Dustup Over Vallas Legal Fees At School Board Meeting

Ed Gomes
Ed Gomes, shown here during his farewell to the State Senate, still packs a passionate punch.

If Ed Gomes had shown as much passion for his reelection campaign last year as he did Tuesday night over the issue of legal fees for school chief Paul Vallas maybe he’d still be a state senator. Yes indeed, another night of love, peace and diplomacy as Gomes was escorted out of the Board of Education meeting, according to Linda Conner Lambeck’s story in the CT Post:

At a meeting so contentious that a former state senator was escorted from the room by police, the city school board agreed Tuesday to pick up the tab for Paul Vallas’ legal fees as his right to remain the district school superintendent is argued before the state Supreme Court.

The board also won’t be shopping for a new schools superintendent just yet, as it failed on a 4-4 tie vote–with a ninth member absent–to start a search to find a new school leader.

See full story here.

Vallas by his contract with the Board of Education as well as state statute would have legal fees covered as a result of the lawsuit brought by retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez, a city resident, that persuaded a state judge to rule Vallas lacks the proper legal certification to serve as a school chief. The decision is under appeal before the Connecticut Supreme Court. The city has hired appellate specialist Steven Ecker to represent Vallas. Ecker, according to the city, will cap his legal fees at $50,000.

Lopez, aligned with members of the Connecticut Working Families Party trying to win control of the school board, wrote recently in an editorial since her legal claim was made against Vallas as an individual, he should be responsible for his own legal fees. Lopez has deftly transitioned from the bench to counselor spin on behalf of Working Families. The fact is public employees are regularly named in lawsuits with legal fees covered by taxpayers. Would be happy to post a legal decision by Lopez from her days on the bench ordering a public employee sued in the performance of duty to cover legal fees.

Vallas would be covered, according to the city, under the following statute as a result of civil action:

Connecticut General Statutes > Title 10 > Chapter 170 > 10-235

(a) Each board of education shall protect and save harmless any member of such board or any teacher or other employee thereof or any member of its supervisory or administrative staff, and the State Board of Education, the Board of Regents for Higher Education, the board of trustees of each state institution and each state agency which employs any teacher, and the managing board of any public school, as defined in section 10-183b, including the governing council of any charter school, shall protect and save harmless any member of such boards, or any teacher or other employee thereof or any member of its supervisory or administrative staff employed by it, from financial loss and expense, including legal fees and costs, if any, arising out of any claim, demand, suit or judgment by reason of alleged negligence or other act resulting in accidental bodily injury to or death of any person, or in accidental damage to or destruction of property, within or without the school building, or any other acts, including but not limited to infringement of any person’s civil rights, resulting in any injury, which acts are not wanton, reckless or malicious, provided such teacher, member or employee, at the time of the acts resulting in such injury, damage or destruction, was acting in the discharge of his or her duties or within the scope of employment or under the direction of such board of education, the Board of Regents for Higher Education, board of trustees, state agency, department or managing board; provided that the provisions of this section shall not limit or otherwise affect application of section 4-165 concerning immunity from personal liability.



  1. I’m no fan of Vallas. I think he is bad for the city and he is nothing more than a Calamarian shill. The only money in town is the hundreds of millions earmarked to BOE capital projects.

    On the matter of the validity of the city paying his legal fees; sadly, I think it is an appropriate expense. The mudheads who hired him knew he lacked needed credentials beforehand. Any repercussions that result from this flawed hiring decision, the city bears the onus. More unnecessary waste of my money.

    1. I am not an attorney but correct me if I read through that too fast but I didn’t see anything in there about failing to meet required professional certifications. Maybe Mulligan or Anastasi can fill us in this warped interpretation … which should be called “The dog ate my homework” defense.
      Interesting that the GOP is silent on this. The same GOP guys who so gleefully jumped on me for accusing them of being in bed with the machine on this and other issues is silent. Do they support the uncertified Vallas staying on and being defended with public funds? Why are they running against the WFP and not the Dem machine?

  2. Check out the research of his record here … not so pretty and more is added in the comments … a must read:

    Also, note comment from a Chicago teacher.

    A reader encourages us to watch our language and use the right titles:
    “PLEASE, PLEASE stop referring to Paul Vallas or Arne Duncan as “Superintendent” of Chicago Public Schools. They were CEOs–because in Illinois, they were unqualified to be Superintendents. If you’re the CEO, you don’t need an education background.”

  3. Who is paying the legal fees for the appeal, BOE or the City? Who made the decision to appeal, BOE or the City? It’s the BOE’s responsibility, not the City’s.

    1. Mr. Vallas could have received the benefits of the $1,000,000 liability insurance provided by the AASA–The School Superintendents Association if he were an active member. Unfortunately that requires the appropriate state certification. Many school systems pay for membership in case dust-ups such as this one occur.
      www .aasa.org/content.aspx?id=1326&terms=bylaws

      SECTION 1
      Voting Members
      1. Active Member
      Active Membership is open to all persons who serve as a school system leader or who are in an administrative position in a:
      (a) public or private school system, or
      (b) regional, state, or national educational agency or association and who possess a valid license for the position as may be required by law.

        1. Read carefully … I will cut and paste for you:

          The School Superintendents Association if he were an active member. Unfortunately that requires the appropriate state certification.

          So the answer is NO.

    2. I am selling “I <3 Vallas" T-shirts for $1 to raise money for his defense. The school kids are scooping them up. Every kid in BPT should be wearing one in a month or so.

      1. While tongue-in-check, this entry from alias “BOE SPY” (can those of you mugging under an alias come clean and use your real name? Think George Washington forward, etc.) illustrates again a reality deficit:

        Selling a t-shirt for $1 would LOSE you money … anywhere outside the third world!

        This is not a laughing matter to take comfort in.

        We need Bobby Kennedy, Michael Bloomberg, Einstein, Mother Teresa, Harry Truman, Frances Perkins, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Marion Wright Edelman, Martin Luther King and Caesar Chavez in this city.

        What’s the common thread? These fellow Americans knew/know the cost of things and of work, the value of humanity and its spirit, the importance of invention and scientific experiment, and what’s fair for taking risk and making benefits, now and for the future … and, finally, how to speak and act–both for themselves and for those who cannot.

        Maybe some of us in Bridgeport are interested in going beyond this admirable forum (Lennie Grimaldi is a cornerstone guy for Bridgeport’s advancement, no doubt) … and organizing?

        For those of you who are interested and who know a t-shirt cannot be sold profitably today for $1, please contact me!


        1. “George Washington forward” OK you call me: Silence Dogood, Poor Richard or John Bolton.
          If you got the t-shirts for free you could. Say you got a Community involvement grant. A grant designed to involve the community in school issues and make them aware of their BOE representatives. Then you get the t-shirts and embossed them with the name of the rep. Then you sell the t-shirts. Then you donate the $ to the BOE for them to use to address any issue (past, present or future) they desire.

  4. And Lennie, I am not going to get into a detailed discussion about why Ed’s last run was unsuccessful, but his campaign did not lack for passion or enthusiasm on his part or that of the people who participated in his campaign.
    That said, I wish I had been there yesterday when he gave them hell. Moales doesn’t know who he is messing with.

  5. Moales uses church stationery to pass out anti-CT Post propaganda at a BOE meeting he is leading, as an elected official.

    He states 98% of the teachers do not sent their kids to BPS (what % do not live in Bridgeport and what % do not have children), but he fails to mention he lives in the city and does NOT send HIS KIDS to BPS. Read this … an act of desperation?
    www .scribd.com/mobile/doc/155684509

    1. And how do we know Moales lives where he claims to? The East End is kind of a funny neighborhood for a guy who claims to be a millionaire to live in.

    2. jakedog,
      Regarding disinformation and numbers, why is the number $350,000 used repeatedly in comments on Superintendent compensation? If Vallas has a $232,000 ANNUAL salary, isn’t $350,000 what he should be paid? So, is it just a larger number will irritate a larger group of people?

      If that is the case, should information about school teachers quote their last 18 month’s pay and total days off or sick days used, or healthcare expense provided? Or would that seem ludicrous and be criticized? Just saying. When those subjects arise, will they be considered on the same level playground?

      When you start making information like this public and part of the argument, you need to realize perspective makes many involved in public education or public safety to seem “wealthy” in comparison to those they presumably serve.

      What Moales said near the end of the meeting is many worthy subjects having to do with the problems and concerns of the school district and the youth served have not been addressed this year. From a look at meeting minutes from lengthy meetings, that is an accurate observation in which all nine members share responsibility. To my mind it is not about money at this time, because money issues have become transparent and open and balanced. (I am not saying Bridgeport youth are fairly treated relative to Hartford and New Haven, but Superintendent Vallas has used interdistrict schools to enhance funding for the district as well as to open choices to students in the system. And questions about budget detail as in previous years are absent from Board meetings? Is it really about money? Or is it about power struggles? Time will tell.

      1. I have no idea what you are talking about. There is no mention of his salary in any of the research and links provided. You seem to have tunnel vision when it comes to Vallas.

        If you open the scrib document Moales states 98% of the teachers don’t send their kids to BPS … many don’t live in Bridgeport and some don’t have children. He is the board chair and he lives in the city and he does NOT send his children to BPS, so he looks like a fool.

        He also notes 93% of the BOE employees are Caucasian, and so is Vallas. You continue to pick and choose what you want to read and comprehend.

        I am sorry I don’t love Paul and Ken as much as you do.

        1. Another Vallas lie. “Superintendent Vallas has used interdistrict schools to enhance funding for the district.”
          The inter-district school concept was initiated long before Paul Vallas could find Bridgeport (and probably Connecticut) on a map.

          1. Common core, the new teacher evaluation system, SRBI (response to intervention, standardized testing … there are many initiatives taking place statewide and nationally before the mighty one arrived. And many would be taking place even if he weren’t here. Next he will be taking credit for the sun rising and setting.

          2. “Superintendent Vallas has used interdistrict schools to enhance funding for the district.” Say he has used it not that he started it. Am I a liar if I say I used a hammer to drive a nail even if I did not invent hammers?

        2. Obfuscator. Take teachers out of that 93% number and it turns around. Then it would appear mostly white teachers from the ‘burbs are failing to education urban minorities. Cafe workers, janitors, guards, paras, etc = mostly minority.

  6. The governing branch of the school system said he did meet the requirements. It is the judicial branch of the government that says he has not.

    1. The state BOE rubber stamps anything Pryor wants and he is the “governing branch of the school system” and Vallas’ very good friend. So this branch is really one person.

      Pryor recruited Paul when it appeared BPS would be under state control and then they tried to finagle mayoral control and here we are. This was supposed to be very easy and then V could follow the Chicago, NOLA, Philly playbook. It must be so frustrating for him.

        1. YES!!!
          Pryor and Malloy are trying to cheapen the Bridgeport School system. They want more charter schools. They want weaker unions. They want to spend as little as possible on the Bridgeport School system.

        2. You said that. One person made the decision; the board approves anything and everything he says. You should research Pryor’s past in NYC and the 9/11 redevelopment/disaster recovery program to answer your own question. I can’t keep doing all the work for you and your group.

          Pryor will work to promote his agenda. He originated in two cities with state and mayoral control. That’s what he knows.

        3. Just happened to have saved it:
          Pryor was president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.

          The study looks at post-9/11 NYC and how federal funds were re-appropriated thanks to waivers (rushed through in the wake of disaster) and at post-Katrina New Orleans with a similar use of federal disaster money and the lifting of traditional “checks and balances.” Pryor apparently went to New Orleans to see how Vallas was doing, using the funds for reform.

          Were Pryor and Vallas at the center of these neo-liberal machinations?

          From 9/11 to 8/29: Post-Disaster Recovery and Rebuilding in New York and New Orleans
          www .tulane.edu/~kgotham/Papers/Gotham&GreenbergSocialForces2008.pdf

        4. Risk his job? Are you kidding?

          He has carte blanche. If anything he will get a trophy and believe me he too will be long gone when the poop hits the fan.

          They all must keep moving before the natives catch on. Word is he already has his next gig lined up.

  7. I was at this meeting and did not receive the document. Nor did beware provide me with a document he was distributing at the meeting. I can live without either I suppose, as will 99% of Bridgeport’s population.

    What I was referencing is something stated by a Board member last night about Vallas’ compensation in an 18-month time period. If you have not heard that statement, you probably have not made it either. Apologies for calling you to task, but it has been frequently mentioned.

    I have made no statements about Chairman Moales, nor have I discussed racial makeup of City, teaching profession, Board of Education members, etc. I have found things to praise so far about Paul Vallas in his public approach to governance and that stands in contrast to the governance practiced by the current administration.

    I am interested in the list of objectives you pursue. I think they would make for a great public discussion at which a raised voice continuing after a reminder (from a non-conflicted moderator–perhaps from way out of town), or remarks that disparage a person, rather than the concepts or actions advocated may be grounds for removal from the discussion.

    We are all paying for this party whether we realize it or not. Kids are growing older year by year and not getting as much as they otherwise might. And lack of civility especially at public meetings is not appropriate behavior modeling for the young people present. Is there no middle ground? Is there only a “My way or the highway!” viewpoint? Mr. Gomes said and was quoted this is about money. What money? The expense records are there for the past year anyway. How is it about money? And if it is about more money, then why have you been so quiet about asking or demanding more to assist the cause? Where are the material questions raised at the BOE meetings or before the City Council? I have patiently been waiting for the advocacy of others. Time will tell.

  8. In regard as to who must pay for the legal expenses, the law is clear. One can’t argue Bellis followed the language of the law and on the other hand ignore the language of the law regarding who pays for the legal cost. One thing I’m sure would be wrong is for the city of Bridgeport to later turn around and include this cost as a credit towards the Minimum Budget Requirement. I’d bet Finch is thinking of doing this.

  9. “Anastasi said a search committee would send a signal to the court that the board lacks confidence in its position.”
    So Mark Anastasi provided the Board of Education with a legal opinion that says the Connecticut Supreme Court will not rule on the merits of the case but might be hoodwinked into rendering an improper decision because they think the school board lacks confidence in their decision.
    Mark Anastasi with one quick backhand just bitch-slapped the CT Supreme Court. Congratulations, Mark.

  10. Said Mulligan, “To say to somebody, ‘If you get sued on your own you are going to have to pay your own legal fees’–no one in their right mind would be interested in the position.”
    To say to future candidates you are not qualified to serve as a Superintendent in the state of Connecticut and if you get caught the city will pay all your legal bills, well hell, everyone will apply.

    1. That is why they dropped everybody but Vallas from the suit. They wanted to isolate PV and start this dilemma. Then the people funding the anti-Vallas would have all the money and PV would just have him. You think they were going to play fair or do you think those two ladies hired their lawyer with soda can money?

  11. LETTER: Lack of Certification Only Part of Vallas’ Problem

    A Courant editorial supports maintaining Paul Vallas as superintendent of Bridgeport Public Schools, despite his lack of certification [July 23, “Why Make It So Difficult?”]. Rules were bent to allow him to get certification, but he chose not to do the work. The editorial cites his experience as a superintendent in Chicago and Philadelphia as proof of qualifications for the position. Here’s his legacy in those cities:

    Vallas turned over management of schools to outside for-profits, nonprofits and universities. Public school resources and the cities’ most advantaged students were lost to these private institutions.

    Today, thousands of people are being laid off: counselors, nurses, teachers and assistant principals. Sports programs, arts classes and much more are being decimated. Class sizes are expected to rise. Twenty-three public schools are being closed in Philadelphia, dozens in Chicago.

    In Bridgeport, Vallas was able to close the budget only because the commissioner of education provided a last-minute $3.5 million forgivable loan from the state of Connecticut. When Vallas and his supporter, Commissioner Stefan Pryor, move on, will Bridgeport fare better than Chicago or Philadelphia? I wouldn’t bet the farm on it!

    Margaret Rick, West Hartford
    The writer is a retired elementary school principal.

  12. LETTER: Vallas Doesn’t Get A Pass

    I was astonished that The Courant would advocate a lawless position in its editorial “Why Make It So Hard For Paul Vallas To Help Bridgeport Schools?” [July 23, www .courant.com/opinion].

    The law is the law. The state even made a loophole, and Mr. Vallas, the Bridgeport superintendent of schools, couldn’t fit through that with his made-up program.

    The court did not wander into its decision lightly. It has the duty to uphold what is written. One might think The Courant would recollect that this is the second time in recent history a court has rebuked Bridgeport for its failure to follow the law in administering its schools. The first time was when the city unilaterally disbanded the board of education without taking proper steps.

    The editorial, along with Vallas and his supporters, argues that the ends justify the means. This rebukes the democratic process that created these “parochial laws” that have created some of the best public educational systems in the country. Yet in cities like Bridgeport, the ends we all want will never be met, no matter what means we employ, as long as poverty strangles children and their families.

    Let’s get someone in who will make us uncomfortable with the economic justice issues at stake in urban education.

    Ken Krayeske, Hartford

    1. BOE SPY,
      Advancing kids who are failing is part of the problem with our education system and our society. A similar but much less important thing is happening in youth sports with trophies for all! We need equal opportunity, special efforts for those in need, and appropriate accountability for all.


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