If Board of Education member Maria Pereira chooses her own legal counsel to defend complaints filed against her with the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities she must pay for those services out of her own pocket, according to City Attorney R. Christopher Meyer who notified her that the city has retained the Hartford-based labor law firm FordHarrison to represent her interests in the age and racial discrimination allegations. Pereira is crying foul.
In a letter to Pereira, Meyer asserts that state law provides her indemnification against damage suits but does “NOT entitle you to select the attorney who will provide you with a legal defense at the expense of the City of Bridgeport Board of Education.”
Outgoing acting Superintendent of Schools Fran Rabinowitz filed a complaint with the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities alleging discrimination based on race. Rabinowitz, 67, also claims age discrimination. Rabinowitz is white. So is Pereira who asserts the complaints were orchestrated by Rabinowitz who announced her resignation Oct. 5 declaring Pereira “created anarchy in the name of democracy.” Francine Carbone, principal of High Horizon Magnet School, also asserts she was “harassed” by Pereira. For background see here.
“Providing you with legal representation by FordHarrison LLP fulfills the Board’s statutory obligations,” writes Meyer. “Be advised that should you reject the legal representation provided pursuant to Conn Gen. Stat 10-235, the Board will not directly pay for, nor reimburse you for, alternative or private legal counsel. In addition to FordHarrison LLP, you are free to retain private legal counsel of your own choosing to represent your personal interests at your own expense.”
Pereira has demanded legal counsel of her choosing because she has litigation matters pending against three board members in which she’s challenging Mayor Joe Ganim’s authority to fill vacancies if the school board does not act within 30 days. Pereira challenged the city’s legal interpretation in court. Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis sided with the city. Pereira has appealed. Pereira wants Kevin Smith who represents her in that legal case to fend off the CHRO allegations.
In an email response to Meyer and Board of Education Chair Joe Larcheveque, Pereira declares:
This is not acceptable to me.
I have already spoken with my attorney regarding you and Dennis being listed as witnesses for Fran Rabinowitz, yet you did not disclose that on Tuesday. You chaired the portion of the meeting where I tried to add the CHRO complaints and voted against doing so although you are a witness for Fran Rabinowitz which is a very real conflict and unethical.
You allowed three board members I have pending litigation against to vote against adding these CHRO complaints to the agenda which was also unethical.
Please provide me with a copy of the retainer with FordHarrison LLP.
I am also requesting a list of every case FordHarrison LLP has represented the City of Bridgeport and the Board of Education on. I also want Shipman & Goodwin to disclose its relationship with FordHarrison LLP.
I also want copies of all communication with any Board of Education staff, Board of Education members, Shipman & Goodwin, Mayor Ganim’s administration, Fran Rabinowitz, and FordHarrison LLP regarding all the CHRO complaints listed in the memorandum and my representation in any of these matters.
I am going to write a formal letter to the head of the CHRO regarding your conduct, Bradley’s conduct, the City Attorney’s conduct and Thomas Mooney’s conduct.
I want a complete hold on these complaints until the matter of the legal representation I am entitled to is addressed.
Generally, ones enemies don’t get to choose your legal counsel.
This is war.