FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES (aka politics today) by Carmen Lopez

Carmen Lopez is not only a former superior court judge, but she is a truth teller.  Below is a commentary piece she wrote earlier in the month, a version of which was published in the CT Post.

It  provides a view into the political world of Connecticut, in which having friends in high places trumps good public policy time and time again.

What our state needs is more truth tellers….

Friends in High Places (By Carmen Lopez)

The July 2, 2014 edition of the CTPOST reported that two Bridgeport area chiropractors, who participated in a $1.7 million fraud scheme, were recently sentenced in Federal Court.

The scheme involved lawyers, a medical doctor, chiropractors and others, and resulted in a suspended sentence for the two chiropractors, plus an order of restitution totaling approximately $160,000. The online version of the story, posted by reporter Mike Mayko on July 1, 2014, reported that Paul S. Timpanelli, CEO of the Bridgeport Regional Business Council and current Barnum Festival Ringmaster, and Mary Jane Foster, a former and perhaps future candidate for Mayor, spoke on behalf of one of the chiropractors who was before Federal Judge Stephan Underhill for sentencing.

Both urged leniency based upon volunteer work performed by one of the chiropractors, Jennifer Lynne, in downtown Bridgeport activities. Apparently, their pleas were heard by Judge Underhill.

Upon reading the story, I couldn’t help wondering if this was the same Mary Jane Foster who self-righteously criticized former mayor John Fabrizi after he attended a birthday party hosted by the owner of local ‘strip club.’ Also, I wondered if this was the same Paul Timpanelli, whose organization, the Bridgeport Regional Business Council counts the strip club owner among its members.

We all recall that Mayor Fabrizi, foolishly, and using very poor judgment, testified on behalf of a friend of his son, in a criminal proceeding. This act was regarded as a disqualification for the office of Mayor and was widely reported in the CTPOST. Fabrizi was called to account, and rightly so. He should not have used his status as Mayor of the largest city in the state, in support of a violent criminal act.

I think he would recognize that with the benefit of hindsight.

No such accountability will be demanded of Paul Timpanelli and Mary Jane Foster. Although their participation in the sentencing hearing was reported online, it was edited out of the print edition of the CTPOST. Oh, to have friends in high places!

Apparently, if the crime merely involves, stealing with a pen, it is ok to stand up for the criminal in a Connecticut court room. The order of restitution by Judge Underhill against Jennifer Lynne, whose volunteer work was vouched for by Timpanelli and Foster, was $117,000. Does anybody remember how much Ernie Newton was accused of stealing, before he was sent to prison for 5 years?

Stories like this, inevitably lead many to conclude, that a pervasive and entrenched double standard exists, in law, in politics, and in print journalism.

Squelching dissent in Bridgeport City Hall (by Carmen Lopez)

This commentary piece first appeared in the CT Post on June 25, 2014 

The 1949 movie “All the King’s Men,” based on the novel of the same name by Robert Penn Warren, opens with the main character, Willie Stark, confronting political corruption in a small southern town.

Stark, played by Broderick Crawford, claims that a schoolhouse was built with substandard material and that the cost was inflated by a politically connected contractor. The political establishment tries to silence Willie, by concocting and pretending to enforce a non-existent ordinance which prohibits addressing a public gathering.

Thugs are sent to assault his son while the lad is attempting to pass out campaign flyers.

Stark loses the election for county treasurer, but when a stair case in the new school collapses, killing several children, those who attend the funeral show genuine remorse.

“We should have listened to you, Willie,” the mourners sob, although it is too late to save the dead school children.

At the February 2014 meeting of the Bridgeport Board of Education Facilities Committee, committee chairman John E. Bagley, in the best tradition of democratic populism, allowed members of the public to be heard. The topic was the proposed construction of a new Harding High School on a contaminated Boston Avenue site owned by General Electric and used as a factory for many years.

Any objective review of the transcript of the Facilities Committee meeting reveals that Bagley was fair, even handed and respectful.

The debate was not one-sided. Members of the Finch administration were given the floor, as were construction trade members, as well as a member of Finch’s Republican choir. All opinions were solicited, all input was welcomed, and no one was demeaned in the process.

So how did Mayor Finch, his appointees, and press personnel react? In a word, they were apoplectic!

How dare John Bagley bring a little participatory democracy to Bridgeport, they fumed. He had some nerve allowing the masses to speak before well-paid city and state employees.

Some even claimed that Bagley had violated Robert’s Rules of Order and the Freedom of Information Act.

Of course, in the best tradition of the fictitious ordinance applied to Willie Stark, no provision of Robert’s Rules of Order or the FOIA prohibits the receipt of public input.

Bridgeport officials seem to fear the voice of the people. Therefore, officials and employees routinely and reflexively seek to squelch meaningful public participation in the governmental process.

The city’s opposition to public participation surfaced once again at the June Facilities Committee meeting. This time the issue was a new roof for Bassick High School. John Bagley continued his policy of allowing parents and community members to address the committee concerning this long-delayed roof repair project.

Since a City Council Resolution had established a building committee in 2011 to facilitate the roof repair, those in attendance wanted to know “what is taking so long?”

Bridgeport’s Director of Facilities, Jorge Garcia, objected to the public participation and was very annoyed.

Fortunately, after 11 years in the National Basketball Association, John Bagley can recognize trash talk when he hears it. The public was able to have its say, much to the frustration of the city employees in attendance.

The unreported story and the unanswered questions are these: Why does the Finch administration continue to make an issue of the fact that an elected official gives the people who elected him the right to be heard on issues of public importance? What are Mayor Finch and his administration afraid of?

Instead of focusing on whether the people of Bridgeport should be allowed to speak and voice their opinion, perhaps attention should be redirected, particularly on the Harding issue, to the many unanswered questions, such as:

1. In December 2010, the site of the existing Harding High School was designated as the site of the new school by state officials. In fact, in an April 2, 2010 article, the Connecticut Post quoted Mayor Finch as saying that the existing Central Avenue location could be used for the new school. Did the proposed location change before, or after, the illegal school board takeover in July 2011? What role did the chairman of the illegally appointed Board, Robert Trefy, the former president of Bridgeport Hospital, play in the decision to change the location?

2. Is there a contract requiring General Electric to convey 17 acres of the Boston Avenue site to the city of Bridgeport? If the answer is yes, what are the terms of the contract and why has no-one seen a copy?

3. The proposed site is adjacent to Remington Woods. If contaminants migrate, through flooding, ground water, or other means, who will be responsible for any subsequent remediation?

4. Why were zoning approvals sought, and outside counsel paid $10,000 before we know the site is safe, and approved by the State Department of Administrative Services or the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection?

6. Has any site as contaminated as the GE property on Boston Avenue been approved for use as a school anywhere in the state of Connecticut?

These are only a few of the important questions, which have been highlighted and which have gone unanswered by City officials and their corporate collaborators at O & G Industries, Inc. Instead, we are asked, why did John Bagley allow the people to be heard?

The refusal to answer legitimate questions, while accusing the questioners of “delay” is inevitably the last refuge of a political scoundrel bereft of a cogent argument.

Members of the Bridgeport City Council and the BOE must not be coerced into silence, or stampeded into hasty action, by the mayor and his political spin doctors.

Twenty years from now, we don’t want to listen to an anguished citizen exclaim, “We should have listened!”

By then, it will be too late.

Carmen Lopez is a community activist and a former Superior Court judge.

SURPRISE: Connecticut Supreme Court rules Commissioner Pryor had a right to waive Vallas’ need for certification…

As if there was any remaining doubt about how our justice system really works…

According to the ruling just released by the Connecticut Supreme Court, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education Stefan Pryor DID NOT exceed his authority when he decided to waive Paul Vallas’ need for certification to be superintendent of schools in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The Supreme Court decided that Pryor could waive Vallas’ certification requirement despite the fact that Vallas only took a three credit independent study course instead of a school leadership program as mandated by the Connecticut General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Malloy.

The Supreme Court justices reversed the lower court judge claiming that a “quo warranto” motion to remove Vallas was not appropriate in this situation.

Just as importantly, the Supreme Court opinion was  that the determination as to whether Vallas did or did not complete a School Leadership Program, “was a licensing decision squarely committed to the state board and the commissioner by the legislature, and the plaintiffs failed to avail themselves of appropriate avenues to raise this challenge to the defendant’s qualifications in the appropriate administrative forum.”

Meaning that rather than sue Vallas, former Judge Carmen Lopez and all of us who believed Pryor was wrong to have waived Vallas’ certification should have gone to the State Board of Education and asked them not to do what they did.

The ruling is a powerful message to the 45,000 certified teachers and 8,000 certified administrators who worked so hard and spent so much money to get their certification.

Instead of wasting your time trying to get an education and meeting the legal requirements needed to become certified in Connecticut, teachers and administrators should simply have gone to Governor Malloy and asked him to introduce special legislation to grant you certification at the discretion of the Commissioner of Education.

Then, when you failed to even do the minimum amount of worked outlined in that special legislation, you could have gone to Stefan Pryor and State Board of Education Chairman Allan Taylor and asked them to simply waive your need for certification all together.

You can read the Supreme Court ruling here:

ah….Good thing we are a nation of laws and not of men…

Or as Al Pacino observes towards the close of the movie “Justice for All,”

“That man is guilty! That man, there, that man is a slime! he is a *slime*! If he’s allowed to go free, then something really wrong is goin’ on here!

Judge Rayford: Mr. Kirkland you are out of order!

Arthur Kirkland: You’re out of order! You’re out of order! The whole trial is out of order! They’re out of order! That man, that sick, crazy, depraved man, raped and beat that woman there, and he’d like to do it again! He *told* me so! It’s just a show! It’s a show! It’s “Let’s Make A Deal”! “Let’s Make A Deal”! Hey Frank, you wanna “Make A Deal”? I got an insane judge who likes to beat the shit out of women! Whaddya wanna gimme Frank, 3 weeks probation?

Arthur Kirkland: [to Judge Fleming] You, you sonofabitch, you! You’re supposed to *stand* for somethin’! You’re supposed to protect people! But instead you rape and murder them!

[dragged out of court by bailiffs]

Arthur Kirkland: You killed McCullough! You killed him! Hold it! Hold it! I just completed my opening statement!”


Controversial Bridgeport billboard donated to Mayor Finch

Raising Hale is a media project of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy.

Although Wait, What? and Raising Hale are miles apart on some philosophical issues, Raising Hale’s dedication to “uncovering government waste, fraud, and abuse in Connecticut” is impressive.

Fellow investigative journalist and blogger, Zachary Janowski, is doing an amazing job shinning the light of truth into some of the dark spaces of Connecticut’s government and political environment.

In a recent post, Janowski wrote about the billboard that the Webster Bank Arena donated to Mayor Bill Finch so that he could build his twitter following.

It is a particularly revealing issue considering the controversy that surrounded the approval process for the billboard only a year ago.

In November 2012, the Connecticut Post wrote;

The Bridgeport Planning and Zoning Commission gave the go-ahead for the city and Harbor Yard Sports and Entertainment LLC to seek a special permit to build the V-shaped billboard that would be visible to traffic on Interstate 95. The changes, which apply only to the arena area, would increase the height of the proposed sign to “no greater than 60 feet above I-95,” and allow a total of 8,500 square feet of signage on the arena, the baseball stadium and the adjacent parking garage.


Nevertheless, the public hearing portion of the meeting became somewhat raucous, pitting opponents who accused Mayor Bill Finch of exerting control over the commission against businesspeople and arena representatives who claimed the changes would lure people and money to Bridgeport.


Paul Timpanelli, who heads the Greater Bridgeport Regional Business Council, said the changes allowing an electronic two-sided billboard would enhance the city’s image and attract people to “come to the city, spend time here and invest here.”

But Carmen Lopez, a retired Superior Court judge, accused Harbor Yard Sports and Entertainment of attempting to buy the Planning and Zoning Commission’s approval, noting that the organization was among several business that donated thousands of dollars to a PAC supporting the mayor’s efforts to change the city charter.

The charter proposal, which was defeated on Election Day, would have allowed Bridgeport’s mayor, rather than voters, to select Board of Education members.

“This change in site regulation and the site plan to follow do not pass the all-important smell test,” Lopez said of the billboard permit. “The people voted no to mayoral control of the Board of Education on Election Day. Tonight you can say no to mayoral control of zoning.”


John Kennelly, a lawyer representing Lamar Outdoor Advertising, which has its own electronic billboards near the arena’s proposed billboard, also opposed the word changes because he said it represented “spot zoning” and the proposed electronic billboard was never put out to bid.

Now a year later, Raising Hale’s Janowski’s reports,

“Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch is looking for followers on Twitter and he is using billboard space donated to the city to recruit them.

The billboard, visible from I-95, promotes Finch’s account, @MayorBillFinch.

‘The billboard space is provided to the city as free advertising space by Webster Bank Arena,’ said Elaine Ficarra, spokeswoman for Finch.

‘The Twitter followers would remain property of the City’ after Finch leaves office, she said.”

You can read the CT Post story at:

And the Raising Hale story at:

And speaking of Bridgeport, Former Judge Carmen Lopez’s letter on the upcoming election

As Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch undoubtedly likes to remind Governor Malloy, without Bridgeport, Malloy would have lost the 2010 gubernatorial election.

Since then, Finch and Malloy have taken a beating in Bridgeport.

  • Malloy and Finch conspired to have the state of Connecticut take over the Bridgeport schools.  The move was deemed illegal by the Connecticut Supreme Court and the Malloy administration was forced to return the Bridgeport School system to local control.
  • Mayor Finch’s attempt to pass a change to Bridgeport’s Charter to eliminate a democratically elected board of education and replace it with one appointed by him was soundly defeated.
  • Malloy, Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and Mayor Finch brought in Paul Vallas to serve as Bridgeport’s superintendent of schools but their attempt to keep him in the post was deemed illegal and a Connecticut Superior Court judge ruled that Vallas doesn’t have the qualifications or credential necessary to serve as a superintendent of schools in Connecticut.  Vallas is only holding on to the job due to the fact that Finch, Malloy and Pryor (using Bridgeport and Connecticut taxpayer funds) are keeping Vallas in Bridgeport hoping that the Connecticut Supreme Court will overrule the Connecticut Superior Court judge’s ruling.
  • And in September, a slate of Democratic challenges opposed to the Malloy, Pryor and Finch education reforms crushed the slate endorsed by Finch and funded by the Bridgeport and Connecticut Democratic Committees.

So with Election Day coming up, Carmen Lopez, the former superior court judge who helped to orchestrate the successful law suit on the control of Bridgeport’s schools and brought the law suit the led to the ruling that Vallas doesn’t have the credentials to serve as Bridgeport’s superintendent asks, recently wrote a commentary piece asking, “What will the Election Day ballot of Mayor Bill Finch look like?”

And then Carmen Lopez goes on to lay out the following:

Along with many others, I have been pondering that question ever since the Sept. 10, 2013, Democratic primary, when the Democrats of Bridgeport, emphatically and unmistakably, repudiated the Finch machine and what it has come to represent.

Challengers, including three candidates for the Bridgeport Board of Education, were victorious across the board. As a result, some have begun to celebrate. While I, too, rejoiced in the victory of the Board of Education challengers, I feel compelled to sound a note of caution. To those who would celebrate before the votes are counted on Nov. 5, I would advise “not so fast!”

The first act of the newly elected BOE will be to elect the chair. Assuming that the three endorsed Democrats are successful, they will join John Bagley, who was elected in the 2012 special election on the Working Families Party line, and three hold-over Finch loyalists, on the new BOE. One additional vote will be needed in order to ensure a BOE chair who will ask questions, demand answers and will not rubber-stamp everything Finch, Superintendent Paul Vallas and City Attorney Mark Anastasi put in front of it.

Finch, Chief of Staff Adam Wood, City Bond Counsel John Stafstrom and BOE Chairman Kenneth Moales will do everything in their power to make sure that this does not happen.

After all, they all have a lot to lose.

Don’t think for a moment that the Finch machine has despaired. Rest assured that Finch, Wood, Stafstrom, Moales and their machine loyalists still have a card to play — an ace up their collective sleeves, in the form of their wholly owned and predictably compliant Republican subsidiary.

They will all, quietly of course, mark their Election Day ballots for the Republican candidates for the Board of Education. Republican success represents the Finch machine’s only chance to salvage control of the Bridgeport BOE. Without Republican help, they will be unable to retain Finch’s hand-picked chairman, the walking conflict of interest Kenneth Moales.

For those of you who question this analysis, and are scratching your heads, I will review some recent Bridgeport political history. As George Santayana famously said, “Those who refuse to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.”

If you think my prediction is too Machiavellian, I would ask you to objectively examine the most recent history of the Republican Party here in Bridgeport. That examination reveals that Republicans holding public office have been reliable, loyal and dependable allies of the Finch machine.

In July 2011, the only Republican member of the Bridgeport Board of Education voted in favor of the illegal takeover, a takeover conspired by Finch, the governor’s office and wealthy down-county hedge-fund moguls. Although a party in the litigation that went to the Supreme Court, the local Republican Party never filed any papers in support of the challenge mounted to the illegal takeover.

After the court decision, when Finch and his attorney were attempting to delay the return of the lawfully elected board, their star witness in court was the Republican registrar of voters. The same GOP board member who voted in favor of the BOE takeover helped recruit Thomas Mulligan to fill a vacancy on the Board of Education, thus guaranteeing a reliable machine vote.

On the Civil Service Commission and Bridgeport’s land-use bodies, when the machine needs a key vote, the Republicans are always there to deliver.

Every Republican member of the Bridgeport Charter Revision Commission voted to disenfranchise Bridgeport voters, and marched in lock-step with Finch’s directive.

The Bridgeport Republicans may claim to be different at election time, but a look at their performance in office reveals total loyalty to Finch and his machine, and belies any claim of independence. Let’s not forget that in 2009, this Republican Party nominated Nate Snow for the Board of Education, the same Nate Snow who was a key conspirator in the illegal takeover attempt.

The truth is that unless the two candidates who appear only on the Working Families line, Sauda Baraka and Eric Stewart-Alicea are elected to the school board, history will repeat itself.

A reading of the tea leaves, informed by a reading of recent history, convinces me that the first vote cast by newly elected Republican members of the Board of Education will be to re-elect Moales, Finch’s campaign treasurer as the board chair. This will happen courtesy of the Bridgeport Republican Party, and will no doubt be justified as an exercise in civility and bipartisanship.

The chairmanship is key. The chair sets the agenda and runs the meetings. Finch knows that if you can control the chair, you can control the board.

The slogan for this ongoing whisper campaign might well be “Save Finch, Save Moales, Vote Republican for Board of Education.”

If this underground effort succeeds, then history in this one-party city will continue to repeat itself.

You can find Judge Carmen Lopez’s commentary piece letter to the editor at:


Why the Vallas Case is so much more than simply a case about Paul Vallas

The following is a re-print of an extraordinary analysis of the Lopez v. Vallas case and the corporate education reform industry’s assault on public education in Connecticut.

It is written by Attorney John M. Gesmonde, a Connecticut lawyer and expert on labor and education law who wrote the piece for this month’s Connecticut Association of School Administrator’s newsletter.

In an incredibly profound statement of the truth, Attorney Gesmonde writes:

“The Vallas case is not only about the ethics and integrity of granting superintendent certification waivers; it is not only about failing strictly to comply with a prescribed statutory manner of proceeding when matters of substance are involved; it is not only about the deprofessionalizing of educator leaders by offering them alternatives to certification not based on credentials and relevant experience. It is not only about advertently breaking a covenant required by law to implement the mandates in the general statutes pertaining to education.

It is also about how educational policy is controlled by the politics and behind the scenes corporate style of reform. The same players and institution in the Vallas case have influential roles to play in overseeing the state’s teacher and administrator evaluation reform, exercising seemingly unfettered discretion in giving and withholding waivers from the core requirements and the implementing of the PEAC plan. The University of Connecticut Neag School of Education representatives have tremendous freedom and subjective authority to make decisions.”

Attorney John Gesmonde knows of what he speaks.  He is the legal counsel for the Connecticut Association of School Administrators (CASA).

A graduate of Columbia University and the University of Connecticut School of Law, John Gesmonde is a partner in the Hamden law firm of Gesmonde, Pietrosimone & Sgrignari, LLC.

His expertise is labor, education, and employment law with 40 years of experience representing, “over 100 school administrator associations, in addition to individual employees, school superintendents, and other public sector unions, including teacher, police, fire, secretarial, paraprofessional, nurse, and town hall employee units in collective bargaining, grievance arbitration, termination matters, and unfair labor practice complaints. Mr. Gesmonde has 30 years of service on the Connecticut State Department of Education Arbitration Panel as a labor sector advocate arbitrator under the Teacher Negotiations Act.”

I am taking the liberty of re-printing John Gesmonde’s article with the hope that every elected official, policymaker, superintendent, school administrator, teacher, parent and taxpayer takes the time to read it.

Attorney John Gesmonde successfully explains why the Connecticut Supreme Court must do the right thing and follow the rule of law in the case of Lopez v. Vallas.  Anything short of that is allowing Connecticut’s public education system to be thrown into the abyss of the corporate education reform movement.

This is a long piece, but I urge every reader to take the time to read the whole article it. It provides the background necessarily to truly understand the precipice upon which we stand.

Attorney John Gesmonde explains;

Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, and Paul Vallas, Superintendent of Schools of the Bridgeport School District, have a lot in common (besides their goatees). Both received harsh performance evaluations in their most recent jobs; Vallas, as Budget Director of the City of Chicago, and Pryor as the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development in the City of Newark. On the bright side, neither position had much to do with education; then again, how did these individuals manage to get appointed to the highest and second highest positions in education in Connecticut? Neither has any experience running a classroom1, never mind a school district or the credentials for being the top educational leader of the State of Connecticut.

Neither of these likeable gentlemen have even so much as a certification to be a classroom teacher, not mention a superintendent of schools or commissioner of education. Their educational “achievement gap” could not be any greater relative to the positions they hold, and a lot of important people must have had to “turnaround” to miss that these two emperors of education had no clothes on, and still don’t.

Mr. Vallas was appointed by a Bridgeport Board of Education that, despite support from Governor Malloy and his chief legal counsel, Andrew MacDonald, the Supreme Court of Connecticut held had been taken over illegally by appointees of the state board of education.

Malloy and McDonald then tried to nullify that Supreme Court decision by slipping language into a bill, ironically, proffered to correct supposed educational faults or evils. Continue reading “Why the Vallas Case is so much more than simply a case about Paul Vallas”

Judge Carmen Lopez explains the Lopez v. Vallas case…

Former Connecticut Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez is not only a leading advocate for public education but she is a true champion when it comes to standing up and speaking out on the most important issues facing our communities, our state and our nation.

Born in Puerto Rico, a life-long resident of Bridgeport, a lawyer, a Judge, an activist, a truth-teller, Carmen Lopez has transferred the debate on issue after issue after issue.

Unafraid to speak out, unwilling to be silenced, Carmen Lopez has taught me and many others that one of Gandhi’s most famous observations is a profound statement of truth;

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi.

The legal briefs in the case of Lopez v. Vallas have been submitted and tomorrow the Connecticut Supreme Court will hear the oral arguments presented by the attorneys representing Carman Lopez and Paul Vallas.

The case itself is very simple.  Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis ruled that Paul Vallas does not have the credentials to serve as a superintendent of schools in Connecticut.  Despite a law specifically written for Vallas by Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, Vallas failed to take the necessary steps to meet the statutory provisions that would have allowed Pryor to waive Vallas’ need for certification.

Instead of completing a school leadership program, as required, Vallas took a single, three- independent study.   As the deadline for action approached and well into Vallas’ three-credit independent study course work, the State Board of Education, following a directive from Stefan Pryor, voted to define Vallas’ three credit independent study course as a school leadership program.

Now the City of Bridgeport and their mayor, Bill Finch, are spending upwards towards $100,000 in taxpayer funds to defend and appeal Vallas’ effort to illegally hold on to the $234,000 part-time superintendent’s job in Bridgeport.

If the Supreme Court overturns the Superior Court’s decision in an attempt to allow Vallas to hold on to this job it will be throwing out the most basic precedents on how courts are interpret the meaning of laws and statutory construction.

But as everyone recognizes, the reality is that this case isn’t really about statutory construction.

Lopez v. Vallas is about whether the rule of laws applies to everyone or whether we’ve reached a point in the United States where an elite class of elected officials, policymakers and corporate officials are correct in their belief that they, and they alone, function above our legal system.

As the Supreme Court prepares to hear the case of Lopez v. Vallas, I asked Judge Lopez to explain to Wait, What? readers the underling facts and meaning surrounding this case.

Here is what Carmen Lopez wrote;

Lopez v. Vallas:

I am from Bridgeport.

I live in Bridgeport.

And, I love the City of Bridgeport and its hardworking, decent and upright people.

I am very tired of well-heeled corporate and political manipulators who don’t live in Bridgeport and their attempts to force feed this City a diet they would never consume themselves.

Paul Vallas would never be hired as the Superintendent of Schools in Trumbull.  Steven Wright, the Chairman of the Trumbull BOE, who voted in his capacity as a member of the State BOE to disenfranchise the residents of Bridgeport as part of the 2011 illegal takeover cabal, would be appalled at that prospect.

Terry Jones of Shelton, another member of the State Board of Education, who voted for the conspiratorial takeover, would never think of hiring Paul Vallas to run the schools in his community.

These two suburban Board of Education members, and others like them, would undoubtedly demand a properly certified and credentialed superintendent to lead their school system.

But not for Bridgeport!

The issue before the Connecticut Supreme Court in this case is very simple.  Will the Rule of Law as established by the Connecticut General Assembly prevail over the political machinations of insider wheelers-and-dealers who have sought to game the system and foist Paul Vallas on the people of Bridgeport.

Connecticut is known as the Constitution State.  We value and revere the Rule of Law and insist that it be applied evenly and fairly to all of our residents.  Paul Vallas cannot qualify to be Superintendent of Schools under the laws adopted by our Legislature.  The law very clearly and unambiguously sets forth the credentials that anyone must have before assuming the public office of Superintendent of Schools in any local and/or regional Connecticut School District.

Paul Vallas and his apologists have made a mockery of the Rule of Law by claiming, with a straight face, that a three month independent study course is a substitute for the “School Leadership Program” required by law.

He claimed to have completed this independent study course which was offered to no other individual, in satisfaction of the statute’s requirement.  The only recourse citizens and taxpayers have in the face of this blatant abuse of power and manipulation of the system by the well-connected is found in the Courts.

The writ of Quo Warranto, which was filed, claimed that Paul Vallas was not qualified under Connecticut law to serve as Bridgeport’s Superintendent of Schools.  Superior Court Judge, Barbara Bellis, in a fact based memorandum of decision, upheld the Rule of Law and determined that Vallas did not meet the statutory requirements.

She found these facts after hearing the testimony of many witnesses, including  the  Dean of the School of Education , who testified under oath, that Paul Vallas cursory association with UCONN was not a ‘school leadership program’ as that term is generally understood.

Paul Vallas disagrees with Judge Bellis’ findings and insists that his three credit course is a ‘school leadership program’ within the meaning of the Statute.

The State Board of Education has rubber stamped Paul Vallas’ and Stephan Pryor’s claim, that the three credit independent study course is a school leadership program.

Stephan Pryor argues, in his amicus brief, that the statute bestows on him the authority to determine whether a single course is a school leadership program.

What we have witnessed to date is a display of executive branch arrogance which can only be checked by an independent judiciary.  Only the courts stand between this abuse of power and the people of Bridgeport.

A decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court affirming Judge Bellis’ ruling will validate the Rule of Law and demonstrate a respect for the people of the City of Bridgeport which Paul Vallas, Stephen Pryor and the State Board of Education have been unwilling to show.

Vallas’ Supreme Court Strategy: Brag, whine and insult the Judge and plaintiff

This coming Monday, September 23, 2013, the case of Carmen Lopez vs. Paul Vallas will be heard by the Connecticut Supreme Court.

As readers know, a Connecticut Superior Court ruled earlier this summer that Paul Vallas lacks the credentials necessary to serve as a superintendent of schools in the state of Connecticut and must leave his post as Bridgeport’s “acting” superintendent.

Vallas, who has the support of Governor Malloy and Malloy’s Commissioner of Education refuses to leave and has appealed the case to the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Admitting that he has never held any form of teacher or administrator certification, Vallas claims that he should be allowed to stay because his friend and colleague, Commissioner Stefan Pryor, waived his need for certification after Vallas completed an independent study course at the University of Connecticut.

The problem is that Connecticut law only authorizes the Commissioner of Education to waive an individual’s superintendent certification requirement after they have completed a school leadership program, approved by the State Board of Education, at a Connecticut institution of higher education.

Speaking through his taxpayer-funded attorneys, Steven Ecker and James Healy of the law firm of Cowdrey, Ecker & Murphy, L.L.C., Vallas claims that his three-credit independent study course is a school leadership program. 

So let’s look at the facts;

The legislature adopted a special law for Steven Adamowski in 2007 to allow him to serve as Hartford’s superintendent of schools despite the fact that he did not have the certification necessary to be a teacher or an administrator in Connecticut. 

In 2012 Governor Malloy proposed and the Connecticut General Assembly approved a revision to that statute so that Paul Vallas could become superintendent of schools in Bridgeport, despite his lack of certification, as long as he completes his probationary period as acting superintendent and completed a school leadership program, approved by the State Board of Education, at a Connecticut institution of high education.

That law designed to help Paul Vallas went into effect on July 1, 2012.

Eight months later, in February 2013, Vallas had a staff person contact the University of Connecticut to see whether he could participate in UConn’s school leadership program, a 13-month set of courses that provide participants with the academic credentials necessary to earn their superintendent certification in Connecticut.

However, Vallas learned that he couldn’t even apply for the UConn program because the University of Connecticut required that applicants had a Master’s Degree AND 15 credits of post-Master’s graduate coursework.  Vallas has NO graduate credits past his Master’s.

So Vallas and a UConn professor, who does consulting on the side, dreamed up a three-credit independent study course that they go on to claim is equivalent to a school leadership program.

Without ever applying to the University of Connecticut, Vallas begins his three-credit independent study WELL-AFTER the semester has begun.  Vallas never fills out a UConn application, he never pays the UConn application fee, he never pays the UConn General University Fee, he never pays the UConn Infrastructure Maintenance Fee , he never pays the Graduate Matriculation Fee, he never pays the UConn Transit Fee, he never pays the UConn Technology Fee.

Perhaps most insulting of all is the fact that when he does pay for the three credit independent study class, he pays the in-state tuition rate even though he admits, on the stand, that he is a resident of Chicago, Illinois where he is registered to vote. 

Then, on April 15th, six weeks after Vallas has begun his three-credit independent study class, the state Board of Education meets and upon the recommendation of Stefan Pryor, Vallas friend and Malloy’s Commissioner of Education,  votes that Vallas’ three –credit independent study class is a school leadership program

Vallas goes on to finish his independent study, producing six papers that he, himself, said took him about five days’ worth of work.  A far cry from the 13-month school leadership program that all other participants are required to complete.

Vallas handed in his final two papers on the last day of the class and is immediately notified that he has successfully completed the “program” and given a grade of A.

Stefan Pryor then uses that information to waive Vallas’ need for certification and Bridgeport’s Board of Education provides Vallas with a three-year contract worth $234,000 a year plus benefits.

A lawsuit was brought by Bridgeport residents Carmen Lopez, a former superior court judge and Deborah Reyes-Williams, a Bridgeport resident parent.

Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis holds a trial and rules that the three credit course is not a program and Pryor violated the law when he waived Vallas’ need for certification.

Vallas, with lawyers paid for by the City of Bridgeport, appeals the decision and it is now up to the Connecticut Supreme Court to decide whether Vallas and Pryor did or did not follow the law when it came to claiming that a three credit independent study was, in fact, the school leadership program that is required in the statute.

And what is Vallas saying to the Supreme Court?

For that one need only read the court brief that Paul Vallas submitted to the Supreme Court.

According to the brief, Vallas claims;

“…the trial court has no legal authority to second-guess the Commissioner’s waiver determination.”

“Plaintiff’s case is based on spin, insinuation, innuendo, and semantic gamesmanship.”

“The tyrannical “farce” and conspiratorial “sham” that plaintiffs find everywhere is only a function of how they see the world, and exists independent of reality.

“Plaintiff’s lawsuit is a grossly distorted view of the qualifications necessary to become a school superintendent in Connecticut.”

“The facts demonstrate full compliance with the letter and spirit of the waiver statute.

And Vallas’ brief goes on and on and on.

To get a better feel for Vallas’ argument, imagine you are reading George Orwell, Franz Kafka or Ray Bradbury for the approach being taken by Vallas and his attorneys is something you’d be more likely to find in the dystopian or fiction section of the bookstore.

Meanwhile in Bridgeport… “Mayor Finch will hold on to Vallas as long as he can.”

When Governor Malloy and Mayor Bill Finch tried to have the state takeover Bridgeport’s schools, The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled the move illegal.

When Mayor Bill Finch tried to change the charter to do away with a democratically-elected board of education and replace it with one appointed by him, the voters of Bridgeport overwhelmingly defeated the effort.

As a result of the lawsuit brought by former Connecticut judge Carmen Lopez and her fellow plaintiff, when the Connecticut Superior Court ruled that Paul Vallas didn’t have the credentials to serve as Bridgeport’s superintendent of schools and ordered him to leave the post, Mayor Bill Finch’s administration authorized spending upwards towards $100,000 in taxpayer funds to appeal the case to the Connecticut Supreme Court.  (The case will be heard by the Supreme Court on September 23).

And when the voters of Bridgeport voted two to one in this week’s Democratic primary to support the anti-Finch, anti-Vallas, anti-charter school, anti-education reform slate of candidates…

What did Finch do…?

The Connecticut Post’s Brian Lockhart has the answer in an article entitled “Mayor Finch will hold on to Vallas as long as he can.”

Lockhart writes;

Tuesday’s Democratic primaries are over.

The three petition school board candidates won, beating the slate nominated by the Democratic Town Committee. That’s the same slate that embraced the education reforms being pursued by Mayor Bill Finch and Superintendent of Schools Paul Vallas.

So what does that mean for Vallas?

A celebrity in the world of school reform, Vallas was hired in December 2011 and granted a conditional three-year contract last winter by a divided Board of Education dominated by Finch’s crew. Then a Superior Court judge ruled that Vallas was not qualified for the position, and the matter is now in the hands of the state Supreme Court.

If the Supremes uphold the lower court’s ruling, Vallas is gone. But what if he wins?

As we’ve reported, while there remains a general election in November, Tuesday’s results all but guaranteed that those school board members loyal to Vallas will be in the minority.

Bridgeport’s a Democratic city. There are four Democratic incumbents on the nine-person board who are not on November’s ballot, and one of those is backed by the anti-Vallas Working Families Party. So add him to Tuesday’s slate of winning anti-Vallas Democrats, and that gives their side the 4 to 3 advantage on the Board of Education.

That leaves two open seats in the general election that can only go to a minority party – either the Working Families or a more pro-Vallas GOP.

Despite their differences with Finch, the Working Families Party has far more in common with Democrats than with Republicans, who are not known for winning elections in blue Bridgeport.

And according to Vallas’ three-year contract, either party can walk away, although the city would owe the departing superintendent a year’s severance.

Finch, Vallas and their allies knew this heading into Tuesday, which is why a victory was so important for them.

“I strongly support the Democratically- endorsed slate,” the mayor said a few weeks ago. “The other people have shown tendencies to be anti- reform. And I think we’re going in the right direction. I want to keep that direction. I want to keep Paul Vallas.”

So now that his side lost, what happens to Vallas?

An anti-Vallas board could potentially boot him as soon as they got the chance. But would they really want to do so in the middle of the 2013-14 school year? They’d need someone to fill his shoes while conducting a search for a replacement.

Alternatively Finch could appeal to the board to give Vallas a chance and perhaps reach a compromise.

Vallas could also leave.

“He’s gonna stay as long as I can keep him here,” Finch said following a community meeting in the North End Thursday night.

Vallas’ future didn’t come up during the event, and Finch didn’t broach it with the crowd of 50 or so residents.

In a brief interview the mayor said he has reached out to the winners of Tuesday’s primary and hopes to meet with them soon.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to rethink things, recalibrate and keep moving,” the mayor said.

Finch’s liaison with the schools, Joshua Thompson, also attended Thursday’s North End meeting, quietly standing in the back with some of the mayor’s other staff. While walking out Thompson said he wasn’t ready to talk about Vallas in the wake of Tuesday’s primaries but understood it is an important question that needs to be answered soon. He said either he or the superintendent may be prepared to make some comments Friday.

You can read the full Brian Lockhart story at:

Carmen Lopez explains why taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for Vallas’ legal defense

The following is a commentary piece that appeared in yesterday’s Connecticut Post.

It explains, in no uncertain terms, why it is legally and moral wrong for the taxpayers of Bridgeport and Connecticut to be paying Paul Vallas’ legal bills.  But leave it Mayor Bill Finch and the City of Bridgeport to turn their backs on the law and the taxpayers.

Paul Vallas brags that he balanced the Bridgeport school budget but he regularly overlooks the fact that in addition to picking up 80% of the cost of Bridgeport’s school budget, last year’s budget was balanced with an additional $3.4 million forgivable loan from the State of Connecticut….but the money had to be spent on educational costs…

So what is Bridgeport doing?  Spending tens of thousands to defend Paul Vallas’ and that was before the City hired one of Connecticut’s most prominent law firms to defend Vallas.

Here are the facts;

Brazenly, Bridgeport City Attorney Mark Anastasi believes that Bridgeport’s code of ethics is just words. Or maybe, like the celebrity Paul Vallas, he thinks that rules that apply to mere mortals don’t apply to him.

The Bridgeport code of ethics, section 2.38.038(D) is entitled “Standards of conduct, fair and equal treatment.” It provides, “… No official or employee shall … use his position to secure or grant special consideration, treatment, advantage, privilege or exemption … to any person beyond that which is available to any other person.”

That is precisely what our Bridgeport city attorney has done, by agreeing to provide legal services to Paul Vallas, and by engaging high-priced appellate counsel, one of the most expensive outside lawyers in the state, to represent Vallas in his appeal.

Anastasi is using taxpayer dollars to finance the defense of Paul Vallas when Vallas was sued not as a public official, but only as an individual. In fact, that is what the court found, that Vallas had no business even being a public official, specifically, acting superintendent.

Paul Vallas was the only defendant in the legal action tried before Judge Barbara Bellis a few weeks ago.

The single-count complaint was an action called “quo warranto.” Quo warranto is a fancy name for a lawsuit that challenges the right of a person to hold a public office. It is directed to the person holding the office in his individual capacity — as an ordinary person, not as an official.

Neither the city of Bridgeport nor the Bridgeport Board of Education are defendants.

No claim for money damages is being made.

The plaintiffs could not challenge in a quo warranto claim any action taken by Paul Vallas in his capacity as superintendent of schools, or make any claim concerning his performance in office.

We did not attempt to do so.

The only issue before Judge Bellis was whether Mr. Paul Vallas, not Superintendent Paul Vallas, was qualified to hold the public office of Bridgeport superintendent of public schools, pursuant to state law.

The claim was made against him as an individual, and he should have been responsible for his own legal fees, in his effort to retain his lucrative part-time job.

The Office of the Bridgeport City Attorney should not have represented Vallas at trial. However, Attorney Anastasi now seeks to compound his cronyism and favoritism by engaging outside legal counsel for the purpose of appealing Judge Bellis’ decision.

Vallas has every right to engage the services of prominent attorney Steven Ecker, and to appeal the decision rendered by Judge Bellis.

However, he has no right to make us pay for it. He has no right to pass on the cost of that legal representation to the taxpayers of the city of Bridgeport, since it is his paycheck, not ours, which is at stake.

In her decision, Judge Bellis found that Paul Vallas had received special treatment. Apparently, the city of Bridgeport is determined to perpetuate that finding.

If Mayor Bill Finch, Attorney Anastasi, Board of Education Chairman Kenneth Moales, board member Thomas Mulligan and hedge fund mogul Steve Mandel want to help Vallas, they are free to contribute their own personal resources to defray the cost of his appeal.

However, since Vallas was sued as an individual, the taxpayers of the city of Bridgeport had no obligation to defend him at trial and have no obligation to pay for his high-priced appeal.

If Attorney Anastasi and Mayor Finch were truly concerned about the taxpayer, they would be seeking reimbursement from Vallas for all costs incurred to date and would refuse to pay any additional legal costs.

But, as we have learned since the illegal takeover of the Bridgeport Board of Education two years ago, the entrenched powers think that the rules, statutes and provisions of the code of ethics do not apply to the elite ruling class, but only to those subject to their tyranny.

Carmen L. Lopez, a retired Superior Court judge and Bridgeport resident, successfully sued to remove Paul Vallas from his position as superintendent of Bridgeport schools. That ruling is under appeal.

The original article can be found at: