BRIDGEPORT — Often-controversial Board of Education member Maria Pereira has been arrested after a Success Village Apartments Board of Directors meeting got out of hand.
The Wednesday night meeting concerned the removal of five Success Village board members. Sources said Pereira was supporting one of the board members being removed.
The meeting had nothing to do with the school board. And Pereira, 51, is not a resident of Success Village; she lives on Nutmeg Road, according to city records.
Pereira was charged with criminal trespass, breach of peace and interfering with an officer and her bond was set at $5,000, which she posted, and is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 18.
She did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.
Angel Figueroa, who operates the Facebook page Success Village 411, said that Pereira was there to support one of the board members who was about to be kicked off the panel, Samia Suliman, who was the vice-president of the board.
“(Pereira) had come to our meetings before — and she doesn’t even live here,” Figueroa said. “And we decided that we had enough, so we called the police for help — she pretty much forced her way into our meetings.”
Also arrested was Lisa Moragne, 59, of Hemlock Avenue, West Haven, who was charged with interfering with an officer and breach of peace
Police were called to Success Village at 6:13 p.m. on a report of a disturbance involving as many as 90 people there to vote on the removal of the elected Village board members, including Moragne.
When the crowd was asked to leave, police said, Pereira refused.
“Pereira stated among other things, ‘I have a right to be here,’ ” the police report states. But some at the meeting took issue with this statement, because she’s not a resident of the co-op complex.
When she did leave, police said, Pereira turned around quickly, swinging her arms, almost striking the arresting officer in the face with a black object. Police said they feared it was a weapon, but it turned out to be a cell phone.
Pereira was handcuffed and placed in the rear of a patrol vehicle. Moragne was arrested, too, when she too refused to leave, police said.
School Board Chairman John Weldon said he was extraordinarily disappointed by reports of the incident.
“Elected school board members should take every effort conduct themselves in a manner which is a model to the staff, students and parents they serve,” Weldon said. “Moving forward, it is my hope that Ms. Pereira will be able resolve her current situation in a manner expected of someone in the position she holds.”
Pereira is no stranger to controversy. Her tenure on the school board has included a boycott by other members in a failed attempt to get her to resign. She once disrupted a school board Finance Committee meeting by blasting the song “Fight the Power,” from her cell phone when she was unhappy with the agenda. The committee consisted of the three board members who stood by her during the boycott.Read Full Article
Former Interim Schools Superintendent Fran Rabinowitz resigned in late 2016 saying Pereira was waging a “negative crusade to undermine and discredit much of what we have built for children in this school district.”
Pereira was first elected to the school board in 2009 and her first term was interrupted by a failed state takeover of the panel. When the state supreme court ruled the takeover was illegal, she returned to finish out her term then did not seek re-election until 2015.
Pereira was one of three petition candidates who succeeded in winning the Democratic primary and then general election.
In 2016, Pereira lost a primary bid to be the Democratic candidate to represent the 126th District in the state House of Representatives.
The residents of Success Village have been upset with their governing board over, among other things, an increase in their common charges. The complex is in Bridgeport’s East End, on the Stratford town line.
After things quieted down Wednesday night, the meeting reconvened and five of the Success Village board members were removed: Gamaliel Samayoa, Ekaterina Frank, Moragne, Suliman and Thieu Tran. They were replaced by a new slate of board members.