Carmen Lopez: ‘Similar To A Playground And A Laboratory, Bridgeport Has Been Used By Outsiders’

As a whole bunch of lawyers including Norm Pattis and Michele Mount for the multiple plaintiffs and John Bohannon and Steven Ecker for the defense prepare arguments before the Connecticut Supreme Court on Thursday about state control of city schools, former Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez filed this commentary jewel with the CT Post:

The front-page article in Wednesday’s Connecticut Post comprehensively addressed the legal issues surrounding the state takeover of the Bridgeport Board of Education.

The residents of Bridgeport have been appropriately advised of the significance of Thursday’s hearing before the Supreme Court.

Like other Bridgeport residents who are still trying to comprehend how it was possible for so many out-of-towners, including Meghan Lowney of Fairfield, an employee of Steve Mandel, the Greenwich hedge fund billionaire, to secretly act in concert with members of the governor’s office, the mayor’s office and the state Board of Education to overthrow a democratically elected local board of education, I am looking forward to hearing the legal arguments.

In order to be prepared to follow the arguments of the lawyers and the questions of the justices, I have taken some time to read the briefs of the parties, as well as the brief of the non-parties.

A few days ago, non-parties to the action received permission from the Supreme Court to file a brief as “friends of the court,” or “amicus curiae.” These non-parties are the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, led by Trumbull’s Paul Timpanelli, the Bridgeport Public Education Fund and an education reform group, Excel Bridgeport.

These “friends of the court” are represented by Pullman and Comley, the firm in which Bridgeport’s bond counsel, John Stafstrom, is a partner.

Both the plaintiffs’ brief and that filed by the attorney general on behalf of the state Board of Education have framed the legal issues the court must decide.

The reconstituted board, led by Robert Trefry, an Easton resident, has also filed a brief. It will be remembered that one of the first official acts of this newly appointed board was to hire an attorney with public funds to contest claims brought against them as individuals. The claims brought against them challenge their right to hold their offices (quo warranto), and have nothing to do with their duties, responsibilities or performance as members of the reconstituted board of education.

The observations which follow are not necessarily made as a person who has received legal training, but rather as the daughter of parents who arrived in Bridgeport, from Puerto Rico, more than 50 years ago, in search of the American dream. Although my dad did not work in the corporate offices of GE, but rather in the factory, he cared about Bridgeport.

Unlike the plaintiffs and the attorney general, the brief filed by the reconstituted board largely eschewed legal arguments or case law analysis. Instead, the brief involves statistical compilations, spiced with polemics. The brief of the “friends of the court” echoes the sentiments of the unelected board.

Indeed, the brief is in support of the unelected board.

Both briefs boil down to one simple belief: We the distinguished corporate executives, business leaders and suburban activists are here to save you, because you, the residents and taxpayers of the city of Bridgeport, cannot govern yourselves and are in need of saving.

Without shame, they brandish their resumes for the court to appreciate, describing themselves as “present and former executives of Bridgeport area companies and an education scholar.” Although the appointed board also counts as members a Latino parent activist, who was included as an afterthought by the interim commissioner of education; a member of the African American clergy, who also happens to be the campaign treasurer of the mayor; and an African American female involved with charter schools, the imbalance in the power structure of this board leaves no doubt as to who is running that show.

The picture that emerges from their brief is an elitist mind-set of privilege and power that seeks to turn back the clock to the “bad old days” that Americans should have long ago consigned to the proverbial trash heap of history.

Their briefs seem to envision an America where “the good people” do good for the “less fortunate,” but don’t permit them to share equally in the governing process.

The state Board of Education drew a line synonymous with the municipal borders of the city of Bridgeport. Those outside the line, to the east in Stratford, to the north in Easton and Trumbull and to the west in Fairfield, will all vote for their members of their local boards of education on Nov. 8.

Those inside the line, two thirds of whom are African American or Hispanic, and many of whom constitute the working poor, will be denied that right of self-government, which their suburban neighbors will freely exercise. The area inside the line, the city of Bridgeport, is a designated area for those residing safely outside of it to play, experiment and dispense charity.

Similar to a playground and a laboratory, Bridgeport has been used by outsiders for many reasons. They reap financial rewards for practicing kindness to others who may be a little less fortunate.

If these actions would not be tolerated in Meghan Lowney’s Fairfield, Bob Trefry’s Easton or Paul Timpanelli’s Trumbull, then they cannot be tolerated in the city of Bridgeport.

We can only hope that the Supreme Court will function as a court of justice, not merely as a court of law, and the wrongs to which we have been subjected will be righted.



  1. I took this “commentary jewel” into my Bridgeport Laboratory for analysis. The results confirm my suspicion of Carmen Lopez having OIB in her genes. If the Supreme Court rules for the State of Connecticut, how long will it be before we have a State takeover of our City Council?

  2. The outspoken Carmen Lopez should have spoken out during the primary. It may have made a difference. Where was she when her people were being misled and used for their absentee ballots? Where was the judge then?

    1. chs, HER PEOPLE? That maybe borderline racist. Carmen is an individual above reproach. She has always fought the good fight. In my opinion SHE should have been a candidate and at some point I hope she decides to run. She would get my support and vote. Her name recognition and past achievements would have made her a hard candidate to beat. Something to think about down the road, as many of the absentees would have gone to her if she were the candidate.

    2. chs,
      If you said “I wish Carmen Lopez had spoken out during the primary. It may have made a difference. I respect her opinions,” I could agree with you. However, perhaps Judge Lopez was working on the BOE court suit or other equally important matters and had to make choices on where she focused her time and attention.
      Many people appreciate her intelligence, expertise and courage in speaking truth to power without suffering from terminal “conflict of interest.” Let’s celebrate her local viewpoint and her use of her voice so we can learn, and even become inspired by her vision. And if we disagree we can dialogue with her so more people can learn and grow in appreciation of civic issues and problems.
      Let Carmen find her way to the activities that share her gifts with the community in the best way possible for her at the time.
      In similar fashion, I know many people read my posts, some taking facts and viewpoints to heart, others disagreeing but saying nothing in response. A public dialogue is an opportunity to learn, by many people.
      I shall be scheduling several public meetings shortly (after the election) to review my observations and findings about Bridgeport fiscal processes and governance. My desire is to inform the public, to learn more personally, and to challenge the elected, employed and/or appointed City officials who have anything to do with City finances to live up to expected community ethical levels as well as to follow the City Charter, Bridgeport ordinances, and State and Federal rules and regulations that may apply. Look for support next spring when Blum Shapiro reports to the City on 2010-11 in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report and again when the Mayor will come to the City with another budget, that requires community review and response, such as it is. Open, accountable and transparent process and governance is the goal. Time will tell.

  3. The people of Bridgeport do not vote. Therefore, the current BOE was selected and pushed into office by the same forces that have given us the likes of what we have endured for years. Let’s face it. The BOE is composed of Calamarian stooges. I say let the the State disband them and put in a temporary crew that can solve the problems that have made the Bridgeport education system dysfunctional.

  4. I just learned briefs have been filed by the following groups:
    These non-parties are the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, led by Trumbull’s Paul Timpanelli, the Bridgeport Public Education Fund and an education reform group, Excel Bridgeport.
    They filed as friend of the court and were granted that right by the court. Lo and behold their lawyer comes from the same firm Stafstrom works for. Strange? No, just the same Bridgeport BS.
    Who the hell does Timpanelli think he is? He has been part of what’s wrong with Bridgeport for several years. Michele Mount is going to have to deal with these assholes. You go, girl!!!
    I am so sick and tired of these out-of-towners sticking their noses in our business. They are like the plunderers of years ago. They come to Bridgeport and plunder our money, our jobs and then retreat every night to their bucolic towns. Please do us a favor and stay home, screw up your own town, not ours.

  5. Carmen was at the Supreme Court hearing in Hartford today! She was poised and supportive. Michele, Norm and Josephine did a WONDERFUL job. They were so ready! Mary-Jane was interviewed and I know the press spoke to Michele, Norm and possibly Jason. Was proud to be there in support of the BOE candidate plaintiffs and the Students and Parents of Bridgeport!

  6. Change is a relative term. According to the political history of Bridgeport, the overturning of a decision that was made outside of the statute parameters (the norm for our City) is “change.” If the decision to reconstitute was made with full FOI adherence and transparency, then the reconstituted BOE would have my full support. But to repeat a great quote I heard recently “What’s a little fascism among friends when it benefits the children of Bridgeport?” In light of our history, this overturning would be an historical change in MOD if the Supremes decide to sing: “Things are Changing.”


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