UPDATE: Hearing continued until Segarra-Negron can be made a party to the action.
UPDATE: Court complaint here.
Board of Education member Maria Pereira on Monday (September 12) filed a lawsuit against Mayor Joe Ganim asserting his recent school board appointment of Republican Annette Segarra-Negron to fill out the term of Dave Hennessey violates Connecticut law and the Bridgeport City Charter. Hennessey, elected as a Democrat in 2013, became a Republican prior to his resignation this year. The city and state of Connecticut are also named defendants.
In the lawsuit filed in Bridgeport Superior Court, Pereira claims that Ganim’s appointee must be “removed immediately.”
The complaint centers on whether a registered Democrat or Republican should fill the vacancy, and whether Ganim could appoint a replacement if the BOE did not. The court complaint could be key in settling the balance of power on the school board mired in bickering over a series of issues.
City Attorney R. Christopher Meyer stated in a legal opinion, citing state law, that Ganim had the legal right to appoint a replacement if it was not filled by the school board within 30 days. Pereira maintains Ganim has overstepped his authority.
Pereira, Democratic leader of the 138th District, is asking the court to grant an injunction against Ganim, preventing him from appointing another new board member. The latest vacancy is the result of State Rep. Andre Baker who stepped down on August 15. The school board is expected to consider his replacement in a meeting Monday night at Geraldine Johnson School.
Pereira claims Ganim has “absolutely no authority to appoint a BOE member to fill a vacancy. That responsibility rests with the remaining board members. Although the City Attorney claims there is a 30-day window to fill a BOE vacancy, no such time frame is referenced in either Connecticut State Statues, or the City Charter.”
Attorney Kevin Smith, with the law firm of Pattis & Smith, is representing Pereira.
“The laws and history of our state place the pupil above politics in every instance,” says Smith. “Bridgeport’s prominent place in that history provides a clear lesson to even the most casual observer: those misguided actors who would seek to subvert that constitutionally protected, student-first paradigm does so not only at their own political peril, but at the peril of the Bridgeport students and parents who have consistently proven that they will protect their children by any means necessary. In light of the Mayor’s power grab and bastardization of Connecticut law, this action is a necessary means to an inevitable, constitutionally-mandated end: the restoration of local, democratic rule for Bridgeport schools, in spite of any one person or private interest group that would undermine the pupils in favor of political gains. Given how recently his predecessors have stumbled down similar paths without success, Mayor Ganim appears to be no student of History; given the import of the lessons he so blithely ignores, Ganim seems poised to be a repeat student at the City’s expense.”