the opinion, … prepare a citation in the name of the state, commanding such board member to appear before such board, … and show cause, if any, why such board member should not be removed from office.”
Given the sad reality of human nature, does anyone really believe that a Board of Education, such as we have here in Bridgeport, would exercise impartial judgment as they ‘make such investigation’ of a colleague they wish to remove from office?
According to the language of the bill, members of a Board of Education, would act as decision makers, or judges, in a ‘proceeding’ held to present evidence to determine if the accused board member should be removed.
How will these judges weigh the evidence presented; in other words, how much evidence will be needed to remove the accused? How will they manage their conflict of interests and personal vendettas as they render their ruling?
Can anyone believe that elected, partisan members of a Board of Education would approach such a proceeding with a posture of general and community interest, rather than with a specific self-interest designed to promote the goals of their particular group?
We all know the answers to these questions, don’t we?
This issue is not about Jessica Martinez, just like the City Council’s 2009 attempt to remove Bob Walsh was not about Bob Walsh. It is about a serious attack on the rule of law and our democracy.
The proponents of this legislation, and supporters such as Senator Moore, would be wise to remember that a remedy exists for the removal of elected officials found guilty of such conduct.
It is called an Election!
Let us stand up for our democracy, while we still have it. Legislation like this proposed bill threatens our democratic way of life. Thank heavens that our democracy still grants each of us the right to vote.
We must use that right to vote, or risk losing it!