Norwalk Mayor Rilling Taps Mario Coppola As Corporation Counsel

Mario F. Coppola, partner in the Westport office, has been named corporation counsel by newly elected Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling. The appointment is for a two-year term.

Mario regularly practices in the area of municipal law. He has provided legal representation and services to 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.

Additionally, Mario has served as Co-Chair of the Fairfield County Bar Association Land Use and Municipal Law Sections. He has served as Secretary and Legislative Liaison for the Connecticut Bar Association (CBA) 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.


The workshop was conducted Nov. 13, 2013, at Torrington City Hall.

The program focused on U.S. Department of Transportation requirements for urine testing for drugs and breath testing for alcohol; signs and symptoms of alcohol misuse and substance abuse; responsibilities of supervisors for reasonable suspicion testing; and appropriate response when an employee tests positive for drugs or alcohol.

Also discussed were the signs of probable alcohol abuse and drug use by safety-sensitive employees and the responsibilities of supervisors and managers to make a reasonable suspicion determination. Participants were taught the physical, behavioral and performance indicators, as well as the collection process, for alcohol and controlled substances according to DOT regulations. Related topics discussed included employer liability; insurance; contracts; indemnification; interaction with other laws, such as ADA and FMLA; and collective bargaining issues.

November 15-16, 2013: Berchem Moses lawyers attended the 2013 conference of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education/Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, November 15-16 in Mystic. The theme of the CABE/CAPSS conference was "Keeping Focus on Student Growth in a Time of Rapid Change." The firm sponsored the conference's Friday dinner speaker, poet Azure Antoinette. Pictured here, left to right, are Marsha Belman Moses, Floyd J. Dugas, Berchem Moses partners; and Trumbull Board of Education chairman and State Board of Education member.

November 2013: Mario F. Coppola, of the Westport office, recently presented before the Connecticut Bar Association's Planning and Zoning and Environmental Law Sections a summary of important new legislation. Of particular interest to the land and zoning practice is Public Act 13-9, which amends Connecticut General Statute § 8-13a, to extend the same protections currently applicable to nonconforming buildings to nonconforming structures. As a result of the change, state law now provides that any structure that violates zoning regulations for required setbacks for minimum lot area shall be a legal nonconforming structure if the "structure has been so situated for three years without the institution of an action to enforce the regulation." The statute defines a "structure" as having the same meaning as in the applicable local zoning regulations or, if undefined by such regulations, it shall mean "any combination of materials, other than a building, that is affixed to the land, including without limitation, signs, fences, walls, pools, patios, tennis courts and decks." It is important to note that the owner shall bear the burden of proving that a structure qualifies as a nonconforming structure under the statute. As a result of this new legislation, various structures which would otherwise be in violation of the local regulations are now legal so long as the structure has existed in that location for a least three years without any enforcement action from the town or city.

November 2013: Bryan L. LeClerc, a partner who resides in Fairfield, recently stepped down after serving on the Town Plan and Zoning Commission for five years, the last several as its chairman. His tenure on the commission was featured in an article published in the Fairfield Citizen and linked here by permission of the newspaper.

But Bryan's community service is far from over. As a longtime participant with the Boy Scouts of America, Bryan was recently named vice president of legal affairs for the board of directors of the Connecticut Yankee Council. He has been involved with the Connecticut Yankee Council for more than 10 years in a variety of roles, including as a local Scoutmaster. The Connecticut Yankee Council serves more than 17,000 youth members and nearly 4,600 adult volunteer leaders within five programs in Fairfield and New Haven counties and the town of Southington in Hartford County. more

Attending the Walter Camp Football Foundation tailgate party and toy drive are, left to right, Stacy Oswald, legal assistant; Douglas E. LoMonte, Partner; Matthew Sapienza, law clerk; Mario F. Coppola, Partner; Jonathan D. Berchem Partner; Ira W. Bloom, Partner; Katherine Ashelford, legal assistant; Brian A. Lema, Partner; and Michael Esposito, paralegal.

October 2013: Berchem Moses PC was the sponsor of the 16th annual Walter Camp Football Foundation (WCFF) tailgate party at the Oct. 19 game between Yale and Fordham University at the Yale Bowl. WCFF President Jim Monico said, "The impact of Berchem Moses's contribution can best be measured by the amount of toys that were collected for the Yale-New Haven /St. Raphael's Children's Hospital Toy Closet at our tent. Without exaggerating, there were five tables, each eight-feet long, filled with toys for children suffering from various disabilities that required their hospitalization.

July 2013: Ophelia Barnett, a 2013 graduate of Bridgeport's Central Magnet High School, has been named the winner of the inaugural Berchem Moses New Opportunities Scholarship. She was awarded $5,000 for her college expenses.

During a ceremony at Bridgeport's Margaret E. Morton Government Center are, left to right, Robert L. Berchem principal and president of Berchem Moses; Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch; scholarship winner Ophelia Barnett; and Ophelia's mother, Norma Barnett.

Ophelia, who plans to pursue a medical career, will attend the University of Connecticut.

Attorney Robert L. Berchem principal and president of Berchem Moses said the firm has decided this year to increase the amount it will give in scholarship awards to more than $7,500. In addition to the $5,000 scholarship initially planned, the firm has awarded a second-place winner $1,000 and is giving smaller amounts to 10 runners-up.

Felicia Salgado, also of Central Magnet High School, is the recipient of the $1,000 scholarship. She will attend the University of New Haven and plans a career in criminal justice.

The law firm created the New Opportunities Scholarship as a way to mark its 80th anniversary this year. The firm will award scholarships over the next four years to deserving graduates of Bridgeport high schools. Different graduates each year will receive the scholarships. The firm has committed at least $20,000 to the scholarship program and will consider renewing the program after the initial four years.

July 2013: The firm has relocated its Westport office to 1221 Post Road East. The office will occupy more than 4,700 square feet in its new location. There will be offices for up to 10 lawyers, as well as conference rooms to serve client needs. "The Post Road is a thriving business corridor where we can effectively serve our growing client base in Fairfield County," said Westport Managing Partner Ira W. Bloom. more