BRIDGEPORT – A small crowd of Mayor Joe Ganim supporters gathered in front of the Bridgeport Police Department on Tuesday to demand a completed investigation into how mayoral candidate John Gomes obtained footage of alleged absentee ballot fraud.
With a megaphone aimed toward the station, City Council member Mary McBride-Lee, an organizer of the rally, outlined her demands.
“I think that the public have a right to know how that tape was stolen, and how it was given to John Gomes,” McBride-Lee said. “I do believe in my heart that it put the city of Bridgeport in jeopardy.”
The rally came more than a month after mayoral challenger Gomes released city surveillance footage of a woman he claimed is Wanda Geter-Pataky, vice chair of the Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee and city operations specialist, seemingly stuffing stacks of absentee ballots into ballot boxes.
Soon after releasing the footage, Gomes filed a lawsuit to overturn the Sept. 12 Democratic primary election – where he won at the polls with 3,110 in-person votes versus Ganim’s 2,667, but later lost by about 250 votes after a count of absentee ballots.
Gomes has not yet revealed how he obtained the footage of Geter-Pataky, a Ganim supporter. Bridgeport police have reportedly launched an investigation into the video’s release, but Chief Roderick Porter did not respond to CT Examiner’s request Tuesday for an update on the investigation.
McBride-Lee said residents need answers as soon as possible. They want to know who released the tape and why Gomes accepted a “stolen good,” she said.
“That’s a crime,” McBride-Lee said. “We are asking Chief Porter to please speed up the investigation so we can all feel safe again.”
Another organizer, community activist and local minister Imam Lyle Hassan Jones, claimed that Gomes admitted to committing a crime by confirming he publicized police property.
“The bringer about something that happened is just as guilty as the doer,” Jones said. “Somebody brought that tape to him, and he exposed it.”
Jones said the group would continue asking for a thorough investigation and visit the police department until it’s complete.
“We’re gonna keep on stomping, if it ain’t but one or two of us,” Jones said. “It ain’t the numbers, it’s the spirit, because one fighter is equivalent to 100 fighters if he got the right belief system.”
McBride-Lee told CT Examiner on Tuesday that Gomes’ lawsuit should be called into question if the footage was obtained illegally.
Rather than releasing the video himself, McBride-Lee said, Gomes should have brought it to Bridgeport police and requested footage of other residents – not just Geter-Pataky – at the ballot boxes.
Publishing the tape of Geter-Pataky alone was a clear attack on Ganim, she said.
“I think that he just used Wanda to make the mayor look bad, and then he just wound up making the whole city look bad,” McBride-Lee said.
During the lawsuit hearings, Gomes’ legal counsel subpoenaed additional Bridgeport police footage of absentee ballot boxes leading up to the primary election. The videos appeared to show 12 instances of Geter-Pataky either dropping off ballots herself or handing ballots to others from behind her reception desk, and four instances of Eneida Martinez – a former City Council member running alongside Ganim again this year – depositing stacks of ballots.
The Tuesday rally was one in a series of events McBride-Lee has organized following the primary election. The council member has supported Geter-Pataky, claiming she has been mistreated by the Gomes campaign and the press because she is a Black woman.
But Gomes supporters argue their outrage has nothing to do with race. Rather, they’ve pointed to a recently completed investigation by the State Elections Enforcement Commission into ballot fraud allegations from the 2019 Democratic primary. After wrapping the inquiry, the SEEC referred Geter-Pataky and two others to the office of the chief state’s attorney to consider criminal charges for their involvement.
In a Tuesday statement to CT Examiner, Gomes argued that the public is more interested in ongoing state and city investigations into alleged ballot fraud than an investigation into how he obtained the footage.
“Investigations regarding access to the city’s renter rebate program that was referred to the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management, the paid leave of absence of Geter-Pataky from city employment, and 12 hours of missing video surveillance footage is what the public truly demands,” he said.
Gomes insisted that the footage in question – which was submitted to the SEEC and entered as evidence in his lawsuit – shows that state election laws were violated last month, and said Geter-Pataky and Martinez’s refusal to answer questions by his attorney in court further proved that.
“Illegal election activities occurred on video and were confirmed by the refusal of two campaign operatives who invoked their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination when questioned during the court hearing,” Gomes said.