Declaring “since when do one’s political enemies get to select one’s legal representation,” Board of Education member Maria Pereira has asked the executive director of the State Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities to postpone procedural complaints alleging age and race discrimination against her until “the matter of my legal representation is resolved.”
All four complainants are white females. Pereira is a white female. Pereira asserts the complaints were orchestrated by former Interim Superintendent of Schools Fran Rabinowitz who announced her resignation in October declaring Pereira “created anarchy in the name of democracy.”
Rabinowitz’ witness list includes Board of Education Chair Joe Larcheveque and former chair Dennis Bradley. Pereira describes this as an “outrageous” conflict of interest. Pereira says Larcheveque announced publicly at a Dec. 20th board meeting he had no knowledge of the complaints being filed.
Pereira maintains the complaints, three of which also allege age discrimination, were crafted by Rabinowitz loyalists including Francine Carbone, principal of High Horizon Magnet School who asserts she was “harassed” by Pereira based on race and publicly “slandered” at school board meetings.
City Attorney R. Christopher Meyer notified Pereira if she chooses her own legal counsel to defend complaints she must pay for those services out of her own pocket. The city has retained the Hartford-based labor law firm FordHarrison to represent her interests. Citing state law, Pereira wants to be indemnified from legal expenses represented by her personal attorney.
Two weeks ago Pereira issued the following letter to Tanya Hughes, executive director of the State Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, describing the complaints as “highly political in nature.”
I am an elected member of the Bridgeport Board of Education and the Democratic District Leader of the 138th District. These complaints filed against me by the former interim superintendent of schools Fran Rabinowitz and a principal she promoted, by the name of Frances Carbone are highly political in nature.
I received the initial complaint filed by a Delores Mason (#1720118) and Lisa Pavlik-Khun (#1720117) when it was emailed to me by an attorney from the firm of Berchem & Moses that was retained by the City Attorney to defend the complaint. The Board of Education was the named defendant, however the complaint referenced I and two Bridgeport Public School parents. Then on December 23rd>, Deputy Assistant City Attorney emailed me a memorandum notifying me that I was not a defendant, therefore I have no jurisdiction in objecting to Berchem & Moses defending the Board of Education on this matter. Both of these complaints were notarized by former interim-superintendent Rabinowitz’ hand-picked administrative assistant Dawn Cole, in mid-September, however, the Bridgeport CHRO office did not mail them to the BBOE until early October.
Principal Frances Carbone had her complaint (#1720196) notarized by Rabinowitz’ hand-picked administrative assistant in mid-September as well. It was stamped as received by the CHRO on September 27, 2016, however it was not mailed until November 17, 2016, and I did not receive it until November 29, 2016. The cover letter stated the CHRO had emailed the complaint to “email@example.com”; however I have no such email and never have.
Former Interim-Superintendent Frances Rabinowitz also had a complaint (#1720196) notarized by her hand-picked administrative assistant Dawn Cole on September 19th. The CHRO stamped this complaint as received on September 21, 2016, however I did not receive it until December 14th. Although this complaint was notarized on September 19th, there were whiteouts where references to December 2016 were referenced, however the revisions were not notarized, therefore I question the legality of this complaint.
I first emailed the Bridgeport Board of Education Chair Dennis Bradley regarding these CHRO complaints on November 30, 2016. Dennis Bradley is closely aligned with Mayor Ganim and Frances Rabinowitz. As per CT Statute 10-235; all Board of Education members are indemnified against any legal expenses incurred as a result of litigation in their capacity as a BOE member. I made it clear that both the board’s law firm of Shipman & Goodwin and the City Attorney had significant conflicts of interest, therefore I did not want them to represent me in these matters and wanted my personal attorney to represent me. Shipman & Goodwin represented Interim-Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz in her contract negotiations when the BBOE hired her, and I have a pending lawsuit against Mayor Ganim who the City Attorney is representing in this matter. I consider both Shipman & Goodwin and the City Attorney to be political enemies of mine; therefore they should have no say in my legal representation.
Dennis Bradley responded on December 1st by stating the matter had been referred to the City Attorney and Shipman & Goodwin in direct conflict of my concerns regarding their very real conflicts of interest. I emailed Mr. Bradley again on December 7th and December 9th regarding my legally mandated representation and that these delays were placing my representation at risk. I received no response to these emails.
On December 8th, the Board of Education held its Annual Organizational Meeting in which Dennis Bradley was removed as an officer and Joe Larcheveque was elected as Chair. On December 19th I emailed Chair Larcheveque regarding these CHRO complaints and my legal right to representation funded by the Bridgeport Board of Education. He did not respond and later claimed he never received my email. He then later emailed me that he found the email in his spam folder. On December 20th, I attempted to add a discussion of this matter to the Regular Meeting agenda which required a two-thirds vote. Chair Larcheveque claimed he had no knowledge of these CHRO complaints and voted against adding this item to the agenda. In addition, he allowed three BOE members that I am trying to have removed based on the pending lawsuit against Mayor Ganim who appointed these members; to vote on whether to add this item to the agenda. Needless to say all three voted against adding this item to the agenda. Dennis Bradley also voted against adding it to the agenda.
Just days later I obtained a copy of Interim-Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz’ witness list, which is attached, in which both Attorney Dennis Bradley and Chair Joe Larcheveque are listed as witnesses on her behalf which is clearly a very real conflict, therefore they should have abstained from not only voting on the matter but any and all discussion as well. They never disclosed this during our public discussion.
On December 15th I contacted and spoke with Deputy Director Cheryl Sharp who was listed as the point of contact on the complaints. We spoke at length and she requested I send her an email regarding my concerns and a request for a delay. Our discussion included that Ms. Rabinowitz’ complaint was notarized on September 19th, however there were whiteouts referencing dates in December, but the complaint was not re-notarized, therefore I was challenging the legality of the complaints. I also questioned how complaints filed with the CHRO in September were mailed to me in late November and December. I sent the first email on December 19th. I received no response; therefore I sent another email on January 2nd. I followed up with a phone message in early January, and I left another today. As of today, I have not received a phone call, letter, email, etc. regarding these matters, concerns and requests.
On Friday, December 23rd after 4:30 PM; I received an email from Assistant City Attorney Mark Anastasi notifying me that the City Attorney and Shipman & Goodwin had retained a law firm in Hartford to represent me on these matters which is simply outrageous. Since when do one’s political enemies get to select one’s legal representation? Is this firm loyal to those who selected them or me? I want to be absolutely clear that I do not want this firm to represent me and only have faith in an attorney of my choice that has no ties to Shipman & Goodwin, the City of Bridgeport, or the Bridgeport Board of Education. Twenty-three days lapsed before I received a response to my request for legal representation and it was sent over the Christmas weekend and the public schools holiday break.
The CT State Statute which requires I be indemnified from any expenses associated with litigation against me in my capacity as a BOE member repeatedly references the requirements of the local school board. Neither the City Attorney nor Shipman & Goodwin have any authority to interfere with my legal representation.
This matter is scheduled for discussion at our next Regular BOE Meeting on Monday, January 23, 2017 [editor’s note, meeting was cancelled due to weather]; therefore I am requesting these CHRO complaints be postponed until the matter of my legal representation is resolved.
I am requesting a formal response regarding the delay in receiving these CHRO complaints, the legitimacy of Fran Rabinowitz’s complaint which was altered after it was notarized, and a postponement until the matter of competent, non-conflicted, and ethical legal representation is resolved.