BRIDGEPORT – A court hearing for a lawsuit filed by mayoral candidate John Gomes alleging ballot fraud by city officials on behalf of Mayor Joe Ganim was postponed after the city and state officials were unable to release requested documents.
Gomes, a Democrat, filed the lawsuit last week after his campaign released a video of a woman – who they claim is Wanda Geter-Pataky, vice chair of the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee – seemingly stuffing absentee ballots into a City Hall drop box.
The defendants named in the lawsuit are Gomes’ opponent Mayor Joe Ganim, Secretary of the State Stephanie Thomas, Democratic Registrar of Voters Patricia Howard and Town Clerk Charles Clemons.
Gomes’s attorney, Bill Bloss, had been expected to call numerous witnesses to the stand at a Monday court hearing, including Geter-Pataky, Howard and the Bridgeport Police Department’s custodian of records.
But without copies of the absentee ballots or video footage that Bloss requested last Tuesday, the case was pushed back another two weeks, leaving just a month between the upcoming evidentiary hearing and the Nov. 7 general election.
Outside of the Fairfield Judicial District courthouse, Gomes and Bloss said they are not too concerned about timing because the presiding judge, William Clark, told the parties he wants to expedite the case.
While Gomes’ hope is that the court orders another primary election, Bloss said it is “unrealistic” to think a new primary could happen before the general election. Rather, he said, a second primary would likely come after Nov. 7.
“The Connecticut Supreme Court decided four years ago that, even if the general election happens and the primary hasn’t been settled with the judge here, Judge Clark can order a new primary election, and the new primary can happen after the general election. And then there would be another general election a month or two after that,” Bloss said.
At the Sept. 12 primary, Gomes won at the polls with a total of 3,110 in-person votes, compared to Ganim’s 2,667. But after adding absentee ballots, Ganim came out on top with a total of 4,212 votes versus Gomes’ 3,961.
The Gomes campaign also submitted sworn complaints by two Bridgeport voters to the State Elections Enforcement Commission alleging that Geter-Pataky and others submitted absentee ballots for them – a violation of state election laws.
The SEEC has launched its own investigation into the allegations and later received six boxes of absentee ballot applications and five bags of ballot envelopes from the city.
With the absentee ballots currently in the hands of the SEEC, an attorney representing SEEC said the commission would need another day or two to produce copies of the more than 10,000 pages of documents for the court.
An attorney representing the Bridgeport Police Department added that the videos Gomes requested – including footage of all absentee ballot drop boxes and the registrars of voters lobby from Aug. 22 to Sept. 12 – would also have to wait until later this week.
“We’re looking at late Wednesday afternoon,” attorney John Bohannon said. “We’re talking about a capacity – a volume, if you will – that represents eight terabytes and over 2,000 hours.”
The attorneys representing Gomes, Thomas, Howard, Clemons and Bridgeport police all agreed to meet again once the requested evidence is submitted to the court, and Clark assured the group that he wants to move the case along.
“We need to also move forward as expeditiously as possible,” Clark said. “So, what I don’t want to do is waste any individual’s time sitting here, waiting here for nothing. But I do want to maximize our time to the extent we will be getting evidence – which we will be getting evidence, in this case, in short order.”
Attendees of the crowded courtroom included mayoral candidate State Sen. Marilyn Moore, D-Bridgeport, and former Republican candidate for Secretary of the State Dominic Rapini. Missing from the hearing, however, were Ganim and his legal representation.
In an emailed statement to CT Examiner after the hearing, Ganim did not say why he chose not to attend, but that he looked forward to the court’s decision.
“This matter is now in the hands of the courts. l have full confidence in the courts to conduct a thorough investigation and review,” Ganim said. “We look forward to the court’s ultimate decision.”