Update: Board of Education member Maria Pereira had raised questions in the comments section about back taxes on a Jane Street property owned by Annette Negron. Negron told OIB on Wednesday that she had paid off the back taxes that had been sold to a tax lien company prior to her joining the school board. She added that she had apprised the mayor of the situation and promised to resolve the issue prior to her swearing in. She also said she would forward the paperwork as proof that the tax issue was resolved.
Original story: Mayor Joe Ganim on Saturday tapped Republican Annette Negron to fill the Board of Education vacancy of Dave Hennessey, elected as a Democrat, who had switched his affiliation to the GOP. On Monday Ganim issued the following letter to City Clerk Lydia Martinez:
“This is to certify and confirm that on Saturday, July 23, 2016 in my capacity as Chief Elected Official for the City of Bridgeport, I administered the Oath of Office (copy attached) to Annette Negron who I appointed that same date to the position of Member of the Board of Education of the City of Bridgeport pursuant to authority vested in me by Conn. Gen. Stat. 7-107, effective immediately.”
The statute reads as follows:
Sec. 7-107. Vacancy appointments by selectmen. Except as otherwise provided by law, if any vacancy occurs on any town board or commission, and such board or commission has power by law to fill such vacancy but fails to do so within thirty days after it occurs, the board of selectmen or chief executive authority of such town may appoint a qualified person to fill such vacancy until the next municipal election.
“Except as otherwise provided by law” could be key language if this appointment is challenged in court.
Phil Smith, a student of the Bridgeport City Charter, wrote the following in a recent OIB commentary:
With the constantly quarreling Board of Education unable to make a selection, Mayor Ganim appears to be prepared to attempt to circumvent the City Charter, which requires the Board to fill the vacancy, and make the appointment himself. Despite administration officials’ claims to the contrary there is no legal basis for the Mayor’s action. It is a power grab, pure and simple.
The Mayor’s contention that he has the authority to fill the vacancy is apparently based on Section 7-107 of the General Statutes, which provides that:
“Except as otherwise provided by law, if any vacancy occurs on any town board or commission, and such board or commission has power by law to fill such vacancy but fails to do so within thirty days after it occurs, the board of selectmen or chief executive authority of such town may appoint a qualified person to fill such vacancy until the next municipal election.”
The most important words in that section may be the first six “except as otherwise provided by law.” That’s because another provision of the General Statutes governs the filling of vacancies on Boards of Education. Section 10-219 provides that:
“If a vacancy occurs in the office of any member of the local board of education, unless otherwise provided by charter or special act, such vacancy shall be filled by the remaining members of said board until the next regular town election, at which election a successor shall be elected for the unexpired portion of the term, the official ballot specifying the vacancy to be filled.”
Two aspects of this statute deserve special note. First, there is no deadline for the Board of Education to act on a replacement. Second, neither the Mayor nor any other official has any role in the process of filling the vacancy. It is also noteworthy that this statute defers to local Charter provisions concerning Board of Education vacancies. Chapter 15, Section 1(d) of the Bridgeport City Charter provides that:
“If a vacancy arises for any reason in the membership of the Board of Education, the remaining members shall elect a new member to serve for the balance of the term vacated. The person so elected shall be a resident and elector and a member of the same political party as the member vacating such office.”
It is true that neither the statute nor the Charter specifies a deadline for filling the vacancy or dealing with the Board’s failure to act. The answer to that claim is simple. If the legislature or the framers of the Charter felt that there was a need to establish a deadline, or involve the Mayor in the appointive process, they could–-and would–-have done so. They didn’t.
These statutory provisions do not exist in a vacuum. Connecticut’s Home Rule Act, which provides for the adoption of local Charters such as Bridgeport’s, authorizes municipalities to determine their local officers, boards and commissions and to determine how they will be selected.
That’s the other problem with the Mayor’s claim that he is authorized to fill the vacancy. Connecticut courts have repeatedly held that when it comes to matters of primarily local concern, such as how local officials are selected, Charter provisions prevail over contrary general statutes.
To contend, as the Mayor does, that a broad catchall statute, which primarily applies to towns without charters, trumps a Charter provision which specifically and completely address vacancies on the Board of Education defies logic. The Mayor’s planned actions usurp the legal authority of Board of Education and, not for the first time, attempt to circumvent the law to achieve a political goal.
Our Board of Education hasn’t been able to agree about much lately. This should be an issue that every member of the Board can agree about. The Board should oppose the Mayor’s efforts to inject himself into the appointment process and take steps–-including going to court if necessary-–in order to prevent him from doing so.
State of Connecticut, Department of Education/Bullard Havens CTHS, Present-11/1997
Associate Fiscal Administrative Officer (Business Manager): I began in 1997 as a Clerk Typist and worked my way up to AFAO. My job duties consist of all fiscal and personnel functions in the school. Examples of these functions are: budgets for all funds used in the school, pay invoices, commit funds, purchasing of all school items, payroll, attendance, petty cash reports, sales and usage tax reports, and inventory. I supervise and oversee three Departments which consist of 19 to 20 employees within those Departments.
Instructor (2/1993-11/1997): I taught Adult Bilingual students part time in the evening Basic Business Skills. In this program I taught Adults Basic Accounting, Microsoft Office, filing basic tax returns, filing, and business ethics.
Hall Neighborhood House, 11/1989-11/1997
Junior Accountant: Responsible for all accounting functions for seven State of CT funded non-profit programs. Monthly accounts payable and receivables were done for each program. I prepared monthly, quarterly, and yearly fiscal reports. These reports were reviewed by internal and external auditors. The external auditors were from the City of Bridgeport, State of Connecticut, and the Federal Government. These were the three funders for the Agency. Additional duties included being the Comptroller’s secretary.
Sacred Heart University – Fairfield, CT
l Graduate MBA Program, Present
l Graduate Certificate in Leadership, October, 2014
l Bachelor of Science Business/Finance, May, 2001
Connecticut Department of Education- Hartford, CT
Provisional Educator, School Business Administrator (085), October, 2005