Judge Bellis Weighs Education Battle

Pereira, Fonseca, Ganim
Joe Ganim with Maria Pereira, left, during happier times on the campaign trail in 2015. At center is Democratic Town Committee member Dolores Fonseca, wife of Rafael Fonseca whom Ganim appointed to the school board.

Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis is expected to conduct a hearing Monday afternoon (today) in response to Board of Education member Maria Pereira’s complaint to vacate what she calls illegal appointments by Mayor Joe Ganim to fill school board vacancies.

Pereira’s lawyer Kevin Smith filed a legal brief, see here, urging the court to invalidate Ganim’s appointments of Annette Segarra-Negron and Rafael Fonseca asserting the city’s legal position is faulty on two fronts. Attorneys for the city argue state statute provides the mayor authority to fill school board vacancies if Board of Education members don’t act within 30 days of the resignation. Pereira contends Ganim’s position is misplaced arguing only the school board per the Bridgeport City Charter is authorized to fill vacancies with no specific timeframe.

Ganim appointed Segarra-Negron and Raphael Fonseca to fill the vacancies of Dave Hennessey and Andre Baker, respectively. In addition to the mayor and state of Connecticut, Segarra-Negron and Fonseca are named defendants.

Another issue of the complaint centers on the rightful political party to serve as a replacement. The City Charter declares the vacancy must be filled from the same political party. But it begs the question, the party on whose line the candidate was elected or the one from which the school board member resigned? Hennessey was elected as a Democrat in 2013, but resigned as a registered Republican.

Smith claims, in part:

Ganim completely ignores the city Charter, the Home Rule Act, and other General Statutes to which §7-107 must yield because the Board vacancy-filling process is not a matter of statewide concern. As a result, Ganim’s appointment of Segarra-Negron is invalid and Segarra-Negron cannot prove valid claim to the title of Board member.

Retired Superior Court Judge Bruce Levin, an employee of the City’s Attorney’s Office, is representing city government. Mayor Ganim’s brother Paul Ganim, who also is judge of probate in Bridgeport, has entered an appearance on behalf of Segarra-Negron.

Bellis’ decision could resolve the balance of power among a deeply divided school board in which Chair Dennis Bradley has boycotted meetings, demanding the resignation of Pereira.

Bellis has already told the parties she has researched the issue and expects to move quickly on a decision.



  1. Please Judge Bellis, remind mayor Ganim this is a poor city with very limited resources, any continuance on the city side will cost the already (blackened-eye suffering taxpayers) more harm!
    Both the city Charter and the BBoE bylaws stop anyone from usurping the power of the elected BBOE. So let’s stop this contentious rivalry and boycott, so we can move this great city forward.

  2. I truly hope Judge Bellis rules against the city and requires them to at least pay all of Maria’s legal expenses. The City needs to be told it is wrong and needs to pay for its mistake. Until that starts to happen, the City Attorney’s Office will continue their “sue me” attitude.

  3. Ganim steps in and makes appointments when he or Mario wants him to and ignores all the other expired terms on all the City’s boards and commissions.
    Ganim remains a curse on the city.

  4. I checked our case online last night and there is still no stipulation of facts as Judge Bells ordered. I wonder how this will play out in court today.

    Levin cited the Lopez vs BBOE case as a precedent as to why Bellis should not rule in our favor. It was clearly used to try to intimidate Bellis, but I don’t see Bellis as someone easily intimidated.

    They also included the entire decision of the Library Board vs Alma Maya to stress the point that Bridgeport is not only a city but a town as well.

    They insist the statute they are utilizing as Ganim’s basis to legally appoint BoE members is a “deadlock breaking” statute because we were deadlocked 4 to 4.

    First of all, the BOE never voted on either vacancy, therefore we never had a 4 to 4 split.

    Second of all, Andre Baker had repeatedly started to break from Bradley and his crew. I think it may have had something to do with Dennis and what he and his buddies did to Ed.

    The Board never cast a vote on Hennessey’s vacancy because the city thought we should vote for a Republican replacement without a single legal precedent to support their position.

    We interviewed all the candidates to fill Baker’s vacancy, however we were supposed to vote on his replacement on September 12th, which is the meeting that was canceled when the “boycott” began.

    How can you claim a 4 to 4 deadlock when we NEVER voted on a single vacancy?

  5. The Stipulation of Facts is now on Judicial.gov. The City Attorney approved them and emailed them to my attorney at 4:36pm yesterday.

    We filed a legal notice for a Special Meeting at Geraldine Johnson School tonight at 6:30pm. Please join us in force as we need witnesses and video footage of any shenanigans.

  6. Congratulations should go out to Maria & The Malcontents. I read where Ganim funded the SRO’s with city funds and did not demand the BOE pay for them. She may not be easy but apparently she is effective.


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