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.