Bridgeport school board member punished for ‘combative’ emails

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BRIDGEPORT — Bridgeport Board of Training Chair John Weldon has eliminated board member Joseph Sokolovic from his committee assignments around comments the chairperson named “very unprofessional,” placing off a dramatic confrontation among the longstanding foes.

The rebuke, introduced last thirty day period, came just after Sokolovic despatched a collection of e-mail to the board accusing Weldon of failing to uphold his responsibilities as chair and adhere to state open up records rules.

“This is not an effortless determination for me to make and it is not effortless for me to say this in public, but we all have to have to be aware of the way we treat just about every other, irrespective of whether it is in this place or as a result of the e mail method,” Weldon stated at a subsequent distinctive conference June 14.


This 7 days, Sokolovic, who for yrs has clashed with Weldon more than a wide range of political disagreements, defended his reviews and identified as the punishment disproportionate. He mentioned that he believes the chair’s determination was created without the need of any authorized foundation — a claim Weldon has refuted.

“He has hardly ever eradicated any one from committees for lousy actions, whether it is yelling or shouting in a assembly,” Sokolovic reported.

In an e mail, Weldon explained he designed the improve mainly because he came to query “the appropriateness of Mr. Sokolovic’s assignments for different motives.”

He additional that he was also responding to people who termed for much more committee management positions to be held by women.

“This is one thing I have the discretion to do as Chairman, and a thing I have completed in the past with prior Board Associates when I felt instances warranted it.” he wrote.

The confrontation started on June 10 when Sokolovic wrote to his fellow board users to notify them that the college method unsuccessful to correctly notify the community about an impending conference of the board’s services committee, which Weldon chairs.

“Once all over again we did not but have a putting up for a scheduled assembly therefore necessitating a different cancellation,” Sokolovic wrote in the initially in a collection of e-mail that he shared with Hearst Connecticut Media and on social media.

He named the lapse uncomfortable and urged his fellow members to make absolutely sure they adhere to the Connecticut Independence of Info Act, a point out legislation that requires regional governments to notify the community when and in which conferences will be held.

In a reaction sent the following working day, Weldon accused Sokolovic of disingenuously chastising board associates by notifying them of the oversight immediately after the notification deadline experienced passed — and not prior to.

“If you want to appoint yourself ‘FOI police,’ it would be far more practical for you to notify us to a opportunity violation in sufficient time to correct the problem, as a substitute of ready and seeing for the situation to be problematic ahead of opening your mouth,” Weldon replied.

Sokolovic then sent a further e mail instructing Weldon to fork out attention to his duties as board chairperson, crafting in component “IT IS NOT MY Occupation! ITS YOUR COMMITTEE!”

“DO YOUR Occupation. Get in touch with YOUR Meetings! Check out THAT THEY ARE POSTED!!!!!!!” Sokolovic additional.

Weldon responded in portion: “It is unlucky that you pick to conduct by yourself in this trend. So significantly much more could be obtained if you weren’t so combative.”

In a board assembly held a number of times just after the trade, Weldon termed Sokolovic’s emails intense and offensive, in accordance to a recording of the assembly posted online.

“I have to say that in other locations, if this happened in non-public marketplace or nonprofit sector, there would be outcomes. If you ended up an personnel you may well be suspended, you could be terminated,” Weldon claimed. “You’re an elected official, nevertheless. None of people items are choices.”

Invoking the chairperson’s electricity to unilaterally make committee assignments, Weldon then stripped Sokolovic of his seat on three committees.

Sokolovic was eliminated from the finance committee as very well as the educational diversity, fairness and inclusion committee, equally of which he previously chaired. He was also relieved from his seat on the training and mastering committee.

In a conference held very last week at Sokolovic’s request, he challenged Weldon’s conclusion, boasting the bylaws only give the chairperson the power to appoint associates to a committee and not the express authority to clear away them from all of their seats. He called for a vote to reverse the choice, which Christine Baptiste-Perez seconded in aid.

Weldon, on the other hand, said the motion was improper and did not enable a vote to move ahead. He claimed he was effectively in his legal rights to take out associates from committee assignments under the present board principles and mentioned the board’s lawyer would ensure his authority.

According to a doc detailing committee assignments on the college system’s web page, Baptiste-Perez was selected to chair the finance committee and Erika Castillo was chosen to lead the academic range, equity and inclusion committee. The document, dated June 16, does not include Sokolovic’s name.

Weldon mentioned in an electronic mail that he produced the appointments in an effort to reply to calls from the Higher Bridgeport NAACP to enhance the range of women of all ages with management roles on the board. Prior to the adjust, women of all ages chaired only two of the board’s 10 committees.

Sokolovic, a Republican who received re-election to a 2nd time period last 12 months with the help of the progressive Operating Families Celebration, has described himself as a fiscal conservative passionate about tackling social issues.

He mentioned that his current clash with Weldon, who is also a Republican, could be traced back again to 2020 when he properly urged the board to create the instructional diversity, equity and inclusion committee.

He claimed that Weldon has labored to impede the committee’s progress and named the punishment revenge for spearheading new initiatives as its chairperson. He pointed out that Weldon was the only board member to abstain from a the latest 8- vote to insert the Islamic holiday getaway Eid al-Fitr to the faculty calendar.

In the past, Sokolovic has also accused Weldon of earning inappropriate and offensive remarks on social media. He revived individuals rates in last week’s assembly and shared screenshots of the a long time-old posts with the board.

Weldon disputed that characterization and accused Sokolovic of taking his comments out of context.

“None of this has everything to do with my functionality as the chairman of the Board of Schooling,” Weldon said at the conference. “You can like what I article or do not submit.”

Board member Erika Castillo expressed disappointment with the dispute and stated the argument in excess of social media posts was not relevant to the dialogue about Sokolovic’s e-mails.

“I am not fascinated in sitting here speculating about years and yrs of issues that occurred right before I was on the board,” she reported, ahead of inquiring for a vote to adjourn the conference.

The meeting then concluded following Weldon, Castillo, Joseph Lombard and Michael Maccarone voted in favor of the movement. Sokolovic, Baptiste-Perez and Albert Benejan voted in opposition.

Sokolovic later on conceded that barring a alter of coronary heart from Weldon, he has very little prospect of regaining his committee assignments in the around upcoming. Continue to, he reported he designs to proceed to press for transparency as extensive as he is a board member.

“I’m even now likely to say what I’m heading to say and I’m still likely to do what I’m likely to do to transfer points forward,” he stated. “If anything, it is heading to make my voice a minimal louder.”

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