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Coppola brings new look to Corporation Counsel office

NORWALK, Conn. – Newly named incoming Norwalk Corporation Counsel Mario F. Coppola presents a series of contrasts with outgoing counsel Robert Maslan.

The first is generational. Maslan is listed online as 61 years old, while Coppola is 33.

Maslan, who has served Norwalk since 2006, was personal attorney for Mayor Richard Moccia, to whom he reported and who was responsible for his evaluations and raises. Coppola has had no professional relationship with Mayor-elect Harry Rilling and only met him recently, during the campaign.

And, where Maslan was listed online as specializing in land use and commercial litigation, Coppola’s practice areas are listed as municipal law, land use and zoning, property tax assessment appeals, real estate transactions and general civil litigation.

Coppola is a partner at the law firm of Berchem, Moses & Devlin, P.C., which has done a significant amount of work for the Norwalk Board of Education, but, according to both Coppola and Rilling, has not done work for the city itself. Coppola said he has not been involved in any work the firm has done for the schools.

A quick Internet search showed a senior partner in the firm, Marsha Belman Moses, represented the Norwalk BOE on at least two occasions, in 2008 and 2010. She successfully defended the BOE against a student claim in one instance. The second case went to mediation and was not prosecuted.

“We are a large firm, with 32 attorneys” between two offices, Coppola said. He would not necessarily be aware of what all the other attorney’s and the other office are working on, he said. Offices are located in Milford and Westport. Coppola works out of the Westport office, he said.

Rilling, who said Thursday he has never retained Coppola as his personal attorney, said Thursday night that Coppola was highly recommended to him by “another attorney in town who knows Mario.”

“I had met him during the campaign a few times,” the mayor-elect said. “The law firm is experienced in municipal issues. It’s a firm with a lot of experienced people, and Mario, who has a lot of experience on his own, will have a tremendous number of resources on which to rely.”

According to the biography distributed to the media in a Thursday morning press conference, “Coppola has regularly provided legal representation and services to other municipalities such as the towns of Westport, Trumbull, New Canaan, Madison and Easton. He has handled hundreds of matters on behalf of municipalities in the areas of land use and zoning, zoning enforcement, tax assessment appeals and tax collection from the administrative level through the Connecticut courts. Attorney Coppola has provided legal opinions and legal counsel to municipal boards, commissions, officials and staff.”

Coppola has served as co-chair of the Fairfield County Bar Association Land Use and Municipal Law Sections, the bio said. He has served as secretary and legislative liaison for the CT Bar Association Planning and Zoning Section. He has also been appointed to the executive committees of the CBA’s Planning and Zoning Section and Municipal Law and Government Services Section.

Coppola received his bachelor’s degree from Boston College (B.A., 2001), where he was inducted into the Golden Key National Honor Society. He earned his juris doctorate at the University of Connecticut School of Law (J.D., 2004), where he was a Pudlin Scholar and the 2003 National Italian Bar Scholarship winner, according to the biography.

Comments

9 responses to “Coppola brings new look to Corporation Counsel office”

  1. Carol goodchild

    Congratulation Mario !

  2. Carol goodchild

    Congratulations Mario !

  3. Daisy

    Bob Maslan was never Dick Moccia’s “personal” attorney. Obviously they were acquainted – Moccia was a sheriff, then state marshall, and knew TONS of lawyers on both sides of the aisle. And also obviously, he’d go with a GOP-er for Corp. Counsel.

    1. Mark Chapman

      @Daisy

      You are wrong. Here, the 11th paragraph, he is quoted in The Hour. He repeated the statement elsewhere, including in his sworn statement to the state police. http://m.thehour.com/mobile/news/norwalk/two-common-council-dems-to-introduce-resolution-in-support-of/article_9f37f387-6df0-5b8e-be1b-664c82671587.html

  4. penny

    Just two cases? That doesn’t seem accurate there has been quite a few cases over the last administration and still would like to see how much Berchem, Moses & Devlin collected from Norwalk taxppayers through the BOE budget. How many Special Education Teachers could the district have hired rather than pay legal fees to defend against compliants/claims for violating state and federal laws? Complience issues of state and federal law by the districts special education department was an issue even before Mrs. Freidlanders employment and Ms. Friedlander’s Stacey Lore debacle. Far as attorneys not aware of other cases, in the same office, (Wstport), not implausible as different attorneys have different specialties, that said, its also difficult to imagine partners dont have regular meetings to discuss open files and seek opinions. If Berchem, Moses & Devlin has collected substantial monies from Norwalk in litigation is there not a conflict of interest?

  5. LWitherspoon

    How much is the Corporation Counsel compensated? Is it a fixed amount or an hourly rate? Full time or part time?
    .
    Will Mr. Coppola continue to represent private clients in land use and zoning at the same time that he serves as Norwalk’s Corporation Counsel?

    1. Mark Chapman

      @LWitherspoon

      According to the 2013-2014 budget document on the city website, Corporation Counsel approved salary is $84,816, up from the 2012-13 budget (approved at $82,950). The position is considered part time. Deputy CC is paid $143,572, and is full time; 2 assistant corporation are budgeted at an aggregate $213,617, and they, too, are full time.

      Past practice would indicate Mr. Coppola will continue his outside work. Legal ethics dictate that he would not engage in any outside work for anything to do with Norwalk or for clients that have business before the city.

  6. Oldtimer

    Moccia was quoted as having said Maslan was his personal attorney more than once. Maslan could certainly represent private clients while he was part-time corporation counsel, but there was never any confirmation, or denial, from Maslan that Moccia was a private client.

  7. LWitherspoon

    @Mark Chapman
    .
    Thank you.
    .
    The firm where Mr. Coppola is a partner has 31 other attorneys besides him. Will those other attorneys at Mr. Coppola’s firm still be eligible to represent Norwalk, or clients with business before the City of Norwalk, in legal matters?

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