Democracy is not a ‘technicality’

Published on April 17, 2012 by

Some decriers have tried to diminish the Connecticut Supreme Court decision regarding the illegal state takeover of the Bridgeport Board of Education. These spin masters, led by Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch and his sycophants, have been intellectually dishonest in referring to the basis of the decision as a “technicality.”

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Connecticut Supreme Court spoke loudly and clearly in its near unanimous (6-1) decision. Justice Peter Zarella, writing for the majority, went to great pains to demonstrate that the holiday weekend coup of last July was contrary to the relevant statute, contrary to the legislative history that produced that statute, contrary to the rule of law and contrary to our history as a democratic people.

Anyone reading the majority opinion or the passionate concurring opinion penned by Justice Lubbie Harper cannot help but be impressed by the legal and moral outrage that leaps from the pages.

On Feb. 28, the Supreme Court announced its decision, declaring the state board’s authorization to the Interim Commissioner of Education to “reconstitute” the Bridgeport Board of Education to be void and without effect. The only remedy ordered was a remand of the case to the lower court of Judge Agati, with “direction to set a date for a special election for the local board.”

On March 8, John Bohannon, the attorney for the city, claimed in a motion that further “clarification and guidance” regarding the Supreme Court’s order was needed.
On March 23, the Supreme Court obliged. It directed the trial court “to order a special election for the local Board of Education pursuant to General Statutes Section 9-164 (b).

The trial court shall set all applicable dates under the statute but shall schedule the special election no later than 150 days from the date of its order,” the Supreme Court declared.
Because a local board must continue to function until a new board is elected, the court suspended the effect of its order until final certification of the special election results by the town clerk.

On April 13, Agati will preside over a hearing in Waterbury Superior Court. While most of the disenfranchised voters in Bridgeport might expect him to follow the direction of the Supreme Court and set a date for the special election, we may be disappointed.

Agati has already had “in camera” or non-public, discussions with representatives of the secretary of the state. He has received the secretary’s extensive documentation regarding four proposed special election dates. However, he has now given the parties an opportunity to present evidence regarding their views on the best dates on which to hold a special election.

Count on the city of Bridgeport to use this as an opportunity for further delay.
By allowing the lawyers the opportunity to file motions by April 11, Agati is needlessly complicating a simple case in order to sustain the illusion of complexity. He is allowing the city’s legal team, steeped in the mystique of grandiosity and terminal condescension, to further obstruct the democratic process.

Despite its presence on the complex litigation docket, this case is really very simple. The Supreme Court has said that the voters of Bridgeport have a right to vote for their board of education members and the court has been asked to preserve that right.

By calling the basis of this historic decision a “technicality” Finch, Gov. Dannel Malloy, Paul Timpanelli and their cadre of backroom bullies hope to make us forget that they plotted this coup in secret and cared nothing for the people’s right to vote in a democratic society.

We must see their spin as a pathetic attempt to justify that which cannot be justified and to defend the indefensible.

They are trying to tell us, “It wasn’t all that bad,” hoping that we will forget their clandestine and antidemocratic cabal. They cower behind public relations gimmicks and have even resorted to the nauseating “but we did it for the children,” which in this instance is the last refuge for these scoundrels.

The Supreme Court said a board elected by the people cannot be reconstituted without due process and transparency. Nor can the clear commands of a statute be avoided simply because Finch can produce a 6-3 majority composed of rubber-stamp board members who agreed to “waive” requirements of law on the advice of the Bridgeport city attorney.

The Supreme Court unambiguously told our local lackeys: This issue is not about you. The issue is about the right of the people to vote, to have that vote counted, and to be governed by those chosen through the democratic process.

The Supreme Court never referred to the training mandate as a “technicality.” Instead Zarella declared: “We conclude that the legislature intended the training provision to serve the following proposes.

First, requiring training prior to authorizing reconstitution provides notice to a local board of education — and theoretically, to the electors of that local board — that the state board is considering authorizing reconstitution.

Second and related to the first, the training itself serves a substantive and remedial purpose, by providing the local board of education with an opportunity to prevent its reconstitution by successfully completing training and thereby demonstrating to the state board that it can operate effectively and that extreme measure of reconstitution is unnecessary.

Viewed this way, the training provision is premised on the importance of maintaining the continued local operations of a democratically elected board of education, as well as on providing certain due process protections. Third and most importantly, the state board does not have the authority to authorize the reconstitution until it first requires the local board to undergo and complete training in accordance with section 10-223e© (2) (M).”

Not only was the Supreme Court outraged by what was done, it was clearly incensed about the way that this coup was accomplished.

In an unequivocal condemnation of the tactics employed by the conspirators, the court said, “The training provision represents the legislature’s intent that, in the rare event that a local board of education should be reconstituted, reconstitution would occur in a methodical, deliberate and transparent manner. This provides the local electors, the local board and other citizens of the state with notice of the process and the timeframe in which reconstitution potentially could occur.”

It is only in the minds of politicians, drunk with their power and seeking to drown out the voices of the people, that their delusionary drivel has any credence. The significance of the Supreme Court decision lies not only in what was said, but to whom it was said. Six Supreme Court justices, sworn to uphold the rule of law and the Constitution of the state of Connecticut, (the Constitution State) told billionaire hedge fund mogul Steve Mandel, Teach for America, ConnCan, Excel, the Bridgeport Regional Business Council and their well-heeled conspirators, that there are certain things no amount of money can buy in a free society.

Among those commodities is the fundamental right to vote for a government that operates with the consent of the governed. The right of the people, even in a poor city like Bridgeport, to chart their own destiny and that of their children, is paramount. The Supreme Court declared that the right of self-determination cannot be bought.

Notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s affirmation of self-government, Finch, his legal team and his regional business council backers are still determined to prevail.
Robert Trefy, of Fairfield, who continues to usurp the office of board president, publically congratulates himself and applauds each time the special election is delayed.

One might ask Mr. Trefy, Timpanelli and the out-of-town reformers the following question: “If a board of education appointed by the state Board of Education is superior to one elected by the voters of a municipality, why have you not sought to impose this model on the people of Fairfield, Trumbull, Easton and Westport?”

The answer to that question is obvious. These elitists will never impose on themselves that which they seek to dictate to the people of Bridgeport.

As Abraham Lincoln once famously said, “When I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.”

On April 13, once again, expect the mayor’s legal team to attempt to delay the special election in order to keep their business council allies in power.