In an effort to avoid a logistical election nightmare, legal parties Friday morning prevailed upon Superior Court Judge Salvatore Agati to set a full hearing on April 13 that will include input from city elections officials to establish a clearer path for the setting of a special election for four Board of Education seats ordered by the Connecticut Supreme Court following its reversal of state control of city schools.
Following a meeting in the judge’s chambers in Waterbury Superior Court, lawyers for several parties involved in the BOE legal challenge said the cramped calendar for this year’s election cycle requires input from city elections officials before Judge Agati sets the date for a special election that will include a date for potential party primaries.
“We want to make sure that the election is done the right way,” said Paul Ganim, who represents Democratic Registrar Santa Ayala.
John Bohannon, a lawyer for the city, agreed that the election timetable requires input from elections officials to avoid calendar conflicts. For instance, he pointed out that state law requires all election machines to be locked down 14 days following each election in case challenges take place or recounts are required.
A Republican presidential primary will take place April 24, followed by primaries for federal and state legislative seats on August 14 and then the general election November 6. The judge is examining a full 150-day election calendar, as ordered by the Supreme Court that will include a party primary date followed by the general election for BOE seats.
City elections officials say their budgets are already stretched and they will need more resources to accommodate the special election. Elections officials will likely be called into court to help the judge identify dates that will not conflict with already scheduled elections.
Three former BOE Democratic candidates who will not be running primaries are Bob “Troll” Walsh, George E. Pipkin and Pertrinea Cash Deedon. All three, parties to the BOE legal issue, had been candidates running on the slate of 2011 Democratic mayoral candidate Mary-Jane Foster, but were denied ballot access as a result of state control of schools that dissolved the local school board in favor of an appointed body. John Kardaras, the attorney representing them, formally withdrew from the case Friday morning. He said all three of his clients advised him they will not be candidates for school board.
Attorney Michele Mount, who had served as the lead attorney for the BOE candidates and argued the case before the Connecticut Supreme Court, withdrew from the case in early February after being appointed as a human rights referee for the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. Mount was appointed to the position by Governor Dannel Malloy.
The Supremes this week amended its reversal of state control of schools by instructing Judge Agati to set up to a 150-day election schedule from the day he sets the special election. For instance, if the judge schedules the special election April 13 the election calendar could play out as deep as mid September. By the time the special election takes place the state-appointed school board the Supremes ruled illegal based on a technicality that required elected school board members to receive training before requesting state control will have been in place for one year. The Supremes allowed the state-appointed board to continue its work until results of the special election are certified.
Attorney Norm Pattis, who represents elected school board members who want to be reseated as soon as possible, is not happy with the latest developments.
“Watching the defendants scramble to avoid returning elected officials to office reminds me of a not very flattering way of referring to the behavior of a group of idiots: what a circle jerk!”